Welcome to the Club!

Whats the title about? Well there are two types of Rally Drivers. Those that have rolled, and those that are waiting to roll.

Boyd Kershaw, The Flying Kiwi, has now rolled on his last rally before a pre-planned sabbatical from the sport we both love.

My first roll was in 1999 while competing on the British Rally Championship with James Morton in a Skoda Felicia on the Pirelli Rally in Killer Keilder. I’ve had a couple more since then, some have hurt more than others and they always hurt the driver’s wallet.

This weekend’s roll was on the final round of the BTRDA Rally Championship, the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire. Boyd and I were third overall with a chance to win if we won the two wheel drive section of the rally and our championship rivals and current leaders, Gavin Edwards and Caron Tomlinson, came second.

There was one complication though, one of us also had to beat the other crew on the first stage if the final result was 1-2 in our favour… No pressure then!

Our game plan was the same as it always was, drive as fast as we could and enjoy ourselves. Boyd and I had agreed before the start to not look at Edward/Tomlinson’s times for the first stage. That would only matter at the finish if we both finished in the important 1-2.

Prior to the start there were plenty of good wishes and hand shakes with the other top MkII teams including Phil Burton and Mal Capstick who were fourth in the championship and had been keeping Boyd and Gavin honest all season. This rally was going to be an exciting one.

The run out to the first stage was just 1 mile and 3 minutes, very little time to chat in the car and have a laugh, but Boyd and I were genuinely relaxed in the car. We just wanted to have a good clean run and see what the times were like at the end of the day.

20 Seconds, 15, 10, 5,4,3,2,1 Go! We were off and running through the stage the surface was great and I was spitting the notes, we were working in synchro as we had all season, it was flowing. We came round one corner the car bucked and came down, no problems the suspension was doing it’s thing.

Round a right-hander, power towards a slight left and we’re heading towards a bank. This isn’t correct but we’re up it and we’ll pop down the otherside, we’ve done a “wall of death” ride before, it’s not perfect but hey….

No… the car doesn’t come back down again, it digs in! We spin and we roll, I don’t know how many times, I hit my head on the cage in the process and we’re facing down the track.

I force my door open and run down the track with the Rallitrack radio in my hand and with my helmet on call it in and try and slow down following cars. To their credit all following cars reduce their pace and give me the questioning “Thumbs Up” They get their answer….

Behind me spectators have appeared and are helping change a puncture that must have happened during the accident, scoop my notes, road book and water bottle out of the road.

I’m called back to the car while a spectator goes to my place to slow the cars down. I’m told to jump in and someone leans in and helps me with my belts (it may have been easier if I’d done it on my own, but thank you sir!). Car starts and we drive a short distance and turn the car round and we’re off again!

It only took a few corners for me to have to declare I couldn’t carry on, the adrenaline from the off was fading and being replaced by a headache and nausea – I was not well.

Unfortunately for Boyd who desperately wanted to continue, just for the finish, I couldn’t concentrate on the notes, at the end of the stage my map reading was no where. Forget the championship we both knew it was over, we wanted to have some fun but I was lucky to get to the end of the stage.

My focus changed from continuing to wanting to see a Doctor. I’ve never had concussion but if that’s what I had it wasn’t, and isn’t pleasant. I’m writing this on Sunday night and still have a headache, and now my neck is stiffening up, but I’m used to that, one of my previous rolls gave me a bad neck and so the next day I’m always a little stiff in the neck.

Thanks to the power of social media word had got back to the service area before we had and a small interested crowd was waiting for us and my wife immediately marched me off to the temporary HQ in search of the Doctor.

Yep minor concussion, rest and don’t operate any heavy machinery. Yes Doctor.

So did Gavin and Caron win the rally? Nope they retired with a mechanical issue. BUGGER!!!!

Over 24 hours later and I’m home and reflecting and what could have been and I’ve no regrets or disappointment.

The championship was won by a very very deserving crew who were massively humble all year and more importantly quicker than us when it mattered. Second goes to Phil and Mal, who were consistent and picked up good points at every round and were great company and fun.

Third goes to Cameron Davies and Lee Taylor who also won the English Championship and the Fiesta ST championship and has been collecting points all season but hadn’t really been on our Escort Radar.

So that was the final round, down to the wire, winner takes all etc and we went from potential heroes to zeroes in a moment of seconds and down to fourth place in the final standings. In the words of Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront (sort of) ‘We could have been contenders, we could have been somebody’

2016 has been one of the most fun and competitive seasons I’ve had in over 20 years. Thanks to Boyd for the fastest seat in the house, Rob and Dave Walke for producing a top car each time out and to Championship and Event Organisers, Marshals and Spectators for turning out in all weathers and supporting all competitors.

Gavin and Caron welcome to the other club, the Silver Star Winners. A club Boyd’s been a member of but sadly I’ve never made it into…..three times runner up though! LOL


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