Shetland 27th – 31st January 2019

Shetland Up Helly Aa Trip – January 2019

This was the first ABC Rallying trip away that didn’t involve any rallying. As Brian has been the regular driver taking the Fiddle band from Shetland between their accommodation and Edinburgh Castle at the Tattoo for the past 4 years he has been invited to visit Shetland.  For Up Helly Aa 2019 Brian decided to make the trip and asked the rest of the team to join him.

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Gordon, Ian, Brian and David left from Edinburgh Airport heading for Sumburgh on Sunday 27th Jan. It was a decent flight with only a few bumps as the plane descended into Sumburgh.

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We were picked up at the airport by Jade who was a regular visitor to the Tattoo and had kindly agreed to give us a lift into Lerwick.  We were staying at the Glen Orchy Hotel and after checking in we headed out to see the pubs in Lerwick. First up was The Lounge and after a few drinks we then moved on to the Grand Hotel where more of Brian’s friends were.  Margaret was playing that night and Kriss was also there.  The Grand bar shut at 11:00 and we moved on to the Marlex until it closed at 1:00.

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Monday 28th January

Monday morning and we were up bright and early for breakfast. The plan for today was to go for some shopping and have a look round Lerwick to get our bearings. We walked into town using the scenic route and made a visit to the tourist information office.

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After that we went to Tesco to get what we needed for Tuesday night, some beer, whisky and plastic glasses :-).  It had started snowing really heavily while we were in Tesco but don’t panic, we made it back safely with the beer.tesco_snow

Once the shopping had been dropped off at the hotel we had a good walk round Lerwick and went for a Chinese in the Golden Coach which would become a regular haunt in the days to come.  Back out in the evening and were joined by Jade.  We met Margaret and Kriss again in the Grand Hotel later on.

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Tuesday 29th – Up Helly Aa Day

Finally Up Helly Aa day had arrived. The plan was to see the procession in the morning, go for a few drinks and then have some lunch then get a few hours sleep before coming back out to see the procession and the burning at night before heading to the hall for the rest of the night.

We headed into town and took up position just above the Bressay ferry terminal as the Jarl squad would be stopping there for some official photos.

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After the procession we went back to The Lounge where Margaret was playing and we had a few drinks before lunch.

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After lunch we went back to the hotel and managed to get a few hours sleep before getting ready to head out for the evening procession and the burning of the galley.

We were down about an hour early and managed to get a spot next to the wall at the park where the galley would be burned. The full procession walked past us and the sheer number of guizers was hugely impressive to see.  The main event was when the galley is set on fire and gets burned in the park. Its quite extraordinary to see almost 1000 guizers throwing their burning torch onto the boat to set it alight.

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After watching the conclusion of the burning we headed across to the hall at Sound school where Kriss had been kind enough to arrange to get us an invite for the evening.

This started at 9:00pm on the Tuesday and would run till 8:00am on the Wednesday.  We weren’t sure how it would go as visitors very rarely make it past 3:00am. What an incredible night with music and dancing. Each of the 47 squads that make up teh Up Helly Aa procession make a visit to each hall and put on a performance.  The definite highlight was squad number 1, the Jarl squad who arrived about 4 in the morning.

hall_midnight about midnight, just getting started.

hal_6.22 at 6:22, into the home straight and still going strong.

There were rumours one of the group fell asleep for a few seconds but we can neither confirm or deny if this actually happened 🙂

The last squad turned up at ten to eight and the party ended at about 5 past eight.  We walked back to hotel and got there at half eight just in time to order breakfast before the kitchen closed.

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Wednesday 30th January – Hop Day

After breakfast we went to bed for a few hours and were back up and about just after one o’ clock.  We went for a walk and enjoyed a leisurely stroll in and around Lerwick taking in some of the scenery.

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We then went for lunch, again at the Golden Coach.

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Then time for more drinks.  The Lounge didn’t open till 6 so we had one in Captain Flints in the meantime.

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Then at 6 we went to the Lounge and met up with Jade and Inga. There was live music on later in the night so that was us until closing time at 1:00.

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Thursday 31st January

Last day on Shetland. We had to check out of the room by ten so got that sorted first then went for a walk into town and headed up to the ferry terminal for the Aberdeen ferry as we hadn’t been in that part of Lerwick all week.  Next up was lunch and we were going to try the Steakhouse but it wasn’t open for lunch so back to the Golden Coach it was for the fourth day running.

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After that we went to Sumburgh head near the airport to kill some time before the flight was due. Jade was driving having kindly volunteered to take us back to the airport.

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After looking round the lighthouse we got dropped off at the airport to discover the flight was delayed by 3 hours.  The previous flight couldn’t get into Edinburgh due to fog so it was diverted to Glasgow.  The crew had run out of flying time so they had to swap with the replacement crew. Unfortunately the crew were in Edinburgh and the plane was in Glasgow, hence the delay. Once we got going it was a quick flight with no dramas.

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It was a fantastic week and Up Helly Aa was just amazing, highly recommended to anyone who is thinking about going to see it.

We said that it would probably be a once in a lifetime experience and we wouldn’t do it again but after such an amazing week we’ve changed our minds and would definitely like to visit again although probably not next year as it will take longer than that to recover 🙂

 

Wales Rally GB National – 5th – 6th October 2018

The car was not too badly damaged following the off on the Galloway Hills in September.  A new wing was needed and the suspension arms were replaced but apart from that it all looked fine.  Until the Sunday before Wales when the car wouldn’t start.  Gordon replaced everything he could think of, leads, coils etc. but no difference. The car was booked in with ProTec Performance to get the carbs tuned prior to heading to Wales so Gordon agreed to drop the car off a day early so that this problem could be investigated.  The laptop suggested everything was working ok but still it wouldn’t start.  The problem was finally traced to the crank shaft sensor bracket which had broken and the locating pin that prevents the sensor from moving was missing from the end of the bracket.  Once a new sensor bracket was fitted the car started straight away.

The car was picked up on Wednesday night and we headed to the service park at Deeside in North Wales.

Service Park Deeside

Thursday was the day to get the car checked at scrutineering and to complete the paperwork. Everything went smoothly with no problems.

The rally started for us on Friday. There were six stages across North Wales.

The first, Clocaenog went fine. No dramas and we got up to speed quite quickly getting used to the slippy surface.

Next up was Brenig which was the longest stage of the rally at 18 miles.  It started fine but unfortunately quite early on we noticed some handling problems.  This got worse and it became clear that we had a puncture.  We still had about 8 miles to go so had no choice but to stop and change it.  It took around 3 minutes to change the wheel and then to complicate things further when getting back in the car the intercom lead had got trapped in the door and got damaged.  This meant that the last 8 miles were completed with Gordon being unable to hear the route notes.  Lots of hand signals were required from Ian to ensure we got slowed down enough for the tight corners. Fortunately we made it unscathed and got to the end without any further problems.

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For the next stage in Penmachno we were able to switch to the spare intercom before the stage meaning that we were at least able to hear each other. The stage went very well, setting 25th quickest time. There was one small spin near some gates which was fairly close but fortunately just missed them and carried on.

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The last 2 stages were in slate mountain, a short spectator stage at a slate mine.  The information before the event suggested it would be a bit rough so we were very cautious and didn’t take any chances. The fears were proved correct as there were huge ruts and also very large rocks on the road as well. The time for our first run through was fairly slow but it didn’t matter it would be a huge shame to break the car when the next day had some great stages.

The last stage of the day was another run round slate mountain and we got stopped near the end as a Subaru had hit a rock and completely broken the suspension leaving the car in the middle of the road blocking the stage.

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We had to wait about 15 minutes for the car to be recovered and then we made our way back to the service area at Deeside.

Once back we noticed we had been given a wrong time from the blocked stage at Slate Mountain putting us down the results. We submitted an inquiry and were told that it would be sorted out.

Meanwhile David Alexander and Sam Black got to work checking the car over before the Saturday stages. The car had ran perfectly but the team found a few problems. There was a bent part on the front suspension and the nut had stripped meaning it was coming loose.  That was replaced and re-tightened ok.  Sam found that one of the back wheel bearings was in really bad condition and was concerned it wouldn’t make it to the end.  Gordon was able to use his contacts from when he worked in Shropshire to get in touch with a company that did 24 hour call outs for supplying bearings and they confirmed they had one in stock.  David and Ian set off for Shrewsbury to collect it.  It was quite late when they returned so Sam fitted it in the morning once it was daylight again.

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On Saturday morning the incorrect time from the last stage had not yet been corrected and we had been put at the back meaning we were running behind cars that were much slower than us.  We asked the clerk of the course to look at it but he decided that there was no safety issue with us running with cars that we would about 3 minutes quicker than and were left to run at the back of the field.

The first stage of the day was Myherin which was very wide and fast.  Unfortunately in the first mile or so the car just slid off the road and the car got beached on the sump guard.  There were a few spectators at the corner but they couldn’t push it back onto the road.  We got out and attached the tow rope to the back of the car and we were able to pull it out back onto the road.  Unfortunately around 3 and half minutes had been lost.  However we got going again and caught and passed the 3 cars that had gone past us while we were stuck. We carry a GPS speedometer in the car and this was the fastest stage of the weekend reaching 91 mph.

The next stage was Sweet Lamb.  We had a very clear run through here with no real dramas.  We caught the 2 cars running in front of us but they were really good and moved out of the way straight away.

The next stage was Dyfi, another classic Welsh forest stage. This one again went fine and we caught a couple of cars but no problems to speak of.

Only 2 stages to go and the next one was Gartheiniog across the road from Dyfi. It was a bit looser in here but we had another clean run.

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The last stage of the rally was Dyfnant and was only 5 miles long. We didn’t take any risks but had a good run and set the 20th quickest time through here.

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We then had a 2 hour road section back to Deeside to complete the rally.  When we got back to Deeside we were showing as having a 3 minute time penalty.  We queried this and it got removed as it was a mistake.

We made it over the finish ramp to finish 30th overall and 5th in class.

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And that was it over for another year. 30th overall was a good result and the stages were really good.

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A huge thanks to everyone that helped especially David and Sam for servicing. Thanks to Alan and Mark at ProTec for slotting us in and making the time to get the car running properly. Thanks to Anthony for the loan of an intercom for Saturday after we broke the cable on Friday.

Galloway Hills Rally – 8th September 2018

The event started from Castle Douglas.  The morning got off to a slightly stressful start when the car wouldn’t start first thing due to a flat battery. After attaching the jump leads it started first time but it wasn’t the calm start we had hoped for.

After going over the ceremonial start ramp at Threeve Gardens we were off towards the first stage using part of the Raiders road forest drive near Clatteringshaws.  It was a steady start for the first couple of miles as we both got back into the swing of things after the outing on the Scottish in May.  After that things went very well with a nice flowing stage and we found some decent pace towards the end of the stage.  We ended the stage 42nd overall.

Black Loch was the next stage.  Again things were going well until about 2 miles in and we slid a bit wide on a tight left hander. There was a bridge just after the corner and the car slid over the edge and then went into the ditch after that.  It plugged into the soft ground and then tipped onto its side.

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We manged to get out ok but the car was stuck fast and the suspension looked to be quite badly damaged. That was us till everyone had gone through and the recovery unit came and pulled the car back onto its wheels and then out of the ditch.  The car was driving under its own power but wasn’t handling too well, we toured through to the end of the stage and then made it along the road to the service area.

Thanks to George and his recovery crew for getting us back onto our wheels and thanks to Michelle and Alan for walking up from the previous junction to make sure we were ok.

Not the best end to the day but it was good fun while it lasted.  Now a bit of work ahead to get the car ready for Wales Rally GB in October but fingers crossed its not too serious.

Thanks to David, Samantha and Connor for helping us out over the weekend.

Scottish Rally – 19th May 2018

Gordon has now moved to Yorkshire so its not just so far to come back to Scotland.  The team entered the Scottish rally which would be the first event in Scotland for 5 years.

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Start line – photo by Brian Alexander

The event started from Lockerbie Lorry Park and we away nice and early at 8:15 in the morning.  The weather had been very dry in the lead up to the event so a lot of dust was expected.

The first stage was Twiglees and we made a steady start as this was the first rally for 7 months.  No real problems but every now and again we would get caught in a dust cloud as there was very little wind and it was struggling to clear in some sections.  The stage was also quite loose which made it quite a challenge to go in a straight line.  At the end we were 16th fastest which was respectable if unspectacular.

Stage 2 was Castle Oer just across the road. Dust was again likely to be a problem, however the car in front of us had gone off at the second junction and the car in front of him had gone off at junction 3. This meant we had a 3 minute gap to the car in front and visibility was perfect. We were able to push on the stage and it was all going well until a 90 left hand bend and the back end of the car came round too quick and the car spun and stalled.  It took a while to get going as we had to get the car started and then do a 3 point turn so probably 30 seconds or so lost.  Shortly after we came into a right hand junction and Gordon misheard the note and set the car up for going left.  So another small spin and 10 seconds lost. Only 25th quickest through the stage dropping us to 18th overall.

We then had a regroup and then back to Twiglees for a second run through.  The wind had picked up and the dust was clearing much quicker so it didn’t cause any problems on this run.  All was going well until about 3 miles from the end.  We were going over a particularly rough patch and trying to keep the car neat and tidy however when trying to dodge a big rock the car stepped sideways and we punctured a rear tyre. That made things difficult for the last section as we could only go half speed along the straights due to the unpredictable handling. 22nd quickest was all we could manage.

Stage 4 was another run through Castle Oer.  It was over almost as soon as it began.  The driveshaft broke off the start line and we decided to park up at the next junction.  Once all the cars had gone through we rejoined in front of the closing car and made it out and then back to service.  The plan was to get it repaired and complete the last 2 stages. However once back in service we discovered it was too badly damaged and couldn’t be repaired.

Unfortunate to end the rally like that but it was enjoyable while it lasted.

Thanks to Brian and David for helping out with the servicing.