Paul’s DiRT Diary Part 3 – Neath and Grizedale
Now the car was put together and following a successful test it was time for our first event, our story picks up in summer 2011 with a very long drive…
The Neath Valley Stages
After over 6 months of planning we travelled over to South Wales to compete in the first Rally event for the DiRT 3 Impreza. Chris and the Eclipse Performance team came down from Sunderland with the car and the service truck; the journey took them approximately 10 hours. Jon drove up from Devon and I travelled from the Midlands. We all met at a Bed and Breakfast and made our final preparations before bedding down ready for the event. I was fortunate enough to meet one of Jon’s old co drivers who was competing in the same event. He was able to offer some last minute advice before we headed off into the Walters Motorsport Arena.
…we had prepared well and we were looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead.
The event was very compact with Stage 1 & 2 being repeated as Stage 3 & 4 and stage 5 being the routes for stages 1 & 2 joined together into a longer route. The service park was a muddy quagmire that was a rude awakening to Rallying but after we got the service area set up it was time to go Rallying. To say I was nervous would be a huge understatement but we had prepared well and we were looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead.
We had a steady start into stage 1 and then decided to press on in Stage 2 but quickly found a ditch after the first hairpin on the stage. After getting pulled out and being given a maximum stage time we made our way back to service to assess the damage. After a quick check we headed back out and continued to set some encouraging times through the last three stages. We made it to the finish and having set some quick times managed a 20th overall. We left the Neath Valley hungry for more and thinking about what might have been and what we could do to upgrade the car’s performance.
Within a week of completing the Neath Valley stages we had decided on our next event. The Grizedale Stages near Coniston in the Lake District. We set about making preparations for the event and Chris and his team at Eclipse Performance took the car to get mapped with Carless Racing Fuel and a Simtek ECU. This meant we now had anti-lag, launch control and a significant boost to our performance from the high octane fuel.
On October 3rd 2011 we sent off our entry to the organisers and started to get all the Hotel information, travel details, Pacenotes and maps in order for the rally. At the end of October the car was also getting thrust into the limelight with an impressive article in Total Impreza magazine.
The Grizedale Stages
We spent November getting the final preparations together for the event. The event was split across two days. The full event involved a night stage on the Saturday night followed by a full day of Rallying on the Sunday. We opted for the lighter version that allowed us to skip the evening stage and focus entirely on the Sunday stages. We started off quick on the Sunday setting some very fast stage times throughout the day. After five stages we were matching the top 5 stage times for the full rally and leading the Sunday event by a minute and a half.
We decided that we would control the pace so we set out into stage 6 comfortable that we just needed to get to the finish and victory would be ours. Approximately three quarters of the way through the stage we broke a driveshaft as we came out of a hairpin. Despite Jon’s heroic efforts we soon found ourselves heading into the trees and after jumping over a small ditch we hit a tree stump and came to an abrupt halt. Despite the physical discomfort it was the pain of defeat that really hit home the hardest. Rally can be a cruel sport and this was a pretty clear example of how cruel it can be.
With Grizedale out of the way it was time to lick our wounds and focus on the festive season. Despite the huge upset of having to deal with crashing out from the lead we also had the significant cost of the repairs to think about. After getting the Impreza back to Sunderland a full investigation revealed that it would need a front suspension rebuild and some time on the jig to pull the chassis straight again.
Jon and I also decided that it was time to invest in a Head and Neck restraint system as I had to visit a Physiotherapist immediately on my return from the Lake District to deal with the significant whiplash injury that I had sustained during the impact on the Grizedale Stages. Once we had invested in the Hans devices it was time to look for another Rally event.
After a brief period of investigation we settled upon the Malcolm Wilson Rally in March 2012…