Neil Fletcher Racing
HAVOC Article No 4.
Go to Havoc Articles Index
It’s been nearly a year since I last wrote and I
thought it was about time I let you know how I got on with the Mexico during the
1990 season. We spent the long winter nights refettling the car only to have the
joint in the steering column break on the way to our first event of the year.
“Ha” some car preparation guy I turn out to be.
It was a small club event in
Enniskillen which we were using as a warm up for the championship. As it was
about 80 miles away my navigator Mark was driving and I was asleep, he woke me
to tell me the steering felt funny and the car was wandering on the road, don't
they always! We stopped at the next filling station we came to and had a look,
sure enough one of the lugs on the yoke that goes through the rubber bit was
broken off, this meant the top half of the steering column was turning about
half a turn before the bottom half would turn. Well here we were 10 miles from
the start of a rally that was due to start in 45 minutes and we had a broken
steering. I noticed a car lift in the shed beside the filling station. We
approached the owner, could we use his lift and welding gear? “Sure, no
problem”. I don't think the old boy had ever seen a rally car in his garage
before never mind two guys who descended on it quite like we did. Twenty eight
minutes later we had the steering out, a bolt welded in place of the lug and the
whole lot back together, I can still see the look on the old guys face as we
threw him a tenner and left about 50 yards of rubber up the road. Could we still
make it in time for the start? Arriving at the start we discovered the 'Scrute'
was an old friend of our, "On you go boys your car's always in good
shape", little did he know! Into documentation and back out to see the car
seeded at No 1 head off, we were No 2, into the car, over to the start control
and away up the road with not a thing plotted on the maps. Mark really got his
act together to keep me on the right road, not an easy job after that panic
start. To cut a long story short we won by a narrow margin, part of our prize
was a bottle of falling down water donated by the finish venue. The driver kept
that but not for long. Needless to say the next day I fitted a proper Group 4
The N.I. Navigation Rally
Championship started in earnest a couple of weeks later. Slapped wrists time,
Mark sent our entry in late and along with another top crew we were seeded at
the back. It didn't make our job any easier when it turned out to be a very
snowy night we had a lot of trouble passing slower cars and at the end of the
night we had only climbed to fifth. A couple of weeks later we headed off for
the next round in the Londonderry area, this time the engine blew, the timing
chain broke. Next round, Cookstown and Mark was off form. With a couple of
navigation errors we finished in seventh place.
Things were looking bad
three rounds gone and we weren't even in the top ten in the championship. The
next couple of rounds suited us in that they made much of narrow unsealed lanes,
just the sort that this driver loves, Omagh first and a good trouble free run
brought us 8 points for 3rd place then came my home rally near Banbridge.
Bad news arrived at tea-time
on the days of the event, Mark was stuck at a customs post on the border with
"The South" with a combine harvester and couldn't get back in time for
the start. I made a few frantic phone calls - the event organisers told me that
Gordon Noble an ex-champion navigator wasn't competing as his driver's car had a
blown engine. I rang him at home, no reply, I tried his work and his secretary
just caught him leaving the building. Was he interested in competing? Yes he'd
love to and would get a lift up to Banbridge with one of the other crews coming
up from Omagh, his home town. Three hours later we were lined up ready for the
off, we quickly settled into a good rapport as we both liked a good burn, and
“the craic”. This was a really tight rally and there was never more than a
couple of minutes between the top crews, in the last couple of sections we
managed to get in front and stay there winning by one minute.
The next round was in
Enniskillen but a timing error by Mark dropped us from 2nd down to 11th and put
us well down the points table going into the summer break.
With no events for a few
months I decided to branch out and tackle a few Hiliclimbs. In N.I. the only
hillclimbs are all part of the N.I. Championship so having gained a 1st and 2nd
in class on the first two events left me leading the 1600cc roadgoing class,
well there was nothing else for me to do but tackle the whole championship.
My next event was a stage
rally, the Antrim Festival Stages which we had done the previous year, we went
even better this year and finished 5th in class and 14th overall, after this I
returned to the Hills and scored another 1st 2nd and two 4th's to build up an
unassailable lead in that championship, which was a good job as I crashed on my
next stage rally and was unable to do the final round of the hillclimb
championship. We had slid wide on a hairpin bend and unfortunately caught a tree
stump which was hiding in the undergrowth. It caught the drivers sill just
behind the front wing and both inner and outer sill were badly pushed in and
when the drivers side rear wheel hit the stump it flicked the car out across the
road and broke a halfshaft into the bargain. With the LSD we could still make
some progress but a steep uphill section brought us to an abrupt halt. It was a
long time before Mark let me live this down as it was only 1 1/2 miles into the
first stage, "Go easy at the start", he would say but I always went
"The full o'the pipe", (flat out).
A couple of weeks later the
navigation rallies started again. I had got the halfshaft changed, the sill we
left for later in the year when we would have more time. Even though it was
badly pushed in it wasn't split and as all the damage was below door level it
wasn't easily seen.
My climb back up the
championship table started with a rather lucky 2nd place in North Armagh. We had
gone the wrong way round a three mile loop but as there were no controls on it
we escaped with only a small time loss. Three weeks later our run continued in
Dungannon with a lst overall. It was a really tight run, we only dropped time in
one section which was later dropped because of errors in the route instructions.
The next event was a disaster for us; we kept taking wrong slots, about six in
total and never looked like getting into the points. Just one of our off nights.
Our year was now drawing to
a close and with one event to go the situation was almost exactly a repeat of
last year. I was five points behind the leaders but they had to drop scores, (7
out of 10 count) and as I had only scored six times I could count all my points.
Alas with having missed an early round Mark couldn't win the navigators'
section. We ended the year in style, our best drive of the year netted us 1st
overall on the event and secured the Navigation Rally Championship for me. I
jumped from five points behind to five points in front and that winning margin
made it all look a lot easier that it really was.
So all in all 1990 was an
even better year than '89. I retained the N.I. Navigation Rally Championship and
added to that the 1600cc Roadgoing class in the N.I. Hillclimb Championship. I
think of the two the latter gave me more pleasure, not only in the pure fun of
flat out driving but as reward for my car preparation and driving skills. They
praise is no praise"!
As I finish off this letter
I am starting to make plans for '91. At the moment there is talk of a Historic
Rally Championship in Ireland including some of our biggest rallies i.e. Galway,
Circuit of Ireland, Donegal and The Ulster. Now this sounds like being good
“craic” as they will have a class for the Mexico. As yet details are sketchy
so we can't make any real plans. Doubtlessly I shall let you know what happens,
in the meantime I have some car preparations to do and I shall treat the Mexico
to a rebuilt engine, so until the next time,
All the best.
377F - Twin Cam
FMX 800J - RS1600
JIJ 9975 – Mexico
FIA 6386 – Mexico
Membership No. 1472
Return to Havoc Articles Index
Click on any of the links below to go to that section of the site.
[ Neil's Stuff ] [ My Escorts ] [ Rally Escorts ] [ Technical Stuff ] [ Escort Stuff ] [ AVO Day ] [ Havoc Articles ] [ Other Escorts ] [ Other Cars ]