Thursday, 12 March 2009

Greystoke gasket grief for rallying Rachel

Carlisle-based rally co-driver Rachel Medich had a disappointing end to the Malcolm Wilson Rally last Saturday when mechanical failure forced the MGL Transport LTD supported Talbot Sunbeam she was sharing with Irishman Martin Lynch into retirement. Rachel gives the story of her event in this interview.

I gather you had a bit of drama with the car in the week before the rally?

Yes, just a bit, we needed a new engine as, according to Martin, we were sabotaged by Ken Jackson in car 88! He took the Sunbeam out for a run and the engine blew up… of course we have no proof, but Martin reckons he found evidence of toffee forced into the cylinder head. He got it fixed in good time only to complain at me about a “new noise” in the rear, which, as I informed him, had been present since before the Galloway Hills Rally last year. He complained about the “new noise” then too. We took the car to scrutineering only to discover that during a recent respray, the safety stickers on the bonnet had not been replaced, meaning I had to guess which was the engine kill pull switch. I pulled one, using the eeny, meeny, miny, moo method and promptly removed it, snapping it and almost performing a finger amputation on myself. So, with blood pouring from my finger, we went in search of a new switch and some stickers to pass scrutineering, which, we luckily did.

It must’ve been a relief just to get to the startline then! How did the first stage go?

It certainly was. The first stage was good fun, I can remember glancing up a few times and thinking “ooh, that tree/ rock is a wee bit close” as Martin used the ditches to hook the car around the corner. We made it to the end and started to get into the swing of things, Martin is always very nervous at first and only relaxes once he has one completed stage under his belt.

The next two stages were Comb and Wythop which run in the hills near Keswick. There are some pretty big drops in there, did you or Martin shut your eyes on any of them?

If I find out Martin shut his eyes I’ll be having words! I warned him before we went into the Comb stage that when I say “fresh air bend” I mean a drop of around 400 feet and nothing to break the fall. I don’t know if he was listening as I would call the corner along the lines of “100 into hairpin right, FRESH AIR BEND! give it some respect, back off!” and it was only as we neared the end of the 100 straight when he saw that I wasn’t joking that I felt his right foot lift. It’s very worrying as you fly into some of those bends and look into the abyss, some of the drops have claimed a few cars, luckily with no injuries. Martin and I did enjoy the “big dipper” in Wythop, a 500 metre straight where you end up in top gear on the rev limiter. He was smiling at that.

There’s some footage of you doing an F1-style passing move in Comb, what was going on there?

Car 86, which was directly behind us, managed to pass us on a road section as we checked our tyres and wheel nuts. Unfortunately he was a lot slower than us and we caught him around a mile before the end of the 6 mile Comb stage. We undertook him on an acute hairpin and regained our road position. Unfortunately Martin convinced himself we had a rear pucture and slowed after that, only to discover it was a phantom and that the excessive rear movement was due to the slippy stages.

The rally then moved on to Greystoke where your event came to a premature end, what happened?

Greystoke was extremely rough, in fact I picked up bruises on my collar bones from the jarring effect it was having and the use of the harness. We set off into the stage and it soon became apparent that we were overheating, the windscreen had completely steamed up and Martin was having to wipe his window constantly. I could not see a thing so it’s pretty lucky that I have developed the subtle art of co-driving off feeling alone, although on long straights it helps if you can see when to call the next corner. Around 3/4 of the way through we noticed the engine note change, I told Martin we had around two miles to go and he continued. I looked down at my feet as they felt hot and there was smoke!!! We went over the flying finish and I jumped out, promptly bungeeing myself back into the car as I’d neglected to disconnect my helmet. I thought we were going up in smoke. It was oil burning due to the headgasket blowing. We had knocked the bottom out of the radiator in the rough stage, lost all the water and cooked the poor engine.

Pretty disappointing not to get a finish then?

Yes very, more so for Martin, I’m very used to it, I haven’t finished the event yet in three times of trying. Malcolm Wilson Rally 3, Rachel 0

Your next event is at MIRA in April with a different car, different driver and different surface. You’ll be hoping for a different result as well?

Oh yes, myself and Marcus Tinsley in the Tinsley Joiners Peugeot 106 Rallye always seem to have fun on our events, I won’t tempt fate by saying we usually finish but……… We’ll be taking part in the Horiba d’Isis stages at the MIRA proving ground. It’s an excellent event with so many driver and co-driver challenges, theres simulated rail track, excessive camber and even a wall of death where you are literally vertical in the car. Last year we had a big moment where we hit some armco at around 70mph and only narrowly avoided rolling end over end. We went on to finish the event though. Hopefully we will get to the end this year too!

And you still like chocolate ice cream?

Of course! And Smarties ice cream!!!!

By Songasport