It was an early start for Matt and David Smalley as they headed for RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk to take part in the Cadman Construction Woodbridge Stages on Sunday March 29th
Arriving at 6.45am, the pair completed the scruiteneering and their registration in Class A, and prepped their detailed stage maps and plans for the day ahead.
The car of choice for the Smalleys was a 1995 1.4 Vauxhall Corsa, equipped with a Bill Falkoner clubman spec engine, Alpha engine management, close ratio gear kit, limited slip diff, upgraded suspension, and a full roll cage.
The Flux-sponsored crew was confident of a good first run when the rally started at 9am, but as the rain started to fall just before the first stage, things didn’t go entirely to plan.
“We decided to run slick tyres on the front throughout stage one as the rain hadn’t really started to settle when we began, and on them we managed the 34th fastest time and were 5th in class,” Matt explained.
“At one point we came around a long sweeping right turn over a jump into a left-hander, and as we were coming around the back end got away from us and we started sliding. As David tried to correct we slid the other way, wiping out and hitting a sign – luckily is wasn’t anything bigger or we could have been in trouble!”
Heavy rain and a switch to front wet tyres and cut slicks in the rear boosted the pair up to 4th in class after stage two and three. Stage four got off to a shaky start though when a puncture in their left-rear was discovered on the way to the stage start, forcing them back into the service area for a quick swap to intermediates. Returning to the start with just minutes to spare, the pair slipped their way around the wet track to defiantly hold on to fourth position.
As weather conditions worsened going into stage five, the pair knew they had to make up time if they were to be in with a chance of a podium finish in their class. Pinning their hopes on one final tactical throw of the dice, standard road tyres were fitted on the rear, with wets on the front.
Delayed by an upturned Escort, the Smalleys eventually stormed off the line, with David recording the best times of his day to drag the duo up to 3rd in class. With a six second lead over the Nissan Micra placed fourth, and 14 seconds over fifth, the pair realised they’d finally hit on a winning formula and so opted to stick with their tyre setup for the final stage.
“As we queued up for the start of Stage 6 we were behind a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6, and I joked to David that I fancied him to catch it that stage, despite it’s four-wheel drive advantage,” said Matt.
“We couldn’t believe our eyes when we actually caught sight of the Evo on-track in lap two, and David really started pushing to catch up with him. Unfortunately David pushed a little too hard, and going into a jump after a fast left turn the back end went and we ended up in a big spin heading towards the grass verge.
“I thought the car was going to roll when we hit the grass, but luckily we skipped over it – instead skidding off 50 meters into a field. It seemed like eternity until the car started again though, and we ended up losing a good 20 seconds to the crash.”
Eventually getting back on the track, the pair completed the stage as quickly as they could, convinced that their third place was now lost. Luckily for the Smalleys, their two closest rivals had both failed to claw back the time difference, leaving them tied with the Micra for third.
“We posted exactly the same time as the fourth placed Nissan on stage one, but we’d managed to beat their stage two time by 10 seconds – meaning we secured third in class for us, and 16th place overall on count back, a really good result.
“The event was a great day out, and we’d like to thank Chelmsford Motor Club for running it, and all the marshals that stood out in the wind and rain all day – it really is appreciated.”
For more information on the Cadman Construction Woodbridge Stages, head over to http://woodbridgestages.co.uk/