Competitors are only allowed to use road cars that have been driven to the event. Each car is timed around several tight courses made from cones. The total time for each car is added up with any penalties incurred for hitting cones, taking the wrong route and so on.
Having not driven competitively for over six months, my first run was a little on the enthusiastic side, with plenty of sideways action. I turned in a respectable time nonetheless, and pushed harder in the second run. Unfortunately the rigours of everybody's first efforts had taken its toll on a section of the tarmac, which had now turned to gravel. Hitting this whilst still overdriving sent me into a rapid spin, filling the car with clouds of dust. With my time spoiled I had fun sliding about on the remainder of the run, and resolved to tone it down for the rest of the day.
Toning everything down worked wonders for my times (it always does) and my next two goes were the fastest of anybody's on the same course. Despite that my overall time for the course was still beaten by the very experienced Carl Streatfield in his bright yellow Elise.
As the day progressed my lack of recent practice manifested itself in somewhat inconsistent times, although I had no more disastrous spins. Another couple of fastest individual runs put me first in class, although first place overall was taken by Carl who drove consistently well the entire day to end up just under 2 seconds ahead of my time.
It was an unusually busy day as a marshal too. In AutoSolo, the competitors take it in turn to marshal each others' runs, and on my first stint I was stood near the hairpin bend. You don't really expect to have to do much marshaling on a Solo. You just have to call in the odd penalty when people tap cones or go the wrong way. There's usually just about nothing to crash into, and cars run by themselves so shouldn't end up in collisions.
A tiny bike-engined Sylva Riot shot past and disappeared out of sight at the corner. After a few seconds I realised everything had gone suspiciously quiet and poked my head out expecting to see the car stalled and unable to restart. Instead I was greeted with the sight of a completely empty track. I briefly questioned if I'd imagined the car passing, before realising where it must have ended up - in the thick bramble bush on the left. I ran to help and found the car lodged right up to the wheels in brambles, but on the wrong side of the bush! It had found its way clean through a gap in the hedge and continued to turn until crashing into the back of the brambles. Thankfully the driver and car were both fine, although it took a little while to dig them out.
Later a Mini slowed in front of my marshal post and rolled to a stop on the grass next to me. After futile efforts to get it running again we had to push it back to the pits over rough grass. Quite a work out in the summer sun!
Overall the day went really very well, and everyone seemed to be smiling lots. I'm booked on the RosSolo for this Sunday, but entry will depend on getting a punctured tyre repaired in time. It seems I've picked up a big chunk of metal in the back left tyre somehow. The rubber I use isn't easily available anymore so I won't be getting a replacement. With a bit of luck I'll be able to get the carcass repaired at a local garage however.
I took lots of photos at the event. Zips of the better ones are available below. Some of the expressions on the competitors faces are well worth the download! Some of the images of the tyres undergoing tarmac-torture are pretty impressive too. I took video of my runs as well, and I'll post these in another article soon.
Best photos (9mb zip)
Other good photos (37mb zip)
Official results (pdf)