Activ8 Motorsport’s 4th outing for 2018 was the Hemicuda Rally based in and around the town of Koekelare. The event was held over the weekend of 20th and 21st October and for the first time in several years the event enjoyed clear warm weather.
The Rally itself was split into three legs, each with 3 very fast stages totalling just under 100km in addition to 150km of road sections.
The Autostal Hemicuda VZW had arranged for service to be held in a large cement factory which was in operation on Saturday morning. We made use of a nearby car park in the morning to complete some final checks on the car before joining the queue to get into the factory grounds. Unsurprisingly the queue was highly competitive with some sneaky and ingenious queue jumping but we managed to get in relatively early and set up in a good spot.
Mal and Steve headed to documentation and then completed a recce leaving Phil and Mick to set up camp. Recce confirmed the speed of the stages and the extensive review of in-car footage provided by the organisers made completing the notes much easier. Scrutineering was a formality, though amusingly it turned out we had yet another form to fill in as we were a foreign crew competing in Belgium. Thankfully there was a really helpful official on hand who expertly filled it in for us after we furnished them with the information required.
The first excitement of the weekend was when the car was placed in Parc Ferme overnight just a short distance from Service. The bag containing Mal’s racing suit had slipped out of the netting and onto the floor which wasn’t noticed when emptying the car after scrutineering. A very nice, but insistent official correctly refused us entry to Parc Ferme until the morning. The time from picking the car up to presenting for the first time check was literally minutes so a crafty plan was hatched for Mal to get changed at the car just before exiting Parc Ferme. Heaven knows what the locals made of a 72yr old man stripping off in a cold car park first thing in the morning! Thankfully Mal and Steve made it to TC1 on time and correctly kitted out.
Starting at car no 75 out of 152 crews, Activ8 quickly got into a good rhythm and set some impressive times for the first leg. The first leg saw just one small mistake with a highspeed lockup prior to a square left which cost a few seconds. However, entering service the team were just outside the top 40 which was excellent.
Even at this stage it was clear that although the roads were dry, many corners required cutting on the inside to get the best line which was spreading dust onto the roads. The result was some entertaining antics by many crews with the unlucky ones crashing and retiring.
On leg two, stage 1 near disaster struck for the team as around 5 minutes into the Kortemark stage Mal “ran out of talent” on a dusty corner. A fast 3 left saw the car head into a ditch and stop abruptly after hitting a object which span the car 90 degrees and almost roll. The car ended up beached with 3 wheels off the ground and would have stayed there but for the ever enthusiastic Belgium spectators. A group of them quickly assembled and practically lifted the Impreza out of the ditch and onto the road.
It immediately became clear there was damage to the steering and the car was handling unpredictably for stage 4 and stage 5 with the times nowhere near as competitive. By the time the crew entered the much needed service the overall position had dropped to 51st.
The initial assessment in service was not good. The drivers front wheel was best described as being at a jaunty angle and the wheel itself was clearly over 30mm further back in the wheel arch than it should be. The damper, bottom suspension joint and roll bar droplink had all been destroyed and the lower wishbone was bent like a banana. Amazingly there was no apparent damage to the chassis and the team had spares for everything apart from the damper. A quick decision was made to replace the destroyed ball joint and drop link which was completed swiftly by Mick and Phil. There was no time to swap the lower wishbone so the wheel was re-aligned by eye and the bodywork pulled out of the way of the tyre. The tracking was set by eye and the crew sent on their way.
Despite best efforts the crew left the service area a little late resulting in road penalties. Although there was no expectation of the car being competitive Mal started putting in reasonably good times again. When the car returned to service at the end of stage 9 the team discovered they had finished a very respectable 40th overall. An amazing result delighting the team and Steve’s family who’d waved the crew out on stage and who provided the team with some really nice cake to celebrate with at the end.. Thanks!!
A very big thank you goes out to the spectators who lifted us out of the ditch and got us under way again, to all the marshals and organising club who put on a brilliant event, to QuestMead for the teabags, to Mick and Phil without whom we wouldn’t get to the events and last but not least to Steven Santy for putting up with an old age pensioner and doing, as always, a brilliant job on the notes.
An update on the work done on the car will follow soon… It took a whole 2 days for the majority of the repairs to be completed!
Bring on Kortrijk