Monday, 2 March 2015

Fire and brimstone melts Spookworks Snowman Rally chances…

Finishing this event was always going to be a tall order but the Snowman Rally ended in a slushy thaw rather than the triumphant flurry of successes the team enjoyed at the end of 2014.  As the Spookworks story continues to follow all the twists and turns of a winter Olympic bobsled run, the team were particularly disappointed with the whiteout that caused them retire only a few km into Stage 3.

For once scrutineering was the easy bit....





















It all started so promisingly.  The car and team in good shape and eager to get stuck into the 2015 
season.  Comfortably through noise check and scrutineering, Spookworks even had time to visit the local Kwikfit for final set up tweak before heading over for the ceremonial start in the centre of Inverness to start off stage 1.  A bright sunny morning, the terrific conditions provided a slightly misleading illusion that the event warmed to us and that lady luck might be on our side.


A wheel alignment makes a huge difference.  Thanks KwikFit

Stage 1 was the 6.69 mile run through “Meall Mor” 12 miles south of Inverness.  As the road stretched from the city centre to the start of Stage 1 we found ourselves almost 1500ft above sea level and the lush green scenery was replaced by sheets of ice and inches of snow.  The stage proved to quite a challenge for most with cars littered all throughout the forest stage - mainly those who had been caught out by the unpredictable ice patches.  Off the start line we had no idea what the car would do or how it would behave.  No rear Limited Slip Diff and our best guess at a suspension set up - it was always going to be a gamble. 

The queue to get into stage. Couldn't really come back later....


The stage was quite amazing. Huge drops, hairpins, jumps and incredibly fast sections it would have been a dream stage; that is - had it also not been covered in ice and snow.  One dramatic moment that stands out over all others is when; after a small crest and jump we landed on a fast downhill section which would have been better suited to a toboggan than a rally car and all four wheels lost traction pitching the car at a 45 degree to the road ahead. Looking out the side window at the trees ahead we must have slid 50 metres before any traction took place and when my eyes opened we were back in the centre of the road.  We did manage to make it to the end; our time 8 minutes 17 seconds was somewhat misleading as on several occasions we were flagged to walking pace as either a stricken Evo or Peugeot blocked the road or was parked in a precarious position on the outside of a corner. 

A rare moment of action - captured by Eddie Kelly Motorsport Photography


We then drove back into Inverness, across the Kessock Bridge and off towards Mount Eagle to start Stage 2 – “Millbuie”.  This test was another 6.78 miles of forestry but thankfully only 830ft above sea level so the ice and snow were not an issue.  What was an issue was the blowing exhaust note coming from near the back of the engine.  The Spookworks Impreza has a quick release exhaust which can take a few knocks and become partially dislodged so the decision was made to carry on and fix it in service.  About 500m from the start the noise became intense and sounded like we had no exhaust attached at all.  Stopping a few metres short of the stage entry we discovered that a blanking plug in the exhaust manifold had departed company and that hot exhaust was escaping from the manifold.  With our due time beckoning we decided to stick with our original plan and look at it in service.  As a precaution we switched anti lag off to reduce the heat of the exhaust gas but as so much gas was escaping we were unsure if any was going to reach the turbo anyway.  Down on boost but loud on noise we entered the time control and pressed on as best we could in Stage 2.

You would struggle to build a Snowman out of this lot - captured by Eddie Kelly Motorsport Photography

Great fun and thankfully non eventful, perhaps due to the absence of any turbo assistance, we made it through the stage.  That was until entering the time control when great plumes of white smoke appeared from the engine bay.  We hastily pulled over, killed the engine and abandoned ship. Stopped at the exit of Stage 2 we carefully lifted the bonnet and noted that the hole where the exhaust gases was escaping was then starting to burn a hole through our suspension hydraulic pipes. The heat was burning away the rubber coating on the pipes and hence the thick white smoke.  A number of heroic roadside repairs were attempted without success, largely due to the slimmed down on-board repair kit which failed to contain any heat resistant material.  Finally a large stone was located and wedged in between the exhaust manifold and chassis leg.  It would be enough to absorb or deflect the hot exhaust gas to enable us to get to service in Dingwall.  Only a mere 12 miles away!   

The large white rock thing is actually a rock.  Useful in diverting hit exhaust gases away from key components


We managed to limp the entire 12 miles to service – the longest 12 miles ever. Especially not going over 2000 rpm.  Our professional and creative service crew were on standby and as soon as we pulled in the damage was assessed.  The survival stone was removed – now black on one side. A welder was lined up and a suitable replacement blanking plate was fashioned (an old wheel nut) and tack welded into place.  And smeared with some 5 year old exhaust paste.  A top up of fuel and, as good as new, it was out of service and on route to stage 3.

Heroic and inspired work but sadly it would not last long. 

Stage 3 called Strath Rory was the longest and best of the rally.  At 13.68 miles it was as long as Stages 1 and 2 combined.  Spirits were lifted after the inspirational work done in service (Thanks Neal) and a finish looked like it may just be a possibility.  Starting on a long downhill gravel road before entering a forest it was a relatively straightforward start.  What the view from the start line did not show was the savage potholes which littered the opening few miles.  Able to swallow a man whole, at 90+ mph they were enough to remove your back teeth.  Sadly they also proved more than a match for our hasty repairs in service and within a km of bouncing across these holes the welded wheel nut was flung clear, hot exhaust gas (with anti lag) then cooked and melted the remaining hydraulic hose and set fire to the hydraulic fluid within.  Smoke billowed out over the bonnet and a small BBQ erupted in the front wheel arch.  Quickly extinguished with a hand held fire extinguisher the rally was now well and truly over. The ‘OK’ board was mounted in the rear window and the rest of the rally would now be about spectating. 

Down and out - not how we wanted to end our Snowman Rally. Good positioning of 'OK' board though.

To give you some idea of the roughness, at the point of retirement there were another 3 cars, two Evos and an Mk2 Escort.  All had rally ending suspension damage.  We were amongst friends.


Retirement?  We almost had to keep going as we couldn't find a place to park.....

It was sad to see the Spookworks Impreza being towed back to HQ but our cruel fate had been decided by Mistress Rally and Spookworks would start 2015 with a DNF.  Only the 4th ever DNF in over 8 years of regular rallying. The 2015 RAF Championship would now start to look like a significant uphill struggle.  Next event will depend on the damage sustained. More updates in due course as the damage is assessed.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Spookworks seeded at 44 for this weekend's Snowman Rally



Kicking off their 2015 campaign this weekend on the Snowman Rally - Round 1 of the Scottish Rally Championship, the all Morayshire based RAF Spookworks Rally Team cautious about how the 44 miles of tough gravel stages will play out for them.  Their first outing on gravel since 2013 and the first attempt at the Snowman it is a big ask to suggest anything spectacular will arise against such odds.

Spookworks also find itself participating as part of the Scottish Rally Championship and hopes, if some support can be found to compete in all 8 rounds of the high profile series.

Spookworks last gravel rally was in 2013 and was anything but uneventful.....

The Spookworks team director stated: "Its clearly a big ask and without any understatement just getting to the end will be a significant achievement.  Its only 44 miles but its fast, slippy and unforgiving.  If you come off line you will probably need the boys on 202 Sqn Search and Rescue to find us. The competition is a mix of experienced local competitors and serious national teams so the difficulty rating is simply off the scale.  We have a history of upsetting the big boys but this might be a fairytale too far on this occasion.  If we finish we will be breaking open the champagne.  Anything other than that is just not comprehensible.".

Spookworks Impreza in gravel spec.

The rally kicks off at 0900 in Inverness City Centre on Sat morning with the 5 stages spread out over Cromarty and Dingwall joined together with over 122 road miles.

Better make sure they are fuelled.  And bring a tow rope....

You can catch all the details and follow the team at http://www.flyingfinish.co.uk/

The event website is www.snowmanrally.co.uk

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Spookworks "Stage of the Gods"




Ride along with Spookworks on our "Stage of the Gods"  - when we upset all the form guides to post the fastest overall time on Stage 10 of the 2014 Rockingham Stages. 




Saturday, 24 January 2015

Fairy Tale ending for record breaking Spookworks after giant killing finish at Rockingham


Spookworks have significantly upset the running order by finishing a spectacular 5th overall at the Rockingham Stages rally held on 6-7 Dec 14.



The 100 stage miles split over 12 stages and 2 days proved to be a fantastic end to Spookworks 2014 campaign as the team set no less than NINE top ten times over the weekend including a 3RD FASTEST on Stage 7 and unbelievably setting the FASTEST OVERALL time on Stage 10!


Full story:

Spookworks was seeded at 18th (co-incidentally the same as 2013) for the Northamptonshire event which drew its usual strong entry list packed with no expense spared Mk 2 Ford Escorts, numerous Imprezas and Evos, and a few special limited edition cars like a 306 Maxi and a Proton S2000. Getting a good finish among this sort of crowd was always looking to be tall order.

Ready to go for Stage 1 - the Spookworks Service Area is manic with activity......guys? Anyone?
Despite forecasts of showers, the weather at midday for Stage 1 was bright and sunny.  Firing off the line into Stage , the magic that the Oracle had worked made the car feel fast and nimble.  Emerging into Rockingham circuit via the Rockingham tunnel; the bright conditions were merely a ruse for a very slippy and greasy circuit. Despite sideways moments everything was looking set for a positive first run. It was, until about 5 mins a fourth gear entry to a square left resulted in a spin dropping valuable seconds. 

video

A quick recovery minimised the damage and the remainder of Stage 1 was relatively uneventful resulting in a time of 7 mins 15 secs good enough for 18th overall and 5th out of 11 in Class 5. A good start. 

Sunny conditions belied a greasy and slippery stage.
In service, the tyre pressures were reduced by 2 psi - a tiny amount but this would make an amazing difference. With Stage 2 and repeat of Stage 1 a trouble free run produced a time of 6 min 52 secs, 23 secs faster than the first time around and the 10th fastest time overall. This saw a move up the leader board to 11th overall.

Keep the camera still or bump it to 400 ISO. Amateurs! 

The first half of Stage 3 was spent chasing a rapid Mk 2 Escort around. Sadly he was too quick in a straight line despite the Spookworks Impreza filling his mirrors on every bend and corner. Once he had peeled off to finish the stage the remainder was spent discovering that the Spookworks Subaru could actually go round most corners in 4th gear despite the protests from the Super soft Michelin tyres.  Despite being held up (only marginally) it proved to be an incredible run and it showed on the time sheets with a 7:36. That's good enough for 6th fastest overall and 3rd fastest in class!

The poor Michelin Tyres took enormous abuse but hung on like a leech. 
Stage 4 saw the added difficulty of the low setting sun on the horizon as darkness approached the Rockingham venue. Despite a hit and run with a cone (due to an overshoot in a chicane) another strong run saw a time of 7 mins 43 secs to set the 12th fastest time overall and 7th fastest in class.  A quick look at the leader board put Spookworks 8 places up on seeding to 10th overall and 5th in class. Onwards and upwards!

The low setting sun make for great photos but not great for driving.  The lens flare is intentional we are told.
Stage 5 was the first of 2 night stages that usually brings utter chaos to the event.  The lamp pod was dusted off and bolted to the front of the Spookworks Impreza.  Launching off the line with the lights blazing the first sign of danger reared its ugly head as the lower temps reduced the traction available and an introduction between Spookworks and a gravel trap took place on the exit of the Rockingham tunnel. 

video

Thankfully it was a  brief encounter and the momentum and speed carried the car through to the next drama.  As luck would have it to guide us through the impending darkness an escort was provided by an Escort (!) and using his lights for reference; gave us extra visibility in an otherwise pitch black environment.  A few corners later and a super quick 306 Maxi decided to overtake on the outside of Turn 1 - a rapid machine which soon disappeared into the distance. It was sometime then that the outer beams decided to switch off and the stage was lit only buy the normal headlights and a twin beam of light that came from the 2 centre spotlights.  Great for a longer view but the immediate left and right of the view were now complete darkness giving no reference at all of the inside or outside of the road or corners. Arriving back in service, it was a relief to discover that most competitors also had some form of trouble and the time was good enough for an amazing time of 9:25 -  9th fastest overall and 4th in class to move Spookworks up to 8th overall on the leader board.

The crowd goes wild as Spookworks blasts through Stage 5.....
The last stage of Day 1 - Stage 6 was a test of nerve and discovery as, although the outer spotlights had now returned to full working order, there was no time available to correctly align them, so they were next to useless. The friendly Escort from the previous stage was nowhere to be seen, so a lonely run through the stage in darkness ensued and despite no incidents the time lost was pretty catastrophic. A time of 9:26 was only a second slower than the first run though but the competition had all gained over 15 secs on the second run through. We would have to wait overnight to see how much damage had been done.

The lights looked pretty good as far as the cameraman was concerned.
Into service and a vibration in the left front wheel turned out to be a wayward drive shaft. The service crew jumped into action to perform a heroic repair in the freezing winter conditions.  Pretty impressive commitment and it would emerge to be perhaps the biggest contributor to the success that was to follow. Well played boys.

Finally some activity in the Spookworks Service Area....
After a good nights sleep, Day 2 started around 0900 and the leader board showed the time lost on Stage 6 had cost 3 places.  A very high price to pay but with 6 stages to go there was plenty of time to make amends.

QUICK LOOK BUSY WHILE HE TAKES A PHOT................too late.
What was consumed at breakfast is still unclear but whatever it was made a big difference as after the disappointment of the previous night Spookworks attacked Stage 7 as if the future of the universe depended upon it.  The result -  an amazing stage time of 9:37.  This was an incredible 3RD OVERALL AND SECOND IN CLASS.  One of Spookworks best ever times - ever!  The result instantly bumped Spookworks 2 places up the leader board, back into the Top 10 to 9th overall.

Flying machine - who ever thought we could set 3rd fastest!!
Despite the arrival of rain  - Stage 8 saw the relentless attack continue and a time of 9:29 saw Spookworks set the 6TH FASTEST time overall and another position gained on the leaderboard to 7th overall.

A little bit of rain seemed to make us even faster!

Stage 9 saw Spookworks set yet another Top Ten time with a 8:11 good enough to set the 7th FASTEST TIME OVERALL and another move up the leader board to 6th.

Anyone guess where we are?  
If the previous 3 stages were incredible then stage 10 was simply biblical.  Cue Winston Churchill and his 'finest hour' speech as Spookworks set the FASTEST TIME OVERALL on Stage 10 with a 7:42.  
How this was done to this day remains a mystery but the timing sheet tells no lies.  This represents the best ever stage result for not only Spookworks but an RAF rally car in all recorded history; an epic achievement.  If you don't believe it simply read the table below or even visit the results website yourself here .  We beat EVERYONE. Our very own "Stage of the Gods"..

PositionCarCrewStage TimeTotal TimeDiff O'allDiff PrevClassClass PosnClass Diff O'allClass Diff Prev
118Teasdale/Lilwall07:4207:4251
22Tinn/Fowler07:4307:4300:0100:015200:0100:01
34Ellis/Green07:4407:4400:0200:015300:0200:01
421Cressey/Murphy07:4707:4700:0500:035400:0500:03
522Vey/Fletcher07:4807:4800:0600:015500:0600:01

Luckily the results for Stage 10 were not known to us by Stage 11 and another quick run resulted in a 7th overall with a 6:57.  The leaderboard showed Spookworks now sitting at a ground breaking 5th overall.

We were going so fast even the camera man couldn't keep up...

The final stage of the day seems a blur of expectation and excitement. No one can remember what happened but it must have been trouble free as another 7th fastest time was posted.  As the Spookworks Impreza rolled into Service for the final time it was an amazing and emotional experience.  5th overall on a rally filled with top rate rally cars - a true underdog story.  Fastest time on Stage 10, no less than nine top ten stage times from 12 stages, first stage win for an RAF crew, highest recorded finish for an RAF crew.

We are so fast the front of the car is quicker than the back half....
A great end to a difficult year for Spookworks.  Thanks to the team in Service, especially Gunny and Josh who worked magic the whole weekend.  Thanks to all of you who encouraged and support Spookworks throughout 2014. See you in 2015!









Sunday, 23 November 2014

Cheviot Rally rough seas for Spookworks



Following the success of the team at the Mach 1 Stages in July, Spookworks returned to the stages after a longer than expected break. It seemed like the turbulence of the year was now behind us and Spookworks would find the 80 Stage miles over the hills of Kielder Forest to be all plain sailing for a ship shape team back to its fighting best.


Calm before the storm?

But the smooth pre event preparation led not to the calm waters of a comfortable voyage but rather to turbulent rough seas that left a nasty taste in the mouth with plenty of UPS and DOWNS before finally man overboard was called and an SOS was sounded.

Sea of tranquility in the Service Area - what could go wrong??

Seeded at 35th in a small field of only 60 entries (usually over a hundred) we were grateful the shipping forecast had correctly predicted cold and damp but not wet weather. 

It does exactly what it says on the....door

With some lovely fresh super soft Michelin's on the 18” Revolution Rims it was time to weigh anchor and tackle the first stage of the day Dudlees - 8.37 miles of rallying bliss.  The undulating terrain, blind crests and fast jumps make local knowledge essential here and those who had it went full steam ahead to the top of the time sheets while those of armed only with a treasure map of pacenotes and a brief recce fell back into the depths of the leaderboard.  Spookworks set a 9:45 on the slippy fast and undulating stages to drop 2 places to 37th losing 2 minutes and 14 seconds to the leader Damain  Cole (albeit he has a Focus WRC and knows the place better than the military does!).  

Stage 1  - Who needs a WRC car!

Stage 1 led directly into Stage 2 called Ridlees; a smaller but no less difficult challenge at 4.8 miles.  It was a case of batten down the hatches and hold on as the car ploughed through the storm but despite the crew being close to mutiny the ship was steadied at 35th overall with a 5mins 35 secs.

Lovely day for a drive...

Back to service for a quick 20 min break before repeating the previous loop.  The Spookworks crew cleaned off the barnacles and spliced the main brace before we set off again into Stage 3, 
imaginatively named Dudlees 2.  An exact repeat of Dudlees 1 our previous experience allowed us to push a bit harder and we were rewarded with a 9:04 some 41 secs quicker than the previous run and Spookworks sailed up the Leaderboard 7 places to 30th overall.  Perhaps Spookworks was starting to find her sealegs….

Thar be clouds to starboard - Captain.....

Stage 4 Ridlees 2 followed a similar theme to Stage 3 and at 5:09 Spookworks was 16 secs quicker and as a result surged up the leaderboard by one spot to 29th overall.

Chart a course through them bales.....
Back to service again for the crew to tend the jolly roger, clean the poopdeck and put something in Davy Jones Locker (presumably another competitor??) it was onto 2 runs through a fresh stage called Toft House 1 (Stage 5) and Toft House 2 (Stage 6).  At 6.67 miles long each;  a time of 6 mins and 58 secs on the first run was not too bad and kept Spookworks anchored at 29th overall.  The second run knocked 11 secs off which saw us raise the spinnaker and set sail for 25th overall.

Up and down - Up and down.

Stage 7 -  as the dark clouds gathered overhead, the 8.6 miles of “Bushmans” lay before us. After only a few miles into the stage the usually reliable co-driver turned from a salty sea dog to a land lubber and with lunch going in the wrong direction, we were forced to head to the safe harbour of the service area and strike the colours.  Full credit for the First mate lasting so long under the circumstances and a shame Spookworks having to retire a healthy car.

This is what we saw.....


This is what the co-driver saw....
If anyone ever doubted that rallying was a team sport look no further. Despite Spookworks  second ever DNF it was a terrific experience, a great event and with some more sea training Spookworks will be back to the high seas soon enough.  Thanks to the crew, One eyed Josh and Cut throat Adam for their hard work and dedication and thanks to Workshy the cabin boy for making up the numbers.

Spookworks is next in action on the Rockingham Stages on 6 – 7 Dec 14.

Not sure what all the fuss is about?  Its flat as a pancake round here!
In summary the Cheviot was full of ups and downs....

UP - Most of the Spookworks crew travelled up country for this one.
DOWN - Spookworks car and trailer actually headed south for this one.
UP - Seeded at 35th this was UP from our previous seeding on the Mach 1 Stages (48th)
DOWN - But we were 14th out of 17th in class compared to Mach 1 (12th of 27).
UP - Highest point on in Cheviot Hills 2674 ft (815m)
DOWN - Lowest point above sea level 124m
UP - We moved up to 13th is class after the departure of Alex Laffery after only 5 corners.
DOWN - Dropped to 37th overall after 1st stage.
UP - Moved up to 25th overall after Stage 6
DOWN - Dropped to 27th overall after Stage 7
UP - Co drivers lunch headed in this direction during Stage 7
DOWN - Sadly Spookworks Subaru keys were taken out and put down as a result.


Monday, 30 June 2014

CLOWNGATE - Spookworks in controversy on the eve of Mach 1 Stages

CLOWNGATE



Spookworks is in controversy again is what is being described as "Clowngate" after it emerged that an undercover Spookworks operative had successfully penetrated the Clowns lair and possibly obtained sensitive operational material related to recent performance gains by the itmymotorsport rally team.

Both legal teams refused to comment on the issue. 
The incursion only came to light when the undercover operative known only as "Keith" was exposed when he outperformed the itsmymotorsport regular driver in his own car, a Porsche Carrera, at a recent time trial.
It was in this car that exposed the treacherous undercover plot and Spookworks Operative


Suspicions were raised when bystanders noted the yellow Porsche seemed to be going significantly faster than ever seen before leading to observers to note "he is really having a go at last" and "perhaps he has grown a pair". When officials went to congratulate the driver the operative was exposed and the alarm raised.
Violated: Itsmymotorsport HQ aka the Clown's Lair
Itsmymotorsport management then checked CCTV footage and discovered that the operative "Keith" had gained unauthorised access to itsmymotorsport headquarters and accessed secret performance data.

This picture captured on CCTV proved to be the smoking gun. 
A spokesman for itsmymotorsport angrily stated " This is a disgrace and we will be pushing for maximum sanctions against these jokers. They deserve to be fired from a cannon into a large net for what they have done. We worked quite close with Spookworks in the past and this feels like a pie in the face."
Spookworks were always looking for ways to beat their rival but have they gone too far this time?
Spookworks has admitted that the situation is unfortunate but to suggest any performance material had been gained was "having a laugh". Spookworks also stated they had been working in collaboration with itsmymotorsport but the only material they had access to was frilly collars, oversized shoes and red noses. The collaboration was only suspended when a Spookworks employee was asked to smell a flower where upon they were squirted with a unidentified fluid.
News of the incident was briefed to the highest levels.
The relationship between the 2 teams soured late last year when Spookworks accused itsmymotorsport of deliberately trying to shortcut a chicane under the cover of darkness at an event in Northamptonshire.


Regrettably the incident has meant that any secret performance advantage has been compromised and as a result the car is now for sale. If you want the bargain of a lifetime for a quick car see:

http://www.itsmymotorsport.co.uk/Its-my-rally-team-Impreza-for-sale.htm