Rally Racc 45 Catalunya - 2009

CodeMasters Dirt 3 - 2009

TAC Rally - 2012

Rally Racc 45 Catalunya

The first weekend of October saw 25 Slowly Sideways cars being put through their paces on Spain’s round of the World Rally Championship. Nine cars from Slowly Sideways UK made the trip to Salou, south of Barcelona with the remainder of the cars coming from Germany and Spain.

Having had two days to recce the stages the crews ventured to the start ramp to be set on their way in the company of hundreds of spectators and FIA presidency candidate Jean Todt just prior to the WRC cars. A quick parade lap of Salou with Police escorts added to the party atmosphere with fireworks and huge crowds eager to see the fantastic display of historic rally cars.

Friday morning saw clear blue skies as the cars made their way to the first stage, La Mussara. Unfortunately at the end of the stage having passed the mighty Mercedes 500SL the writers usually ever reliable ex works TR7 V8 decided it was time for the gearbox to self destruct marking the end of our rally, much to my and co driver Yvonne Mehta’s disappointment. All the other cars passed through the stage without drama and then carried on to the remaining two stages, a total of 66kms for the day.

Rob Whitehouse was having an entertaining time with stand in co driver Neil Dashfield in the ex Tabaton Lancia 037 despite an initial problem with a flat battery. The duo of Escorts of Kevin Vaites in his immaculate ex Monte Carlo wide bodied Mk2 and Chris Skills Colibri coloured Mk 1 were entertaining the crowds with their screaming BDA’s doing the tarmac stages justice. Graeme Lawton was enjoying every moment of Catalunya with his ex Blomqvist Lotus Sunbeam which had run faultlessly throughout the Eifel rally and was not to disappoint in Spain.

A few minor indiscretions saw a couple of crews carrying out some repairs at the end of day one but a concerted effort by all involved meant they would all be running the next day. Jim Avis had a small trip into the Spanish vineyards and even collected some grapes in the front of the wonderful RS200 and thanks to the efforts co driver Mark Sharratt who installed the excellent in car video system he will be able to re live the moment over and over again. Thankfully the car and occupants were fine with some mild superficial damage and some enthusiastic spectators soon saw them on their way again.

The second day saw more sunshine and 25 degree temperatures for the crews to tackle a further three stages in the gap between the WRC cars first and second runs of the stages. A gentle warm up for the day was the 38.3km El Priorat stage which has the very famous El Molar hairpin in the middle of it where literally thousands turn up to spectate so the pressure was on to execute the perfect handbrake turn.

During the course of the day Rob Whitehouse was perfecting his cutting techniques and unfortunately bent two wheels with consequent punctures. In true spirit the Spanish Lancia 037 crew stopped to lend a spare wheel, so normal service was soon resumed. Sadly the differential cried enough at the end of the day and that spelt early retirement for the likeable Lancia crew.

The Nissan 240RS of Tony Walker was going well with no major problems while Pat Horan who had come all the way from Ireland was managing to drive round a low rpm misfire in the Alitalia Fiat 131 Abarth. Terry Maynard was relishing every moment in his RS200 on his second visit to Catalunya and the car was performing well.

The final day saw three further stages although one was sadly cancelled due to an incident with a WRC car and a spectator who had apparently had a heart attack. I was privileged to sit in the co drivers seat for Kevin Vaites in the ex Works Escort as a result of his co driver being unavailable. It was a joy to behold to hear the Escort revving to 9000rpm and amazing to see how nimble the 275bhp Escort was on Tarmac. This very special Monte Carlo Escort clearly showed that this was no ordinary forest car and compared to my own TR7 V8 it was considerably more poised through the bends if maybe not ultimately a match for the 310bhp Triumph on the straights.

Having crossed the finish ramp we were then able to watch the WRC cars cross the ramp and have a front row view for the traditional champagne soaking. Citroen had won the manufacturers title for 2009 so further celebrations rounded off a fabulous few days in Spain.

CodeMasters Dirt 3

SS UK crews help Codemasters with some sound bites!

No, use your finger like everyone else - By Syd Wall

When I turned up at Kemble Airfield this week, I thought recording the noise of various rally cars would be a simple task of bunging a microphone in the engine bay, another at the exhaust and Bob’s your uncle. Well, maybe the microphone would be a bit more sophisticated than a Dictaphone, but still nothing fancy. Was I wrong!

I should have realised that when the developers at Codemasters want to re-record their favourite cars using the latest technology, they don’t mess about. They engaged the services of John Price Rallying to round up legendary rally cars (hence Slowly Sideways’ presence) and brought their audio gurus with their state of the art electronics to do the recording at Kemble Airfield near Cirencester, the venue for two full days of intense activity. report_2009_catalunya_clip_image002

The first car to be given the Codemasters treatment was Charlie Blaney’s Metro 6R4, the ex John Price red & white Ferodo car and John was in attendance along with his service van. Inside were two days worth of cups of tea and biscuits for everyone plus a Renault 5 Maxi Turbo.

report_2009_catalunya_clip_image004Mark Knight, leading the Codemasters team, started the complex process of  selecting sites on the 6R4 for the mikes (both exhausts, engine air intake and 2 others I didn’t spot), attaching them and the yards of associated cables with gaffer tape (they’d used two rolls by the time they were happy!) and hooking them up to the lap mounted computer once Mark had taken his place in the passenger seat. After about 90 minutes, the 6R4 was able to take to the empty runway for controlled blasts up to the rev limiter in each gear, past numerous dead Boeing 747s and then back to the pits to download about 1.5gb of data and analyse it to see if the results were satisfactory. They decided a few tweeks were necessary, right down to the level of clipping the length of the fur covers on the mikes and then out again for more runs. Happy with the results, Codemasters transferred all the equipment to car two.    

Mark is a confirmed petrolhead and enthused about the 6R4 noises - ‘What’s he in a Metro for then?’ said Gary Midwinter – ‘Wait until he gets in the quattro!’report_2009_catalunya_clip_image006

Gary’s fabulous quattro was indeed car two. With more experience of the weather conditions, preparing the quattro was much quicker and it was soon ready to run and set off for four hugely noisy sprints down the runway.

Unfortunately, I had to leave before John’s Maxi Turbo and Chris Rabbets’ Alpine A110 were Dictaphone’d so apologies to both for the lack of mike’d up pictures and I wasn’t able to go back for day two when Steve Rockingham’s Sunbeam Lotus, Dave Kedward’s Chevette and John’s Renault were recorded.

So when the DiRT 3 video game is released in 2011, you’ll know something of the work involved in recording the excellent car sounds…and see if you can spot the fart!

TAC Rally 2012

Rain Windmills And Tarmac

Representing Slowly Sideways UK were Dave & Paula Kedward in their Lancia 037, Jim Avis and Peter Moss in their Focus WRC and Tony Walker and Tom Jones in their Marboro Nissan 240RS.  In addition Nigel Mummery, Fiona Scarrett and crew took the opportunity to increase their competition experience by making the trip across and competing in the main field with his Ford Focus WRC.  In the capacity of service/chase crew were Tim Bendle, Kate Gamez, Richard Anderton, Alex and Andy O’Shea.

Slowlysideways Belgium and Germany brought along a diverse range of cars, some genuine some replicas, but all entertaining to watch. The cars consisted of a Metro 6R4, 3 Triumph TR7s, a Renault Maxi Turbo, a Renault 5 Gordini, an Escort Mk1 and Mk2, 2 Porsche 911s, 2 Toyota Celicas, a Toyota Corolla, 2 Lancia Stratos, 2 Opel Kadetts, a Datsun and finally an Audi Quattro S1 powered by an Audi V8 engine.

On the first night of the trip the three branches of Slowly Sideways met up for the annual pre rally dinner to collect car decals and road books and to hear the forecast for the days ahead.  After last year’s event being held under wall to wall sunshine which led to high speeds on the fast tarmac stages, this year’s event was approached with a degree of caution as the weather forecast was less than promising.  With the formalities out of the way it was time to relax and renew friendships, swap stories of the last 12 months escapades and discuss the latest acquisitions.        

As the morning of recceing dawned drivers were met by overcast but dry conditions.  Stages 1 and 2 were a repeat of those used in previous years, whereas stages 3 and 4 required major changes to pace notes as fast open curves became narrow caution corners, as one stage had been reversed and the other had substantial alterations made to the end.  With pace notes written and cars scrutineered it was time to relax and discuss tactics for tomorrow’s stages and dinner.

The morning of the rally arrived bringing with it wet and overcast conditions, which would make interesting driving conditions. Dave and Jim opted to run on their existing intermediate tyres, whilst Tony opted to switch to wets.  By the time the Slowly Sideways cars gained access to the stages the main field had been through them once and therefore what had been fast tarmac with ‘shiggy’ parts were now mud strewn and very slippery. 

The attrition rate throughout the whole field was high with cars falling foul of the treacherous conditions.  The fortunate ones re-enacted the final scenes of the Great Escape and jumped the ditches the unfortunate ones being sucked in.  The situation was repeated in the Slowly Sideways cars but fortunately all three UK cars came home safely.

Nigel and Fiona began the day on slicks which made a very for a hairy ride and involved a couple of offs, before a switch to more suitable rubber saw them claw their way back through the field to reach 17th overall before falling victim to the clutch gremlins, which ultimately proved terminal.

Dave and Paula had another successful outing in the trusty Italian Stallion.  After some dicey moments on the first loop, once things had dried out a bit the car looked completely at home on the fast tarmac stages and needed nothing in the way of attention all day except for refuelling. 

Tony and Tom in the resplendent Nissan spent the day running under the mantra of go hard or go home and repeatedly caught the higher seeded Audi Quattro despite being set off at between 30seconds and 1 minute intervals.  After a swift early morning tyre change and a tweak of the clutch linkage the only attention required was as a result of a stray engine mounting bolt spotted by an eagle eyed young mechanic in the form of Richard (a name to watch out for in the future in terms of motorsport mechanics)during the lunch time service.

Jim and Peter had a good morning with the Focus’s active diffs revelling in the slippery conditions.  Unfortunately as the afternoon runs began the car had a visit from Nigel’s clutch gremlins which progressively got worse and led to them having to withdraw halfway through the final loop of stages.

With trophies collected and cars on trailers it was a quick dash back to the hotel before going out to the local Pizzeria for dinner and tales of the day’s events.  Then it was back to the hotel for nightcaps and discussions about obscure rally cars and general rally trivia. 

As the wee small hours beckoned it was time to make an orderly exit to bed and so ended another trip to Slowly Sideways Belgium and an event that provided fast challenging stages without in most cases being a car wrecker.