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Whickham and District Motor Club Limited

A right little Treasure(r)

After years of threatening to return to competition club treasurer, Peter Metcalfe has finally finished the 1966 Austin Mini he shares with his friend Ian Marsden. The car was bought in 2006 but a chronic lack of time meant that progress was virtually non existent. In 2010 Peter decided to throw a bucketful of cash at the car and it was sent to Mick’s Minis of Ryton. Unfortunately Peter’s bucket wasn’t very big so the work had to be done around Mick’s regular work and second hand parts were used as much as possible

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Peter entered Durham and Stockton Motor Clubs’ Rallye 177 at the beginning of February 2011 . As ever there was a rush to finish the car but Peter and long time/suffering navigator lined up for scrutineering with a car that worked but only just! A front wheel bearing was sounding very close to expiring and the electrics were erratic to say the least.

The event was of a similar format to our own ‘Shaw Trophy Classic’ rally, consisting of Special Tests and Regularity Sections. The Special tests are short, low speed tests where the cars must negotiate slaloms and gates marked out with cones as well as any ‘natural’ corners or hazards. The idea is to drive these as fast as possible and cars are timed to the second. Regularity Sections take place on the public road and can be up to 20 miles long. The idea is to drive at a predetermined constant speed. There are time controls along the Section and cars are penalised for every second early or late that they arrive at these controls. Cars are also heavily penalised for not taking the correct route.

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Peter and Guy plotted the route before the start which was at Tall Trees Hotel, Yarm. The first test was in the hotel car park. Peter took it easy, having only driven the car for the first time on the way to the event! They nearly took a wrong turning but got round Ok. Then it was straight into a regularity section. Due to not finishing the car till the night before they hadn’t had time to check how accurate the speedo or milometer was so they set off at what they believed to be 30mph as required. As the event went on and after passing a few of those digital speed indicators it became apparent that the speedo was underreading by about 20%. They were at least going the right way which is more than some.

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Teesside Autodrome

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Test 2 and 3 were at Teeside Autodrome, a great venue which is a purpose built kart track. Enthusiasm got the better of Peter however with a spin on the first proper corner. Luckily no damage was done and Guy managed to stop laughing before he needed to ‘call’ the next set of cones. Test 3 went well although the car had interesting handling caused by the wheel bearing and the fact that they had not had time to do the car’s tracking;- quite important when the subframes are from two different cars. Test 4 was at a caravan park and passed without incident and was followed by another regularity section. Guy was getting used to these sections now and was gradually working out how wrong our speedo was . We arrived at test 5 to be greeted by friendly Whickham and DMC faces. The test was on gravel and suited the Mini well. We set a reasonable time but Peter got a face full of muddy water after splashing through a puddle with the window open.

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Test 6 was at Chris Birkbeck’s Rally School and was a good blast around the slippery tarmac section . This was followed by lunch and a chance to chat to the other competitors. Interim results showed that Peter and Guy were 17th out of the 40 starters. It seemed that quite a few crews were struggling to follow the correct route both on the regularities and the tests.

Rallye 177 1

After lunch there was another test at Birkbeck’s with Peter spinning again at the first chicane. Luckily no cones were hit and the spin only resulted in losing a few seconds. Another Regularity followed and Peter and Guy’s time penalties were reducing as Guy worked out how to compensate for the undereading speedo. The wheel bearing however was getting louder all the time and the crew feared the worst. There were two more tests at Teeside Autodrome which were tackled quite gently- especially any right hand turns- to reduce stress on the wheel bearing. Another regularity took the cars back to Tall trees for the final test and a roast dinner.

The results showed that Peter and Guy came 11th overall and 3rd in class. They had made no mistakes negotiating the tests and had followed the correct route on the Regularities and Guy’s good navigating had brought a surprisingly good result.

The wheel bearing somehow even held out till they got home too. A happy end to a great day.

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