Our latest attempt at a BAMA 4x4 off road event saw us in action on the former RAF Lyneham airbase. We somehow managed to turn up with a very flat front tyre which the scrutineers immediately spotted. LRO’s Neil Watterson obliged with his a fancy (borrowed) on-board air compressor to inflate the flat which then miraculously stayed up all day, which begs the question how long had it been flat Dave?
Post briefing the first section was orienteering on the vast expanse of the airbase during which we managed to ignore the advisory speed limit but even with Dave’s best rally driving we only found 18 of the 20 punches in the 40 minutes allowed but this proved to be okay as most crews didn’t get them all in time either – and we were bang on time so just 2 penalty points, a good start.
Next up were three back to back trials sections which you had to approach blind without walking them first. The order was “stay with your vehicle” so we tried standing on the bonnet of Big Red to watch how other competitors tackled them. The less said about the trials sections the better, let’s just say that LRO cleared up in a 90 but 110’s were definitely not the weapon of choice although we did get one clear out of three.
Now late afternoon, we received road books and after marking up our maps with a highlighted route on public roads and byways, we were released into the fading light at one minute intervals to rampage across the Wiltshire downs in a strung out convoy. Despite one wrong turn which we backtracked we made good time until we got held up just before the midpoint checkpoint by a queue of other competitors vehicles. We initially thought they were stalling to avoid arriving too early so we did the same but it turned out that Car 1 had skidded and flipped over which caused quite a jam on a single track byway! Luckily for the Army driver his colleagues recovered him very quickly and before long his damaged fibreglass “Tithonus” roof had been patched up with gaffer tape. It was good enough to keep the wind out but I suspect not good enough to escape close inspection from his sergeant major when he returned the vehicle later!
Soon after the checkpoint we took a wrong turning which was rather amusing because two Army crews followed us onto one of the bumpiest byways I have ever suffered as a passenger. We were all very lucky not to get stuck here and managed to turn around and head back to the road. At the next major junction one of the Army crews (military police as it turned out) turned right as we turned left and we didn’t see them again until much later. So who was right? we were as it happened and we arrived back at base with a very respectable score, just 3 penalty points.
We now had an hours break so we got fuel for Big Red and fuel for us, a pair of Donner Kebabs from Lyneham’s finest fast food establishment, nom nom!
Now in total darkness, the next two phases were on the airfield, firstly a timed route drive following a course as marked on two A4 aerial photos taken in daylight. The course was quite random and criss crossed the airfield often off-road completely. Map reading by torchlight, I had to concentrate to quickly translate those images into instructions like “keep left” “turn 90 degrees right” and “stay straight” while Dave swung our headlights round to pick out solid objects and reference points in the darkness. At the same time we were occasionally dazzled by other competitors doing the same. By luck and good judgement we did pretty good on this and far better than I had expected, we arrived bang on time and scored just 5 penalty points. Feeling pretty chuffed we then discovered that the next phase was the same three trials sections from earlier but these were now reversed and to driven in the dark, oh joy! 8-(
Glowing cyclumen sticks had been attached to one cane on each gate. This seemed more for decoration than assistance since all the canes were a dirty colour and had been quite hard to see even in daylight – CCROC’s yellow canes would have been more appropriate. All I can say in Dave’s defence is that we only did slightly worse than we had done in daylight. Bloody LRO’s 90 cleared it all again of course, but then the Mitsibushi Pajero in the group couldn’t even start one section in daylight so we were decidedly average at best.
So what of the overall scores? Yeah exactly, so what?, it’s the taking part that counts! Okay, we were ninth if you must know but if we had cleared all the trials sections we would have been in serious danger of winning, and that would have been disasterous: - promotion to “Experts” and then handicapped for all future events – no thanks! We had already jokingly discussed that prospect earlier in the day so we’ll take ninth place thank you very much.
Once again all I can do is thoroughly recommend these events to other CCROC members, you get to drive off road in some places which are off limits to the public and meet interesting people from other clubs, the MOD and LRO. Next up is the Mud Master in Scotland, er we might skip that one but we did discuss going up in a road car and offering to Marshal or even trailering one of Dave’s vehicles up there…
In case you were wondering about the Military Police who turned right, they came last! Second to last was the crew who rolled their Land Rover which we later found out was driven by an Army driving instructor!