LeJog 1996
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 LeJog.  1996.

Preparation for this yearís test of man and machine seemed to be well in hand. Air inlets had been fitted so they sucked air through the radiator. These worked well during the ideal icing conditions down to Devon. A substantial sump shield had been fitted from the bumper back to just in front of the clutch. A shield was also fitted under the overdrive. This, it was hoped, would prevent a repeat of last year when the sump was holed in a ford. Fog lights were fitted to prepare for Wales. As usual, higher priorities prevented John from doing everything he wanted so the car passed the MOT the day before the rally. We did fit seats borrowed from Trevor Spero and, wonder of wonders, the HALDA retained its calibration from last year. At the stopover at my parents we did a few adjustments and fitted a map box.

As we closed on Landís End the fan belt went. The spare was fitted and after a sequence of enquiries and a 10 mile detour we replaced the spare at a tractor garage.

Scrutineering and map checking was completed early allowing time to try out our new regularity routine several times on the test course. We returned to the hotel to do 3 hours of plotting of the stages up to Bristol and the first part of Wales. John studied the tests in the bath!

It is said that as soon as you put competition numbers on a Jowett it starts complaining. 200 yards into the rally the gearbox locked into first whilst the gear lever indicated reverse! So our cup and any hope of a class win vanished. Luckily John had cut a large inspection cover over the gearbox. John took a lot of convincing not to take the side of the gearbox off but my past experience indicated a wiggle of the selection change arm and gear change lever would solve the problem. We made it to through the regularity stage and the next test. The third test was a Le Mans start and high speed braking test. The Javelin stopped in a cloud of smoke that enveloped the car and marshals. It also started misfiring. We had noticed some overheating on the way down; the severity of which was masked by the electric fan. Well we made it to the next time control but had no time to work on it. At the next test close to Liskeard the gearbox again locked in first; so we did the whole test in this gear. I adjusted the selector rods while John researched where the cylinder head gasket had blown. We had forgotten to pack the spare gaskets even though they were on our checklist. I phoned numerous Cornish Joweteers most of whom must have been waiting for us at Okehampton. Anyhow John Thomas of St Cleer offered a garage and some Halite. We staggered the 8 miles filling up the radiator a couple of times. John removed his Bradford from the garage and set off to collect a used gasket from George Libby who, by this time, had arrived home . Johnís daughter supplied us with tea and sandwiches while we removed the offending head. The gasket fitted, we set off with just enough time to make the main control in Wales. However, every 10 miles we had to stop because the car would start misfiring and overheat. We stopped to adjust timing many times. We removed the thermostat, changed all the plugs because the cores had been destroyed by pinking and finally changed the distributor. By this time, we were too late to make the MC and pick up our Welsh stage instructions, so we had a meal and drove to the next MC near Preston to arrive 5 hours before it opened. That gave us chance to take a nap.

Refreshed and glad to be back in the rally we faired well, apart from stopping 3 times with water on the plugs over a viscous snow covered road north of Tan Hill. We also attempted Stanhope Ford and predictably had to dragged out of the foot deep water by a Land Rover. (Some good pictures of this to come showing the water well over the bumpers.) We also dropped a couple of minutes on a navigation stage when a ford claimed the sparks again. Purchase of some silicone gasket sealer eventually cured that problem.

Gavin Black welcomed us at Edinburgh informing the waiting Jowett club beside Loch Lomond of our coming. John left his seat belt on for this test so lost a lot of time. Great to see you all. Mike Crossman, with whom I did the rally with last year, was marshal at Ford, south of Fort William, and later up at Altnaharra. He is rebuilding Speroís engine so is an honorary club member. Jim Clarkson from Brora was at the last control of a good night navigation section (the one where the Jup collected a couple of boulders 2 years ago). We had enough time to chat for a few minutes which proves the team was working well by this time.

The Javelin enjoyed the rough roads frequently scraping the sump guard as it steamed past all the pre-war cars. Stages for us could be difficult as we needed to overtake the older cars running at slower speeds. As usual, the organisers put in some sneaky bits of navigation, two of which caught me out, and the marshals tried a few surprises. One was to put a car with headlights blazing at a control. Even though I knew where it was we past it three times.

The Javelin found the going fairly easy so, provided the reliability is good, the car is one of the best for the event unlike the Monte where unless you are in the pre-1950 there is not much chance of a class win.

The weather was fine in Scotland allowing an uneventful run up the west and north coasts. We went south down the side of Loch Hope, a long treacherous road ending with the control where we saw Mikeís familiar ĎSí type Jag . Another 30 miles of familiar highland roads took us to a new section recently cut from the Altnabreac forest. This was exiting, or at least it was better than the usual regularity through the plain of Caithness. It would have been even better if the foresters had not put direction signs up for us; the weary unprepared navigators could not become lost in 500 sq miles of forest! Anyhow, dawn was breaking as we followed the pre-war cars at 15mph for 15 miles along the single-track sand-covered track with potholes 6 inches deep. That was until John, then I, became impatient and we struggled past them to sail unopposed the final 30 miles to JOG. Here we had a couple of Malts and a hearty breakfast before the rest of the rally arrived.

The only Gold medal was awarded to a 1947 Willys Jeep that we helped when it overheated in the snow on its and its driverís first event 3 years ago. Of course, we did not win anything apart from a finisherís medal; but we felt a lot better than we did in Bristol only regretting not completing the whole event. LEJOG is what it says it is - a reliability trial of driver, navigator and car (and the Jowett support organisation).


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