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|History '94 Bill Bolton|
“Never again,” the words of my co-driver, Rob Knowles, on the 1994 Round Britain Run as we left Land’s End seem an appropriate way to start my account of the event. “Don’t worry,” I replied, “You’ll feel different at the finish. There’s only another three hundred and odd miles to go.”
So, how do three BT men come to be taking part of the seeming lunatic activity of covering the 2,000 miles around the UK in 48 hours? It is not an easy question to answer but it started way back in 1992 when I was already committed to taking part in that year’s event with Bob and Bill Gosling. When Rob found out about the event he expressed an interest and we decided to wait for 1994 to see if we were still keen enough to enter then. Needless to say, we were, and initially planned to do it with a crew of two. Our entry went in around February and things then went quiet until nearer October. Unlike 1992 preparation of the vehicle was minimal although after virtually fifteen years of continuous use the bodywork required some attention and I arranged for a re-spray plus new wings and other minor repairs to be carried out by a local repair specialist. I dropped lucky with this as both wings required replacement, one of which is now unobtainable from normal suppliers. Fortunately my local body man had two in stock, which he let me have for half price – not a bad deal under the circumstances. The prop shaft had been reconditioned within the year, as had the starter motor. I have done a surgery on the minor steering part which caused an MOT failure which is a story within itself and, as it turned out fortunately, the battery failed with the first frost of the winter three days before the event. Apart from the aforementioned the only other work to the car was an oil and filter change.
Another BT man Peter Hicks also agreed to be the third crew member. Now bear in mind that both Rob and Peter are not Triumph fanatics and had no prior experience of the Run. However, we met regularly and when the road book was issued we started to plan in earnest for the big day. Foremost in my mind was the horrendous conditions we experienced at the start of the 1992 Run with constant rain not to mention the mega traffic jam. To prepare for the worst I called on the help of our Midlands Rep Chris Allen who, as an AA patrolman is ideally placed to know the location of any potential hold ups. This year’s runners will have cause to thank him for the up-to-date information distributed to entrants before the start so any potential traffic problems could be identified in advance.
All three of us went through the route so we would all be familiar with where to go. Due to my experience in 1992 we identified Perth as a problem area and it proved useful to study a road map and for the first time worked out what went wrong then, more of this later. Another change from 1992 was that I went to town on the carrying of spares. With hindsight perhaps I overdid it slightly as throughout the Run the car sat very low at the back. However, if anything had gone wrong, which it didn’t, I had a good chance of fixing it.
I left home at 12.20pm on Friday 7 October filling up with petrol just before, first picking up Peter, then Rob. There followed a fairly uneventful run to the start at the The Plough and this year we arrived in plenty of time. All too soon it was time to be off. The weather was ideal and we were soon on our way north along the A10. This time no problems were encountered on route with the first three marshalling points being reached well ahead of schedule. Derek Pollock always stresses this in not a race and he has arranged that no advantage is gained from early arrival. The road books are not signed until a certain time, so if you arrive early you have to wait. Last time we got lost in Perth so with this in mind we were well prepared to avoid a repeat and we still got lost in Perth! Rob blames it on the DoT changing the road designations, however the preparation was not wasted as we got back on course more easily. We added around 12 miles to the journey though. The thing that stays in my mind on the next section of the route was my stopping on the mountains some twenty miles short of Inverness due to drowsiness. We were then overtaken by the TR8 of Derek Pollock/Less Mills and it must have taken 10 minutes for the sound of the exhaust to die – is that a standard system Derek? (No! ……Ed)
On the last run we were so late at John O’Groats that we took the ‘soft’ route back along the A9 to make up time. This year we were well ahead of schedule and in our preparations for the Run had discussed the options for this stage of the Run. Our consensus was to follow the proper route, which entailed eighty odd miles of single track road. None of us has any regrets about taking that route, the weather being superb and the remoteness and beauty of the scenery is unmatched anywhere in the UK. However, on arrival at Dingwall we decided we needed some sleep before the overnight section and we took the direct route to Stirling at a very leisurely pace. This had the desired effect and the passengers managed some shut-eye.
We decided this would also be our method for the overnight section down to Bristol. This proved to be a life saver for myself as I enjoyed the longest period of sleep of the entire Run.
The next incident to stay in my mind was meeting Malcolm Liptrott in Bristol and being told we had cracked it. Soon it would be daylight and our metabolism would keep us awake. Never count your chickens is the message here and we were treated to a rerun of the great fog of 1966. There were only about 40 miles of the 200 down to Land’s End free of the stuff, which slowed us down considerably and we arrived about fifteen minutes after the early time of arrival and enjoyed a superb breakfast at the State House. An hour later saw us back on the road towards the next stop at Sourton, Devon where the former rally driver Brian Culcheth was on hand to sign the road books. Apart from the early morning fog the only other hold up we encountered was on the A30 after leaving Sourton. A farmer had decided to undertake some tree cutting and successfully brought all traffic on the road to a halt. It probably cost us about half an hour but as the A303 is a fast dual carriageway it is easy to make up time and we arrived at the Clover Leaf Garage, Basing just about on schedule. We were conscious that although the Run was nearing completion there was still the 200 miles back to Stockport afterwards. After a ten minute break we were back on the road to The Plough and we arrived there without further incident around 5.00pm and began the ritual of congratulating one another. We duly completed the administrative requirements, my Sprint had another plaque to add to its collection, and the tree of us sat down to enjoy coffees.
For those interested in statistics I filled the tank in Hazel Grove just before picking up the other members of the team and filled up again at the same place after dropping them off at the end of the Run. In between we had clocked up 2,372 miles and used 289.54 litres of 4 star. This works out at an average of 37.24 miles to the gallon – which is not bad for a 2 litre car and I put it down to the gently driving between Dingwall and Bristol!
I think after the last three Runs now there has been a degree of uncertainty as to whether it would continue. Certainly one of the organisers, as he is constantly reminding us, is not getting any younger – although he does such an excellent job he would be hard to replace. It would be a shame to see it die when it can muster an entry of over forty cars, not to mention the officials and marshals who are prepared to commit their time and inconvenience themselves to make the event run smoothly – they all deserve a big ‘thank you’ from all the entrants.
The Monday following the event I spent on leave, the Sprint had been emptied, washed and cleaned, and around 2.00pm I began to experience by now the familiar feeling of drowsiness lying on the bed attempting The Telegraph crossword and the phone goes. It was co-driver Rob. During the conversation he said “If I do it again”. This shows a remarkable change of mind from Land’s End and is probably a common experience with most entrants.
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