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Friday 28th September 2012

PH Goes Rallying: Part Two

The latest mucky adventures of two fools in an E30 MOT failure



After Chris Harris and I bought a rather used and abused BMW E30 325i rally car back in February and I travelled to a frozen lake in Sweden to learn high-performance driving techniques the following month, our budget rallying adventure was supposed to start in earnest with our first event in late June, the Mid-Summer Caerwent Rally in South Wales. Chris was due to co-drive and I was preparing to make my rally driving debut.

Pre-start storm brewing down below
Pre-start storm brewing down below
As if to crush our enthusiasm, though, the BMW failed its last-minute MOT in quite spectacular fashion. We had grossly over-estimated its state of health, and with no time to get it sorted, our entry was pulled.

Plan B
We switched our focus to the Hutton Kitchens Brands Hatch Summer Stages in late August. Not only did this give us two months to smuggle the 325i past an MOT inspector, the event would also be much more appropriate for a rally virgin like myself. Making use of the famous race track, the pit lane and paddock, the car park, the rally school and a load of cones and tyres, the organisers had designed an eight-stage single venue event of around 40 competitive miles.

Flaps minimise flow of lost engine parts
Flaps minimise flow of lost engine parts
Either Chris had grown increasingly anxious about my total lack of experience during those two months, or he genuinely was busy that bank holiday weekend but it transpired that I would have to find a replacement co-driver. Given that Chris hadn’t ever navigated before, I figured that any replacement would be equally qualified, even if I had to resort to recruiting my mother.

Equally clueless
Thankfully, it didn’t come to that. Instead, I roped in my mate Adam Gould, four times a British Rally Championship podium finishing driver, but also a total co-driving novice. We might not know where we were supposed to be going, but at least he’d be able to offer feedback on my driving.

Suspension in comfort mode
Suspension in comfort mode
The queue for scrutineering looked like the start line of the 1979 Lombard RAC Rally, with a wealth of immaculate Mk2 Ford Escorts waiting patiently. Quite a sight, which only served to highlight in humiliating high definition just what a shed our BMW was. It looked like I’d got lost on the way to the scrap yard. When the scrutineer passed it without a single complaint, my hair nearly fell out in shock.

I had been dreaming of the start line to a rally stage for years. As Adam and I sat waiting for the green light to illuminate, my heart was pounding out of my overalls with the sheer excitement and terror of the moment. I suddenly became utterly convinced that I was incapable of synchronising the release of the handbrake, the dumping of the clutch and the mashing of the throttle in time with the green light. When I successfully pulled away with a convincing race start, my surprise almost matched that experienced at scrutineering. I was similarly alarmed when the gear knob came clean off in my hand when I made my very first shift from third to fourth.

Adam eats special hallucinogenic banana
Adam eats special hallucinogenic banana
It came off in my hand!
The release of pressure upon reaching the end of the four-mile stage was so massive that, when repeated as SS2, I got through it 28 seconds quicker. There’s no doubt in my mind that a quicker driver could have wrung a lot more pace out of the 325i, but by the last stage I was starting to feel as though I was extracting the majority of the car’s potential. It was the most fun I’ve had driving a car, and Adam’s expert input was invaluable.

Given the minimal pre-event TLC that we lavished upon the BMW – not to mention the tough life it has led since it was first used as a rally car in 2005 – its utterly faultless performance throughout the day was staggering. Dynamically, it has its shortcomings; the steering is far too slow, the standard brakes fade quickly and the suspension set-up is far better suited to gravel than sealed surfaces, but when exiting a corner on a whiff of opposite lock none of that seems to matter. Having started 80th, we finished 47th overall.

The tortured scream of the stand-in co-driver
The tortured scream of the stand-in co-driver
Over to Chris...
Perhaps my abiding memory will be the joy of a deep bucket seat, a chest-crushing harness and a grippy suede steering wheel. When only your limbs can move independently of the car, you no longer need to use the steering wheel as a grab handle through corners. This helps immeasurably with car control and makes a complete mockery of many leather-seated fast road cars.

In typical budget motorsport fashion, the costs of our rallying adventure have spiralled beyond where we’d hoped. I’ll outline the full expense after the next rally, for which Chris will be behind the wheel. I’ve yet to decide if I’m too busy to co-drive.


Want to see the BMW in action? Video evidence here!


Dan Prosser
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Author Discussion

Coldfuse

Original Poster:

443 posts

82 months

[news] 
Friday 28th September 2012 quote quote all
Very impressive result from 80th for novice driver/co-driver smile

OdramaSwimLaden

1,948 posts

57 months

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Friday 28th September 2012 quote quote all
That looks fun.

Good effort.

rutthenut

195 posts

151 months

[news] 
Friday 28th September 2012 quote quote all
Glad to see you've got the car out onto an event, even in a single-venue (good idea for first entry really). And finished, higher than seeded. Good on you biggrin

Blackpuddin

5,779 posts

93 months

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Friday 28th September 2012 quote quote all
Cracking story. The more accessible motorsport is, the more fun it seems to be.

MrFrodo

20,756 posts

130 months

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Friday 28th September 2012 quote quote all
Nicely done. Some of those chicanes look a tad scary.
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EDLT

14,730 posts

94 months

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Friday 28th September 2012 quote quote all
Are spectators allowed at single venue events, it seems more accessible than driving out to a forest to seen ten minutes of action.

WMP

152 posts

87 months

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Friday 28th September 2012 quote quote all

A) Well done for wrestling the keys from the Monkey!

B) Is that the quietest co-driver ever?

bicycleshorts

1,824 posts

49 months

[news] 
Friday 28th September 2012 quote quote all
WMP said:
A) Well done for wrestling the keys from the Monkey!

B) Is that the quietest co-driver ever?
Imagine there's no line in from co-driver to camera, combined with camera at back of stripped car over a (presumably) noisy exhaust.

Blackpuddin

5,779 posts

93 months

[news] 
Friday 28th September 2012 quote quote all
Love the SOS roof lining.

Tankslider

821 posts

111 months

[news] 
Friday 28th September 2012 quote quote all
Great stuff Dan, good effort. Great seeing Brands from some unusual directions, quite fancy doing that smile

thepony

1,449 posts

53 months

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Friday 28th September 2012 quote quote all
I love the E30 325i :-)

Riggers

1,851 posts

66 months

[news] 
Friday 28th September 2012 quote quote all
Looks like great fun, Dan - and you took the disappearing gearknob in your stride!

See what you're saying about the slow steering rack, though...

Blackpuddin

5,779 posts

93 months

[news] 
Friday 28th September 2012 quote quote all
Riggers said:
Looks like great fun, Dan - and you took the disappearing gearknob in your stride!

See what you're saying about the slow steering rack, though...
That's the first thing I thought Riggers, laughed at the 'straight-ahead' stripe on the wheel, not much use if you've already wound on three turns of lock biggrin

chris bayliss

8 posts

131 months

[news] 
Friday 28th September 2012 quote quote all
It's quite a cheap and easy fix to put an E46 steering rack on these cars. Try and contact Phil Littlewood on 01246 240 632, he knows everything there is to know about making these cars into really good rally cars.

squareflops

764 posts

71 months

[news] 
Friday 28th September 2012 quote quote all
Good job he had gloves on when that knob came off.. That thread would not have been forgiving on bare fingers!

Skyedriver

5,245 posts

170 months

[news] 
Friday 28th September 2012 quote quote all
15 posts and no one has mentioned knobs going off in your hand, gloves and bare fingers
Pass the marigolds.......

ArnageWRC

636 posts

47 months

[news] 
Saturday 29th September 2012 quote quote all
Keep at it! Give it time, and the Tarmac of Epynt will come calling.... wink

garypotter

828 posts

38 months

[news] 
Saturday 29th September 2012 quote quote all
Great story and greater effort in the race well done, cannot wait for the next instalment,

When you say the budget what costs have you had for this race? is it just the entry fees, fuel/oil and tyres? or a list of extras to pay for?

MST Dan

7 posts

51 months

[news] 
Saturday 29th September 2012 quote quote all
Thanks, Gary. Aside from the entry fee and all the necessary fluids, we had to fork out rather a lot to get the car through an MoT and to replace the seats, which were out of date. There were also hotel and travel costs to cover, plus dinner and beer for the mechanics...

Full break down of the costs once Chris has rallied it!

masermartin

1,251 posts

65 months

[news] 
Sunday 30th September 2012 quote quote all
That looks great fun ... top marks for giving it a go. You might need one of these if you don't get the rack sorted sharp-ish though: another knob joke here
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