Friday, October 20, 2006

RBRR The ultimate madness

The plan:

Leaving La Ollanda on Thursday the 5th taking the late afternoon crossing Hoek v Holland – Harwich. Arrive in Enfield around 20.30, visit the Plough, go to hotel for a good sleep. Do RBRR, leave Enfield on Monday morning, go to Oxford, find a hotel and do some tours/walks from there in the following week. Back home on the 14th.

This is what happened:

On the way up:

We took the late afternoon crossing from Hoek to Harwich, arriving there just in time. Not even left the country we already had two problems with the car. First there was the new tyres fooling the wheelarches. For some reason my new tyres (same size) are wider as the old ones. Very annoying but not dramatic. The second problem occurred just after we left the motorway towards Hoek. Braking down for a roundabout the brakepressure slowly disappeared…. Interesting but also not dramatic. Still enough pressure left to stop the car. This would bring us to London without any trouble. On the ferry we went! England welcomed us with pouring rain. Hmmm, dark, rain, random brakes… this could become an interesting trip! Steadily we drove up on the A120/A12 towards London. All seemed fine, cruising along at 75mph in the fast lane as I see a vague black spot dooming up in front of me. In a blink I see a sidelight of a car in the middle of the road. I realise it’s a crashed car blocking the road and we are very close to crashing into it. Somehow I managed to avoid a collision by not braking and steering around it. That was really really close! I’m almost sure a car behind us must have crashed into it. The bad weather and heavy traffic wasn’t helping here. That crashed car was hardly visible. With the adrenaline pumped to a max we continued our way. Still on schedule we arrived at the Premier Travel Inn at 20.45. A quick phonecall to James was made so he could order some food for us at the Plough. CT service is one of the best you can get! Arriving at the Plough we met up with James, Amo, Ben, Nikki, Andy F, Paul D, and Tim B. Not much later Fred and Dave joined in too. It was great to see all the CT celebrities again and I guess they all enjoyed the vlaai I brought. James and Ben made special “Team Vlaai” stickers for us to put on the car. Was very pleased with that!

Friday morning started with the excellent (not) breakfast at the Travel Inn. After that we visited Dave Pictons workshop to have a look at the brakes. Amazingly the brakes where rock solid again. We took Daves advise leaving the brakes as they are. Everything seemed ok! After some more chatting and exchanging vlaai for brakefluid we left for the Plough. (again) Filled the car up on our way. RBRR ready….. or maybe not?! Just before entering the Plough the brakes fail again. Damn, there must be some air in the system. As we know Tim will bring a bleedingkit and a spare master cylinder we wait for him to arrive. We use the spare time to chat with Steve who is doing the RBRR in a Dolomite SE. He’s alone and waiting for his co-driver to arrive. A Swedish guy he never met before. Think that’s a challenge! Being in a car for 48 hours with someone you don’t know. Tim arrives a bit later and so does the pouring rain. Not the best moment for bleeding the brakes. After a while the weather clears up, time to start our bleeding session. There’s indeed air in the system and after the bleeding the pedal feels better than ever. Right, now we only have to sticker up the car and we are ready for 2000 miles of motoring pleasure!


Friday 19.00 The Plough Enfield, 24942mls.

James has obviously spend all day at the hairdresser and shows up in last minute. Finally Team Vlaai is complete and ready for take off. The first leg is pretty much uneventful. We try to keep up with Ben and James in their mk1, but it looks like they are on high adrenaline levels. We decide to take it easy and drive our own speed.

Some pictures from the start.

22.24 Blythe Services, 25092mls:

We find out we missed the first control at the Plough. Officially we are out of the event! Luckily the marshal feels sorry for us foreigners and signs for both stops. From Blythe it’s Theo’s turn to drive the car. It’s the first time he drives the GT6, in the dark, on the wrong side of the road and sitting also at the wrong side of the car. This wasn’t going to be easy. Especially not as there were strong crosswinds and the car got very nervous by them. Theo was really struggling keeping it on track but managed to bring it to the next stop. I managed to catch some sleep which wasn’t a bad thing.

01.05 The Angel Inn, Corbridge:

Only a control, no actual stop. I’m back behind the wheel for the next session. The roads become more interesting the further we drive up North. I’ve driven the A68 a couple of times but never in the dark. An interesting challenge as it’s best compared to a rollercoaster ride! I’m following Barry and Caroline in the PI. In Jedburg we stop for petrol and fill up with 24.04 ltrs of Vpower. Odometer says 25272mls. The time is 02.11. We continue on the A68 towards Edinburgh. Just before Edinburgh I notice some funny noises from the gearbox. It turns out to be the start of a slowly disintegrating gearbox. Brakes are better than ever btw!

03.25 Edinburgh Airport:

Only a quick stop for team 28 here. Just signing the roadbook and back on the road again. From here it’s one way to JoG. We cross the Forth Bridge and continue on the A9 towards Inverness. Another fill up at 04.04 having 25351 on the meter. The roads are empty and my co driver is on standby modus, so I press the loudpedal and make some serious progress. The A9 is much better than expected. A worst nightmare in daytime turns out to be a great road at night! Soon we catch up with a big group of Triumphs. Very unusual to do in the GT6 is turning the heater on. Well, this time we had to. Scotland turned out to be a bit chilly that night. We pass Inverness and move up further north. As the night turns into day we do another fill up at Skiach Services near Alness. The A9 gets more and more interesting. Lots of twisty bits in it. Seeing the sun come up is one of those magic RBRR moments! The A99 is the road that leads through Wick and then straight on to JoG and the famous Seaview Hotel.

08.34 Seaview Hotel, John O Groats:

John O Groats turns out to be cold and windy and feels very much as the end of the world. Maybe because it is…. The hotel serves a full Scottish breakfast and it’s good to see other entrants again. Most have survived the first leg! After we have the roadbook signed it’s time to carry on. A quick oil check, some windy snapshots and we’re off again.

For the next 24hrs the direction will be south-west. In Castletown we fill up the car with 21 ltrs of petrol. As we move on we soon end up cueing for a traffic light in a town at the end of the world. All very frustrating! It turns out that some idiot on a mini digger is doing roadworks. Possibly not knowing he’s causing the biggest traffic jam in the history of Thurso. Once we’re out on the open roads again we can make up the lost time. Followed by Dave and Fred in their all standard 2000 mk1 we blast down the A836. It’s really funny to see the big saloon going round corners, scratching the door handles on the tarmac. We overtake The Acclaimers who made these great pictures of us. Can't link them direct to this site unfortunately.

Next road on the menu is B871. Very tasty I can tell! The road follows the river Naver, is single track and very twisty. We have some more fun with the Acclaimers who made even more photos. The scenery is awesome. This is what Scotland is all about.

I let the Acclaimers pass as we need to stop for a pee. Not much later I’m chasing the big Saloon again. This time it’s Dave behind the wheel, again top motoring entertainment!

13.10 Conon Bridge Hotel, Conon Bridge

What can I say, this stop must be the highlight of the RBRR, as the marshal at this stop is Mr McGuinness aka McJim. A true Scotsman and more than proud of it. We are very pleased to see the old chap again. He’s always good for a laugh. I brought some traditional “Limburgse Vlaai” which I think he liked a lot. Of course vlaaimaster James couldn’t resist to eat the last slice. To report on the car, brakes are still OK, gearbox is very noisy in 1st and 3rd gear but still going. We topped the engine oil up.

The next section would be wet. Very very wet! The typical Scottish weather showed it's best side. Pouring rain from Loch Ness all the way up to Stirling. Filled the car up again in Fort William and got soaking wet from the horizontal rain! This wasn’t fun anymore. The worst bit was driving the A82 through Rannoch Moor. Heavy rain and strong winds made this more like sailing. The road got flooded at several places.

18.11 Morrison Garage Stirling:

A classic stop on the RBRR. A former Triumph dealership that has been a control stop since the first RBRR in 1966. They are famous for their Scottish pies which were all gone by the time we arrived. What a shame. Now we have to come back in 2008! Next session it was Theo’s behind the wheel again. As he had some problems with driving the car we sort of agreed that he would drive the motorway sections. We did another fill up we hit the road again. After we passed Glasgow it was a straight line to the next stop. Time for me to catch some sleep. Theo did very well on this section, the car was much easier to drive due to less wind.

22.22 Lancaster Services, 26106mls

At Lancaster Services we met up with Steve. He came along with his dad to cheer up the RBRR teams. Good to see them again!

Now it was my turn again to drive the car. I felt amazingly fresh again after my 2hr nap. This section was mainly motorway.

23.53 Gledrid Services, 26201mls

Another controlled stop. Lot’s of CT members to cheer us up again. The CT club spirit must be one of the best in the world. Really amazing to see people waiting for you at a petrolstation in the middle of the night. From here the route becomes more interesting again. We continue on what must be one of the best roads I’ve ever driven. A483 is the magic number. It’s like a never ending rollercoaster. It’s a very fast and twisty road which has very smooth tarmac. Another plus is the total lack of traffic at this time of day. This is driving as it’s meant to be! Unfortunately the gearbox becomes more noisy which makes me decide to do most of the driving in 4th gear. (the only quiet gear left) No problem as the sixpot has plenty of torque. I could easily keep up with the Spitfire in front of me. It is actually amazing how the engine pulls from 1000rpm. We drive further down south through Wales and finally end up at a service station near Bristol. This was another great section of the RBRR. These roads keep you going for ever!

03.51 Gordano Services, 26351mls

Huge mug of coffee here! I really need some sleep now so Theo will be doing the next section. Possibly the most boring one from the run. A long stretch of motorway driving towards Lands End. I wish him all the best and fall asleep.(ish) As I wake up again I see a blue GT6 mk1 in front of me. Ben and James have catched up again. The motorway changes into the A30 which will lead us straight to Lands End. Somewhere along this road we swap seats and I’m back behind the wheel. As the night turns into day we really trash it down towards Lands End. James is driving Bens car in anger! This is good fun! As the sun comes up again you notice the total different scenery compared to Scotland. Real odd that is.

07.32 Lands End

Time for another well deserved full English breakfast. After the obligatory photoshoot we leave Lands End for more pleasant motoring. Click here to see a short review on the run so far from Martin Randle. Well what can I say...

In convoy with Bens mk1 and Tims mk2 GT6 we blast down the road towards Penzance. After a quick fill up we continue our trip. This was also one of the best motoring moments of the event. Blasting through the morning traffic with 3 GT6’es. (one of each mark) That must have been a rather unusual sight I guess!

Dartmoor becomes an interesting challenge. Driving up and down 20% steep hills only using 4th gear. We find out that 2nd gear is also quiet on the downhill sections which is very useful. Going down in 4th isn’t always the best option in Dartmoor! I can say the gearbox makes all kinds of unhealthy noises in the meantime, actually I doubt if we make it back to the Plough.

11.32 Dartmoor Lodge.

This is the end of my GPS tracking as my Garmin has run out of memory. RBRR is just to much for it! We are nearing the end of the event, only 3 stops to go!

Next one on the list is a small village called Pimperne. Some local CT members organised a superb stop at their village hall. I recon half of the village was somehow involved in this. The ladies made loads of delicious cakes for us. Awesome!

Goodwood Motor Racing Circuit, last stop before the Plough. Never been here before, but what a great atmosphere. I certainly have to come back one day. This must be one of the coolest places in the world to see classic car racing. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to wander around, The Plough was waiting for us!

On our way back to the motorway the brakes lost pressure again. Still, not to much to worry about. Plenty of pressure left to stop the car. Once back on the M25 we got stuck in traffic. Luckily it wasn’t for long and we managed to get back at the Plough just after 19.00.

We made it!! Can I now have a pint please!!

Once back at the hotel I got hit by the man with the hammer. All I can say is that I slept very well.

RBRR is a top event! Much better than expected. Although it’s complete madness I certainly will do it again!

The next day we met up with James and Amo for lunch.

Before we could leave for Oxford we had to do some minor adjustments to the bodywork.

Click here for the film

After finding a hotel in Oxford it was time to get in touch with the AA. The gearbox was on it’s last legs and I wasn’t sure if it would survive the way back home. The next morning the yellow guys turned up and soon we agreed my gearbox was on it’s way out. Luckily one of the AA guys knew a local gearbox specialist. Long story short, they found a very worn out inputshaft bearing and managed to get the car repaired in time. In the meantime we spend 4 days in Oxford recovering from the RBRR. (best medicine is Ale) The car was ready on Friday and the plan was to drive up to Cambridge, stay there for a night and visit the War Imperial Museum Duxford on the Saturday. If only the brakes…….. after we picked up the car and drove back to the hotel to collect our luggage the brakes got worse and worse. The bleeding session we did turned out in a full mastercylinder rebuild. Luckily I had a repairkit with me! The seals were almost completely gone.. ahum… better not think about what could have happened during the RBRR. We extended our stay at the hotel with another night and drove up to Duxford the next day. The trip back home was again uneventful.

In total we did 2642 miles (4251km). It only needed 1ltr of engine oil, one mastercylinder rebuild, one gearbox rebuild and lots and lots of fuel. It was all worth it!

Thanks to Amo, James Carruthers, Ben Hutchings, Kevin Rochfort, Jan Wunche, Stephen Cooper, Martin Randle and Theo Boonen for all photos and films.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Fantastic report Roger!