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LeJog 2023 Leg Three Rally Report

LeJog 2023 Leg Three Rally Report

The Sunday of LeJog always has a touch of an easier feel about it, certainly in comparison to what’s happened the day before. It has assuredly not been easier, but all is relative, and for those still in the hunt, leg three is a bit of a consolidation and an opportunity to ready yourself for the mammoth effort of leg’s four and five. Today was a touch more hectic than other years, however, because as well as there being plenty of competition the weather continued to hamper and hound the event, determined to exert yet more control over proceedings.

That would come later in the day though, for as we headed back over the border into England it was all a bit dull and lifeless out of the window. Not that there was a lot of time to be staring at the horizon, with three tests and a couple of quick-fire regularities before the competitors would be able to consume some coffee in the mid-morning break. Some of the cars out of the running for honours have opted to miss today’s early morning tests, preferring to not risk their machines with their goal now very firmly set to finishing the rally. There was another retirement as well, with car 39, the Peugeot 309 of Peter Fletcher and Roger Osborne leaving the competition with trip problems and a mechanical issue.

Post-coffee stop, the cars were almost straight into one of the longest regs of the rally. This nine-timing point monster went up and over the Pennines to the east of the M6 and as the route began to climb again the snow began to creep back into the scenery, although this time it had already fallen at least, and was not causing any visibility issues. The regularity itself was an enjoyable one, and although the scenery was starting to return to the whiteout, we had become familiar with the previous night, the roads were clear and flowing. There were plenty of opportunities for mistakes though, and the field began to spread out on the road, leaving large gaps for the marshals to contemplate the frigid cold.

By the time the regularity had reached its end and the midday stop was in sight there was snow in evidence everywhere, covering surfaces in all directions and painting a monotone scene on the road out to Hawes, and passing the imposing Ribblehead Viaduct. At Hawes, as the snow started to fall again a re-route was needed, as the fourth regularity of the day fell victim to weather, with deep snow forcing the organization to cull the competitive section and send the cars on a different route. Dusk was falling by now, as the day had raced on, and as the temperature dropped into negative, figures everyone was hoping that the two regularities that would finish the leg wouldn’t be as icy as those at the end of leg 2.

At this stage of the game, the medal positions hadn’t changed, with everyone holding station. Two more had fallen out of the blue riband positions though, with Alastair Leckie and Mike Cochrane retiring at the start of the day and Colin Evans and Dan Middle in the number 19 Triumph 2000 also not beginning the leg. There wouldn’t be any real change in the running by the time the cars found their way into Newcastle for the end of proceedings, and any fears about further weather interruptions had thankfully not materialised. There did need to be some quick thinking from one of the Official’s Advance cars though, as temporary traffic lights were found in the middle of the day's fourth regularity, as engineers worked to repair a burst water main. George Mullins and Nick Payne dispensed with their Clock car responsibilities and acted as temporary traffic police, ensuring that the regularity kept on moving.

The final word of the day goes to the mechanical assistance crews, who are still out in the cold working to keep the cars on the road for the final two legs. Their biggest jobs this evening have included rescuing car no 30, the Datsun 240z of Nick Maris and Henry Carr, who managed to wrong slot down a turn off main route and get themselves stuck, and repairing a broken drive shaft on car no 5, the Mini of Kevin Haselden and Bart den Hartog. Without the never-ending efforts of the sweeps, there would be far fewer cars at the finish. They, along with the marshals who spend so much time standing in remote places in all of the weather, keep this rally trucking on.

Tonight, is the final opportunity to bank some seriously needed sleep and recharge the batteries, before the monster effort of legs four and five tomorrow, as we head off at 08:30 and run through the night, before experiencing the jubilation of crossing the line in John O’ Groats, some 26 hours later. There is an entire country to get across before then though, and whilst the medals table has remained fairly static today, who knows what could occur in the final third of this adventure.

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