A THIRD PLACE finish in class A of the “ACSMC Rally 2002” championship was the richly deserved reward for
leighrallying on Sunday, at the Abingdon CAR-nival Stages. The rally, based at Dalton barracks, near Abingdon of 11 stages throughout the day totalling just over 80 stage miles.
Prior to the event, the team were hopeful of a finish, probably at the rear of the field, as the Mini was the least powerful car by some margin. However the nimbleness of the Mini and some skilful driving and servicing of the team paid dividends and the team completed the rally in 65th position overall out of 83 classified finishers, 8th in class A on the road.
The 110-car rally started on Sunday morning with two long 11 miles stages. These were dry and were used to make the crew familiar with the course. Rob and Andy had moved up 15 places by the end of the second stage but all was not well. The front subframe mounts had broken, but some skilful repairs from the service crew of Dave Askem and Ian Gillespie made the Mini even stiffer than before. The heavens opened for Stage three and the track quickly became wet and slippery. Part of the fourth stage also took place on grass, which has turned into a mud bath by the time Rob and Andy appeared on scene. This, along with a narrow twisty section also give the team a slight advantage and we started clawing back time and even putting a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth under pressure on the timesheets at one point!!!
Stages five and six were a repeat of the previous two, only wetter, before the course was reversed for the remaining stages. By this time the sky was black and heavy torrential rain made conditions very tricky. Aquaplaning and sliding were commonplace and the grass area was becoming very rutted and slippery. On Stage 10, we even overtook a much more powerful Ford Escort Mk2 in this area.
Clear skies had dried out the track, in time for stage eleven, although it was still slippery in places. The pendulum swung back to the bigger cars that could use more power now that it was dry, but a hard push confirmed our class position, whilst still moving up the order. In our quest, two engine stabiliser mounts broke on the final part of the stage and we were fortunate that Stage twelve was cancelled due to time constraints.
“The whole team worked really well today” commented co-driver, Andy Blackmore ” Our service crew were our saviours when we had problems with the subframe in the morning”. Driver, Rob Leigh was also very happy ” The car felt brilliant today, much better than Longcross”. Fellow competitor Dan Howell, who had been following the Mini remarked “He certainly hustles that Mini along well!”