As we exited the first time control on SS1, all pumped up and raring to go, the pin holding the driver's windscreen wiper to the arm snapped and the wiper did a neat pirouette through the air before landing on the ground. I said 'bother' and got out. Luckily a mate was passing and we were able to unbolt and swap the arms. This meant co-driver Dave couldn't see much for the next couple of stages until the rain eased off, but he didn't seem that bothered.
'Slippery' doesn't come close to describing how greasy the rally stage that started the event was and, at low speeds on a succession of 180 degree bends, understeer was horrendous. Kicking the back out with the power is fine but, with a tightly wound-up limited-slip diff, that can lead to more understeer followed by snap oversteer. Neat and tidy ruled the day. The exit from the rally stage was across a bog-like gravel section and I found myself peering out through my one-wiper porthole. We'd only done around two hundred metres of the rally with a whole day to go.
A couple of stages later, the tyres got scrubbed in and started to work well. By SS4 (which you can see some of in the video), the rain had stopped and there was some semblance of grip. Even then though, extreme care was needed. On the main straight it was easy to kick the back out in fifth so I rolled on the throttle as smoothly as possible and short shifted for most of the event.
From then on we got going quicker, but still kept it smooth. By SS7 a dry line started to appear, the times came down and we started to close up the gap to the front but an accident compromised the stage and SS8 was abandoned. Shame, but thankfully the crew were OK and that's the main thing.
So we finished in our seeded position of 21 from 79 starters, happy to have got the first wet rally out of the way in the new car unscathed. The first two rallies in this car have both been cold weather events and I can't wait to try the 'Millie' out on warmer, grippy surfaces once the weather cheers up.
Watch the video here.
Car: Mk2 Ford Escort RS
Run by: Jesse Crosse
Bought: August 2015
Purchase price: N/A
Last month at a glance: 2016 season gets off to a slithery and exciting start
For the background on Jesse's 'Yellow Peril', see all the updates here.
Action pics: Clive Marchant