2015 – Sierra Nevada Classic

A couple of years ago we were rather restricted because Penny had her knee replaced. Because it is quite tortuous getting into and out of old cars, this rather curtailed our trips. Anyway, in 2015 we decided, after having a chat with her surgeon, and because she was feeling so confident, that things were good so we hunted around for something to do. There was nothing obvious jumping out at us shouting “GOOD FUN” so we looked further afield. There was been a Belgian organisation I’d been keeping an eye on and they had run competitive regularity rallies in various places, mostly around the Mediterranean such as Greece, Sardinia, Palma, Portugal, The Dolomites, Belgium and Tunisia. In 2015 they were running one in the South of Spain in a triangle between Malaga in the West, Cordoba in the North and Almeria to the East. Not covering a huge amount of territory but including some spectacular mountain roads and Europe’s largest (only?) desert that we’d toured in years gone by. So, after a bit of investigation we decided to put in our entry.

What follows are my FaceBook posts, mostly in order and sometimes enhanced (if that is the right word) with some additional photographs. There will be some video clips soon so come back and have a look.

September 4th 2015

After last year’s small rallies in UK and Ireland, everything has slowed down a bit because management had a new UJ installed in her right knee. This will be the first experiment to see if it works. We’ve entered a rally in southern Spain that’s been organised by a Belgian crew. We’ve never done their events before but some friends have and thoroughly enjoyed them so – why not? After my last efforts to keep you up-to-date on the Cape Horn in 2013 using FaceBook, I’ve decided to inflict the same on you all again, whether you like it or not so there.
The plan was to drive down and spend a night with Rachael, Mike and baby Bridget but they’re hoping to be on the road in their new campervan in Spain at the same time so Penny has booked us into the “Lazy Toad Inn” in Devon for a night’s B&B. Appropriately we have Mr Toad’s room so I hope they’ll have mopped up after him.
From there to Plymouth, ferry to Santander then Burgos, Toledo, Granada and Villacana for a couple of days off before the start in Malaga on September 28th. From there the first and second nights are in Jaen and the third night is in Granada. After that the rally goes via Tabernas (more on that later) to a night in Almeria and finishing back in Malaga.
I’ll post some of the recce photos soon and a bit more info too.

They run these rallies in Euroland a bit differently from good old UK or Ireland. When the regs came in the organisers were suggesting up to 60 – SIXTY! regularities for F’s sake in five days. We’ve done some pretty intense ones with about thirty in that period but 60. Honestly! It has since been cut down to 45 – phew.
Then they decide to use a gadget called TRIPY to time them. Basically a GPS marshall sitting in the car with you that will time you at various points without having to stop AND you won’t know whether you are early or late so how do you make adjustments? I ask you, science has gone too far.
More soon.
Feel free to leave any comments you wish, rude or otherwise but I reserve the right to ignore any and or all of them.

September 6th

And here’s a map of the area. the different days are designated ‘zones’. Zone one is Malaga to Cordoba and Jaen; zone 2 is Jaen and back to Jaen; zone 3 is Jaen to Granada; zone 4 is Granada to Amerial and zone 5 is Almeria back to Malaga for the finish.

I’ve also copied some pics from the organiser’s posts to show some recce pics:

September 14th

Hmmm. Tyres. Bit of a problem here folks. Our rubber of choice for years has been Michelin DR. They’re a road legal semi competition tyre that works very well in nearly all conditions but are a wee bit on the soft side so they don’t last very long. I have about ten of these in the workshop with just enough tread to maybe pass the Mot test (national safety test in UK) but certainly not enough to get us to the south of Spain let alone do a week long rally.
I usually buy them from a bunch of very helpful scallywags in the north of England but they haven’t any stock. I managed to pick up the last two from another dealer in the south but now we have a problem. I have been told that somebody has two to be returned so we’re hoping that they are sent back quick enough so they can be sent on to us.
For an emergency backup, I’m looking at putting the old tyres onto some spare rims and having them shipped out to Spain so that we can swap wheels when we get there. Life isn’t easy, is it?

September 15th

Hmmm. Tyres. Pt2. They’ve been picked up from Coventry and instead of being taken to the Northampton distribution hub they went the opposite direction to Oxford. I now believe they are on the road north at the moment and will be dispatched by overnight service to arrive here on Thursday. Where’s the gin?

September 17th

Who’s a happy bunny then? Tyres here, fitted, balanced and on the car. Now I’ve got to go and pay for 150 ltrs of fuel while I can! Ferry to Birkenhead tomorrow night then we’re properly on the way

September 20th

Well, we’re actually off believe it or not. Birkenhead ferry on Friday night and the usual welcome from Bernadette in the lounge on board (or was it her twin sister?) then up before sunrise to begin the drive south. Quite cool and then as the day began, quite a lot of mist. This became a bit colder but being a Saturday the traffic was thankfully pretty light
We stopped for lunch at Tintern Abbey. We’ve driven past countless times but this was the first chance to stop off and have a look around. In the car park we chatted to a father and son out for an adventure on their bikes. Senior on a big 1200cc BMW off-road adventure bike and son on a 600cc Yamaha crotch-rocket were pleased as punch to have driven all the way down the M4 and were hoping to go into Wales!
Our billet for the night was The Lazy Toad near Tiverton and a more delightful B&B pub you’d be hard pressed to find. I admit I was a bit grumpy for the last wee bit on narrow, single lane roads that are so typical in Devon so apologies to Penny for finding this place after 270 miles and my moaning.
Today was quite a bit shorter, only 60 miles from Exeter, round the north of Dartmoor to Plymouth. The usual camaraderie with the bikers on the road but I had a bit of fun with a bunch of TVRs we met at a filling station. They were out touring and one chap came over to look at the Talbot and ask about it, as you do. I asked them where they were going and with pride he said “over Dartmoor to …wherever”. He naturally asked where we were off to and the blank amazement when Malaga was the answer was priceless.
So, on the boat at last and tomorrow afternoon an easy drive down to Burgos. I’ll maybe post some pics later if the WiFi on board is up to it or if they’re any good.

September 21st

OK. So, 100 and something pretty boring mile brings us to Burgos. On the verge of Castile la Mancha and Don Quixote / Sancho Panza territory for Mr Hill.

We were dumped off the ferry at 11.45 UK time and onto the unsignposted Spanish motorway system. We’d hoped to take a “non route” according to my plans but Penny’s deduction that over the mountains wasn’t really a good idea so we decided to backtrack and endure the main highway south. Right decision. Amazing engineering, no traffic and actually a pleasure to drive on a motorway, if a bit boring. A quick bite at a rubbish filling station and a chat with some Brit bikers, on their way to Tarifa, and we were on our way again.

Road signs in Burgos are a bit . . . haphazard might be a good word I think. Twice around the (empty – siesta time) city centre then into the pedestrian zone to find our hotel. A final trundle the wrong way up a one way road put us into the underground car park of the Hotel Rice los Blasones and a very pleasant welcome from Maria (might not be the right name) on the desk.

No picccies because they’re boring today but a nice supper in the shadow of a typical OTT Spanish Cathedral and then off to bed. I don’t think I could be bothered to post again until we get further south because all we’re doing is getting the miles in as quick as possible.

Tomorrow is about 250 miles via Avila and Segovia to Toledo then the next day down to Córdoba before the final blast to Villacana for a bit of R ‘n R before the fun starts.

September 22nd

Just a quickie. Spanish motorways are brilliant. Good surfaces, almost empty and actually vintage friendly believe it or not. Quite strong crosswinds today limited our cruising speed to about 2,500 rpm or 65ish mph. Because of the lack of torture from other users, we decided to cut out a long detour to Segovia and Avila intended to avoid Madrid and head straight south and ring-road around the capital. Once again, right choice and we arrived into Toledo just in time to get lost in the town centre as usual but still arrive at the Parador by mid afternoon or “beer o’clock”. The highest point was north of Madrid, crossing the Sierra de Guadarrama at 4,600 feet. Most of the way we have been above 3,000 feet which is a bit of a surprise to me. The pics are of our bedroom views over the rooftops in Burgos and the really grand one is in Toledo.

Long day to Córdoba tomorrow so that’s it for now.

September 23rd

Please pay attention at the back of the class. Mr Bradley, the rally doesn’t start until Sunday. Please write 100 times “I must pay attention to my elders”.
There’s always one, isn’t there. Today I wasn’t going to bother posting because we were expecting a tedious trundle south from Toledo. A lot of it was but once through Ciudad Real and Puertollano we thoroughly enjoyed what must be one of the best kept secrets. The N420 passes over three mountains. Not huge, high passes but the roads are well engineered, empty and plain good fun. Anywhere else in the world and this stretch of road would be rammed with bikers, RVs, cafés, camp sites and all sorts but we had it pretty much to ourselves.
Into Córdoba and only a minor detour for tonight’s billet. Tomorrow we reach Villacana and a few days off to service the car and us.

this is the super wee cafe, almost completely deserted at the bottom of a wonderful pass

September 24th

Tonight will be possibly the last post until after the rally starts.
We arrived at Villacana, near Estepona about 12:30 in time for a lunch of delicious green salad and cerveza (left by sis-in-law Gail and bro-in-law Alan). This was the most frenetic part of the journey through Spain. Only once we’d crossed the last mountains and into the back yard of Malaga did the traffic become horrible. The road surface too.
At least we didn’t have the usual detour to find our bed for the night – we’ve been here plenty of times before.
Lots of complimentary comments from our neighbours about the Talbot but not one has offered to wash 23,148 flies off the windscreen and radiator. We also have rallying neighbours who did this year’s TransAm rally from Nova Scotia to San Francisco so there might be a bit of rubbish talked tomorrow after a glass or two of wine!
Laundry, service and rest for the next couple of days before briefing and technical inspection on Sunday. Rally starts soon so watch this space!

September 27th

Up early and packed the car then a pleasant drive to Malaga Port. Parc Ferme is in the port security zone so the cars will be safe overnight. We’ve been through scrutineering and put all the stickers on and mounted our Tripy. This is a GPS device that will accurately time us at various critical points during the rally and will report back to the organisers if we’re a bit naughty and are possibly breaking the speed limits. Not everyone is happy with this and we would certainly prefer to have Marshalls on the road so that when we can’t find one, we know we’ve gone wrong and whether we’re late or early and have to correct our timing!
Parc Ferme is a rallying term that designates a special area where nothing can be done to the cars although I think that will be a bit relaxed. We’ve met the organisers and they seem like a pretty nice, easy-going bunch. The entry is a mix of absolute beginners out for the first time and not really trying to compete and some pretty hot crews in very fast Porsches and there like. The pre-war class (that’s us) is small and we’ve introduced ourselves to them all. There are also some crews we’ve rallied with before so it’s niece to catch up with old chums.
Penny is marking up the road books so that there are no surprises and I’ll maybe explain how these work in another posting.
We have a full briefing tonight before the first rally dinner then we’re off at nine o’clock tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed – getting out of Malaga in Monday morning rush-hour might be a bit scary.

September 30th

Sorry, no rally pics today.
So, what have we been up to? After yesterday’s rant about speeds, loony driving standards and impossible targets I had a chat over breakfast with a very nice couple who’ve done two or three events with this group in the past with their pretty standard MGBGT V8. They have elected to compete in our ‘slower’ class because things were becoming too extreme in the ‘fast’ class which is only 5kph higher average. Their lovely wee 3.5 litre car had become totally outclassed by the other ones, most of which are around 5 litres. Not very standard. I mentioned a later Bentley running in the pre-war class with us because it has pre-war body styling but very a curious front axle with coil springs, hydraulic dampers, ventilated disc brakes and double wishbones. Our MG chum suggested that I try and look under the bonnet at what appears to be Weber carburettors but he thinks are really throttle bodies. These things are used in modern high performance fuel injection systems. The owner admits he changed the V8 motor (which Bentleys never had) to a straight 6 because of all the complaints. What happened to the FIVA passport (to prove the authenticity of the car) that we were required to have and do? How do these other “Frankensteins” get away with it?
Anyway, moving on, our MG chum’s wife admitted to being a ‘bit ill’ after the high altitude test and it certainly wasn’t thin air that caused it. Penny then admitted that she hadn’t looked up from her road book once and appreciated that I was driving as carefully as a granny in a car full of grandchildren yet was as nervous as a very nervous thing.
Moving on. Today. We’ve been nursing a little water leak; no sniggering at the back of the class please, I’m talking about the cooling system of the car. Nothing serious but something to keep an eye on. This morning I bunged in a bottle of Radweld to see if that clears things up. The car’s charging system has also been playing up with the ignition light not always going out until the car is revved quite a bit more than usual. After the first test today, which incidentally I crawled through because the road was damp and unbelievably slippery, the blooming red light came on permanently. This wouldn’t normally be a huge concern but with the Tripy running 24 hours a day and lots of use of the headlights through tunnels and having the electric fan on nearly all the time will become critical. We had a chat and decided that a proper fix would be the best thing. We’re effectively out of the competition because of our poor performance so decided to cut and run to this evening’s hotel in Granada. A couple of hours in a dark car park on my back with my legs in the air (I’ve warned you about sniggering before) and my head under the dash panel and I’ve installed a new voltage regulator with the able assistance of Penny. I hope it does the trick. With the crazy traffic in this city we won’t find out until we’re back on the road tomorrow.
The photo is me at work.
Tomorrow we will be in Almeria but the highlight on the way will be Spaghetti Western Stage. Yeehaaa!

October 1st

Fingers crossed as we went down to the car park this morning. The hotel is just off one of the motorway junctions and the traffic is crazy so we couldn’t get out to see if the car is charging or not so this morning, after a deep intake of breath we started the motor and guess what: It isn’t charging again. So, the voltage regulator isn’t the culprit.
We quickly decided to stay on the main roads and motorways to get us to a time control then the lunch halt in Tabernas. Before we made the final decision to turn east we had a quick debate about turning west, safely get the car back to Malaga and prepare it for shipping home before anything more serious developed. Then, amazingly it started charging again. A very quick and very cold drive on the Autovia brought us to a time control at petrol station which let us all fill up and have a coffee break. Once we left it cut out completely for a couple of seconds then re-started which was a bit of a fright. Ten minutes later, on the Autovia, it started charging again so we finally arrived at Tabernas and Fort Bravo for lunch and much more.
We were early enough to have a drink in the saloon and enjoy the dancing girls performance when – guess what, a fight broke out between three of the locals and the sheriff turned up and shot them all dead. Amazing! After lunch there was another fight outside the saloon and three very similar guys who must have been the others brothers were also shot dead, right in the middle of the street. That sheriff sure is a busy guy in such a dangerous town. Fort Bravo is a Hollywood location set that came to fame with Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and that gang. Bits of Indiana Jones and Lawrence of Arabia were also shot there. It’s all wonderfully tacky and worth a visit. The rally had organised a navigation test at no more than 20kph around the streets but with our car not charging and we would have to use the fan at such a slow speed we unfortunately had to give that a miss.
Final report on the rally finish tomorrow. We’re still on the road and in the rally if dead last.

October 2nd

This morning was a bit easy. Lie in to seven o’clock, breakfast, get a time out on our score card then, because we aren’t in the running, back to the room for tidy up and packing.
We headed down for the motorway to Motril and had the usual debate about whether to cut and run straight to Malaga and avoid any potential problems because of the lack of charging and the water leaks or head back up into the mountains to get a time and officially finish then back to the port. No charging at all today but we decided to at least finish the rally and not just retire. So we turned off the coastal motorway onto one that headed back towards Granada. A few kilometres later we turned off and headed back up vertiginous mountain roads to the café where the official finish was. I had to keep the motor running as Penny went in, handed over our score card an hour early and we set off again. We finally arrived in Malaga by early afternoon so parked up in the (nearly) secure parking area assigned to the rally. After a bit of lunch at the hotel we headed back and a bit later our truck arrived. The Talbot went on the top deck first, then a Jaguar XK150. On the bottom deck a MGB GT V8 then a Mercedes SL280 on the middle deck. The truck has a couple of other cars to pick up somewhere else so after giving her (the Talbot) a quick pat and some words of encouragement about being brave on her own without us, only a trio of other cars she didn’t really know terribly well, we wished her luck and promised to meet her in Birkenhead on 8th October to put her on the ferry and take her home. The awards dinner is tonight and there is a strong possibility of a sore head tomorrow then a few days off to rest in Villacana.
That’s it I’m afraid. Not much of an event for us with the niggly problems but then we didn’t know what to expect. This event is all about regularities at higher speeds than we’re used to and on the roads that we drove, were more like a stage rally but without the road being closed to other traffic. A few navigation tests and or speed tests under safer conditions would have suited us better. Still, it was entertaining, well run and we have made some really good friends who I’m sure we will meet again on the road. We haven’t anything planned for a while but if something does crop up, watch this space, as they say. Bye Bye for now.

October 2nd (again)

Sorry to annoy you all again but “I don’t believe it” as Victor Meldrew, bless him, used to say but, try as we might we weren’t last. We were third last, somehow.
Better next time wherever that is.

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