2021 Highland Thistle

We’re off again! Penny and I have had a bit of a debate for quite a while about what to do next. We have an entry in for the Carrera España next April/May but that is a long way off. We also want to spend a bit more time with our grandchildren in Devon so when a couple of offers came along, both in Scotland and very close in timing what to do? We weighed up the pros and cons and have decided that the Highland Thistle is the one for us this time. Starting in St Andrews on 3rd September and heading West then North to the beautiful Isle of Skye before turning East to Inverness and visiting Glamis and the Cairngorms amongst others before finishing on 7th September. We have toured and rallied on lots of these roads in the past but that is no excuse not to visit these spectacular sights again. Can’t wait.

5th August 2021

I know it is nearly a month away but we have started preparations. I have copied all our important documents, V5, insurance, driving licences, credit card details & etc and sealed them into waterproof bags to be put into the on-board safe for emergencies. We’ve never needed these before but we always have them and you never know……….

Clothes are being sorted and put out for packing and ferries booked as well as intermediate hotels for the run to and from the start.

Yesterday we took the Talbot over towards Comber for a couple of runs on our nearest measured mile. Not many folk know about two yellow lines on the hard shoulder at the side of the road on the A21 dual carriageway. They are exactly one mile apart and are there for police cars to check the calibration of their special speedometers. In the past we have nearly always used Michelin DR tyres and we have been lucky enough to calibrate our trip meter to nine inches in a mile accuracy or fifteen centimeters in a kilometer which is essential for accurate navigation for the timed regularities on a rally like this. A variation as small as this is really pretty good but it depends on corners, wheelspin and lots of other factors too. These days we are using Dunlop Racing and they have a slightly smaller rolling diameter so everything needs to be re calculated for hopefully the same accuracy.

Our Halda, the very special trip meter we use, hasn’t been serviced since 2013 so I’ve decided to send it off to Oxfordshire for a quick check over and a new cog to match our measurements. Hopefully we can also find the right cog for kilometers that we can use in Spain next Spring.

14th August 2021

In the photo below is an innocent collection of bits and bobs. To a rally navigator it is either something to relish or the stuff of nightmares. A collection of rally clocks and some paperwork, nothing serious really.The rally clocks will all have to be synchronised before the start to official rally time and the paperwork – well, that is something else. The one on top is the “SRs” or Supplementary Regulations that define and control how a rally is to be run. Timing and how it is done, neutral sections, navigation definitions, penalties and exclusions – lots and lots of tech stuff that will “help” a navigator decide mountains of things on the run. Depending on the penalties; is it better to skip a time control and get to the next passage control; is it better to speed up on a section to regain lost time or is it neutralised so you have to start again from scratch? So many problems for the one not driving and don’t forget this all has to be done while bumping around in an old car on country lanes, probably in the rain, when you’re tired, confused and the driver is asking (shouting) for directions.Who’d be a navigator, not me certainly. The only time I had a go was on a club rally about a thousand years ago when I volunteered to sit in the left seat for my brother-in-law. I got us very lost because I didn’t have my reading glasses so we went home and opened a bottle of Scotch.The other two newsletters are supposedly social updates but also include “refinements” to the “SRs” (see above) and have to be memorised as well.My heavens? Why do we do this? Because we enjoy it? Take me to the therapy session please.Can’t wait for our first competitive, timed rally since Japan in 2017.

17th August 2021

Nearly got everything ready for the Highland Thistle. The last time we rallied in Scotland was 2008 and the Talbot didn’t quite make it – an oil pressure problem if I recall so Penny’s TC was wheeled out for a bit of fun. The first picture is on a famous hillclimb course that is often used for rallying: “Rest and be Thankful” (thanks to Remy Steinegger for this). The second one, unfortunately, was after the differential let go of most of it’s teeth after what a friend would have called “a frisky start” at the beginning of a driving test.#HighlandThistle #rallytheglobe

REST AN BE THANKFUL – Car-4: , captured during the 10th Celtic & Scottish Malts Reliability Trial & Classic Car Tour 2008. copyright by http://www.steineggerpix.com / photo by Remy Steinegger

1st September 2021

We left home this morning with no last minute panics and nothing left behind – that we’ve discovered yet. A very quiet and calm crossing and we set off from Cairnryan at about two thirty. Up the coast on the A77 then turned inland onto the A70 and an absolute super drive to Ratho, SW of Edinburgh and arrived at about quarter past five. 119 miles and large stretches completely empty across the S Lanarkshire and then the Pentland Hills cruising happily at about 60mph in bright sunshine.The menu looks good here at the Bridge Inn so the trip has started very well. Tomorrow we’re off to St Andrews to the NE of Edinburgh and the start of the Highland Thistle.

Pics: boarding the ferry and the second one is from a series that we took at different speeds so that I can add sticky arrows to the speedo. These (new to us) Dunlop Racing tyres have a smaller rolling diameter hence the readings being way out. We had the speedo built ages ago with gearing for the Michelins we used to use. We won’t be using the Garmin on the rally.

2nd September 2021

We set off early into a grey, gloomy sort of day but thankfully it only took less than and hour and a half to get to Rally HQ, just outside of St Andrews. The hotel is a huge edifice, or more a temple to golf with various courses surrounding us as far as the eye can see. I’m beginning to think it is Russian because the WiFi is crap, it is bl**dy huge, our room stinks of tobacco and everything is so overpriced and the service is slow.Once here we checked in and dumped the bags then promptly went to collect all our rally stickers. With those on we presented ourselves and the car for the safety/eligibility scruitineering and were also checked for CV19 compliance (a whole new set of regs for us).Finally we were able to catch up with all the folk around us. Some were new to us of course but there were also some old, old faces from rallies across the years. The maestro of photography, Gerard brown who we first met on his first assignment in a car park in Beijing; “Skippy” or Andy Inskip, the magic mechanic who can conjour repairs out of thin air, miles from anywhere. Then there were David & Jo Roberts who we last competed against in Iceland but have stayed in touch and lots and lots of others. An example of a new face: Daisy from Cuba who is navigating Bentley number three for her hubby on her first regularity rally and is hoping to do the next Peking to Paris and lots and lots of others. All good fun.

3rd September 2021

Just a quickie tonight, I’m afraid. From St. Andrews on the East Coast, and an 08:36 start for us (car no 6) and 220 miles later on the narrowest mountain roads with three regularities and two speed tests we finished today’s run in Oban on the West Coast. Drizzle to start and a lovely clear evening at the finish in a super hotel right on the waterfront. We think we nailed the first two timings on the regularities, maybe 7 or 8 seconds late at the next and after that the things were very close. On the first circuit speed test the marshall seemed to give us a ‘knowing nod’ at the finish and the last speed test on “Rest and by Thankful” (an historic speed hillclimb and stage rally test), an encouraging round of applause from the crowd at the finish. BTW, the last time we did this one was in P’s MG TC, in the rain and on gravel – scary! Today, newly laid smooth tarmac and a hint of sunshine. No time or WiFi for photos I’m afraid, I’m reduced to using our travelling personal WiFi hotspot. but there will be pics eventually, I promise. More tomorrow if you’ve got nothing else to do.

4th September 2012

After the first day we are 16th overall and 4th in class so, as my old school reports said, “could try harder’.Long old drive today with spectacular roads in world famous places. The grizzly weather improved as the day went on and tonight in the lovely old world Skeabost Hotel, just outside Portree in Skye.No pics again – apologies – not enough time.We did 260 miles, three regularities and one speed test (SUPER) today so I’ll let you know the results after dinner.

After the second day it turns out we are now 15th overall and 3rd in class. A second here and six seconds there makes all the difference!The running order has changed again. On the first day we were seeded number 6, our entry number. Yesterday we ran in 10th, apparently by alphabetical surname order. Tomorrow we are second, and it looks like this has been arranged by the navigator’s forename in reverse alphabetical order. Who said rallying makes sense?

5th September 2021

From Rally News:

To see Mercator’s full day 02 report of all the action visit https://bit.ly/2YnCd2y“A quick look at the route book this morning, showed that a long scenic day was what we had to look forward to today, with no less than four stunning Regularities and one high octane Test on the way to the Isle of Skye. This was in fact the longest day of the rally, but a mixture of well chosen minor roads, excellent highways and some well placed Time Controls kept the crews on their toes and ensured that the miles rolled by effortlessly.Scotland certainly knows how to put on a show however and, if all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players upon it, then today’s scene shifters had surely done a fantastic job for us.The actors too must get a mention though, especially those who, much later in the day delighted their audience with some truly bravura performances on the Broadford airstrip Test. They know who they are, and so do we!”

6th September 2021

Apologies for no post yesterday, rubbish WiFi in the hotel and no ‘phone signal so I couldn’t use my personal hotspot either.Yesterday on Skye we started with a regularity up a mountain before normal breakfast time then a second go on the airfield speed test. The video of Penny’s face during that is worth seeing when I can upload it.Back on the mainland we had two map regularities then an amazing drive over a mountain before lunch. A very long transport section to a test at the Black Isle showground. Another regularity then back into Achanagairn Castle for the night. Little central heating and hot water!

From Rally News:

Mercator’s full report on day 03 is available at https://bit.ly/2YnCd2y“It was a dull and damp start to the day, and the low cloud which hung from the mountains surrounding the hotel meant that the impressive view of the Cuillin Ridge which we’d glimpsed last night, was this morning, hidden from view. But, from the MTC hotel to the first Regularity at Bracadale was a mere 2 miles so the crews didn’t have to wait long for some early morning action to put the smile back on their faces. And, this section didn’t disappoint anyone as it cut a swathe south eastwards across Vaternish to the coast at Loch Harport in almost 12 miles of remote and rugged roads which demanded the full attention of both crew members.When there was a chance to look up though, the rally was treated to some of the best scenery anywhere in the world. And Tony Brooks perhaps was relishing his (new) role as a driver most of all. More used to sitting with his head in a route book and giving the orders, circumstances have dictated that for this event at least, he’s the man in the driving seat and is now more able to savour what he’s driving through.”

7th September 2021

Well, we’re back in St Andrews and the Highland Thistle is all done for this year. For the final day we had scorching sun and shirt sleeves – in Scotland and in September! Today we had lots more speed tests and regularities with a couple more on maps that sadly didn’t go too well for us but so what? that is what rallying is all about. When you meet two tractors and a cattle truck at different times on a single lane road, what do you expect. I also made a couple of errors in the tests, clipping cones and stuff that didn’t help but, for all that it was really great fun to be out exercising the Talbot again as she should be and what she was built for. There was no let-up because it was the last day. The transport sections were longish but, because the rally was trying to cover as much ground as possible that’s to be expected. Tight timing meant that morning coffee and afternoon tea breaks didn’t really happen. A quick pee then back in the hot seat was all the break some folk enjoyed.The road book was a work of art with only one (to us) discernable error and that was very minor so 10/10 there. Marshalling was superb, always tolerant and cheery despite some horrible weather on occasions. Accomodation was as good as you can expect for a large group of nearly 100 folk.I won’t be posting tomorrow as we will be in transit on the way home so please allow me a couple of days to get some photos and videos up to the wonderweb.Finally, a very big “Thank You” to Fred Gallagher and all the RtG crew who have worked so hard to entertain us. Here’s to the next one. Sláinte!

Well, I’ve quoted Victor Meldrew in the past “I don’t believe it” but here we go again. For those not familiar with UK TV sit-coms, he is a character who is continually struggling with the modern world and believes that society is against him.Last time I used it was after the Sierra Nevada Classic in 2015 when we failed miserably to finish last. In tonight’s prize giving we picked up an award – third in class. Bl**dy amazing! It just proves that while we were making mistakes left, right and centre, others were in more trouble. Woohoo!A great night with good chums who we’ll meet again on the road, somewhere around the world.

From Rally News:

To see Mercator’s full treatment of Day 4 please head to https://bit.ly/2YnCd2y“From the east coast to the west coast and back again, today we pushed to the most northerly point of the rally. And, from the most northerly city in the land we struck out this morning for the most competitive day so far. Four Tests and four Regularities were strung out, along another incredible day of scenery and competition.A second Test at the Black Isles Showground got the day off to a flying start where, once again, a team of marshals from the Highland Car Club provided us with some expert help with timing, box ticking and keeping an eye out for any cone penalties.”

8th September 2021

From Rally News:

And just like that, it was over. Our much-anticipated Highland Thistle Rally finished off with a bang at Fairmont St Andrews It was an exhilarating but tough adventure through the Scottish highlands and we are sad to have to bid farewell to not only the landscapes but the outstanding hospitality of its people.Mike and Lorna Harrison were crowned as overall winners and Graham and Marina Goodwin took honours in the vintage class.

9th September 2021

I couldn’t resist posting this pic. Can you spot anything unusual? When we built this car for the 2007 Peking to Paris we didn’t have enough time to make the hood (soft top for my US family) so we ran without and dressed like motorcyclists. Two weeks solid rain in Siberia soon convinced us that a hood might well be desirable so the frame was constructed and the top made for us by a local automotive upholsterer.The first time we put it up properly was in Iceland in 2008 but because of a howling gale, the poppers at the back soon came undone and the whole thing flapped about. I don’t think we’ve had it up since. For tomorrow there is a Met Office warning for flash torrential squalls both here in Scotland and at home so better to be safe than sorry.Incidentally, tonight we are in Trigony House, an old hunting lodge we stayed in about 20 years ago on our way to Luxembourg in the MG PA. We were driving in company with Roger and Carol Corry in their even smaller MG M type and broke the journey to the Rosyth ferry here. It hasn’t changed a jot. Old world charm, excellent staff and really good food.

13th September 2021

Here are some random shots from last week’s Highland Thistle.1: Inverary Castle, the home of the Duke of Argyll. We’ve been here before and it is well worth a visit.2: Is this a world first? Charging an electric Talbot!3: Kincardine Castle – lunch stop4: Glamis Castle – Afternoon Tea at the Late Queen Mother’s residence5: The haul of goodies was pretty generous on this event.

Here is some on-board footage during a speed test. this was at a small aerodrome on Skye. Pretty fast – I was running out of revs in third at the end of the long section. Penny doesn’t seem to blink at all.

Here’s another on-board video of about the first third of a regularity. We have to self-start this one (there is no marshal to set us off at a precise time. Penny is very busy as it is navigated by maps and not the more usual tulip diagrams and she also has to keep me as close to the right target speed (to the second) as she can.

16th September 2021

Forgot to finish off the tale of the Highland Thistle. The ferry was delayed by a couple of hours because a crewmember on a previous day’s sailing had been confirmed with CV19. The ship was taken out of use for deep cleaning and a subsequent few sailing were cancelled as a consequence. We were very luck to get into the ferry terminal as they closed the gates shortly after because it was over capacity with all the vehicles waiting to get across the Irish Sea. We left eventually and had a nice quiet crossing. Once into Belfast Port however and the car deck doors opened, our Talbot took a hissy fit and refused to start. The battery turned on but as soon as I pushed the starter button – nothing – all the electrics died. We had to be towed off the boat and the subsequent jiggling must have sorted things out because she started at once. I think it might be a relay – that’ll be the first thing to look at.Oh, the shame, this is us being towed off.

Wow! Fame and not much fortune. Rally office has just released a compilation video of the whole event with yours truly starring in the opening scene. I have to say that the dashingly handsome young rally driver at about half way through seems to be enjoying it.

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