Tuesday, 31 May 2016

2016 Brit Butt Rally - by Mark Fowler

This would be my sixth Brit Butt Rally and my second on my BMW GSA since my RTC in 2014. I arrived at the Premier Inn Rally HQ in Leicester late on the Friday morning and was able to get a ground floor room after a short wait. This gave me the opportunity to grab some lunch and chat to the other riders who'd arrived. Others started arriving in dribs and drabs after lunch and as soon as registration was open I got my bike checked over by the technical inspection team (Rick & Tom) then set off up the M1 for the obligatory 20 mile Odometer check ride. Being a Friday afternoon it was busy around Leicester but everything flowed and I was soon back and able to get my rally book and coordinates from the rally team and get back to my room to start planning. It was now around 3p.m.

This was the second year that rally books and locations were available after the Odo ride so another very good reason for getting to the hotel early and everything done as soon as possible. Detailed planning was best left until after the Rider Briefing in the evening just in case the Rally Master threw any spanners into the works, as was the case in 2015.

I was able to re-code all 89 bonus locations on my Garmin Basecamp programme and colour code everything so when looking at a map of the country it was easier to see where all the high scoring bonuses would be. Every waypoint was transferred to my two Garmin sat navs then I started looking at the various groups of bonuses and plotting everything onto a laminated atlas I keep in my top case.

The map below is the coded Basecamp map I created on my laptop. The numbers are the various combinations i.e. the two number fives form part of combination number 5, etc. I find it easier to view where they are in relation to everything else. I grouped all bonuses into 3 categories as shown below:
Low value (black blobs) 0 - 1500 points
Medium value (blue blobs) 1650 - 2950 points
High value (red blobs) 3200 and over points

It was evident that the biggest points this year were all down along the south in Kent, Devon and Cornwall. Brilliant, just where you don't want to go during a Bank Holiday weekend when mostly great weather has been forecasted. Oh well, that's why this is a tough rally.
At the Rider Briefing we were hit with 3 envelopes containing further requirements and opportunities for extra points. Briefly they were as follows:
  • One compulsory numbered bonus location had to be visited on a choice of four islands: Isle of Wight (BP 01), Isle of Sheppey (BP 16), Isle of Skye (BP 65) or Anglesey (BP 37).
  • A mileage bonus where you gained extra points for every mile over 1000. More for finishing with 1215 miles. And points deducted for going over 1300 miles.
  • Extra points for finishing as close as you could to 4 p.m. But this took into account preparing all your paperwork ready for scoring not the time you finished back at the hotel.
This all added considerably to the route planning but is what we've come to expect from the devious 'Rally Bastard' over the last two years. Thanks John!!!!
So back to my room and re-look at where to go. Scotland as usual had big scoring locations but to get the compulsory location on the far side of Skye and pick up decent points going there and back would have meant a 1500 mile ride so a great loss in penalty points. Next up was Anglesey then up as far as Edinburgh and back and traffic wise this would have been an easier option, a nice two day ride but not be as competitive.
The only option left was down south. I'd had bad experiences in Devon and Cornwall in two previous rallies so knew that going there during the day on Saturday would be a nightmare. In the end my plan was to go down and in to/out of London first thing then across to the Isle of Sheppey for my compulsory bonus location followed by Kent, hopefully the Isle of Wight, then over to Devon Saturday evening.
By going to Sheppey if I then had problems and had to drop the Isle of Wight I would still finish the rally. After a bit of number crunching I decided to go on-line and book my ferry crossing. The earliest I could get that worked was the 5 p.m ferry from Portsmouth then off the island from Yarmouth to Lymngton at 7.10 p.m. Taking into account the 40 minute ferry trips I at least had an accurate time from Lymington to calculate my timings in Devon and Cornwall.
At a short rider briefing before the start on Saturday morning we were also handed a shopping list of items we could bring back for extra extra points. Each item had to be accompanied by a receipt from a different shop. By the finish of the rally I accumulated just three items; a bike magazine, a tube of Smarties and a pack of sanitary towels!
At 6 a.m we all headed off on our merry ways. Next stop London.
Below is my first stop, at Regents Park gates. There was a second location 5 minutes away on the other side of the park. At 7.45 a.m London was nice and quiet.
After one more London location, Sheppey and another couple of locations it was off to Dover lighthouse. The last mile was down a rough gravelly, bumpy, and muddy track. At least the GSA handled it with ease but my thoughts went out to other riders on less suitable machines :)
At this point and for several other locations that morning I was mirroring another Rider Gordon who had done well in previous rallies so this made me feel better with my route choice.

The next location was one of the worst I've ever had to park at. The Mermaid Inn in Rye was up a hill on a proper rounded cobbled narrow street. After just about managing to park the bike without it rolling away a friendly tourist offered to take the picture with both me and bike in it.

It was coming away from this Bonus Location that I bumped into Gordon for the last time.

Another two locations were followed by my arrival spot on 30 minutes before my ferry from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight. This and the ferry trip gave me a nice break to rest and take on food and drink. A quick shot of Carisbrooke Castle followed, then off to Yarmouth for the ferry off the island.
On my trip along the South West coast the heavens opened and it chucked it down for about an hour or so with lightning storms. Thankfully this was the only rain during the whole weekend and temperatures were in the high teens and up to 25° both days.
A lot of the bonus locations this year were available daylight only so this added to the planning element and I was able to get four locations bagged Saturday night before stopping for my rest break. The downside to the high daytime temperatures was that now it was cooling down again so thick fog covered the last few hours of the journey through Cornwall which when you're tired doesn't make concentration very easy.
My rest break start receipt was at 1.28 a.m from a 24 hour Shell Station near Hayle then followed by about 3 hours sleep during my 4 hour rest break. My £12.49 bargain Amazon tent worked very well and I found a quiet spot in a field a mile or so up the road. When I woke up at 5 a.m I bundled the tent back to the fuel station and binned it (quicker than trying to neatly fold it all back into my pannier).
At 5.31 a.m my rest break finish receipt was tucked away then I was on my way to the Lizard lighthouse for a daylight only bonus shortly after 6 a.m.

Next up was the Bodinnick ferry across the River Fowey. I was there in plenty of time to catch the first trip of the day at 8 a.m with a photo of the bike on-board and a receipt to match.

And from there on in was where things started to slip. I went from being 30 minutes ahead of schedule to ultimately being 1.5 hours behind when I finished. This is purely down to the crappy little back roads in north Cornwall and Devon and the fact that the Garmins will always route you off the obvious roads down a dirt track because it has a 60 limit, Grrr!!!
After a photo outside the famous Jamaica Inn I was off to take a photo of the picturesque Port Isac. It was while I was parked there that my phone alarm rang as it was time to send a text-in bonus within a 30 minute time window to get an additional 3000 points :)

A long slog back north up the M5 was followed by my second from last location which was was the old BSA factory in Birmingham. This was another cock-up on my part and seems like despite my best efforts there's always something I get wrong each year. I got the wrong side of the factory in the shot and so lost the 500 points it was worth. Worse still I also lost the 2000 points that formed the combination bonus with the Meriden Triumph factory memorial.

Overall with having to drop three other locations through running out of time plus the 2500 lost at the BSA factory I calculated I would have got an extra 5450 points.
When I arrived back at the rally hotel the complex finishing procedure coupled with my general knackeredness added to my need to get checked in to my room, finish my paperwork, hand that in to get the clock stopped then rush back to my room to grab a shower before being called for scoring.
What happened next was the worst part of my rally career. The bath in my room didn't have an anti-slip floor and no rubber bath mat was provided. I'd just got in and started to run the shower when I slipped backwards catching my lower back on the edge of the bath as my feet slipped from under me. As I crashed backwards I smashed my head on the edge of the sink close to the bath.
After many F words and a great deal of panic I managed to pick myself up off the floor and felt a deep gash in the back of my head complete with a handful of blood. I managed to ring for help and the Rally Master duly sent help in the form of Bob to give me first aid. After a five hour visit to the local A&E, 2 stitches and a CT scan I managed to get back to the hotel just in time for the late start to the finishing ceremony around 10 p.m.
Although my loss of bonus points meant losing out on a place on the podium I still got my best ever result with 4th place. Get in :)
After a delicate sleep that night and feeling much better in the morning I managed to safely ride home after being one of the last riders to leave on Monday morning.
2016 shall always remain one of the physically most gruelling rallies I've entered due to a combination of the hot weather, the small roads and concentration needed, not to mention the shower-gate incident. It was however my most successful rally and apart from only a few missed locations everything went to plan and I had a really good two days riding.

Thanks as always goes to the incredibly hard work of the Rally Master and rest of the volunteer rally staff. Without their support these and future events can't take place so I take my (sore) hat off to them.
Roll on 2017!
Below was my Spotwalla trip which could be viewed in real time so friends could follow my progress, or lack of it!

1 comment:

  1. Well done Mark. Hope the head heals soon.

    Podium next year???