1988 and a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go and see a ‘night rally’ through the different stages in Brecon and Llandovery.
Of course the answer was YES, who doesn’t want to see a Rally? Lots of fast cars with experienced drivers doing a 120mph through forestry, and let’s face it, the trees in the forestry normally only see a man walking his dog with a stick in its mouth on the weekend.
The rally started at 11pm, so we left around 9pm with a flask of tea, a
packet of plain crisps and four cheese and Branston sandwiches tightly wrapped (tight enough that the crown jewels would have been safe). It was dark, cold and no street lights were to be seen, it was the middle of Wales after all. I looked the part as my mum and dad hadn’t long bought me a RS Rallye Sport jacket, all the rage back then, and by the way I still have it and it still fits…..! If anyone else has one, they’re considered ‘vintage’ now and are worth a few bob!
Anyway, the car we were in ….now don’t forget
its 1988, it was the car that most people desired….a MK3 Ford Escort XR3i, in white with a black spoiler. Yep I know….some of you who are old enough are nodding (YES Dave you are right….a nice car, my friend!)
Now one thing my friend didn’t tell me was that it was an AMATEUR Rally not a world class Rally with all the famous drivers and really, really, really fast cars……
Nope, these were Ford Escort MK2’s, Opel Manta’s, Vauxhall Chevette’s and Mini Metro’s and Talbot Sunbeams. But please don’t get me wrong, they were fast, but a price of a professional Rally car can be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, these cars were worlds apart.
When we arrived, a marshal gave us a small map with a time table of when and where each stage started and finished. We drove on ahead of each stage, ready to find a spot to park and a spot to stand with a good view to watch the excitement. The only worry I was supposed to have had for the night was when do I eat my cheese and Branston sandwiches?
And not to spill my tea in the car (grey seats…..would have stained easy!) On the stereo continuously playing from side ‘A’ to ‘B’ was the Michael Jackson album “BAD” (on tape of course), it had only been out a few months and still today when I hear any song from that album it reminds me of this Rally.
So, all was going well until my friend bumped into someone he sort of knew, whose friend was one of the drivers in the Rally, and this is what he said “Why don’t you follow me, I know these lanes like the back of my hand, I can take you to the best spots where nobody else will know.”
Well….. we did just that and we followed him, and before I go any further this man was driving a brand new MK3 Escort Estate 1.3L, in BEIGE of all colours. I don’t care who you are or what year it is or was, even what car is on the planet at the time….. no-one sits in their house flicking through a brochure and saying to themselves, “Hmmmmmm……I think I’ll buy a new car and Ohhhhh YES….and I want it in Beige.” And it had a brown interior.
The ford Escort XR3i that we were in was a 1.6i and at the time it was a fast car so you’d think keeping up with this guy would be easy, well for a while it wasn’t. He drove his own car like he had stolen it, like a raving lunatic! He clearly, in his own demented head, thought he was on the actual Rally as a competitor. Anyway, I had soon lost my appetite for the last
of my 2 cheese and Branston sandwiches and I daren’t even look at my flask of tea.
I knew things were now getting serious, because the stereo was turned off for full concentration and all of a sudden we could see 2 lights in the rear view mirror…..
YEP, hurtling towards us from behind, at warp speed (and NO it wasn’t the Starship Enterprise) it was a Rally car in the middle of the stage which we are were also in the middle of!
In the nick of time the both cars pulled over to allow the Rally car pass, and then we moved on again knowing full well another Rally car would soon be behind us. We were lost, the ‘FOOL’ in front of us had no idea where he was going and neither did we. I looked at my cheese and Branston sandwich
thinking “Mother Frantony will shout at me if I waste them and she’ll shout at me if she finds out that I’m in a Rally in a normal car with normal seat belts no roll cage and no fire extinguisher and let’s not forget the helmet. So the FOOL in front was speeding off around every bend in the lanes, then all of a sudden he was gone. Then we saw him way ahead of us, only his car looked taller and thinner…… well, it was going
to happen, he was in a ditch with his car on its side.
Standing on the seats with half his body out of the window we stopped, I thought brilliant “I’m going to be in the back and he’s going to want one of my cheese and Branston sandwiches.” Luckily, he told us that he’d be okay and for us to drive on, so that’s exactly what we did. 5 miles later we drove in to Llandovery town and through the finish line with every one about to cheer but they just stared at us in disbelief instead.
We didn’t hang around, so we headed straight home finishing off my cheese and Branston sandwiches along the way and by 7:30am I was tucked up in bed, I didn’t even clean my teeth but I was glad to be home. I’ve never been on a Rally since; I find it far easier and safer to watch it on TV! I have no idea who the FOOL was that we were following or even if he’s still in the ditch 28 years on! Probably not, and of course he clearly had no idea what the back of his hand looked like!
As this is the Easy Blend, I‘d thought I’d let you know what I’m listening to. Today it’s Michael Jackson – Man in the Mirror
You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)
Until the next Easy Blend blog………..
Stay warm and fuzzy……..