Neil Fletcher Racing

HAVOC Article No 4.

Go to Havoc Articles Index

Dear Andy,

    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 steering joint

    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 say "Self 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.

Neil Fletcher.

XTW 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 ]