It all started after the Germanbutt, John Young informed me about the Britbutt and I couldn’t resist. As a lesson learned, I knew that I needed to do something about my fuel capacity. My Sportboxer has a 17L tank, but also a consumption of 7.5L/100km (37.6 mpg), so usually I have to look for petrol after 110-120 miles. It was obvious that this was not an option for a 36h rally. So I planned to install a full cell, but I hesitated for months as I had no idea how to connect if to the bike’s fuel system. At last I had the right idea and I ordered the tank from tourtank.com in March. Heinz, a colleague of mine agreed to help me to build the support for the tank. It all ended as it had to: the tank got stuck in the Belgian customs and I was on on tenterhooks…
It arrived just in time and with Heinz’s help we managed to fix it to the bike on Thursday night at 1 a.m., a couple of hours before leaving. I had no experience with the system, but in the end it went quite well.
On Thursday I rode to Zeebrugge and took the ferry to Hull. On Friday morning, I decided to take the slow route to Castleford where I arrived at noon. It was nice to meet the guys I knew from the Germanbutt and to get acquainted with the British riders.
The rally books were handed over in the evening and I started to introduce the coordinates into Mapsource (a suggestion: provide the coordinates in electronic form; the riders would appreciate another hour of sleep).
At 11 p.m I was getting nervous as I still had no idea where to go. It was obvious that the big points were located in Scotland. However, if the weather forecast was right, it would be raining cats in dogs in the Highlands and the west coast. Last year I had been in Scotland on vacation and I remembered the single track roads. The combination with pouring rain or even darkness was not very appealing so I decided to have some fun and to take the southern route. A wise choice, as it turned out later. So the plan was to go anti-clockwise and to avoid the rain in western England and Wales on Sunday and to cross London early on Sunday morning. I did not expect to be in the top ten with this strategy, but hey, I had come to Britain to have some fun and I prefer nice English countryside roads in the sun over Scottish roads when it’s bucketing down. At midnight, I went down to the bike and I tried to adjust the headlights.
On Friday morning I felt a bit strange, I wasn’t nervous at all and I somehow was not very focused. Was it because it had no coffee or tea? At 6 a.m. we left, i.e. I left about 6:07 (another suggestion: why does everybody have to leave at the same time?). I headed south and soon had passed John and Gerhard on the way to the first point in Hucknall.
When I finished my documentation, Gerhard showed up. He shouted at me, but I couldn’t hear him, wearing ear plugs and already zooming away. Half an hour later I had a flash of inspiration: did I grab my rally flag?? I stopped on the motorway and had a look in my bag. Noooooo! I left it hanging on the wall!! The next exit was 10 miles away; I turned around and roared back, approaching the speed of light. I already feared I’d to have to stop the rally, should I not recover the flag. What I didn’t know was that there was still a possibility to finish without the rally flag. I returned to Hucknall and my flag was still lying on the ground. This wasn’t a good start! It could only get better. I headed (again) towards point 26. Shortly before this, I discovered my first name point in the little village of Ratley. Close by was the next bonus point location 26 (sun clock) in Hornon.
The next name point (Oxhill) only needed a detour of 1 mile. The next bonus point 30 was located in Stratford-upon-Avon. Surrounded by Japanese tourists, I had to take a picture of an old cottage. The sun was shining, I enjoyed riding through Worchestershire and thought of the poor guys who probably had their first encounter with the rain. Near Farden, I took a right turn to the observatory. On the way up, I saw Soji for the first time. The bike made the horses of some horsewomen shy and I understood the angry looks that motorbikers were not very welcome. Nice secondary roads took me to Bromyard that gave me my third name letter. I still wasn’t feeling very focused and I was making small mistakes that showed me that I still was out of sorts. On the way to the next bonus points, I saw a road sign to Eastnor that would give me the next letter “E”. I passed the sign earlier than expected so I had to turn around and I stopped next to the sign to take the picture. I left again and enjoyed the bends back to the main road when suddenly a Landrover with a horse trailer approached me on my side of the road! No, wait. I was approaching the car driving on the right side! The car slammed on the brakes and I escaped through the small space between the skidding trailer and the stone wall to the right. Damn! That was close! I was seriously considering stopping the rally if I couldn’t stop doing stupid things. However, this incident was the wake-up call; from this moment on I was clear in my head. I went the last mile to bonus point 28 near Little Malvern, when Soji approached me again in the opposite direction. At the parking lot, it took me longer than usual to find the memorial stone that gave another 350 points. I followed the A40 to Monmouth, crossing the border to Wales. Next to the bridge over the river Monnow (bonus point 16), I met again Soji who was just studying his GPS. One picture and one sandwich later I headed back to England, crossing the huge bridge over the river Severn and going to the southwest on the M5. On the motorway, I opened the fuel cell lever to fill up the main tank. 20 minutes later I arrived in Cheddar and was surprised by the crowds of tourists.
I stopped in front of the cave that would give me another 500 points. Hmmm, if I would enter the cave and take a picture inside the cave, I would get another 500 points…When I was still hesitating, the guy from the entrance approached and made it very politely very clear that I could not stay nor park in front of the cave. I explained my whole story and he wanted to send me to the next parking that was 300 yards away. I was still wearing my thermal lining and my fleece and I started to boil in the warm midday sun. I wouldn’t get 500 points so easily so I decided to enter the cave. I parked the bike on the parking of the near-by restaurant that was reserved only for guests. Well, I was at least a potential customer, wasn’t I? At the entrance I told that it was decided that I had only to pay £9 instead the usual £17. Nice move. I entered the cave only to the first stalactites that were worthwhile to take a picture of. I left the cave and decided to strip on the parking behind the bike; it was simply getting too warm now. As I took off my nice functional thermal underwear, I heard some splashing on the ground. Ouch! I had forgotten to close the fuel cell again; it had flooded the main tank and the petrol was now spilt on the ground. Apart from this, the fuel cell gave no problems during the whole trip. When I passed the cave again, I saw Soji queuing at the entrance. The next bonus point was far away, some 175 miles to the southwest in Cornwall. But most of the route was on dual carriageways, so I expected to be quickly at Lizard, the most southern point of Britain. However, it sounded a bit boring…going 175 milesback and forth. Exactly as predicted by the BBC weather forecast, I experienced some drizzle when I crossed Cornwall. Another pit stop later (petrol, soft drink, sandwich), I took the secondary road to Lizard, collecting the “R” in Redruth on the way. On the last there was even a single track road with only a few passing places that slowed down the little traffic. Finally, I arrived at the headland. It was cloudy but dry and I would have preferred to stay a little longer to enjoy the view. I had to ask an older lady to take a picture of me, the bike and the gift shop that seemed to have fallen out of time.
The rally book recommended “if the shop is open…be nice, buy something”. I had asked the rally master if this was obligatory and he denied. However, this place was so remote and the shop looked so snug that I decided to have a look inside. There were many souvenirs apparently made from local artists. I selected a nice, very small painting painted on a piece of wood and I started a chat with the owner. I told her my story and showed her the rally book with the picture of the shop. She was delighted to see it and exclaimed “Oh! That’s me! And there is my dog as well on the picture! But the picture must be four years old, the paint on the outside still looks new”. I told her that possibly there would be more people coming for the same reason. She was so overjoyed that she said “As you’re the first one, I’ve got to give you a gift” and she gave me a little silver “Lucky Cornish Piskey” pin that was “hand made with the help of fairies in Cornwall”.
In the retrospect, the 5 minutes in the shop could have been a decisive moment in the whole rally, a kind of “if I’d have left five minutes earlier, I could have….”. But I do not want to accept that that is this case, as these are the nice moments that put a smile on your face. Funny anecdote, though. I mounted my bike and rushed back to Exeter where I took the south road into Devon. In the past three years, I had visited the region every year on my bike and I like the rolling hills of Devon a lot. Riding conditions were perfect – dry, not too cool, nice landscape, the bike is humming and the Flow is extending in your body. The next bonus points were almost a piece of cake, first a mini castle near Axminster, than an extremely small (unfortunately closed down) pub in the vicinity of Dorchester.
After this small detour (OK, 325 points are 325 points!) I returned to the main road and continued further east. I started to think about the ferry to the Isle of Wight – maybe I could catch the one at 9:15 p.m., hmmmmm……
Wait! “Tarrant Hinton” – this gives me another letter for the name game. Click! and full throttle….
On the way to the next bonus point location, I introduced the ferry port in Lymington and the GPS and it calculated an arrival time of 20:55, ten minutes before the departure of the ferry. This could work! I collected more bonus points by taking a picture of an historic road sign near New Milton. Suddenly the reserve lamp flashed up! I had a decision to make – should I refuel or try to get the ferry? I decided to go for the boat as i) it would be difficult to find a station and finish the refuelling in 5 minutes ii) the next ferry would leave 85 min later. The problem was that I would have to look for a petrol station on the Isle of Wight. According to the GPS, several stations should be located near the arrival harbour. I arrived on time in Lymington where the boat was already for boarding. I entered the ticket office to purchase a ticket.
“One ticket to Yarmouth and a return ticket Fishbourne to Plymouth”. “Portsmouth.” “Er, what?” “It’s Portsmouth, Sir.” “Er, Portsmouth then.”
Well, after 800 miles on the bike you have to allow for some small geographical inconsistencies. I asked the clerk if there would be the possibility to get petrol on the island. “Yes, no problem, Sir”. I got on the boat and used the 35 min during the crossing to plan the next hours. Two bonus locations were situated on the island and I calculated the time to get to the other ferry in Fishbourne where the next boat would cast off.
The result seemed reassuring – the travel time was estimated as 60 min so it should be easy to quickly bag the two bonus point locations and to catch the ferry to Portsmouth at midnight.
I asked my girlfriend to book a hotel in Plymouth, er, Portsmouth so I didn’t have to look for an accommodation to spend my obligatory rest break. Everything looked fine.
I arrived in Yarmouth and directed my bike to the nearest petrol station. However – there was no station! Just a dark, deserted dead end street. I spotted an old lady and asked her for the nearest station. She seemed to be very amused gave me a boozy reply. “Petrol? At night? This is an island!” Well, I thought, so is Britain. It occured to me that I was beginning to have a problem. Where to get petrol now? Ringing doorbells? I drove back to the harbour and asked a bus driver. My nose was right, he knew the only petrol station on the island that was open 24/24. With the help of my GPS I located it immediately. The problem was: it was situated in Newport, the main town in the centre of the island. Well, I had no other choice. I should have enough petrol left for another 10 miles, but played it safe and trundled along until I reached the Sainsbury’s station. What a relief! I refilled bike and driver with fuel, oil, water and sandwiches. I even permitted myself a short break by not choking on the food. Things seemed to run smoothly again, it was 22:37 and still plenty of time left. Now towards the first bonus point in the south. The roads were much more winding than I thought. Up, down, left, right, down, left, up, right…..what were probably lovely country roads during the day, were becoming a big challenge at night. And my headlights were still misadjusted! This was a mess, I thought I had adjusted them last night, but instead having a too low beam, they were illuminating the tree tops. I had to stop and to fumble around in my fairing to lower the beam. And again after five minutes. So far for a good preparation of the bike before the ride!
And on went the ride on the twisting roads. Why did this take so long? And where was this bloody lighthouse??? Finally I got there. Well, obiously I had reached the right coordinates, but it was completely dark. I had needed 25 minutes for the 10 miles from Newport! 25 minutes! This was a lousy average of 24 mph (39 km/h)!
I had to stop at a gate, but I could see some illuminated windows in the lighthouse in the distance, about 50 yards away. There was a big sign on the gate: “no trespassing!” Well, and now? I needed to get closer to get some detail of the lighthouse on my picture! Would they have some loose bloodhounds on the yard? Would they shoot at me with a rifle? I needed a solution, and I needed it quick. I realised time was flying now. I took to pictures with and without flash…no way, the lighthouse was too far away. Hmmmmm, there was a meadow next to the road. And even a door in the fence so I didn’t have to climb over the wooden fence. Very much appreciated. I scuffled in the meadow towards the lighthouse through the high grass. High grass meant that very likely no cows with a furious bull were out there. After all, the night was pitch black. I got very close to the lighthouse, but what next? Taking pictues with flash? Imagine you’d be a lighthouse keeper in the middle of nowhere and somebody is flashing outside in the middle of the night. Well, I had no other choice. Flash, flash, flash, checking the pictures and buzz off before they release the dogs…
Back at the bike I realised that I had lost 10 minutes, it was 23:13, I was at the most southern point of the island and I still had to visit one point before catching the ferry before midnight! I started to get a bad feeling….
I went back on the road, trying to quicken the pace. But this was very difficult and slowly becoming a nightmare! I had introduced the next bonus point and the GPS showed me an arrival time of 23:38. Damn! This was becoming a race against time now, everything what you want to avoid and what an ironbutt rally should NOT be. Quick, quick, quick! My average increased to 37 mph (60 km/h) which was good enough to keep the estimated arrival time. By the way, google maps estimates some 36 min instead 25 min for the 15 miles between the two points. Then suddenly I saw a sign:”road ahead closed”. WHAT?? No way! There was no deviation indicated! Well, usually you can always get past some road works. But this….the centre of the city was a mess. The tarmac was completely removed and the road was completely closed off with road barriers. The only way was to use the pavement….this seemed to work, but the space was getting smaller and smaller and then there was a barrier lying on the pavement! Well, one thing was clear: there was no turning back. OK, this was funny stuff….plastic road barriers. The only solution was to get over it. Faintheartedly I tried to roll over it…and got stuck! I could finally “uncage” the BMW, but the pavement was definetely getting too small. However, there were barriers fallen to the side and I could get on the gravel that used to be the road. However, barriers were all over the place and the only chance to get out of this labyrinth was to ride over the barriers. OK, take a deep breath and ….go! Much to my surprise, this worked and one minute of off/on-road barrier hopping later, I was released! What a relief!
In the end I managed to arrive even one minute earlier at 23:37. Now quickly find the monument and get out of here! Again, it was pitch black, very windy and there was no monument to see. I have to ask someone. But whom? There was a restaurant nearby, apparently the only help to localise the point.
I grabbed my camera and my rally flag and jogged to the entrance door of the restaurant. Locked! What the….? I ran around the building. There must be someone in the kitchen, some lights were still on. The back door was closed, too! What now? Banging at the door? Then I saw something dark and tall on the horizon. That is it! Now I was running towards that dark thing in the dark night. When I got there, I had a particular problem: it was so windy that the rally flag would just be blown away. I did the same trick as at the lighthouse and used my wallet that was filled with heavy coins as a weight and kept it from flying away.
OK, done. I sprinted back to my bike and tried to introduce the ferry harbour. Why didn’t I save this point during the ferry crossing? I was nervous and managed finally to start the calculation. Estimated arrival time: 00:00h……But the ferry leaves at 23:59!!! Aaaaaargh! I zoomed out and I realised that the Garmin wanted to send me via the interior of the island. What the…..?? I had no time to check for alternatives. Full throttle! I had 11.7 miles and 14 minutes left. Sounds easy, but google maps calculates a travel time of 26 minutes for this route. Again: 14min vs. 26 min.
What happened now is normally announced which a large banner with big red letters: “Don’t try this at home!” I used all my experience to reduce this estimated arrival time that was on my display like the sword of Damocles. I declared the Isle of Wight as “Isle of Man” and switched the driving mode to something what most bikers would describe as “very engaged”. I slowed down a bit in the blind bends and asked for everything in the more straighter parts. This included even some small jumps. I managed to bring the average up to 44 mph (71 km/h), but this “arrival time 00:00” would not change! I even had to use the italian approach for red lights: anybody approaching? No? Go! No, really not something to be proud of. I thought several times: “This is not good” but I wanted to catch this “last” ferry. I hoped that the ferry employees wouldn’t be on time and that the boat had some delay. I was finally approaching the Fishbourne area and suddenly it said “arrival time 23:59”. Yes! I could make it!
I did my best to gain more time. I was getting close to the harbour, now the last bend, I could see the parking with the empty lanes, one last accelaration, braaaakiiiing and……
….there was the boat. 50 m off the quay, leaving the harbour. I was staring at its stern lights. It was 23:59:32.
I couldn’t believe it! The bastards had left earlier! I still was staring at the vanishing ferry.
I felt like in a movie. What now? Was this all for nothing? OK, think! What is the plan B? I went into the ticket office and checked the next ferry departures asking the clerk: 02:15 and 04:00. Hmm. I could take my obligatory 3 hour rest break here and lose only one hour instead more than two hours. But then I needed tickets to document the start and end time of the rest break. I explained my situation to the clerk at the desk. He looked at me with disbelief. Ok, the only open petrol station was in Newport, this was not an option. Where is the nearest ATM? Ok, too far away. Then I spotted a credit card reader.
“Do you accept credit cards?” “Yes.” “What is your cheapest item?” “Er, a voucher of £2.” “Ok, I’d like a voucher of £2. I pay with credit card and I need a receipt with a time stamp on it. And yes, I’d have to repeat this again in three hours.”
The clerk looked at me as if I’d asked him to swallow a living lizard. He obvously was thinking that I was utterly mad. But he did what I asked from him. I checked with him that I could sleep somewhere and called the hotel in, er, Portsmouth to cancel the room. I spent the next hour planning where to go in the morning. I expected some rain so the best would be to take the motorway to London and than to Margate in Kent. OK, this was settled. But what had happened on the Isle of Wight?
I cannot resist to have a “scientific” look on this. The planned route was shown above, but where had I been in the end? Let’s have a look…
The planned route was 40 mls (65 km, 75 min) long, but in the end I had to drive 47 mls (75 km, 85 min). The route from point 4 to the harbour lead through the interior. As I had realised, this was the longer way, about 2mls. In the end, my travel time was exactly the same as calculated afterwards by Mapsource (85 min). OK, the extra distances costed me 10 min more, but did this really make the difference? Of course, the problem to get the petrol was decisive, but this took about 25 min more and I had 135 min between the two ferries. If one adds the time at the lighthouse (10 min) and the memorial (6 min), this sums up to 126 min. This means I should have arrived 9 min before the departure.So let’s have a closer look into the data.
It is obvious that the long break at the petrol station was the root cause. I stayed almost 25 min there as I thought that I had plenty of time. This was caused by the overoptimistic calculation of my GPS device that apparently used the average speed recorded before the ferry to estimate the travel time on the island.
Conclusion: Be very critical about the arrival times that your Garmin provides you!
I finished my planning in the ticket office and looked for a quiet place to sleep. It was very windy outside, so I preferred something inside the building. I discovered a disabled toilet that was large enough to put my sleeping bag on the floor, my bike gear served as a mattress. But where was the light switch? There was a cord hanging from the ceiling. Strange thing. I pulled the cord. And the alarm went off. Ok, now I knew the purpose of the cord. Aargh! How to switch off this pandemonium? Finally I found the switch to stop the noise. But the light had to stay switched on. After a while I could find some sleep and one hour later the alarm of my cell phone woke me up. Half a minute later somebody slammed on my door, obiously another wake up call. I dressed, prepared my bike and asked for another voucher. I received the same look as before but I had documented sufficiently my rest bonus. The boat was already waiting and this time I was on it. At 4 a.m. the boat left and half an hour later I arrived in Ply…Portsmouth.
As expected, drizzling rain was waiting for me. Well, I just need to get to the motorway and then continue straight to London. The drizzling rain didn’t bother me too much as I knew that the GoreTex of my gear was still in good shape and I was not keen to stop and to put on my raingear. Lazy bone. The rain was getting stronger and after half an hour I noticed my weak link: I could feel water entering my boots. Aargh! I knew that I would have damp feet for the rest of the day (which turned out to be true). But the rest was fine so I continued. Much to my surprise, I had already passed London (the M25 looks very different on a rainy Sunday morning without traffic) and I was already in Maidstone.
The rain had stopped and suddenly I was in Kent and the sun was shining! What a lovely morning. I collected 1000 points by taking a picture of the memorial and decided to look for the next name letter. However, there were almost no towns in Kent with the right letter. I went on to find to little villages, but they were too small or dispersed to have a town sign. Great! Another 30 min lost. This was my turning point in the southeast and I headed to the northeast. On the way to London, a made a little detour and visited Sheerness to take a picture of a large clock (another 600 pts.). The rain front had passed through and a nice, clear morning made my spirits rise. Somewhat later that expected I entered the greater London Area. I have passed London a couple of times, but I had never entered the City before. Sunday morning at 9 should be a good time to avoid the big hassle. Although there was not too much traffic, I soon got annoyed. Stopping at every red light, cameras everywhere (the PING PING! PING!!! in my headset haunted me the whole morning) and apparent absence of traffic planning made me claustrophobic. I had to buy some petrol and when I came back, I couldn’t lift one glove from the cylinder. I had placed them on the ‘Titten’ (Germ. (motorbiking): Boxer cylinders) to keep them warm, but one had slided down on the manifold and melted the little plastic tringle at the tip of the finger. My expensive, so far watertight Rukka gloves formed a very stable connection with the manifold now. %&!§$%/ß*§!!!!!!
I reached the centre and although there was basically no traffic I had to stop at any red light that was between me and my destination. The concept of a progressive signal system (“Grüne Welle”) seems to be unknown. The trip got a bit touristic, but I had no time to stop and take pictures. Ah, Big Ben (click), Westminster (click), the Thames (click). Finally I arrived at a large square where I had to take a picture of a large column.
This seemed to be a very touristic place. Road barriers everywere. I had no intention to ride over them again. There was no place to park so I just stopped, catched my rally flag, camera, and log book. I finished quickly, but I was already spotted by a Bobby who told me to clear away. Now that I had turned around I realised where I was. This was Buckingham Palace! Now it was clear why there was so much security around: Obama visited the Queen the next day. I headed for the next location in London. Empty streets and red lights. How does this look during rush hours? I prefer not to know. 20 minutes later I arrived at the Ace Cafe. The parking was pretty full and so was the cafe. People were having large breakfasts and I was hungry enough to order a big English breakfast as well. But this would take too much time and I needed to plan the rest of the day.
So the breakfast consisted of a cup of tea and a muffin. I unfolded my large map, my rally book and my notes. I needed to plan the letters for the name points, otherwise it would be impossible to get all these points if I hoped to pass the right signs by coincidence. So I had to find the right villages next to the route in the right order. I introduced the places in my GPS and wrote a list with the remaining name and bonus locations. I had to make quite some detours during the afternoon, but there should be enough time and it seemed crucial to me to get all the extra points for the name game. I asked the people at the table to take a picture of me (600 pts.), visited the loo (chequered flag design everywhere) and head off for my first remaining name point.
Things went smooth now: the sequence to stop, taking out the flag, placing it, taking the picture, putting the flag back, updating the log book was getting a routine (as it should be). The first bonus point was a….yes, what was it? A fountain? At least it looked very British. The next three stops were three name point locations. It went quite well now, apparently the ‘Flow’ was with me. The next bonus point was No 1, but I missed the right exit on the A1 and had to take the next one. To my surprise, I met Soji again. He was so kind to show me the stone that I had to take a picture of and I calculated for him the remaining distance to the rally destination back in Castleford (116 miles). There was still plenty of time so I could still pick some extra points.
The eagle on a column near Norman Cross was nearby, another 299 points in the pocket. The next two name points required a shorter detour than expected, as the little village of Ryhall ended my quest unexpectedly. This also meant I had a much shorter way to the next bonus point. Point No 33 was in Metheringham. I had to put some petrol for the last time and was told (again) by the cashier that I had a very laaaarge tank.
The location was just one mile away and I stopped at the little square, catched the camera, the flag and the rally book. Point #33, aha, lengthy object. Ok, let’s take a picture of the column on the square. OK, where to go now? I was very keen to get also point 20, the lighthouse at the estuary of the river Humber (1000 pts!). I introduced the route to this point and the destination in Castleford. Estimated arrival time: 17:15. Ouch! I had to be back before 18:00, but I would be losing points after 17:00. Maybe I could just ‘pull the cable’ a bit more and make it in time…..well, I had my lesson learned after the Isle of Wight. So I chose to go back a bit to the south west and get another small bonus point location near Belvoir. I would arrive too early back in Castleford, but there were no more bonus points to choose from. Well, so it had to visit the castle in Belvoir. It took me a couple of minutes to find the the right angle to take a picture of the castle. I had basically finished my quest for points and had 90 minutes left for the remaiing 75 miles to the finish. I could afford to reduce the speed and to take it easy. I came across that I would finish with 1460 miles – only 40 miles away from a Bun Burner. Should I invest 30 more minutes to get this certificate? I was considering it, but I could feel that the ‘flow’ was collapsing as I knew I would arrive on time. My body stopped to release endorphines and adrenaline and it was interesting to observe that suddenly I was feeling a bit tired and my bum started to ache for the first time. But I had only a couple of miles left and I decided to play it safe. So I reached the finish half an hour too early at 16:30.
There were already some people gathered on the parking and I also used the next minutes hour for some chill out , bike watching and chatting. I had enough time to get back to my room, prepare diligently my logbooks, photos and receipts and there was even enough time to take a shower, aaaaaaahh!
I was well prepared and only had to avoid any mistake in the paper session.
I had to present my camera card, the tank and bonus point logbook and my receipts at different stations. Everything went well, all my proofs were accepted…until the penultimate bonus point. I took a picture of the cross, but the picture in the rally book showed a statue! I didn’t notice it when I looked at it! But…I was at the right place so I questioned the picture in the rally book. After some discussion and some searching in Google Streetview, Rallymaster Pete had the right explanation. Yes, I had been in the right place; yes, I took a picture from the right point…but the object was wrong! Instead turning around and spotting the statute behind the bush, I instinctively went for the obvious option and took a picture of the cross! Grmmmpfffff…..stupid, very stupid. I had received 30.195 points in the end, this meant I had fulfilled the minimum requirement for finishing the rally (27.500 pts), but I knew that in the past the top ten were way above 30.000 pts. But I had made it! In the end I could be content; I made a couple of stupid mistakes, but I had enjoyed the trip very much. I went back to the parking and talked to the other riders to hear their interesting stories. The broken sprocket bolts of John, Gerhard’s problems with the name bonus, Frank’s lost fight with the Garmin, tales of deluges in Scotland…everybody has many anecdotes to tell after such a rally. Finally we convened for dinner, and I made the acquaintenance of many riders. During dinner, I was sitting next to the three times winner Rob Roalfe and I was very impressed to hear about his detail of preparations. I had to think of my headlights, err. After dinner, we were called to the meeting room. Pete the Rallymaster presented the results.
He announced that only 14 of the 42 starters did finish, i.e. did return in time and had more than 27500 points. Only 14! This meant I was one of the lucky few. After all, the route to the south wasn’t that bad. Number 14 was Gerhard who just managed to hit the minimum points despite his missed name points. Finisher after finisher was called to receive the certificate and a very respectful applause. I was obvious – the limit to finish was very high this time and the points increased only very slowly – the fourth place had about 28600, I should have about 1500 more…and then I was called to come to the “podium” together with Rob Roalfe and the Wellers. Wow! I didn’t expect this! On the podium! And the third place with 28757 points goes to…the Wellers! What a couple! They finished 4th in the GermanButt, an outstanding team. And then Pete took an almost sadistical pleasure in delaying the announcement of the winner.
“This year, we know we have a ‘Robert’ as winner”…yes, come on, come on…”so the second place goes to…Robert!…” OK! “…and the first place goes to …Robert!” veryfunnyveryfunnydonttorturememore….”And the the winner is for the fourth time…Rob Roalfe!”
That was it. I finished with 30195 points and Rob with 30943 points. I was speechless. After all my mistakes I managed to get the second place. I received the congratulations of many people. I couldn’t resist…my brain was still in the calculation mode…. I threw away the 345 points by taking the wrong picture and I lost about 2.5 hours due to stupidity…should have brought me another 1000 points at least….
At a certain point you have to stop this way of thinking as it is not about what could have happened, but what has happened. Every rider makes mistakes and the one that makes least mistakes will win. And this was unmistakably Rob. When I heard his story, I was impressed by his very efficient route. My problem was that I didn’t expect to be in the top ten. I thought I had no chance but in the end all top finishers had chosen the southern route. As I didn’t plan to be competing for the podium, I chose to go to Cornwall, knowing that I would cost a lot of time. But I wanted to have some fun and also do a bit of “tourism”.
At least this time it was not that close to miss the first place like for the GermanButt when I missed it only by 0.04 %….I drew several conclusions immediately: you have to have a 100% performance to beat Rob Roalfe – but it IS possible. And to myself: come back better prepared next time, stupid git!
The rest of the evening was spent with exchanging rally stories and remarkable anecdotes. As the British are very generous at the bar, I even had a little hangover the next morning – but it was a real pleasure to meet the folks of the IBA UK. When I returned to my room, I couldn’t resist takinga picture of my beautiful certificate:
The next morning I woke up refreshed and heard already the first bikes leaving the hotel parking. This time I had a full English breakfast and took I easy, I was not in a hurry to get the ferry in Dover. At 10:30 I left Castleford and went very relaxed southwards. The weather was OK, but still very windy. I arrived a bit earlier in Kent and I thought I should try to catch an earlier ferry. So I quickened my pace a bit until suddenly the BMW started to lurch. What was that? Let’s move to the left, just in case…the wind? Uh-oh…there is something wrong! I moved onto the hard shoulder…oh no! It is….? Yes! I had a flat tire! Well, for some this is not a big deal, but – after driving 250.000 miles with tubeless tyres, this was my first flat tyre I ever had! I slowly rolled to the next exit for one mile. Luckily there was a service station and I tried to pump up the tyre. But the system did not work work as it obviously needs some backpressure and my tyre couldn’t provide any. One hour ago I was thinking: “It’s quite a while now that I had to call the people from the breakdown cover”. And now I had to call them. They promised to send somebody, at least I was at the station in the sunshine and not on the hard shoulder in the rain. Positive thinking. After one hour, I got a bit nervous and I talked to a guy of the AA if they came because of me. He hadn’t. But at least I could locate a tyre shop in Folkestone, only a couple of miles away. I was just considering to buy a tyre repair spray, as the transporter of S.O.S. (Motorcycle Recovery) showed up. After two hours. The technician quickly put a plug in the hole where there must have been a huge nail and only charged me £12. It was already 5:30 and I wanted to get to the tyre shop before it would close. In Folkestone I found a Yamaha shop and asked for a tyre. No, they didn’t have my brand. Yes, they had another tyre in the right size. No, they did not have the time to change the tyre today (!). Great customer service. Pah! I finally visited the tyre shop just to find out that there was no shop in Folkestone that had motorbike tyres. Only the Yamaha guys. OK, then I had to give it a try. I had to go home with the plug in the tyre at a maximum speed of 50 mph. This would be a long evening.
I arrived in Dover, got on the ferry, relaxed and charged my mobile phone, just in case…When the boat arrived in Calais, I wanted to start the BMW – nothing happened! Zero. Nichts. Nada. Niente. The starter wouldn’t turn! A friendly worker offered me to push the bike – and it worked! My guess is that there is some problem with the starter button. This meant I could’t stop the motor until I was home. I didn’t mind, I had enough fuel. However, I bought some tyre spray, just in case….
This was a rediscovery of slowness, I started with 50 mph and ended with 60 mph, but in the end I arrived late but safely at home.
A couple of weeks later I received a parcel from Pete. It contained a beautiful trophy that according to Pete the “Brits want to have back next year ;-)”. I don’t mind, if I get another one instead <grin>.
Looking forward to the next Brit Butt Rally 2012!
Acknowledgement: many thanks to Heinz for the excellent technical support and to Alan for the proofreading.