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Whickham and District Motor Club Limited

Just who IS Steve Nesworthy?

.....and just how did I get to become Secretary of WDMC?

The story starts back in 2000 when my squash playing career was brought to an end due to my knees having had enough of pounding round squash courts for 20 years. Now squash produces quite high levels of adrenalin when played competitively – so I needed to find a similar “fix” from a less strenuous pastime. Having always had a keen interest in motorsport a friend invited me along to the club and ……….. I never looked back.

Joining the club I was amazed at the number of motoring events that took place within reasonable travelling distance of home, sure everyone had heard of Rally GB – but 12 cars?, Navigational tests?, Autotests?, Single venue rallies? National events? None of these get any coverage in the local press – it was as if it was a closely guarded secret. If I was prepared to travel upto 10 miles I could find an event almost every weekend to go and watch.

But joining a club is more than just finding out about where to go and watch, after all you can do that at home much easier now with the boom in internet use. Joining a club allows you to get involved, so I soon started marshalling on events, a great way to start getting behind the scenes and finding out how a rally runs, along with how the timing is calculated. Helping man the lines at Arrival, Start, Finish and Stop gave an insight into how an event operates, and the realisation that an event is a huge logistical exercise involving hundreds of people.

One night at the club I was in the right place at the right time when Gordon Coxon was looking for a navigator for an upcoming event. I jumped at the chance and sent off for my competition licence. Two weeks later, at the age of 40, I felt like a little kid seeing Santa for the first time when my licence arrived in the post.
So off we went to do the 2002 Durham Sprint, a single venue event near Barnard Castle, in a Mk 2 Escort.

Well the event didn’t get off to a great start when the engine wouldn’t run, we got to the start line and pulled away – getting about 30 feet before the car stopped. Gordon took this with the calmness he was famous for, as the air turned bluer and bits of car flew through the air he carried out repairs that got us going again. Suffice to say the red mist had descended and Gordons driving meant I didn’t really contribute much to the stage from a navigational perspective, other than from the calling the splits and merges. We got to the end of the stage with a spin on the grass adding to the frustration.

Following this dramatic 1st stage we then ran through the next stages without incident, improving our times along the way, until we got to the last stage. Thinking I was going to finish my first event we set off able to run a steady pace without risk of being caught. Gordon however had other ideas and with half a mile to go before the finish of my first event, interpreted the call to go “through the gateposts” a little too literally, resulting in a substantial metal post that was concreted into the ground bringing us to an abrupt halt! Gordon restarted the engine and with various fluids pouring from the engine bay and fan blades being thrown off – we crossed the line.
The picture is of me leaning on a somewhat crumpled Mk2 at the end of the event, but still with a big grin having thoroughly enjoyed the event.

SN 1

Gordon and I competed in the Lion Stages and Charterhall in 2003 before moving in separate directions.
Fortunately for me another crew had split up after several years together and I jumped at the opportunity to team up with Kevin Garthwaite, with whom I navigated for the next 3 years. The pairing got off to an unfortunate start with the engine in the Mk2 Escort seizing on the Pendragon and then, more seriously, being involved in a major accident on Otterburn Ranges in 2003 before arriving at SS1. The impact we took wrote off the Mk2 and left Kev with a broken leg.

SN 5

But, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining and Kev announced that he had got hold of an Escort Cosworth – which just happened to be my favourite of the turbo 4wd cars that competed. Subarus and Mitsubshis were 10 a penny, but Cosworths were a little rarer.
Our first event in the gleaming white Cossie was at Charterhall in 2004, (above), where a puncture ruined a decent run out and destroyed a wheel in the process. However as the car was Left Hand Drive it was an interesting experience sitting in the “Drivers Seat” without a wheel or pedals for the first time.


We also had a good run in Malton in 2004. Tyre pressures set for Tarmac rather than forest resulted in a poor first stage time and a suicidal attack on a gatepost. Fortunately the post was wooden and rotten at the base, unfortunately a wire from the alternator came loose. The loose wire was not spotted and we came to a stop yards after starting the final stage. Sooooo frustrating!

2004 also saw us competing at Wheeton, Leyland and Croft, where we found that on tarmac the Cossie lived on a diet of gear boxes, so much as show it a bit of fresh air and it would use all those teeth in the gearbox to chew the cogs to bits. Several rebuilds later and Kev decided that enough was enough – the Cossie had to go.

While Kev looked for a new car, an opportunity arose to compete on the Christmas stages 2004 with a young driver and the Pendragon in 2005 with Paul May in a very nice Mk1 Escort. An incident free run resulted in a solid finish. The most notable event being a bout of car sickness I suffered. Now this was something that happened sporadically whilst navigating and I always had a couple of sick bags on hand, courtesy of British Airways. Whilst they stopped any mess, the smell can be a little off putting.

A navigator that gets car sick – as you can imagine people were hardly beating a path to my door.
Nevertheless Kev stuck with it and announced a new car had been purchased, a Toyota Celica GT in excellent condition and sporting the colours worn by Carlos Sainz in the early 90s. Our first event was Hamsterly at the end of 2005, the car was excellent, it felt solid and gave lots of feedback. We completed the event and had a very good feeling about it.

SN 3

Our next events were at Croft with a very wet Christmas Stages (above) and the very appropriately named Jack Frost (below) given the amount of ice on the track at the start of the day. Nevertheless the Celica was faultless with us finishing both events and getting solid results.

SN 2

We then entered the North West Stages in 2006. This was to be the defining moment of the partnership, a day and a half test of man and machine around stages at 5 separate venues where it is legal to do over 100mph on Blackpool promenade!! On the Saturday I got into the car at 11:30am and got out at 8:45pm, almost 9 hours of running during which I was only out of the car for a 20 minute period at lunch, it was relentless with no time to relax, not even time for Kev to have a fag break………….. then we had to do it again on Sunday morning!

Having started at 62, we finished 19th Overall and won the best novice award. I still dine out on stories about the event as the competing was shortly to come to an untimely end.
Following decent runs out at Wheeton Camp and Ingliston, we entered the Turnbull Trophy 2006. This should have been a walk in the park after everything we had been through, I walked the course in the morning and asked Kev if he would let me drive – alas that was not going to be possible. Nevertheless we set off and had several good runs through the stages until early afternoon, when the car didn’t seem to be pulling well and I noticed a lot of smoke in the rear mirror – the turbo had devoured itself. The picture shows us not long before the incident with tell tale smoke coming from the exhaust.

SN 4

Normally we would have been able to get the car fixed, alas money was tight in the Garthwaite household as Kev was soon to be a dad, the money for the Turbo was therefore needed for baby things. The car was left unrepaired and slowly deteriorated, with grass growing through it.
My competing therefore came to an end, there was a one off outing at the end of 2006 on the Premier rally in Sherwood forest, but nothing since.
However during this time I also became more involved in the running of the club, joining the committee in 2003 as Pacenotes Editor, moving to Social Secretary in 2005 and finally Secretary in 2006, a position I have yet to shake off!
I also became more involved with the running of events, taking on the role of Secretary for the Shaw Trophy in 2003 and 2004, moving on in 2006 to become Secretary of the Border Counties Rally for the 2007 event, again a position I have yet to shake off!

As the old saying goes, the more you put into something the more you get out of it, and as a result of the effort I’ve put in over the years I have gained a far greater insight to Motorsport which the armchair enthusiast will never get.


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