It was good to be heading back to the Otterburn ranges and great to be back with Phil Boyle alongside me, managing to find time in his busy M-Sport schedule to be there. The last time we were out together was on the Jim Clarke event earlier in the year.
The year has been a little difficult without a regular co-driver, since the road accident that removed my original co-driver from the championship for the season, or service crew. However, we now have a great crew – Seb Hawkins (number one son), who has stepped up to the role of Service Manager and ANEMMC Co-driver for me, he is backed up by the great Jem Watson, who has been with us since Mewla and is now a regular in our service area. For this event we were also to be joined by Phil’s son Chris, who was made more than welcome. However a regular co-driver would still be useful.
The first loop of stages claimed a few cars but we were taking it steady and cleared SS1 without issue. SS2, however, would not be so easy; with around two miles to the finish the throttle cable strands started to snap and hold the revs on. It was a battle to get to the end with a combination of high gears and heavy braking. We stopped once out of the stage to burning brakes, steam rising from the wet grass. A quick check round and I manually set the revs to 4000 and limped the car back on the road section to service. Once there a quick throttle cable was change, then adjusted and found to be running fine.
The second loop would be a repeat of the first one and would see us stepping the pace up. SS3 would see the regular “whoops that’s the wing mirror gone” moment at a chicane, but we have all grown to accept that now! What we weren’t ready for was a red mist moment; whilst catching up a car on stage I managed to misjudge a corner, although the call was correct, and throw the car round backwards and off the stage. Luckily I managed to stop the car from disappearing backwards down the hillside. Phil jumped out and managed to lift the rear nearside of the car and push whilst I powered out and back onto the stage. We finished the stage but had dropped well over a minute. SS4, however, was uneventful – oh apart from an over shoot at a junction – and we returned to service still laughing about what had happened on the previous stage.
Suitably mocked by the service crew for the wing mirror loss, we headed out for SS5. This stage along with SS6 and SS7 went without incident and we were now thinking about the championship and the finish. I was now second in class and while I did not want to think about it, just had to finish to get the B11 Class Championship honours.
Waiting at the control of SS8 Phil reminded me that I should think about the championship and not the event at this time. What a stage this was to be; fast, flowing, catching cars and passing them. Phil reminded me of what he had said and laughed.
SS9 the final stage, a repeat of SS8, again we caught and passed cars and never backed off – the line was crossed and we knew what we had done!! The B11 Championship was in the bag!
What a superb weekend. One full throttle, one off, one overshoot and load of useful championship points! Thanks to all involved.