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A report of the event by Bryan Purves, Navigator, for Derek Edwards, Driver, competing in a 1960 MGA, entry number 83.
It all started at a South East Centre Blindley Heath noggin and natter when Derek and myself started talking about rallying and before we knew it we were discussing the possiblity of entering the Classic Monte Challenge in the year 2000. The decision was made and after discussing the possibilities of a suitable car we came to the conclusion that an MGA would be ideal for this event. Derek said that he would organize the car.
Eventually in December the car arrived from our good friend Rob Gammage of MG Car Club fame. It was delivered to Cheldon Motors but unfortunately due to a move of premises and the flu bug everything got delayed in the preparation. On the Tuesday prior to the commencement of the rally Brian at Cheldon Motors discovered that the cylinder head had been converted to unleaded but bronze valve guides had been fitted and when the engine was warm the two different coefficients of expansion between the valves and the guides caused three of the valves to nip up and bend with the valves remaining open. Brian also discovered that the head casting was cracked. As time had run out there was no alternative but to fit an early head. The brakes were all rebuilt with new high temperature fluid added and the car given a quick tidy-up. In the meantime I had been trying to locate six Nord Frost tyres. The company that said they would get them for us let us down so I went to my local ATS tyre supplier who managed to locate three tyres from far and wide arranging for a further three to be flown in from Norway. Friday morning came and a panic telephone call from ATS to tell me that the tyres had not arrived at Luton and the van was being diverted to Andover where they had found six Warrior mud and snow tyres. We had never heard of this make of tyre but would give them a try. They proved to be very good. In the meantime Derek had taken one of the Nord Frost tyres to Tonbridge to have a set of snow chains made as standard chains do not fit the extra depth of tread of the M & S type of tyres we were going to use.
By Friday night everything was starting to look as if we might be ready for the scrutineering on Saturday. As there was a roll cage already fitted to the car we had to modify a standard hood to fit albeit a little Heath Robinson. We discovered that the petrol line on the car was underneath along with the wiring loom and battery lead and to make it worse the fuel line was in braided polythene tubing. I had no alternative but to make some form of steel skid to cover these vunerable parts.
Saturday afternoon and away we went to Brooklands for scrutineering. Derek decided to take the back roads from Reigate in order to test out the car bearing in mind that this was the first time that he had driven it. What's that smell coming from the rear? We discovered that the hand brake was not fully released. The throttle then kept sticking open with Derek having to place his foot under the pedal to return it. Brooklands and scrutineering everything acceptable with the exception that an alternator was fitted which meant that we had a 30 minute penalty against us before we started. We also discovered that the trip on the speedometer was not working so when we returned to Dereks' house he replaced it with the unit from his concours car. Brian Choppen was contacted and we arranged to meet him at my house where he removed the throttle pedal box to find that the pivot point had seized. It was fortunate that we do not live far from the Brooklands.
Sunday morning and the Brooklands start. With a start number 83 our departure time was 10.23 a.m. and for the uninitiated this means 83 minutes after 0 time which was 9.00 a.m. Our journey took us along the M25 to Junction 6 where we drove to our first check point at the Grasshopper at Westerham to be greeted by enthusiastic friends and family. Progress was good through Kent and onto Dover to catch the 12.15 ferry meeting all our scheduled times.
Having made good time and catching the first scheduled boat meant that we were to drive the initial stages in France in daylight, heading across country towards the end of the first leg at Troyes. As this was the first time that Derek and I had driven together this gave us a good opportunity to establish a system between navigator and driver. We pulled into Troyes having covered 585.5 kilometres at 21.53 hours with no penalty points but another problem, the fuel gauge was no longer working accurately with the fuel tank when full only registering just over a quarter full.
The next morning we were up at 6.00 a.m.. Breakfast and out to a car covered in frost both on the inside and out. A degree of panic set in as we had initially to drive to the Rally Control situated at another hotel approximately 2 kilometres away. Needless to say we were late adding a further seven minutes to our penalty points. Driving and navigating through a frosted windscreen in the dark is extremely difficult especially when having to work to the minute in order to meet the times at the controls. Coming around a corner at Plasne all of a sudden both doors flew open thankfully loosing nothing out of the pockets. At Clairvaux-les-Lacs we had a practice Regularity with the set speed of 49 kph or 29.204 mph as we had to convert to imperial due to the Halda being considerably inaccurate and having to resort to working off the speedometer trip. From now on we had no alternative but to use the trip for all the regularities. Our journey took us through St Claude, St Germain-de-Joux, Seyssel and along the lake to Aix-les-Bains where we had to undertake a driving test. It was interesting at this point to see Marshalls checking several suspect cars on rollers for limit-slip differentials as they are not permitted on classic rallies. Those cars found to be contravening the rules were immediately given a 12 hour penalty.