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04 Oct 2023

Ready to Rally

A long-standing club member reminisces on adventure with their beloved 912    

I entered the world of Porsches in a rather unconventional manner. To be precise, by sitting in the passenger footwell of a racing 911 that was being driven round the Macau Grand Prix circuit in 1976, when I was acting as the trackside race commentator and radio reporter for Commercial Radio Hong Kong. 

Nearly 25 years later, my current journey started when I followed a 912 around the hills behind San Remo at the end of the 2000 Classic Marathon in my 895cc Hillman Imp and decided to look for one. After a five-year-long period of research and inspecting a large number of 912s for sale, I discovered an original Californian 1966 912 which had been imported into the UK before being re-exported to Ireland and then subsequently to the south of France and back to the UK again. After much inspection and reading the accompanying paperwork, I made an offer which was eventually accepted. I then drove it from Buckinghamshire to Lincolnshire, where it still resides.
Later, I started to work on this basic 912 to make it more comfortable (the seats had collapsed) and more appropriate for the rallies I was planning to enter. This included new seats for the passenger and me, full harness seatbelts, a bespoke sump shield and an alloy tank guard, plus navigation equipment (calibrated trip meter and dual electronic timers) and auxiliary spot lamps transferred from my Imp. 
Our first challenge was the 2007 Cape to Cape charity run for Macmillan Cancer Support, which started at Cape Wrath in north-west Scotland and finished a week and 2,400 miles later at Cape Clear Island in south-west Ireland. More such runs were completed in the following years, including travelling from Cape Cornwall to Cape Finisterre and from Cape Wrath to Cape Cornwall. We also took part in a number of the Norwich Union/Aviva Classic Car runs around England, which also gave me the opportunity to drive the car at a reasonably fast rate around the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit!

In 2009, I entered the Poppy Rally round Ypres in Belgium. Unfortunately, technical problems rather ruined the run and meant an early finish to get to the ferry before the engine totally collapsed. This is exactly what happened at the port, necessitating a tow both on and off the ferry! Another attempt in 2011 with a new navigator resulted in a much more successful event and, after many vicissitudes along the route, we managed to finish.

Family and medical issues meant that I did not enter my first Historic Rally Car Register (HRCR) Championship rally until 2018 alongside a novice navigator who christened the car ‘Poppy’ – a name which has stuck! The engine decided to lose all its oil before the first coffee halt, which resulted in both Poppy and me getting a lift back home after the event. Later that year, we entered the Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation (HERO) Summer Trial which took place over three days around the lanes of the Peak District and Derbyshire – an incident-packed event, over which I shall draw a veil. 
However, not to be put off, and after all the insurance wrangles, I put in an entry on a Yorkshire rally in 2019 with another novice navigator. I then started to drive north to Ripon, until the 912 decided to stop working on the M62. My navigator and I marshalled instead while Poppy was once again at home in her garage, waiting for rectification. 
Later that year, we entered and finished the Summer Trial, again centred on Chesterfield and run in the Peak District and the Derbyshire Dales, with a much better finishing position than in the previous year. 
In 2021, at a Region 4-run trackday at Blyton Park where I was marshalling, I met up with a friend who had occasionally navigated for me in the Royal Air Force Motor Sports Association (RAFMSA) Road Rally Championship in my Imp. Now living near Lincoln, he was also a member of R4 with his Cayman S. After a short chat, the two of us entered the HRCR Championship and started the Dansport Historic Rally in Derbyshire – a rally which started from near Chesterfield with night sections at the start of the competitive Saturday run. Unfortunately, 16 miles from the start, the front left-hand ball joint gave up the ghost and we returned courtesy of Lockton Insurance’s ‘Get You Home’ service. 
This repair took some time but, once fixed, we entered the 2022 HRCR Championship and started our rallies together. The two early ones were in north Yorkshire, so they were an easy drive and two finishes were recorded. The second event went better than the first! My navigator’s family and business commitments meant the following events were not feasible, so I turned out to marshal instead and drove Poppy to a number of locations around Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

During these periods of downtime, I took the opportunity to take Poppy off the road and treat her to some TLC. Over time, she’s had a lot of strengthening work done to her undersides as well as having a fair amount of rather nasty corrosion cut out and replaced with stronger metal. I’ve also had the front suspension completely rebuilt, the front tank supporting metalwork replaced with new parts, the clutch re-adjusted and the rear brakes (drums, discs and callipers) renewed and replaced. 
As well as all this rallying, I managed to enter Poppy in a number of R4-organised Sunday Runs and trackdays at Blyton Park to help me learn to drive her properly. However, at one trackday, the engine stopped working at the end of a lap. This led to a complete strip down and rebuild of the engine and some ancillaries. 
Poppy is now ready for a belated attempt on this year’s Motorsport News/HRCR Historic Road Rally Championship with yet another navigator, who volunteered his services at the recent HRCR Rally Day at Gaydon. When not competing, Poppy and I are frequently seen at various classic car events, including the former Silverstone Classic weekend.
As my more than 50 years of interest in motorsport continues, I am now a Motorsport UK Registered Rally and Trainee Race Marshal and can thus be found marshalling on various roadsides in support of HERO and HRCR road rallies, as well as the Arrivals Control at Circuit Rally Championship events at Cadwell Park. As a transgender competitor, I also sit on Motorsport UK’s LGBTQ+ Expert Committee. And, of course, I was the 912 Register Secretary from 2011 to 2018, when I managed to write a number of articles which featured Poppy even then!

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