Now those of you who read my ramblings after the rally at Melbourne 1999 will remember that despite Phil meticulously preparing the Escort for battle, by the end of the first stage the rear suspension was totally wrecked and it had even torn HUGE cracks in the boot floor. Why oh why did he then decide that it would be a good idea to subject the Nova to the same torture?

So there we are on the start line, wishing each other a good rally, handshakes twixt driver and navigator and we’re off!

Thirty seconds into the first stage problem number one (and spin number one!),

Never mind I thought, if all our troubles are this small!!!!!, then disaster as we left the silky smooth concrete (anyone who’s been to Melbourne will understand that joke), onto the loose car 58 was on his lap and in an impenetrable dust cloud he spun it leaving us nowhere to go CRUNCH!!!!! We hit him broadside at high speed, spinning him around, leaving us across the track! and then within a second car 48 had embedded himself in my door.

Nova is now stricken, stalled, very battered and is left behind as cars 58 and 48 disappear into the distance. We finally get going and pull off. Now those who know Phil can imagine the animated actions and language as he does his “Basil Fawlty” on the door and wing, I call service on the mobile tell them to pack up we’re going home I mean it’s wrecked isn’t it? No, Phil decides in for a penny……. and we’re off again me holding the offside door from flying open with a strap cos it wouldn’t shut it was that bent and Phil had removed his brain thinking there was nothing to lose!

Still on stage one and on the roughest, dustiest section of the stage we caught and passed three cars!, only to hit a bale, stall, knacker the rotor arm and have to be pushed off the track again! (and be passed by those three cars! , bummer).

RESUME: not a good first stage (stage max, car wrecked) position 78th out of 78!

Back in service team hero set about repairing the damage to the satisfaction of the Scrutineer (who was highly amused) and after a full suspension swap we we’re ready to do battle again.

By the end of stage four we had elevated ourselves to the heady heights of 47th our start position!!!!!!! But the car was holding up very well considering the abuse it was receiving from Phil and Melbourne.

Compared to the first stage the rest of the rally was fairly tame even though Phil’s enthusiasm was not dampened by the crash(es). And unlike other events we were less bothered about queuing up for the results as progress was severely hampered by the stage max.

Our persistence paid off however because we finished the day 5th in class and 34th overall which is amazing considering our start and the Nova lives to fight another day!, BUT NOT AT MELBOURNE!, OH NO NEVER AGAIN!

Before I sign off I must again pay tribute to the guys who keep it all together Richard (Chief mechanic and flapper) Gavin (Dead man walking, you know why Gavin) Rhian (Team manager) Tom (Apprentice Gofer) Thanks guys.

Neil Bruce

(a very sore navigator)