**Note to all readers that I should have posted this blog entry before the recent Anglesey one but as I wasn’t there at the North West Stages, soaking up the atmosphere (and the rain) in person, it’s taken me a bit longer to write it 🙂 **
Whoop, whoop. The boys finished the North West Stages and as they say “the boys done good”.
There had been a heady mix of excitement and anticipation in the air as the build up to the next event began. This was going to be a big deal and, as with other past events, the aim was merely to finish, although there was an unmentioned understanding that it would be good if they could at least beat their last placing of 40. That was their target.
The North West Stages sponsored by Legend Fires is reputed to be the best way that club rally crews can experience something of what it would be like to compete in a major event akin to ” a tough European rally, with central servicing, a non stop time schedule, thousands of spectators, night time stages and much more”. It wasn’t going to be like the single stage events the boys had entered previously as this one was going to be run over several different venues and surfaces with timed road miles in between. A total of 26 stages in 24 hours, this was big. We’re they and the car ready for it? Oh yes they were.
The weather forecast had been scrutinised for updates several times a day in the days preceding the event, in fact maybe even several times an hour if the truth be told. Maybe even more than one website was checked on “just in case”. How can different websites have such different weather predictions for the same area? Someone needs to have a word with the Met Office as they are not understanding the information you are giving them! We stuck with the Met Office gurus in the end, they should know what’s going on. A slight ripple of “oh my god it’s going to be wet” panic started to make it’s way across a previously still pond.
The final night before they left had some moments of confusion to it. Tony came home and reported that his whole car was in bits on the floor of Jon’s garage. Errrrmmmmm you’re racing tomorrow shouldn’t it be in one piece all sparkly and polished I thought to myself? It transpired that there was actually a whole “spare” car (minus the shell) in bits on the floor that would be loaded into one of the vans as spares in case anything went wrong.
Friday morning came and after a restless night like kid’s on Christmas Eve, Tony, Tom and gang set off for the obligatory team breakfast before making their way to Blackpool. Me? No I didn’t go this time – I’d been checking the weather reports remember 🙂 and besides, it was going to be a bit of a non stop weekend by all accounts. I understand the the normal routine kicked in as soon as they left Telford, Tom fell asleep only to wake up just outside Blackpool.
I got a picture text at about 1.30 that seemed to show they were getting off the M6 and onto the M55 towards Blackpool. Very nice boys but get a shifty on as registration has just opened was my reply!
Car scrutineering pass – check. Tony eye test pass – check (slight age related panic moment all the same). Car number 77 was stickered up and ready to roll. 95 cars were running in total so a starting place of 77 wasn’t bad this time round. Just time for a cup of tea and a quick fag or two before they were back to the hotel.
The night stages commenced with an bit of pomp and ceremony as the Mayor of Blackpool waved off the first cars at a ceremonial start. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and go. There may have been a little slip up on stage one but that’s ok and hey, the boys were shown at the top of the leader board for a while and they pulled it back together for the next three stages.
The boys had been given inside secure parking at the hotel for overnight and apparently the ballroom had been designated as the indoor parking area. Poshest garage anyone would ever park in with the large glinting crystal chandeliers hanging above, I’m sure even Elton John, Mr King of Bling, doesn’t have chandeliers in his garage! He doesn’t, does he? There sure were some very nice (read expensive) cars parked in that garage that night. The plan was to go back to the hotel and get something to eat but the draw of all those cars was too much and the boys took a bit of a walk around before finally getting something to eat quite late and getting to bed at midnight, hmmmm might regret that late night in the morning.
OK so the full English breakfast may have helped start the day off nicely, it was going to be a long day ahead and there were several stages to be run. The weather wasn’t the best. To be fair the weather was more than atrocious. The rain was horizontal at times and the wind was howling a gale. Credit where credit is due to all the spectators that had ventured up to Blackpool to offer their support and to watch the boys on this event, quite a few from the Longmynd Motor Club had made the effort.
The stages today would all be different to each other both in difficulty and road surface. One was at Weeton army camp (Tony liked this one the best of all) then on to a water treatment works, a go carting track, a dock yard and of course the promenade at Blackpool itself. That wind and ran just didn’t let up all day, it was a tough day’s driving. Me, sitting back at home in front of the fire, kept people updated on the timings and posted results on the Facebook page. Snug 🙂 .
Tony said that the day went so quickly and there wasn’t much time in between stages to think about how long they had already been sitting in the car even though their legs and backs were constantly trying to remind them! There was time for a quick service on most stages, I say most as there were some where the boys just carried on to the next stage. Note for future reference that the Landrover following you with the two men in it waving their arms at you are your servicing crew. They are calling you into servicing with their waving arms, not sending you on! I think the boys got a bit carried away with all the excitement but who could blame them……. they were rally drivers!
They slowly crept up the leader board through out the day. It showed in their timings that they were getting more comfortable with the event after each stage.
It started to drop dark so Jon and Neal (the Landrovering arm wavers) fitted some more lights onto the front of the car to get the boys safely through the next lot of night stages. Not a lot of pages left to cover in the road book so the end was in sight. Team hug ……. “Let’s do this bro, lets push, push, push to the end”.
Under the finish line they came, boys still in one piece (maybe a bit tired) and car still in one piece (may be a bit muddy……. is that a bit of tree sticking out of the grill?). And what a finish line it was, this was a big deal event remember so there was a big deal event archway to pass under as the finish line!
The boys had finished in 33rd place. At least they had finished as I heard it reported that there were a great number of the 95 starters that didn’t finish, even some winning contenders didn’t make it to that archway.
I’m sure by past experience that a substantial amount of money will have passed over the bar in the hotel that night, I didn’t need to be there to tell you that.
It’s a big thank you to all concerned and another event under the boy’s belts. Roll on the next one.