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27 Apr 2016

WOTY 2016

Full Steam Ahead for R21 in Exmoor

Full Steam Ahead for R21 in Exmoor

The R21 WOTY for 2016 followed the tried and tested format of offering some interesting driving roads and the opportunity to ride on a steam railway. This year 30 of us in 16 cars descended on the Northfield Hotel in Minehead for a long weekend. A few members of the group extended their stay and arrived on Thursday but the majority of us arrived at the hotel in time on Friday for the complimentary afternoon tea. An area of the car park had been roped off with PCGB flags so everyone could relax that their cars were safely parked.

The first incident of the weekend was the discovery by Brain and Carol that they had a puncture in the back wheel of their Boxster. It was too late in the day to get it attended to but the plan was for them to rise early on Saturday and hopefully get it repaired in time to join us on the drive. The full group met for the first time in the bar before dinner and it was great to see everyone getting on well together and enjoying each other’s company. I had managed to secure a few “goody bags” from Porsche Centre Hatfield for the event and the first two of these were given out at the end of dinner. Muhi picked up the first of these as he was judged to have the cleanest car on arrival. The original plan was to award the other to the person with the dirtiest car but it seemed only right to give it to Brian as a consolation prize for suffering his puncture.

After a substantial breakfast on Saturday morning we were ready to drive the best Exmoor roads we could find. We split into two groups withR21 Committee Member Martin Foster leading the first group and me the remainder. Richard and Doris elected to explore Minehead and do some shopping so they did not join us. We headed for Porlock to drive the famous 1 in 4 hill and to then loop back into Porlock by using the toll road which was pretty deserted and surprisingly well surfaced for a minor road and gave some great coastal views as we descended back to Porlock. This gave us the opportunity to tackle the 1 in 4 hill again as we headed for Lynton and Lynmouth and the Valley of the Rocks. And by chance who should we come up behind as we did so - but Carol and Brian in their Boxster with a repaired tyre.

We made a quick stop for photos in the Valley of the Rocks before heading for our Coffee Stop at Hunters Inn. Now I must admit that I had not previously driven this section of the route but knew that other regions and registers had so assumed it would be OK. Well we got there but not without incident. The roads were extremely narrow, not particularly well surfaced and in some cases with grass in the middle which I believe the rally driving fraternity describe as “three ply”. Leading the group all I could I think of was let us get through this safely and not meet anything coming the other way. No sooner thought than a VW 4X4 appeared facing us with a Peugeot behind it!  The VW driver scaled an extremely steep grass track to try and give us room to get through and the Peugeot followed him as far as possible and we just manged to scrape through with inches to spare, but it was a stressful moment. Frustratingly 50 yards further on there was a junction which, if the Peugeot had backed up, would have given us all plenty of room to get through!

So, safely past that obstacle we were asked to stop by an official wearing a high vis jacket. Then we were literally engulfed in a sea of at least 300 runners competing in a local event, some of whom appeared less than pleased at having to negotiate a line of stationary Porsches. After all this excitement we arrived at Hunters Inn for a well-deserved coffee. The staff coped with us admirably given that they already had lots of runners and spectators to deal with.

Suitably refreshed we got underway and found that the roads away from Hunters Inn were not much better than those on the way in and unfortunately Steve lost the front splitter from his 996 Turbo at this point. Soon we were back on the main A39 and heading for the B3223 that would take us south to Simonsbath. This is when the roads started to open up and with very little traffic about we were able to enjoy the cars in the way that they were built for.

After a loop around the Simonsbath area we stopped at the Exmoor Inn for lunch. The other group of cars had got there first and were already enjoying some excellent food when we placed our order, which gave the pub a chance of coping with a large group that had arrived without any prior warning.

From lunch the plan was to head south to Dulverton and back up the A396 to Dunster with the option of visiting the castle there or heading straight back to the hotel for afternoon tea. But on route we came across the second incident of the weekend. In Dulverton we caught up with some of the first group of cars and saw that Robin and Jo were standing beside their 924 looking concerned. It transpired that in the narrow street Robin had pulled over to allow traffic through from the other direction and had not seen a low stone wall that he hit with his nearside wheel. This sent the steering wheel spinning out of his hands and, as we were to discover later, smashed the pinion in the steering rack leaving the wheels jammed on full lock. The local inhabitants were extremely helpful and with the aid of a pallet truck managed to get the 924 off the road. This left Robin and Jo with no transport but they managed to fit into Ken and Marilyn’s 997 GTS for the trip back to the hotel.

Dinner on Saturday evening gave everyone a chance to share the adventures of the day and for me to award the two remaining “goody bags”. The first was awarded to the winner of the Grand National sweepstake which went to Beverly who had picked the race winner Rule the World. There was only one possibility for the othe prize which went to Robin as a consolation prize for his less than perfect day.

On Sunday the most popular option was to leave the cars at the hotel and walk to the railway station to take a ride on the West Somerset Steam Railway. Some people opted to travel the full length of the line from Minehead to Bishops Lydiard and back whilst others, me included, only went as far as the harbour town of Watchet. Here we found a lovely pub for a light lunch before taking a walk around the area. Some people were leaving at this point to return home whilst about half of the group stayed for the Sunday night to make the weekend that bit longer and more relaxed.

The Northfield Hotel looked after us very well and I would have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone looking for comfortable accommodation the Minehead area.

If you didn’t join us this year maybe we can encourage you to do so next year. It’s early days but the favoured destination for 2017 is mid Wales where there are plenty of great roads to explore and even a steam railway as well! Lookout for details early in 2017.

Footnote: I am pleased to report that Robin and Jo were safely transported home with their car on the back of a recovery truck. Subsequently Robin replaced the steering rack and one of the suspension arms but fortunately no other damage had been sustained.

Photos from our WOTY

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