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3 Castles another story, no(n)sense

PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2012 7:39 pm
by jimj
Three Castles Rally 2012

Lotus Elan, 12` 1", 127bhp and1530 lbs, ready for the Three Castles. A small car that casts a big shadow. "Why do you write this garbage?" asks one of my oldest and dearest friends. I say dearest, as in most expensive, given his pathological reluctance to buy a round of drinks. But, hey, we`ve all got shortcomings and I`m shorter than most. You should treasure old friendships, probably more now as we`re all getting old. Less rock`n`roll, more rockin` chair. Still, growing old is better than growing up.

Feeling older but with old friends in old cars meeting up with old aquaintances we were looking forward to the Three Castles as excited as the first person to own a ping pong bat must have been, looking forward to meeting the second. There`s something about the 3 Castles beyond the excellent organisation, there`s an extra vibrance and conviviality that just makes everyone smile. By and large, given more disposable income and free time, these classic rallies tend to be frequented by, shall we say? more mature folk. It seems that the average age is a bit lower on the 3 Castles than other rallies. Certainly our great mates Tony and Rodger were each attending with their sons co-driving this year as were others. Inevitably and unsurprisingly, as each year passes at any social occasion or holiday one tends to be nearer the oldest there. Is it better to feel old among a younger group or better to feel young hanging around with old codgers? Recently we were coerced into attending a Horticultural Society Annual Dinner where the average age must have been about 107. Old people complain about tinnitis with a background hum affecting their hearing. I reckon it`s the clacketing of so many dentures.

As ever we were in our lovely Lotus Elan. According to this month`s Classic and Sportscar, "the best sports car ever" though I wouldn`t suggest such a thing. I`m a bit worried about Lotus, revitalised in the 1990s by going back to their roots. Recently their, now disgraced and sacked, CEO, Danny Bahar, had delusions of competing with the likes of Ferrari by ignoring core loyal supporters and attacking a market I don`t think exists. He seems more interested in personal aggrandisement than the greater good. A bit like Tony Blair. Car manufacturers in general don`t appreciate the tremendous loyalty amongst previous owners. Austin-Rover in their latter years ignored their older, well just old, customers seeking the "youth" market. I think they should have brought out the Austin Gimmer. It could have had a roof rack that flipped down to provide hand holds for the infirm and could unclip to become a walking frame. I can just see the tag line in the ad. "Austin Gimmer with a Built in Zimmer". They could have had one with an easy-clean, wipe-down interior; the "Aust Incontinental".

Those of us lucky enough to have wives as co-drivers/navigators should show due consideration and appreciation for their support. Before going on a rally like this it`s important to polish the car, give it a fettling and a good seeing to. I recommend affording the same attention to one`s spouse. So with matters polished, fettled and seen to we were ready for the off with a quick prayer to my favourite deity, St. Trinian.

The forecast was rubbish but still dry as we arrived in Llandudno. The promenade and Georgian crescent are really elegant with a slight north-easterly breeze wafting the scent of fake tan down from Merseyside. One street back from the front is another world of rather tacky shops and pavements seemingly populated by tattooed unmarried mothers wheeling along the next generation of benefit claimants. Scruffy youngsters, cheeks encrusted with Cow & Gate fish`n`chip puree, with just a little cigarette ash clinging to the moist bits. Not so much yummy mummies, more scummy mummies. I`m beginning to favour youthenasia.

So, day one and we`re off to the first test in Portmeiron, famous, especially to Lotus owners, as it`s one of the few places in Wales that doesn`t begin with the letter L. This was quite straight forward and we were into a couple of regularities. Now with a little experience and half a brain, which we have, it isn`t too difficult to score very few, or even no, penalty points...........if you`re not unlucky. Now I feel considerable affection for Her Majesty, less so for force majeur. Just as Fortune favours the brave her daughter, Miss Fortune, doesn`t. A 3 minute delay for 2 Tarmac lorries cost us dearly but you`re allowed one discard. The next regularity, a tractor with muck-spreader spread it`s metaphorical load all over us. Yes, s**t happens. Our modest target of a top third result didn`t seem likely, but the main thing was not to make a complete bottom of ourselves, as we finished the day 60th out of 105 entries. Those below us were, mostly, similarly disadvantaged and in the bar the words "if" and "only" were bandied with abandon. I love to eavesdrop and renamed the 3 Castles the 1001 Excuses, the things you hear. On the promenade, quite typically, I overheard an old bloke, nearly as old as us, say to his wife; "Sunbeam Alpine, they`ve got a really nice dashboard you know". She dutifully expressed interest. The best thing I heard was a reference to one of the cars in our group by a cockney who wasn`t being disparaging; " `Ave ewe seen that DB5, tricked up like a bloomin` Mini Cooper". Other cars in "our" group were a Porche 912, a Maserati 3something, and 3 Austin Healeys. 3 of many on the 3 Castles, probably the most popular marque and certainly the most enthusiastic group of owners about their chosen cars. I can well appreciate the macho appeal of these cars with their masculine, manly character but, personally, I`m quite confident of my own sexuality.

Day 2, and lots of tests, races against the watch around cones and obstacles on private land, my favourite thing. The Elan is just fabulous on these things but it was wet, really wet. I reduced the tyre pressures all round especially at the front as tight turn in, sharply, around a cone is even more important than traction. I suggested to Carole that we might soften the front dampers a couple of clicks but she refused to lay in a puddle and do it. Just as well really as I`ve absolutely no idea what I`m talking about. Now, unfortunately, Ian Crammond, the main man, Captain Castles, was on the Throckmorton Challenge last year where the complication of the layout of the tests was downright fiendish. The skill was less in driving fast as simply finding the right route and my navigator then, Roger, was brilliant. Now Carole is good but she just couldn`t quite get her head around these b*****ds and went to pieces on the first. The second one came on immediately and, as we all know can happen to anyone, her mind just went blank and we had 2 failed tests and loads of penalties. By way of encouragement I explained that it wasn`t rocket science so she might as well take up that as she couldn`t be any bleedin` worse. This pep talk really worked as she felt loads better, just after she gave me the black eye. We ended the day 75th, more annoyed with ourselves than we had been with the bad luck the previous day. We had some penalties we didn`t understand but we`re not the sort to put in protests, like some. The adjudicators were telling Carole that, each day they know exactly who will, inevitably, as usual, be putting in protests. Some might call them winners, I call `em protestitutes. That evening we saw a different side to one of our pals. Competition can, sometimes, bring out in people elements of their character previously hidden. Hillary always seems so calm and understanding, very supportive of David even though he refuses to erect the hood on his car whatever the torrent. She is an angel of tranquility, usually, but this evening she called him a name I still can`t quite believe, in front of all of us, she turned around to him and said, you`re going to be amazed, she said; "David, you`re an old fusspot". In fairness to Hillary she is quite correct in her evaluation.

Day 3, plan B, never mind the times we were going for accuracy and avoiding the big penalties, and still trying to avoid the speedbumps. In North Wales there are more viscious speed bumps than there are molecules in the universe. In Pwllheli, where they can`t even spell, there was one road with, pointlessly, bumps every 5 yards. It was just a nightmare as brilliant as the Elan is (so I`ve heard), ground clearance is very poor. We were scraping over each one at less than 1 mph. Now sometimes my wife gets out of bed on the wrong side, like this day, and she will ask me at breakfast why I`m grumpy. I should reply; " well dear, since you ask, I wasn`t going to mention it and I`m sure you want a truthful answer, but a cloud has been cast over my usual sunny disposition by your unreasonable and irrational behavior". She might reply; " I`m so sorry dear, I do apologise, would you like a nice cup of tea?" I didn`t. She didn`t, and relations were less than harmonious. We had 5 or 6 or 106, I lost count, of hideously complicated tests that day, consecutively, on some huge airfield complex which were simply no fun at all for the majority of entrants but we did them pretty accurately, frequently coming to a complete halt just to be sure of finding our way. I think the organisers need to be aware that the super keen HRCR type entrants are in the minority and the huge majority (providing the huge proportion of income) are there for fun, a holiday with pals with some motor sport involved which it usually is, but this day our start time had been 08.36 and we didn`t get back until 20.04. Too much and endurement rather than enjoyment. We had the most tempestuous rain storm all that day and we saw little of Wales and expected to see whales. Our hearts went out to those in pre war cars with no roofs, especially the 2 in the tiny Austin 7 Ulster with just aeroscreens. David and Hillary soldiered on in their 100/4 with no roof or sidescreens on and unfortunately their water pump failed. I think he`d been using it as a bilge pump. Mid afternoon a speed bump pulled our exhaust pipe from the manifold even though we were crawling over it. Not prepared to go under the car just on a jack I rode up a kerb and tried unsuccessfully to fix it, laid in the wet. I think Carole, being slimmer and smaller should have tried. We were very noisy as we completed the day with few penalties and an improvement to around 50th I think.

The final day and the 3 Castles had engaged Brittassist Recovery team this year who arrived exactly at 7.30 as promised and fixed the exhaust in plenty of time for our 08.07 start time. They were brilliant and helped no end of competitors with problems as did Northern Jaguars who, together, ensured the rate of attrition was extremely low. The final day starts and finishes with 2 flat out timed sections over the Great Orme, fantastic and the damp roads just added to the excitement, or terror as Carole calls it. On one side of the road is a rock face and on the other a kerb and small parapet so a clip of the kerb could flip you over the edge onto the rocks below and into the sea. I was glad not to be on Pirellis as I keep hearing on Formula 1 of their tyres falling off a cliff. The second section suddenly got very slippery and I wondered if some oil had been spilt. Speed moderated but still quite fast our little car was sliding through the chicanes like a good `un. About a mile after the time control the funny noise brought my attention to the, now, completely flat tyre. Phew! Tyre quickly changed and no timing lost we had a good day, a great lunch, successful regularities finishing with 2 more hilarious races over the Orme. Racing for the finish line where you have to stop astride we were still doing around 500 mph (the best sports car ever y`know) with around 50 yards to go Carole was shouting stop astride louder and louder and louder, strident in her stop astride. People in Tenby were stopping mid-stride and the rally was over. Carole burst into hysterical laughter all the way to the formal finish on the promenade where she burst into tears. It`s an emotional business this being good enough not to disappoint the best sports car ever. Hillary and David had fixed their car and completed the final afternoon but Rodger and Jonathan who was on his first rally, in 22nd overall, first in class, and best beginner had had an electrical issue in their Healey 3000 and dropped out of the awards, what a crying shame. We ended 38th overall, almost the top third with 60 penalty points for, supposedly, missing a gate on the Orme. We`re certain we didn`t but the marshall (some of whom were new and inexperienced) (1002 excuses) says we did and I absolutley agree the marshall`s word should be final READ WHAT YOU WILL INTO THAT REFERENCE though I don`t understand why it was 60 points not 10.

That evening we were off to the Venue Cymru, a concrete blot on the stylish Llandudno front, but the only place in town big enough for a meal which included loin of boot. The popular winners received a standing ovation. Oh, yes, they were in a Lotus Elan, the best sports car ever you know.

So why DO I write this garbage? Perhaps in the (vain) hope that I might, one day, be counted amongst those literary greats; Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare, Benny Hill, Lee Childs...........


Re: 3 Castles another story, no(n)sense

PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2012 8:49 pm
by elansprint71
Aye lad but thee 'ad it easy... we used t'dream of 'avin a wet gutter to crawl in. :wink:

Re: 3 Castles another story, no(n)sense

PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 2:26 am
by prezoom
Waiting for Reacher..........

Rob Walker

Re: 3 Castles another story, no(n)sense

PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:19 am
by jimj
Luckily Jack Reacher wasn`t there or we`d have been 1 place lower and some bad people would have died. Several of our rallying pals are Reacher fans and I thought up the first line weeks ago, couldn`t wait to write it.
Jim 5`7", 154 lbs, ex-grocer, not armed nor dangerous.

Re: 3 Castles another story, no(n)sense

PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:26 pm
by Ross Robbins
Another good read..well done! I greatly enjoy these stories of how we use our Elans and especially the personal touch of your writing style, Jim, even though, as a Yank, much of the clever commentary goes right over my head.

I have reported a few of my adventures also and think we should have some place on this forum to capture them. We have a library of content from other writers, why not a place there for our own who have actually paid for the cars and maintain them?

I am planning a trip from Colorado to Orlando and Sebring FL in October and plan to report on that 5,000 or so mile round trip I assure you. :D :D

Re: 3 Castles another story, no(n)sense

PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:47 pm
by prezoom
Gadzooks...... Tom Cruise to play Jack Reacher. 5'6" verses 6'5"? Oh well, there is still Joe Pike...... moving forward......

Rob Walker