I made my way to the Rally HQ near Coventry on a Friday morning in early September on my Suzuki 1000 V Strom. This would be about my 10th. Brit Butt. I was the first to check in with Phil the Iron Butt UK Supremo and then went to the odo check. It was about 35 miles up the motorway and back and I was followed by Gerald on his Yamaha 1300 which helped the time to pass. We checked back in and had our mileage recorded by Wing Glider and Owl and then went to a nearby garage and topped off our fuel tanks ready for the 6am start the following morning.
I checked in to the Hotel and set up my vast array of electrical equipment in my room ready for the intensive route planning to follow later. Some of this equipment I actually know how to use to about 10% of its potential! Looks impressive though which is half the battle. This year the Bonus Location photo needed to be taken on a mobile phone and then e-mailed to the Rally Master. You could use a digital camera and then download the pictures and e-mail them through but the time needed for this meant it was a non-starter for me.
With everything on charge and clothes laid out for the morning it was off to the bar and meet up with friends old and new. It was good to see some German Iron Butt riders who had jumped through all the Covid regulations hoops to get here to ride the event. Soon it was time to eat and then we all made our way to the meeting room for the handing out of the Rally Books.
We were given a brief run through of the book and the rules by Mark Fowler the Rally Master. The theme for this year was rude and funny names and after a quick question and answer session we were released to our rooms to commence planning.
The bonus locations were e-mailed to us and I downloaded them and opened up Base Camp to see what we had to deal with. The 69 bonuses stretched from Penzance in the South West to the Orkney Islands in the North. With only 3 bonuses in the South West all beyond Plymouth they were discounted straight away. The Orkney Islands was a sucker bonus and so was quickly discounted also. (If it had been worth 50,000 points it would have been worth 15 minutes to check on ferry times and mileage/time equations to see if an all or nothing ride would have been worthwhile) The north and Scotland looked like too much mileage for the points and so left me looking at all the locations in the Midlands/near North, Wales and the South East. There were 4 combination bonuses available and these helped me make my mind up as to which locations I would visit with so many of them close together and of similar points.
I ran a route in Base Camp going north to around Manchester and then West to Bangor down the length of Wales to Cardiff then up the M4 corridor and South West London. Then drop down to Hastings and across to Ashford and my home address for the sleep bonus. Sunday morning down to Dover for a daylight only bonus then up the M2 and Dartford Tunnel and up through Essex and Suffolk to Norwich and then the run back to the Barn. It all seemed to work with the only glitch being the arrival time back at the finish being 2 minutes before penalty points of 100 per minute started. I took out 1 location to extend the available time knowing I could put it back in if I was running ahead on the Sunday. I loaded the route into one Sat Nav and allowed 5 minutes for each stop. The other Sat Nav I run point to point and can play around with on the route if needed. I filled in my hand written form for each location which includes Bonus Number, Availability (day only, time restraints etc.) Expected arrival time, Bonus points and anything else such as bike in picture etc. This lives in my tank bag map pocket and is what I work from during the Rally.
I was happy to be in bed by Midnight which gave me 5 hours sleep before the action began.
Up and dressed with a coffee and sandwich inside me it was off to the car park and get the bikes mileage recorded load up and double check everything and await the start.
At the stroke of 6am Phil did his best ‘War Child’ impersonation and pointed at us in turn to get moving and begin our Rally.
I headed out on the M6 to begin an hours run to my 1st. location at Moisty Lane. The location was easily found (as was the case throughout the Rally] and the picture taken and sent. Then it was on to Knock Her Down Inn and The Devils Arse. This was located in the most beautiful valley and I look forward to revisiting when time is not of the essence.
Next was Upper Thong which was part of a combination bonus and after more fantastic roads and a fuel stop I made it to Broadbottom Road. By now it was 4.5 hours in to the Rally and everything was settling down nicely. Wales was next on the list and the journey along the North coast was taken. Just South of Bangor and Penisa ‘rwaun was the location with the bike needing to be in the picture. Pany y waun and the Three Cocks pub were next before arriving on the South coast and the Cardiff area.
It was a great ride down the length of Wales with most traffic in small bunches with no one wanting to overtake the leader. A bit of throttle and a short straight soon saw them behind.
At one roundabout I got between 2 guys out for a Saturday afternoon blast on matching MV Augustas and had fun for the next 15 minutes as they tried unsuccessfully to loose me. They eventually managed it by ignoring both a 30 limit and double white lines.
The sign at As Fawr was next followed by Silly. Then it was across Cardiff to Splott Road. This sign was 20 feet up a wall on the far side of a junction but I managed to get the shot with my Rally flag in it as required.
On to the M4 and over the bridge back into England to Old Sodbury School gates. It was here I ran in to my first rain of the trip and, as I had gained about 1 hour on my expected time, I took my helmet off for the first time after 13 hours riding and had a sandwich and rest. The rain was heading South and so my run up the M4 towards London was dry.
Epsom and Nork Rise was next. Debi, my Wife used to live 1 mile from here and from now on until Sunday afternoon I would be riding in my own back yard. This was a nice change as most Brit Butts of the past had very few bonuses in the South East.
It was now 10 pm and the ClearWater lights I have fitted came into their own on the lanes around the back of Hastings and the bonuses at Titsey Place and Domb Womans Lane. I diverted up to Ashford and got my receipt to stop the clock at 10.59pm. I took my 7 hours rest bonus in one hit and slept in my own bed which was wonderful! I gave the bike a check over, left what luggage I didn’t need and got my receipt to end the sleep bonus at 06.02.
Down to Dover on the M20 and along and down the White Cliffs to St Margarets Bay and a picture of Just a Posh Shed and then back up the winding cliff road to get to the famous Ham Sandwich road sign remembering to put myself in the picture.
In a dim and distant past I used to cycle passed the Gravelly Bottom Road sign. Now here I was taking a picture of it by a housing estate when it used to be in the middle of the woods.
On to Maidstone and then the M2 North to Thong near Gravesend. This was the 2nd. Part of a combi bonus with Upper Thong up North yesterday. Back on the M2 and then the Dartford tunnel and turn right into darkest Essex. Over the next hour I saw a few other Rallyists as I claimed Turkey Cock Lane and Fingering Hoe.
Here I was about 1 hour ahead of schedule and so I reinstated the bonus I left out during planning thinking I would be short of time. Cock and Bell Lane was obtained much to the amusement of an elderly gentleman who was stood there awaiting his lift.
The traffic so far through Essex had been very heavy so it was good to get back out into the countryside and obtain Dicks Mount. Booty Road and Hooker Road in Norwich where within 1 mile of each other and represented my last bonuses of the rally.
It was a straight 2.5 hour run back to the finish. Near Thetford the sky turned black and I dived into a layby and put on an over jacket ready for the downpour. Within ½ mile the traffic could only use the outside lane as the inside one was 6 inches deep in water. This carried on for about 15 minutes when it stopped as quickly as it started. Another 15 minutes and everything was dry and I was being extra careful as the run was coming towards its conclusion. Sit there and twist that and try to ignore the ultimate numb bum! There was 1 more bonus I had time to collect near Wellingborough but I was happy with the way the ride had gone and was happy to just ride to the finish.
I stopped the clock at 16.03 nearly 1 hour ahead of schedule. Debi, Wing Gilder and Rick saw me back in and noted my mileage. Now it was to the room, slip into something more comfortable and then present myself to the scorers. I was presented with a list of bonus locations I had submitted and confirm they were correct and none missing. That was that – very different to the old system of scoring we know and love!
Of to the bar again to swap tales with the other riders and then a buffet dinner prior to scoring. My objective for any rally is get into the top 10 and I have only managed it twice in the Brit Butt Rally. I was very hopeful of meeting this objective as I felt everything had gone very well the whole weekend. If I was not in the top 10 after this ride I really was in the wrong game!
Phil started to announce the finishers in the mid-twenties. He got to 11th.and the scores were still well short of mine – I was in the top ten! A shook for all was when Robert Koeber, a multiple winner of this event, was announced in 6th.place. After Kim Leeson was announced in 4th place Phil asked the remaining 3 riders to come and join him at the front. The final three places were
3rd. Wilfred Weyers (Germany) 1,392 miles 40,900 points
2nd. Andrew Campbell 1,314 miles 41,750 points
1st. Steve Kirk 1,151 miles 42,275 points
I thought Debi was going to explode! I was still in shock that I had done it. I reckon I must have been a 50/1 shot for the gamblers out there. I was able to thank Phil, Mark and all the other people who put so much into organising these events before being left to the tender mercies of the IBA groupies. (that part was in my imagination).
Back to the bar and some more adult beverages and an effort to realise what I had achieved. There has been much discussion over the phone method of scoring against digital cameras. I can understand the organisers liking phones/e-mail as the scoring gets done live as the pictures come in and are checked. When the last rider has finished the results are known. The drama of the old scoring method is missed but I am grateful to ride any rally that someone has spent a lot of time and effort organising.
The winning route.