Batman and Robin get wet in Devon
AKA The Prima Stages @ Smeatharpe
The summer season was barren of many things and as it turned out sunshine was one of them, along with stage rallies, which was predominantly due to the lack of sunshine causing the cancellation of the Boconnoc Motorsport Carnival sadly. So, summer was all about sitting back and chilling from a rallies perspective this year, although there was plenty of other local motorsport going on around the area for those looking for their fix.
My fix was satisfied in early September, or should we call that late summer, where I had an entry in with Dan Gibson (Cornish pixie) in his Darrian T90 Batmobile on the Prima Stages up at Smeatharpe, organised by the team from Bournemouth and District Car Club, taking us just North of Honiton on the old discussed RAF Upottery WW2 airfield, so a local event in the overall scheme of things. As the weekend approached, we basked in relative sunshine, the previous weekend had seen a bank holiday weekend surpassed by none, the sun was high in the sky and the beaches were stacked (and I had sunburn) and all was good in the world, it was truly a British summers weekend. During the week it had been much the same, with some really good weather meaning it was certainly shorts and t shirt weather, sitting out in the garden in the evenings sipping Pimm’s and Vino, all remained good in the world.
As the weekends rally approached, we did what all rally people do nowadays, and we checked our weather apps on the phone, and it wasn’t looking pretty, on the Saturday, as I sat in the garden with my cuppa thinking all was still good in the world, my app told me different. As rally people, we do tend to assume the worst so the night before the rally, we packed food, drinks, and warm clothes and waterproofs, despite the evenings gorgeous sunshine, we are rally people, we normally go prepared for every eventuality.
On the day of the event, we awoke at 4.30am, when I say we awoke, I awoke, Sam just grumbled and bumbled around blearily eyed. She most definitely wasn’t awake. I pulled back the curtains to reveal that summer was officially over that morning and the rain was torrential and it all looked bleak. Ever hopeful, we both thought it might get better. Despite the app. We dragged the various supplies to the car (in the rain) and loaded up, stopping to pick Sam’s brother and nephew who were coming along to watch on their first ever rally. 5am, and its still raining, Ill bet they were super excited. Super.
Logistically things went well, we were coming from Plymouth and Dan’s Darrian along with Mark and Andrew Clayton in their mini were coming from Falmouth in convoy, we all arrived at the same time, unloaded (in the rain) scruitineered (in the rain) and set the service area up (in the rain) and were also joined by Simon Heywood and Kev Moyses in their yellow peril Honda Jordon. In the rain.
By 7am we were all sorted, signed on and ready to go other than tweaking tyres, checking fuel and general chit chat, the service area was full as there was a big entry for this one, so there were cars and vans everywhere so minimal space to get around, but generally speaking it all worked and everyone was happy. Except for the rain. It was raining, not sure if I noted that. Fortunately the awning we had covered us. Unfortunately the wind was bringing the rain in sideways, so it was damp at best, soaking at worst. And another downside of rallying is that you must service on a tarpaulin of some sort, by the nature of what they are, they are waterproof, thus stopping any spillages getting to the ground below. It also stops the rain from draining away, so within half an hour of the tarpaulin going down, the area was awash with standing water where we wanted to service. It was a sign of the day ahead.
Getting on to the actual day ahead, come our due time I squeezed in to the Darrian, its not graceful but it works, strapped myself in, wished Dan good luck, and off we went, stage 1 was wet, did I mention it was raining, and we set of in to Smeatharpe with 2 laps to run, no dramas overall other than a minor hold up as we came to the split for the second lap with a fellow Darrian in front of us, much slower than us and clearly much keener to hold his position on the stage as he sat in the middle of the stage and held us up, as it turned out only for about 5 corners, it was their first run on the stage, and after 5 corners something broke and they had no choice to pull over. Not only was their stage over, but their day was over.
Dan’s a bit of a granny when it comes to his performance and he frequently beats himself with a wet celery stick while he’s driving, bemoaning that his granny could have driven faster etc, I think it’s a trend amongst drivers as they all seem to do it, he was all apologetic over the stage worried that he was braking to early, going to slow etc etc, to be fair, it felt alright to me, but also to be fair, im an idiot who holds a picture of the route, so in reality im just there for the ride. The stage conditions were officially wet, lots of water everywhere so a cautious drive was probably for the best as the RWD configuration of the Darian doesn’t inspire you in the wet, naturally assuming that the front wheel drives and 4wd would have the advantage. As it turned out, it was a good stage with a 5th fastest time, we didn’t initially check as knowing how he’s going isn’t good for Dan’s nerves, he frets, so we don’t worry to much in the early stages, we go as well as we can and see how it goes.
Stage 2 was much the same, a good clean run, similar stage conditions, but we improved our stage 1 time by 16 seconds putting us 3rd fastest and 3rd overall at that point. Our lack of knowledge over how we were doing was ruined by a text from Ben Parker saying we were going well and were 3rd, Dan didn’t have a melt down as it was and we continued in the same theme, with every stage going well and Dan living the dream as we blasted around the stages. We spent a lot of the day chatting to competitors around us comparing times etc and generally having a giggle. Drive of the day was from another ASWMC championship contender Darren pool/Chris Beer in their 1600cc super 1600 type spec Corsa, he was flying and laying in 2nd overall, we were swapping a second here and a second there with them, in fact the 2nd to 4th places were all by a whisker, swapping seconds each time, but all generally holding position, Martyn England in his Ford Fiesta R5 Evo plus super mega bit of kit was out in front by a reasonable margin each stage, driving the socks of the Fiesta its fair to say, and none of us were ever going to catch him with conditions as they were, so we continued the fight through the day for the highest place non 4WD car.
The day was thereafter fairly undramatic, Dan put in a very good drive, very clean and tidy, generally winding the Darrian up a bit more every stage to keep with the group we were fighting with, Dan was very calm, the pressure was handled very well, the car was going well and everything truly was good with the world, except of course, the weather which just seemed to get worse. Stage 7 being the penultimate stage of the day, we all went in holding our positions and pretty much 2nd to 5th set exactly the same time such was the consistency of our group, stage 8 also saw us all hold our positions and finish as we had entered.
We were delighted that the Darrian had taken us to a 3rd overall and 1st of the 2 litre cars and indeed the RWD cars, at the start of the day we were all a bit doomy due to the weather but it goes to show a clean and tidy drive in the wet pays dividends, Dan did a brilliant job all day, kept focussed and pushed on hard to give us the result. Overall an awesome event despite the weather, giving Dan good experience in the Darrian under challenging conditions and also for Dan a very good haul of ASWMC points putting him in 2nd in the ASWMC series with a mathematical chance of winning, with 2 events left to run were of to Caerwent at the very beginning of October and then Bovington in late November, plus fitting in a grand tour to Jersey for the fantastic Jersey rally in between as well, so watch this space for updates as we go.
Dan Gibson/Alf Chanter
Darrian T90 Batmobile.