Neil Fletcher Racing

HAVOC Article No 3.

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Dear Andy

I thought I would let you know how the 1989 season finished with our Mexico.

As you will know from my last letter I went into the summer break lying in the joint lead of the N.I. Navigation Rally Championship. Our season restarted in South Armagh in September and Lady Luck had decided to abandon the Mexico. First we had a costly navigation error. We missed a Secret Control in an early section and dropped out of contention completely, as if that wasn't bad enough for the last ten miles or so the Mexico started to go off a cylinder in slow corners, it was only when we screeched to a halt at the final control and were enveloped in a cloud of steam that we realized our head gasket was blown. We ended up in 8th place and to make matters worse for us the crew leading the championship also won this event their first championship rally win and in their new car a 205 GTi. They had got married a few weeks before - yes to each other - so for them it was a nice wedding present.

When we got the engine out of the car we discovered that the problem had started with a leak through the water pump bearing. Unfortunately as well as a blown gasket we also had a warped head but a skim soon cured that problem, or so we thought. Our next event was around Dungannon, we have competed there so often that we almost consider it local so had high hopes of a good result. We had some trouble with the first section of navigation and lost 11 minutes but had a really good run after that and only dropped a further 2 minutes all night. We ended up third at the end of the night and our main rivals had a confidence sapping "off" and took it easy for the rest of the night. Next up came Enniskillen where the Mexico had her first outing a year previous and ended with a blown engine, we had no better luck this year - our head gasket blew again. We only got to the finish by stopping at every river or ditch and topping up the radiator, needless to say we dropped a pile of time and were outside the points again. When we pulled our engine out yet again we discovered a small crack at the top of one of the cylinders in the same place as the gasket had gone before, maybe this was always the problem.

With only a week before our next event we needed an engine fast. All we had was an old 1700cc crossflow that had a blown piston so we got a new piston, fitted a liner to that cylinder and bought a big valve head from a friend. That week we threw together the engine and got it fitted and tested late on Thursday night. The next night we headed off for the penultimate round of the championship and we needed a good result to keep our chances alive. Our engine, we discovered had a liking for oil and was using a pint every 100 miles; apart from that and one navigation error we had a good run. We missed a two mile loop but discovered our mistake quickly and were able to retrace our steps with only a small time loss. We eventually finished fifth, the championship leaders completely missed the same loop as we had and finished outside the points but the same crew won this week as had won in Enniskillen the previous week and leapt over us into second place in the championship.

A fortnight later we gathered for the final round of the series. With dropped scores the top three drivers all had a chance of taking the title but unfortunately, after having missed an early event my navigator could at best only finish third in his section. Now by nature I'm not a superstitious person but at the garage near scrutiny I was almost knocked over by a black kitten, it came tearing round the corner of a building and when it saw me it tried to change direction in a hurry, on the loose gravel it ended up looking like an Escort in a four wheel drift, well for me it was a good omen.

The first half of the rally was quite straight forward with no real problem for the top crews, ourselves included. Early in the second half we caught and passed both the crews who were leading us in the championship - they were having navigation problems. The roads really got tight near the end of the rally but with some fast driving and good navigating we managed to stay ahead We ended up in second place dropping only four minutes, as had the winners but they won on furthest clean. This crew also use a classic rally car, a Triumph 2.5 PI We have tied on penalties three times during the year but on furthest clean the PI leads the Mexico two to one.

At the end of the night after all the calculations and dropping of scores I had won the championship after three years of trying. When I got home in the wee small hours I was still on a real high and couldn't get to sleep so I had to get up and read for a couple of hours. Well that was the end of last year and we finished the year with four wins out of five starts in various small club events. On Boxing Day I took my wife, Carmel with me and did the Ulster Automobile Club's Boxing Day Rally. This involves autotests at various sites which are joined by navigation rally type sections, much to Carmel's delight we won our class and came home with some crystal.

Our 1990 season has just started and we hope to compete in the N.I. Navigation Rally Championship again - my navigator Mark Elliott would like to win the navigator's section. We will also compete in some of the N.I. Stage Rally Championship events maybe a few autotests and other events, I shall drop you a line later in the year and tell you how we get on.

All the best,

Neil Fletcher.  

FMX 800J - RS1600
JIJ 9975 Mexico
FIA 6386 Mexico
Membership No. 1472

P.S. I have just returned from the Ulster Motor Show and while there I came across something which might interest Andrew Wildblood the Twin Cam Registrar. At the Motor Show there was an auction of some classic cars which took place the night before I was there. Included in this auction was a Twin Cam which I presume was once owned by a club member as it had an AVO sticker on the windscreen. The car which was advertised as the second last Twin Cam off the production line was registered as JHM 39 K and changed hands for 14,000. Unfortunately the auctioneers were unwilling to give me further information.


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