As always seems to be traditional with this sort of rallying, the first task of the day was to simply manage to exit the hotel car park on time and in the right direction! The start of the Tour Britannia 2013 was from the door of the Warwick Hilton (Henceforth known as Heartbreak Hotel) and the car park roads weren’t really big enough to allow rally cars to organise themselves easily into start order... add in an over-optimistic old lady in a regularity Volvo who felt she should be at the front of the line 15 minutes before her start time and you have all the recipe for organised chaos! Good work on the horn from the driver and some lightfootedness from the navigator saw us make our check-out time and the EFG crew were soon on our way to the first stage at Arbury Hall.
The stages of the Tour Britannia are all done blind, without pacenotes, so each first run through is rather exploratory and this slightly greasy stage alongside a canal (which I didn’t spot) and a lake (ditto) and past the front door of a Stately Home (nope, didn’t spot that either) was no exception. The onboard video of our first, somewhat tentative, pass can be seen here:
Although without the co-driver shouting pace notes, and the already subdued turbo-engine being heavily silenced to comply with the regulations of the circuits we will run on, it’s not exactly WRC levels of noise!
Given our previous struggles with overheating and over-revs’ of the Porsche 924 Turbo motor, we were determined to make the finish this year and two clean runs through Arbury with no issues was a good start. Although with its numerous chicanes it didn’t favour our turbo engine which needs high revs to develop power, the next stage, at Mallory Park, promised better things.
Another short road leg, certainly after the 3 hour plus ones we experienced just a few weeks ago on the Tour Auto led us up to Kirkby Mallory and the historic Mallory Park circuit. My last visit here was some 12 years ago, but I doubt the circuit has changed in the last 32 years! We would do 2 runs on a rally stage that included some tight corners into the pitlane and a slightly loose section back into the pitlane and out onto the track. This was much more suited to our car as we could let her stretch her legs a little, but the organisers had added in a number of bike chicanes to slow the average speed enough to not enrage the RAC MSA. The onboard video of our first effort can be seen here:
Next we quickly met up with the support crew for service and the car was checked over and proclaimed in fine health before heading out to practise on the full circuit. We needed to do 3 laps to qualify for the race, but given the grid was to be decided on these times, I took 7 laps to find 2 clear ones to set our grid position and then headed for the pits to save the brakes and tyres for the race.
The race start was “interesting” as there were a few novices in very quick cars on the grid! This left plenty of opportunity for places to be made on the run into the first corner. Although progress was soon stymied by a very erratically driven MGB V8 which seemed to need every inch of the track and more and managed to put us on the grass on the run into the hairpin on lap 1. The long drifting first corner really suited our car with its fabulous balance and I was able to use our pace here to make good progress. However, there was a slight wisp of smoke appearing during this long long right hander, which I initially assumed was oil escaping from the breather... however suddenly on lap 6 huge amounts of steam appeared out of the back of the car as the coolant decided to join the petrol in the cylinders.
Given the car was running cool and hadn’t been over-revved this was a shock retirement and blame would appear to lie in the hands of the engine ignition system which is standard Porsche and would not appear to be up to the job. But either way coming hard on the heels of our retirement in France it was a bitter pill to swallow and it was an extremely disappointed crew that made its way back to the Heartbreak Hilton. Where fortunately we were in time for the Bonhams/EFG happy hour which helped with the “drowning of the sorrows” significantly, as did the fact that many of the fancied crews had fallen at this first hurdle as well.
We’ll be back, but this is the 2nd manufacturing fault that has stopped this car in its tracks following the Monte Carlo valve-seat failure so perhaps it’s time to move on to something more reliable... I’ve always fancied a Datsun 240Z and I think I know where I can borrow one.... so watch this space!
Thanks again to EFG International for supporting our little team and for lending us crack navigator Keith Gapp who once again was faultless on the maps.
Our next adventure on here will be outings in the Nissan SuperTourer at the Silverstone Classic, so watch out for that!
Your “happy to be back in a Nissan” correspondent