This event gets into the blood; I can’t seem to stay away from it. Maybe next year….. Because my navigator this year lives in Sussex, I made my own way to Lands End on the Thursday after- noon (1st Dec) and was the last car through scrutineering in the evening before arriving at Bosav- ern Guest House.

Although Matt Fowle’s original intention had been to catch the sleeper train over Thursday night, he had to work an hour or so on the Friday morning, so I met him at Penzance station at about 1530 on the Friday, and drove straight back to Lands End for him to sign on. I had set the trip dis- tance and signed on in the morning, the organisers allowing me to take all the paperwork away with me, including the map book and navigation for the first Leg (Lands End to Chepstow). So I plotted the regularity sections on the map – didn’t seem too hard – and marked up all the tests on the event. Some I recognised, while some were new to me.

The briefing at 1700 was normal, the buffet evening meal was good, as was the general chat among the competitors; then it was back to barracks while Matt quickly double checked my plot- ting and I did the crossword (well, not much of it actually!).
Our start time was 0855, being car 55 from 61 (oldest first, newest last, approximately) with three absentees, making 58 starters. As we departed, we were given the regularity information to plot on the sections this evening. We set a time of 44 secs on the first test at Lands End, quickest in our class of 5 cars, so no penalty. The quickest overall was 42 secs. We kicked off the first regu- larity with 3 secs at each of the two ITC’s, before heading to Camborne College for two carpark style tests where we were quickest in class on each, four seconds off quickest overall on the first asphalt test, and equal quickest on the second mainly gravel. Zero, one and one second were our penalties on the next regularity, before two excellent long tests at the Royal Cornwall Show- ground – quickest in class on each and quickest overall on the second. The Werrington Park test was very slippery and I was too careful, losing the class win by two seconds and being seven be- hind best overall.

Then it was off to lunch near Launceston, and a quick visit to the travelling mechanics to find out why the Golf had decided that 2500 was an ideal tick-over speed. This was diagnosed as an air leak into the inlet piping/tubing, but no obvious source of the problem. So they removed a con- necting joint, bolted off a rubber pipe or two, tied then safe with zipties and got it down to

1200rpm. I could live with that, and we had no more issues with that problem.

We then had two more regularities soon after lunch where we lost 17 over four ITC’s and just 7 over the next five ITC section. We had a long blast up the M5 then to get to Aust Services beside the old Severn Bridge – we tried to get up there before daylight faded but we weren’t suc-

cessful. I usually hate this test as it doesn’t flow, but this time it went well and we were quickest of all at exactly one minute. We refuelled at Chepstow and then it was straight into the dreaded Caerwent regularity with its multitude of roads, tracks and junc- tions, all defined by tulips with Jogularity timing. This was not our finest display, and we lost 3mins 38 secs over the seven controls which included getting nearly lost once because we misread a “building 634” for “building 684” and slotted too early. There was then a compulsory two hour rest halt at Chepstow Garden Centre, where we were served supper and received the route for the Time Control (Road Rally) Section. We were still on for a Gold Medal

It was great to see the Ross marshals out on the first evening section, and we did a good job on this, losing a total of only eleven seconds over the six controls. We were best of all on the next section south of Brecon, dropping 17 seconds over five ITC’s – spotting a tricky rough entrance to a T junction 25yd triangle helped. The marshal said that we were only the second car to get this at the first attempt; which buoyed us somewhat. The last two Welsh regularities didn’t go quite so well, but were not disasters. They were split by a non competitive drive over Epynt, up the ‘dual carriageway’ to Tirabad. This may be surprising to some, but this was the first time that I have ever driven that road. There was a short break at Beulah before the Road Rally bit. This was going to be slippery as it was a little misty and also -20C! We came across a German BMW who had missed a right hander, but we couldn’t stop to tow them out – leaving that to the Range Rover a couple of cars behind. Unfortunately, that and another caught car cost us a minute (missed by 3 secs) at TC6. All went well from there until we caught another car who let us past promptly, but still cost us another minute. Trying to catch up a little then and the Golf’s back end stepped out of line unexpectedly – luckily on a wide right hander and we didn’t hit anything. Seems like the new Quatrac 5’s on the front gripped better than the slightly older Quatrac 3’s on the back………

Lands End Test

Aust Services

On the run from the finish of the night section to the hotel near Connah’s Quay, Matt noticed that the trip had stopped reading distance. He said it was erratic for a few minutes and then stopped. This could be an interesting handicap on a regularity rally! It was about 0400 when we arrived at the hotel. I knew that a good friend had retired from the event and had a similar trip, so I as- sumed he was at home and called his mobile leaving a message. To cut a long story short, he tried to get his machine out of his car, but it was fixed in securely, and too long a job. I got back to bed about 0600, but couldn’t sleep, so I tried calling the maker of the trip at about 0700 and his wife answered – Oops! After talking through some checks to see where probe pulses were being read, we decided that he would drive up from Bridgnorth to Manchester and meet us at the third test of the day with a new trip. Matt had had the luxury of three hours’ sleep, while I had had about 30mins. That should set us up nicely! An incentive, however, was that we were still on for Gold Medal – only four crews left there now.

A good breakfast was followed by our start time of 0955, and off to Hootin – a karting circuit which we would attempt the test twice to get the arms flexing. Quickest in class on each and two seconds off quickest overall was a good start. We then went to the Lymm Truckstop for another test and this was where we were meeting our new trip. Unfortunately, this didn’t work either. More fiddling with terminals etc, but no joy, so we shot off to do the test – setting the quickest time overall on a short Solo-style course. Back to trying to sort the trip, but it still wouldn’t work, and as the course closing car had arrived and departed, we needed to go. Not easy doing 90 up the M6, but we passed the mechanics and the course closing ca before coming to another car- park style test somewhere near Preston, setting quickest time in class and two seconds off the overall pace.
Then it was off to some regularities – which could be interesting!
All regularities on LeJog are set up in Jogularity style – which is where the name comes from, of course. This means that each feature (salt bin, track, junction, footpath sign, metal gate etc) had an ideal time to be there as well as a distance to hundredth of a mile. So although we weren’t able to tell exactly which metal gate, for example, that we were passing, if we kept accurately to time, we could be there at the right time. Not exactly easy, but as long as I kept to 22 or 26mph etc as instructed, we weren’t going to be too far out. As not all junctions were mentioned in the detailed navigation, we occasionally had to use intuition to gauge which one of two close togeth- er we should use. Although the odometer in the Golf works, it was reading about 8% short and not a fat lot of good for the accuracy that we needed, while the speedo was about 10% fast, meaning that when Matt asked for 26mph, I tried to keep to an indicated 29, and when we in- creased to 29, I had to go to 32 . There was plenty of mental arithmetic going on in both brains, but it seemed to work, as 7, 3, 5, 0 were our penalties on the first reg of the day. Coffee break next – and we needed it! The second regularity was good for us too – with 1, 1, 1, 7, 2 seconds lost – but the final test of the morning didn’t go so well. It was a tight Industrial Estate type test with 360’s and with the Golf handbrake not working too well, I had to do a few shuffles and lost eleven seconds to the crew I wanted to beat and six to the best in our Class. Lunch break at Bentham was next and although I had another fiddle with the trip, I still couldn’t get it to read dis- tance. There was a bit of a queue of cars at the next test as it was a stopwatch job rather than clocks – start and finish beside each other – and as the test was taking over a minute for most cars, delays were building in. Anyway, this gave me plenty of time to see what to do on this more open industrial area, and I got my act back together with the second quickest time of 53 seconds, losing out to a well driven Mini Cooper S on 51.
More regularities in North Yorkshire then and we had no disasters – but we did notice the trip readout going dim, and it dawned on me that the thing was running on its internal batteries and not the car ‘mains’. At the end of the next regularity, I put fresh batteries in and the brightness returned and we vowed to turn the trip off for the non-competitive road sections to conserve the batteries.. The brake pedal had started to become erratic – sometimes normal, sometimes it took a good shove for it to work after an inch of nothing – and I was beginning to lose confidence in them. We then ended up at Warcop Camp for three tests (this was after dark, now) and an off -road regularity. I took it very easy on the tests, not knowing if I was going to be able to stop too well. The tests didn’t flow too well either, but Matt called them fine and we made no mistakes, we just took slow times. I lost 59 seconds to Paul Crosby (in a Porsche) over the three tests. The off-road regularity wasn’t anywhere near as hard as Caerwent, and we lost about a minute over the four ITC’s – acceptable with the car’s brakes and no trip.

We had a good final regularity of the day, losing 17 seconds over five ITC’s. Then it was a ten mi- nute blast up the motorway with the car wandering about more than it should to Gretna and a large but old and well-worn hotel. I went straight to the mechanics to ask them about the brakes and to check the wheel bearing (Matt’s suggestion). As the jack lifted the NSF off the ground the extent of the problem became apparent as the wheel could be moved about an inch without af- fecting the steering wheel. 8pm on a Sunday night isn’t an ideal time to try and find a wheel bear- ing (I’ll carry one in future!). When I got back to the car after checking into the hotel, I was told the car was fixed! It apparently was the big hub nut that had come loose and not the wheel bearing. Phew! But why? Oh well, it was tightened as much as possible and I was assured that all would be well. A good night’s sleep at last, ready for our 0855 start in the morning. The overnight re- sults showed that we still had our Gold Medal, along with three other crews.

It was –40C that night, so a bit of ice scraping was the first thing to do – and get the car warm for the crew! As we left the hotel, we were issued with the route information for the morning’s enter- tainment. A short trip up the motorway and Matt had most of it plotted. We were to be hit with a seven ITC regularity to start with – certainly a wake-up call. We still had no trip and that caused us to wrong slot. We knew we had to take a white on the right, so we took the first one, found an- other car stuck in the mud with him waving us not to follow him, and got out quick. 20 yards fur- ther was the second white and the inevitable ITC immediately round the first bend. 50 seconds gone; at least we weren’t a minute late and therefore a potential Gold Standard loss. I then pushed on too hard on some private land and we ended up 25 seconds early at the next ITC; calm down, Simon, do what your navigator tells you! Another Karting circuit test was next after a fair road journey – don’t ask me where – which was an enjoyable two minute test on good asphalt. The second regularity of the day went well, losing just 2 seconds over the four controls – we were getting the hang of this no-trip lark now. Then it was a foggy slippery test at yet another Karting circuit. I had done it two years ago with Dood, but the other way round on sheet ice. This time is was not icy, and it seemed to go OK, with the fifth quickest time of 2mins exactly, ten seconds off quickest.

Another regularity was next, and the temperature was not rising. This one proved to have a par- ticularly slippery ending; three seconds for the first three ITC’s which was tough to keep up the speed, and on the fourth bit Matt just kept on saying, we’re still behind, we’re still behind. It wasn’t the lovely swooping moorland roads taht stopped me keeping up with time, just the ice and frost and trying to keep the car on the road. Eventually we lost 49 seconds (not over a minute – phew!), and only 18 cars lost less than 30 secs. Hats off to those drivers, as that was tough.

I think we had a late lunch then, somewhere near Cumberbnauld, but time and events tend to blur at times on LeJog. Another regularity, and, although I didn’t tell Matt,
the brake pedal started becoming unreliable again. We did well on
this including a ‘hidden’ ITC at a T junction with a six foot triangle

(split left, T right, ignore h’pin right) with the marshals on the T right. It was after dark and their car was tucked away to the left and they had no lights until we had stopped at the T right. Others just T’d right without the triangle and missed the control completely. Then it was a visit to a Loch Lomond car park for a test – 12 cars within a second of each other (including us) at quickest. The mechanics at the 15 min rest halt up the road tightened the nut again and this time put some loctite on. Matt came out and said that we had five minutes to be ready, with our start time at the next Regularity Start Control be- ing given at this TC. Less than a minute before Matt came out, we were ready with, hopefully, a fit car.

For some inexplicable reason, the trip started measuring distance again! Although Matt didn’t rely on it too heavily, it was accurate. However, as it was still on battery power (and I had got some more spares) we turned it off at the end of the regularity and it never measured distance again! Anyway, over seven controls of the next three regularities, we lost four seconds in total. Then it was off to Fort William and a late supper at about 2200 for a restart at midnight – regulation two hour halt after 14/15 hours driving.

It was a little icy on the first regularity of the early hours of Tuesday, but it was patchy and we were able to keep up to speed on this one, before we had quite a long non competitive section with patchy fog – sometimes clear, sometimes 25 yard visibility. I started to really struggle with tiredness for a while, but having the window open for as long as we could stand the cold (it was still minus 4) helped……

We were headed to Loch Ness area for a Baby Monster regularity. Unfortunately, we got mixed up with a gang of slower cars and others who just wanted to complete the route rather than keep to time, and that cost us. Somewhere near the start of this mara-
thon section of ten ITC’s, there is a slot off a B road onto a yellow

with a series of about eight very tight and narrow road hairpins.
When I say tight, I mean TIGHT. Each time, I could only just get
round in one. We slotted into this road immediately behind a Bel-
gian Citroen GS, who did his best, but wasn’t as quick as we could
have been. To be fair, he let us past at the top – at the first oppor-
tunity he had, but we still lost over 40 seconds into the ITC. We
then caught up a small queue that had been baulked by a stranded
Porsche, so we eased past two cars and got behind an MGBGT
who was peddling at about 5mph along a slightly rough track. No
objection to him doing 5mph, but he should let faster cars past, and
a Datsun 240Z who didn’t try to overtake the MGB. Having endured
this speed for half a mile, we came to a wide area of moorland,
where I went off road to pass them both – only for the 240Z decided
to stop me doing so, so I went wider and eventually we were three
abreast, MGB on the track, 240Z beside him on the grass and me
further out. We passed the MGB, but the Datsun wouldn’t let me past, so I eased back behind him and followed at a discrete distance at a reasonable speed. I gather a couple of others took to the grass to get by the MG too. Eventually the Datsun wrong-slotted right and we were free to catch back up – just in time! No more problems, and we dropped 1m 26s over the ten ITC’s in- cluding over half of that at the ITC after the hairpins. I did make a point of thanking the Citroen driver at the next petrol/refreshment halt; but didn’t say anything to the Datsun or MGB drivers. Two more regularities, with four controls each, followed, with the second having a lot of forestry tracks included. A little tricky to keep up to schedule with the slippery asphalt and loose gravel, but it went well. Off to yet another Karting track (at about 0500, I think), which we had used last year, but in a different layout. Plenty of time to get this into my head and although we had a slight spin on some ice at the first corner, we set the quickest time beating the bogey by 3 sec- onds. So endeth the last test of the event!

A 30 minute break at Skiach Services followed before the penultimate regularity in daylight. This was the same as last year, with one major difference – they were doing major roadworks insert- ing a pipeline or cables or something in Glen Loth. We got held up for 30 seconds or so while a works Landrover cleared the track/road, but got the time back before the first ITC (which was in exactly the same place as last year) and I was annoyed to be 4 seconds early there. About half a mile further on, we came over a slight brow to find a queue of about 9 rally cars waiting to pass a big van coming the other way. It turned out that one of our crews had tried to get past him and had slipped into the small ditch beside the road. We waited for a couple of minutes and eventual- ly the blockage was cleared. We knew that there would be two more ITC’s – and I guessed where they might be on this open valley road. Thought processes between us – it needed two brains after 24 hours driving/navigating – were that if they decided not to cancel the section, then we would be waiting at ITC2 for about 8 cars to be processed and we wouldn’t even start the last section until we were two minutes late. Not only that, but we would be following the same convoy and be very late at the last ITC too. Although we would be penalised the maximum of one minute at the second ITC, we didn’t want the same result at the third and final one. So we dawdled at about 5mph for the next mile, letting all the cars ahead get a good distance ahead, and keeping a German Porsche behind who was champing needlessly at the bit. Good thinking, we thought, but not perfect execution; as the second ITC came up earlier than we hoped and we had to start the last section too soon for my liking. Sure enough, we caught the last three cars of the convoy (who were not really trying to keep to time and only in the event for the hell of it). The poor mar- shal at the end ITC was by himself and was struggling but was just about on top of the situation and gave us our correct time which was an annoying 29 seconds late. With the number of crews involved in the delay, we just hoped that they would cancel the section.

It was then a nice thirty mile blast up the single track A897, with the postman keeping up, about 200 yards behind – however fast I drove!
Thurso appeared and we had a 40 minute halt for breakfast – I suppose it was about 0930 by then. Just one regularity to go, and although Matt had worked out most of the route on the map from the tulips given, the route on the road need not have been quite the same, so we had to

keep to time throughout to gauge where the tricky slots were to visit all four ITC’s. We had to get it right to keep our Gold Medal. We slot- ted into the correct farm and found the partly hidden first ITC. Back on time out on the road and these long 2 mile straight flat roads were boring as hell – but not when you’re concentrating on keeping to time! A cattle truck coming towards us delayed us 30 seconds while we waited in a passing place, but we had that time back in the next half mile to the T junction. 10 mph through a stately home and we were just 2 seconds late at the ITC at the exit. The third ITC was easy to find on the road, while Matt read the final few tulips as we got to them and we slotted off into a cart track and slotted into a worse road too, but it worked and we were four seconds late into the final control be- side the farm. The pressure was off. Just a couple of miles to John o’Groats and the final Main Control – don’t book in early Matt! – and onto the rostrum with bagpipes braying/whining for the handshakes

and photographs. Despite having no trip for two thirds of the event, we had done it. We had achieved the objective of a Gold Medal, and we thought, about 5th overall – which is actually not as important.
Filled up with fuel near the airport ready for a quick getaway in the morning, and then a few hours sleep at the Mackay’s Hotel before the results was posted at 1600. The results showed that the organisers had not cancelled the section with the eight car queue; the reason being that no medals or ribands were lost because of it although an overall position did change, and that was less important. As it was the car that moved from first overall to third overall that had caused the hold-up, there was some justice in that.

The Haggis was piped in at the black tie dinner, it was addressed, slain and removed for serv- ing. We ate the excellent Caithness roast beef and the award presentations were made. Each Gold Medal winner has the opportunity to ‘say a few words’ so I thanked the mechanics for their expertise in keeping the Golf going, saying that a newer car isn’t always trouble-free. I was go- ing to mention, but forgot, the Volkswagen advert from the mid eighties when the jilted lady in white left the casino, cast off her fur coat and threw it in the gutter, pulled off her engagement ring and dropped it down a drain, but decided against doing the same with her car keys, driving away into the morning light. “If only everything in life was as reliable as a Golf” said the advert. Perhaps not quite, huh!

So we won our Class by a fair margin and finished 5th overall. I missed out on the Test Pilot trophy this time by 63 seconds to the Porsche of Paul Crosby – similar to the time I lost to him in Warcop Camp when I had little brakes.

A good night’s sleep was followed by an early breakfast and we were on the road at 0725. I dropped Matt off in Inverness so that he could visit the town sights before catching a plane at 1600 to Gatwick (where his car was). He had arranged cheap flight with easyJet at £35, while I had the 625 mile journey by car – which went pretty well and I got back at 1800 (fuel

at Perth and Preston).

2016 LeJog, in my opinion was not as tough as the other three that I have done – shorter regularities and with fewer ‘tricks’, long- er non-competitive sections and fewer tests. But it still takes it out of you and a few days to recover. Next year? Not sure. Simon Harris (photographs courtesy of Simon Harris)