ONLY THE BRAVE
(or the very foolish!)
Dalby and the RAC Part 1
So after weeks of planning and building up a healthy list of over 20 punters, the final National Status Event of the year was thwarted by snow. Lots of snow!
However a few hardy souls awaited news and still planned to make the ride. Last thursday saw me frantically phoning round hotels to try and find a room in Pickering as the thought of a night sleeping in the truck in sub zero temperatures lost its shine. Room booked, gear packed, bikes fettled, hip flask filled, shovels retrieved from the shed and it was time to go. Simonside Ian pulled up in his nice new van which saved me digging out mine-cheers Ian!
The journey down to Pickering itself was an adventure and a half, the main moors road closed due to an accident. Several aborted attempts were made to cross the moors on lesser roads until we headed back to Guisbro' to take the Stokesley-Helmsley road and keep away from high ground.
Several hours later we had booked in at our little B&B, bled the radiators and changed into riding gear- lots of riding gear. A short drive to Thornton le Dale followed, from where we abondoned the van and two Michelin men took to two wheels to ride the final 3 and a bit miles into the depths of Dalby forest.
It was tough going, the snow was up to the hubs for most of the ride and it only became easier once we got into the trees. It was bitterly cold and the snow was really coming down by now. The odd nip of vintage Cognac and the sound of barking BDA engines piercing the darkness spured us on and in a short time we could see the twinkle of lights through the trees as we approached the old woodyard.
There was a surprising number of spectators about, and even a burger van had made it and was making a roaring trade in hot drinks and chips. We then spent a few hours falling over (probably the Cognac) whilst watching the crews tackle the shortened stage. Some drivers were better than others and despite the deep snow and sheet ice, put on a decent show.
Of special interest to me was car number 66, a 1967 SAAB 96 which now belongs to my good friend Richard Simpson. This is one of our old cars and one which I have spent many a hour bashing back into shape. It was due to be the second car on the road, but failed to appear. Eventually it slithered into view looking rather second hand having rolled earlier in the stage. I would be having words when we got down to service!
With feet now frozen solid, we decided to head back to Thornton le Dale and the chippy. The return ride was just as difficult- the benefit of it being slightly downhill was scrubbed out by the extra 2 inches of snow that had fallen over the last hour. Eventually we made it just before midnight and managed to get a couple of portions of scalding hot chips just before closing time. We also managed to find a phone signal and checked in to RetroBike Towers to find that most people had opted to stay at home and we would be more or less alone for the big Saturday ride, despite our protestations that the roads would be OK. A smart move by many as it would turn out!
The night was young however so we decided to go to the showground in Pickering to see the cars in service and into Parc Ferme. It was good to catch up with old friends and Simonside Ian went en Francais and spent some time chatting with the many French and Belgian crews, most who had brought tarmac racers along and had not once driven on gravel never mind snow! Shell-shocked but still smiling was the theme with plenty of gallic shrugs thrown in for good measure.
This year's victor?
The snow had turned the results on their head and some of the fancied runners were well back down the order. Some of the clubmen with less powerful cars and the cheaper Dunlop tyres had made the top of the leaderboard and looked good to cause an upset when the rally really got underway on the saturday.
No Jacket Required? In this weather?
Shiny Happy People
Despite the conditions most of cars looked to have survived and there were no retirements. One car did sport a few bent panels though and a sheepish Mr Simpson explained how he had clipped a snow bank on a fast right hander and flipped the car into a small group of spectators, who quickly rolled him back onto the road with a loss of just under 2 minutes. One of the spectators he hit turned out to be my old navigator Graham- its a small world! The car looked battered but it went into the overnight halt with a 22 second lead in the Historic class. A few words about keeping a steady pace and keeping it on the road were had and we bade our farewells and headed back to the digs in the early hours.
Pass the T-Cut
Wet clothes and boots were hung up and we were soon fast to sleep, dreaming of dusty trails and T-shirt rides under a pleasant summer sun. Tomorrow was going to be another long day.. an i will tell you all about it soon
Part 2 to follow later