Tuesday 13 June 2017


The forecast hadn’t been good – heavy rain overnight & showers on the day I was booked into the Gurston Down hillclimb school. When I got up the “heavy rain overnight” was just starting & coming from the west – the direction I was going in.

By the time I’d put the soft top & side windows on I was running a little late, by the time I’d turned round & gone back for my wallet & phone I was very late, the SatNav forecasting my arrival time as 09:15 (“Arrive at -8:30 for 09:00”). I decided to dump the plans for a scenic ride & let the SatNav take the direct route, but when I was sat in stationary traffic on the A331 with the car steaming up in spite of having the windows open, the wipers & screen heater on & trying not to breathe I came to rue my decision.
I shall gloss over the hell that was the M3 roadworks in heavy rain, by jiggling the route, I’d got the ETA down to 09:00, which was OK, but hadn’t read the last paragraph of the “GETTING HERE” instructions, which wasn’t. By the time I’d driven through Broad Chalke three times, found the small sign for Gurston Down farm & arrived properly it was 09:10.

Race number & a crash hat!
This didn’t seem to matter to the jovial old sort in a dayglow sou’wester who greeted me in the car-park, waved me into the assigned parking bay & showed me to the official shed for signing on. He even taped the race numbers to the side of the car to save me time. I was asked for the car’s MoT which I’d seen moments before when I got out of the car, but couldn’t find it, fortunately the glowing yellow chap found it still in the car & bought it over.
I was provided with a rather natty multi coloured crash-hat & pointed in the direction of the restaurant where the hill climbing sales pitch drivers briefing was happening. A couple of folks arrived after me, so at least I wasn’t the last.

In the '50s they did kit cars properly ......
....... here's another.
After a detailed description of the track, we were split into groups & taken on a walk along it, with the instructors telling us which cones to aim for, where to brake, where the car should be at any particular point, as well as what ridiculous speed the record holder was doing at that point. After this & another couple of showers, we got in the cars - myself & the ex-colleague I’d gone with struggling to get in wearing a helmet - & followed an instructor car along the track at about ½ race speed, desperately trying to remember where I should be & when. What did bother me was the oil light coming on while accelerating up Deer’s Leap, if this carried on the sensible thing would be to abandon & watch from the side-lines. After arrival at the top we all processed back to the bottom & did that again but faster, again the oil light came on. I thought the problem was the oil was being held in the baffled compartment, but the amount of time I was accelerating uphill meant the engine was using all the oil in that area & the rest was staying at the back. In theory, doing it faster should cure the problem. Hmmm

Then we were let out for real.

Suddenly it all looks different, but I fumbled the car through the bend, & was relieved when the oil light stayed resolutely off. Up at the top I parked in the wrong queue & waited. The car had felt very stable & would carry a lot more speed yet. Convoy back to the bottom & form up (in the right queue), move the GoPro positions, take a few photos, talk to the others a bit, then engines start & we go again.
This time I was able to concentrate on some of the finer points & tried to put the car where it should be & again, the oil light stayed dark. Park at the top, convoy to the bottom, form up. Then the instructors walked the line of cars & gave advice, I was OK through Hollow Bend, good through karousel, not so good through Ashes – but I attributed that to staring at the oil light, not through the screen.
Another couple of runs saw me gaining in confidence, especially round Karousel, which the Fury seemed happy to take in one long drift (or so it felt to me). I still wasn’t getting Ashes quite right though. Back at the bottom & park up in the pits as Lunch was ready. Lunch was good with a choice of puddings (I had TWO) after which with the car slightly heavier we headed back to the track where the sighting & braking cones had been removed. The instructors were still at their vantage points, but now they weren’t looking to give us advice, they were looking to give us points.

Yes, a Panamera.
Well, the last four runs saw me increasing in confidence – even when the door opened at ashes - & having chatted & picked up my certificate (72% - no idea if that’s good or bad), I handed back my crash hat (the woman behind the desk checked it of with my name & "large helmet" which I felt was un-called for) I rushed home to look at the video. The runs aren’t timed, presumably because that would make it a “competition” but I could get a reasonable approximation from the GoPro.
So my run times looked like this:

45s 43s 44s 44s 45s 42s 43s - & the last run wasn't recorded by either camera. So in spite of trying harder & feeling like I was going much much faster, I wasn't. I guess the reason would be I was just trying too hard at times, the earlier runs were smoother, particularly round karousel, where on the last four runs I clipped the curb with the inner rear wheel & set the car wheelspinning.

But, the main thing was it was a good experience & the Fury was 5sec faster that my friend’s 1800 MkIII MX5. Looking at some of the previous competition day results, if I could shave another 3 sec off my fastest time, I’d be in among the hill climb Caterhams, which feels about right.

Friday 9 June 2017

Rogue Runners 2017 Day 7 - Welsh Loop

Another fine sunny day, this has never been known on a Rogue Runners jaunt. Like a twit I didn't make my usual notes when this day was fresh in my mind, so this account might be - short.

We set off from the Hotel & headed south, there were two options, long & short, I think everyone chose the short, since it was still quite long & the sun was already beating down. We headed off into the wilds & were soon passing through wide open spaces & wide blue skies that bore little resemblance to the "normal" idea Wales conjures up.

Next was the Elan Valley. Always an enjoyable road, I think this was the first time I'd seen it dry & by now the sun really was getting hot.

We headed for a lunch stop we've used before at a steam railway. The café is small but busy & has good cake. It also has good plaques - simple things with phrases on, not the usual "You don't have to work here to be mad....." type thing, last year I got my wife one that says "I only have a kitchen because it came with the house" which neatly sums up her attitude to cooking, this year's said "I can't speak Italian, but I'm fluent in Prosecco" - well she liked it anyway.

Quite a lot of protein on the front of the fury

The next thing that stands out was a military road over moorland. It had very good smooth tarmac & for the first couple of miles was dual carriageway. It was only spoiled by the pick-up sticking to the rather low speed limit. After quite a long way it pulled over & the rear mounted camera recorded it turning & going back the way it had come, so whether this was an official rolling road block seems a reasonable question. Then we headed back to the hotel & a cold beer or two!

Nice place, it was.........

.......... no, we couldn't pronounce it either


Saturday 3 June 2017

Rogue Runners 2017 Day 6 - Into Wales

Having had trouble sleeping, I then slept through the alarm, but still had time for a breakfast before bidding the folks in the hotel farewell & hitting the road.

The sun was shining brightly as we headed south through some of the places we’d seen on the southern loop & were soon entering one of the Cumbrias - we saw at least three signs welcoming us to Cumbria, all 20 miles apart. Don’t know where we’d been the rest of the time.
Somewhere in this part of the trip (again with me leading) we rounded a corned to find a young woman in HiViz waving her arms above her head. I hit the brakes hard & the cause of her waving turned out to be a junior school sponsored walk - along a B road with no pavement. She waved us forward, I didn't move, she waved us forward again, I pointed out that her colleague at the other end of the troupe had just waved a seven tonner towards us. What I thought had been damsels in distress, turned out to be damsels in dispute. As we passed the class of 8ish year olds they were all quite excited.
We stopped for “lunch” in the same ice cream parlour as we did on the southern loop (the one with THIS castle in the back garden) & headed for the forest of Bowland. This was good news as by now it was hot & some time spent under trees would be welcome, except that “forest” is something of a misnomer as there really aren’t many trees at all. We did find a shady spot for a rest at one point.

At another rest, we pulled up in a village that could’ve been the set for Coronation Street. Solidly built houses with the front doors opening onto the pavement & the locals standing at the front doors chatting.

By now it was three in the afternoon & really quite uncomfortably hot, so a while dicing with death on the M6 increased the airflow & was quite welcome, we were not so happy about the traffic jam afterwards. Sitting next to a hot transmission tunnel with the sun beating down is not a good place to be.

Ribblehead Viaduct on the horizon.
At one stage the traffic moved from two lanes into one. Cars were queuing on the inside lane, the outside lane was shorter. One of our group went up the outside lane – sensible in my opinion as it keeps the tailback short & not blocking any previous junctions. I went to follow him, quick-as-a-flash a guy in a non-descript rep-mobile moved into the outside lane to halt my progress. Not to be out-done I mirror-signal-manoeuvred into the space he has vacated & wouldn’t let him back in.

He wasn’t a happy bunny, but I was the one complying with the highway code after all.
By the time we reached the hotel we were all rather overwrought – except for the man in the air-conditioned Toyota of course. We were given our keys & as seems to be some kind of rule in the hotel industry, I was given a room in the eves up three flights of stairs & through at least 4 fire doors – by the time I got to it I’m not sure I was still in Wales.

Being in the eves, under a dark Welsh slate roof, my room was stifling, but I opened a window in the corridor, the one in the room & propped the room door open & a breeze soon flowed. A cold beer helped too. 

Rogue Runners 2017 Day 5 - Eastern Loop

Day 5. Set off for the Jim Clark Museum in Duns, but it tuned into something of an F1 fest, first in Biggar (while looking for the Biggar Women’s Institute) we saw “Villeneuve Wines”, then we drove through a town called Lauder, saw a road called Ayton Road & finally got to the Jim Clark Room which was small but pretty good. It has a ridiculous number of trophies in it.
But before that we'd headed off on a road suggested by the other SKCC, we had been told there was a layby with spectacular views, so as I was leading I pulled into a parking area, the views were pretty spectacular & I snapped away taking photos like these.
Nice, but as we drove off, there was another layby a little further on with even more spectacular views - I think that was the one he'd meant
After the Jim Clark Room we struck out for the east coast of Northumberland at Lindisfarne. We were too late for the tide, so I paddled the Fury’s tyres & we headed back to Selkirk for the last time via Bamburgh with its fantastic castle, Seahouses (fish & chips by the harbour mmm) & Alnwick. All of which were bathed in brilliant sunshine – by the time we were eating the BBQ prepared especially for us by the hotel proprietor, I properly looked like a panda in spite of using sunblock before I went out.


Thursday 1 June 2017

Rogue Runners 2017 Day 4 - Southern Loop

Day 4 & back into England. We crossed the border at the high point I’ve crossed at a number of times. There’s a couple of monoliths (lumps of rock) engraved “England” on the Scottish side & “Scotland” on the English side. We took some commemorative photos & looked on in awe as a bloke drove the length of the layby on the pavement, before getting out & opened the boot of his car in much the same way as an “Ealing films” wartime spiv might open his raincoat to reveal watches of dubious provenance. This chap however (suitably kilted) was offering all manner of “Scottish” (made in China) memorabilia, from green flocked, smiling Loch Ness monsters, to tartan baseball caps.
The sun was now warming up nicely as we swept along the wide winding roads of Northumberland, the route was intended to take us on a circular trip, but having driven 15 scenic miles alongside the River Coquet, we had to turn round & drive 15 miles back. At least it was scenic.

After that we headed up the wide & gloriously sweeping roads up to Hartside Summit for lunch – we thought. But the water was off so the café was closed - as were the toilets. It was as I was driving down into the valley that the engine stopped, I pulled over & turned the ignition off & back on again, realised the fuel pump wasn’t running & switched that off & back on. It came back to life, the engine started & I drove off.
Then it did it again.
It was while I was at the side of the road this second time that I was passed by the last two Rogue runners, fortunately the engine started & I was able to accelerate into radio range & send out a Mayday. When Matt stopped I told him what was going on, we pushed the car up a bank to gain access to the underside & I soon found that an electrical terminal had broken.

After an awkward struggle I lashed up a temporary fix & we set off. But that was not to be the end of the drama. We had missed a fuel stop. Matt pulled over & drained a gallon can into his car as my fuel gauge entered the red. I looked up the next garage on route – 35 miles – no chance. I looked up the closest garage & the only one that looked like it might be 24 hours was 18 miles, that should be OK, so we drove quite carefully with the satnav counting down the miles until at zero we found the ruined & rust encrusted wreck of a filling station that obviously closed down some years ago – Ah!
Fumbling with the Sat Nav again, it suggested there was a garage in another 12 miles. Fortunately a lot of that was down hill & we both made it to the pumps. But it was a pretty close run thing.