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.
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.