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. 

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. 

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

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!