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Norma with water at start

Norma at the end
Bob fills up tumbler

Bob reaches the end

Jim Paterson hill power

Bob Stubbs uphill charge

Tom Niven on the hill

Watson's powers Elf on hill

Niven piling power on circle

Colin Mann keeps up speed

Norma holds on tight

Tom Niven puts on blindfold

Colin Mann goes blindfold

Norma Watson plenty space

Bob Stubbs tight fit

Mazda checking gap size

Colin - breath in for gap

Niven lines up for gap

Jim Watson drives the hill in reverse
Graeme Gallaoway's Anglia
Grass Gymkhana - 4 August 2019

Crews gathering at the start
The forecast was thunder storms, but the grey skies quickly turned to blue, with the sun pushing through, as we started our fun in the sun at Rumbling Bridge near Kinross. Some new tests gave regulars a chance to try out new maneuvers. The overnight rain made the grass nice and slippy so a few 180 and 360 turns were to be expected.

Signing on was followed by a cup of coffee and some pastries we brought along to refresh those who had driven a bit since leaving home. Before setting off on the first test we walked the field just to acquaint ourselves with the new layout. The grass was wet following heavy overnight rain and quite long as the cows were yet to be let loose, which would have 'cropped' it down a bit. This would make things interesting later.
Local crew Jim and Norma Watson from Carnock near  Dunfermline arrived in Norma's 1968 Riley Elf. and first out the blocks on the 'moving the water' test. Similar to last years egg and spoon test, this time the driver had to carry a tumbler full of water to the far end of the course,avoiding the route canes, whilst spilling as little as possible. We measured what was left in the tumbler at the end, before the driver reversed back to the start, again keeping to the route, avoiding the route canes, and repeating the test with a tumbler refill. Sounds a piece of cake, but the field was not mirror smooth and the slightest undulation would throw the tumbler into the air. The trick was to go fast, but not so fast the water went up in the air, whilst at the same time the driver using their right arm as a swinging damper. A bit like the swinging arm dampers on the rear of my MG Midget. Reversing was also tricky. Do you look over your shoulder or reverse on the mirrors. Choices choices.

Norma managed fine on the our lap but reversed round the wrong side of a cane on the reverse to the start. Time to change drivers and Jim took to the wheel. Now modern car seat adjustments are either all electric and usually allow fore and aft, plus squab height to be changed. Back in the sixties such niceties were unusual. Norma being a bit vertically challenged has her seat fully forward and a block under the rear corner s to raise the squab. Jim removed the block at the rear, to prevent banging his head on the roof, then after nearly breaking a knee cap, slid the seat back to find the optimum position.

Going second on a test allows the errors of the first run to be sorted, and perhaps Jim's longer arms enabled him to keep the tumbler 'floating' while the car bounced over the grass. A quick 45 degree twist in the seat to see out the back window solved keeping the car on the right route reversing to the start. A welcome rest after the excitement allowed Bob Stubbs and Colin Mann, from Carnock an Dollar to bring their 2008 Ford Fiesta on to the line.

Colin Mann took first run at the test, with the bigger wheels on the Fiesta helping to maintain grip on the still damp grass. He had to take care as the suspension looked a bit tighter than the standard car, and with a 2 litre power unit had plenty grunt to make short time of the test. Using the mirrors for the return run seemed to help, one for the others to take note of.  The crew swapped places and Bob drove in similar style, again using the mirrors for the reverse run.

The Riley Elf crew had moved on to the 'hillclimb' attempting to reach the top using the marked route without taking out any of the canes. This would be tricky for the Elf with small wheels on dam slippy grass. Norma had a run but trying to take it slow and steady simply ended up spinning the front wheels. Jim decided he would tackle this one with a bit of 'gusto', reversing well back and winding the car up for a rapid run. All was going well until the course took a turn on the uphill. Once off the straight the wheels once again let go and slipped.

Bob Stubbs in the Fiesta followed the elf, trying to plot the best approach to the course. The big wide wheels seemed to be helping, with progress better than the Elf. That turn half way up got Bob as well though and eventually the front wheels grip let go.  
Tom Niven from Glasgow tried the 'Piggy in the Middle' test where fellow member Rona Paterson stood on the ex WRC Rally wheel, provided by organiser George Shand, with a rope joining her to Tom in his 2005 MGF. The idea was to do two circuits around the wheel, as quick as possible, keeping the rope tight, not letting go, and not pulling Rona off the wheel in the middle!

Next up on this test was Norma Watson who had more success here than on the hillclimb. This time Jim held on in the centre. Jim also managed to put in a good time on his turn, with Norma holding the rope.

Jim Paterson joined the fun in his Mazda MX5, starting with the 'moving the water'. I had watched the others so knew what to do, but knowing and doing are completely different things. Not a bad run if I say so myself, but the damp grass with a sequential gearbox was fun.  I also headed for the hillclimb but again the auto sequential coupled with wide wheels didn't seem to work too well. Several tries, including going so far back the others thought I had left the field, in order to get up some momentum, faired little better but higher than some before friction gave way. Perhaps I should try ice racing next time!     

With Rona still in the middle, Jim Paterson took a turn going in circles on this test. I impressed myself as the tail tried to break away into a slide round the centre wheel. Good time but not a winning one, though it was fun on a slide.

Bob and Colin in the Fiesta had a go going round in circles, each giving it a bit of 'welly', while not pulling 'centre man' off the wheel.

We had all had a turn or two at the morning tests so time for a short break. more coffee, tea, sandwiches and pastries to replenish our energy levels for the afternoon.

The skies were now clearing and the sunshine breaking through as we attempted the 'blindfold slalom'. Here the driver is blindfolded and the co-driver has to guide the driver through the canes of the slalom, returning to the start by way of a short hillclimb. It looks easy when you can see, but with a mask on it all goes to pot!

We all had a go with the little Elf having real trouble getting up the last slope to the finish line. The Fiesta too found it tricky, both needing  a little hand to give them a bit of forward movement.

Our final test was between the canes. From the start line we tell the finish marshal how wide apart the canes should be, then drive up to and through them. The marshal measures the free space each side from the car widest point. Tom Niven had a bright if not in the rules idea, tell the marshal when your only 10 feet from the finish! nice one Tom.

Jim Watson was not to be outdone on the hillclimb and tried in the Elf to do the climb in reverse. This actually did improve the grip, though not enough to reach the top, but farthest of any of the other cars.

Winner of the day was Norma and Jim Watson, collecting the bottle of bubbly to celebrate their fun in a field.  Everyone enjoyed their day and some of us retired to Powmill milk bar for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake. Well timed as the clouds were gathering again, and soon the rain returned.

Lookout for the club final tour of the season The Clyde Valley Rally.

Published 6 August 2019