I met Simon (Harlequin) today and handed over my C5 parts which will soon be on their way north! While we were chatting I related a tale from my rallying days which we both felt might be amusing on here, so here it is:
30 years ago I was fortunate to buy myself a BX19 16V in black with the red trim. It was a fantastic car and only 18 months old when I got it. I bought it with the intention of doing some road rallies with my navigating mate Lee. Before I collected the car I had sent off our entry fee and form for The Highwayman Rally which was a very fast road event in Yorkshire, ideal for the maiden run of my new aquisition. However when I collected the car from Alconbury up the A1 and drove it home I fell in love with it and immediately decided it would be insane to take it on a rally.
We only had a fortnight to go and did not want to forfeit our entry fee so I looked around for another car to use to no avail. On the Monday of the week before the weekend event we decided to hire a car for the event and I quickly found a company in Watford called Town & Country car hire. They were ideal as they were not in the normal car hire business but specialised in hiring out various exotic cars for exorbitant prices, you could have a day in a Ferrari for £500 or a Porsche for £350! They also offered a Skip Brown converted Peugeot 205 GTi 1.9 for £300 for the weekend. We went for it and collected it on the Friday morning and took it home.
We had to fit full harnesses, a fire extinguisher under the passenger seat and make sure the tyres all showed their E markings for scrutineering. We drove up to Yorkshire on the Saturday morning arriving at scrutineering at 3pm. We aroused an awful lot of eyebrows as we drove into the barn surrounded by Astra GTE's, Escort RS's. Sunbeam Lotus's and other similarly prepared, almost Group A in some cases, rally beasts which were all the pride and joy of their Yorkshire based owners. They couldn't believe that these two softie southerners had turned up to take them on in a shopping car!!
Having passed scrutineering we went to find a decent pub and have dinner before reporting back for Driver's briefing and Navigational handout, all tulip diagrams, time at 8pm. We were car 27 in a 48 car field, numbers being allocated by entry form arrival order, so our start time was 22.28 and at 21.30, by now feeling somewhat sheepish following the evening's banter in the pub, we were strapping ourselves into the car in the waiting area. As expected our start time arrived and we set off on the first quiet section out of the town and made our way to TC1. To cut a long story short from there things went exceptionally well, Lee was bang on with the navigation and I was right on it with the wheel and by the halfway halt at 3am we were lying 2nd on the leaderboard, much to the amazement of most of the other crews. We were highly delighted in general although I was a bit concerned that we might have given the brakes a hard time and consequently we might have to ease off for the final 50 miles or so. Starting the second half with another 180 miles to cover all was going well until on the second competitive of the half we rounded a 90 left to see a triangle in the road and a mere 30 yards ahead the tail of a Sunbeam sticking out into the road from the left. I reacted as Lee bellowed "120 right". Well having moved over to the right to avoid the sunbeam I was completely wrong for a 120 right and made a bad decision. I should have gone straightish on down a track and stopped to turn round, but I didn't!! I tried to make it round the bend and ran out of road, up the bank and then came to a halt teetering at the top of a bank. Before we could do anything the car rolled over and either 2 or 3 rolls later came to a stop on our roof with the ticking of wheels revolving and the sound of steam hissing from the radiator. Lee turned to me and said "Wrong!". Then he pressed the button on my harness and dropped me on my head among all our paperwork and bits which were scattered all over the roof. I returned the complement and we crawled out unharmed. Panic struck as I looked at our hire car but I immediately forgot about that when Lee suggested we go and check that the Sunbeam crew were ok.
That we did and they were sitting on the verge aghast at our performance, they had simply lost it coming out of the previous bend and marooned their car on a post stump set in the middle of the track to deter travellers we assumed!! They also were unhurt but in a much better position than us, they owned their car and had a support crew on the way to get them out after the last car had passed. During this time a few more competitors passed through having been warned of the issue by Lee moving the triangle around the previous bend and thus being visible for 140 yards before they arrived so were driving slowly passed our accident just checking that no-one was hurt. The other chaps helped us push the car back onto its wheels and the damage was not such that we could not drive it except for the cracked radiator. We filled the radiator from our and the other crews' drinking bottles and then set about removing all signs of rallying from the car. The chaps, who were feeling a bit guilty about not having put the triangle round the bend in the first place, agreed to take all our maps, charts and the harnesses and extinguisher back with them and return them by post. We set off in the car with the idea of getting as far away from the rally route as we could and then find a similar place to stage our roll. We stopped after about 4 miles at a bridge and topped up the radiator from the stream using our drinking bottles and then carried on. Eventually we found ourselves out on the moors a good 12 miles from the route and on a road with banks on both sides and sheep in the adjacent field. We pushed/drove the car up the bank to give us some leverage and then tipped it over onto its roof again.
Fortunately working for BT Mobile I had a phone, a Jade in fact, which we had checked after the crash and so we called the hire company's breakdown and explained that we had swerved to miss an errant sheep, gone up the bank and the car had rolled over back down to the road. They were incredible!! They sent out a recovery truck at around 5.45am who took us to a hotel in Scarborough where we found rooms each and first class tickets to Watford on the 16.30 train from York. We slept till noonish and then got up and had lunch before a taxi collected us and took us to the station. We travelled home in absolute luxury and then faced explaining to the then SWMBO where the car was, "Oh the radiator split and we had to come home by train" was my response if I remember correctly!!
I very nearly blew the whole thing when I went into the hire company's office the next day to sort out our refund would you believe, and the receptionist greeted me with "I bet you wish you had some mint sauce with you?" I looked at her blankly without the faintest idea what she was talking about. Fortunately for me she followed up with "or did the sheep survive?" and I cottoned on!! Anyway that's the story of what can happen when you buy yourself a BX19 16V!