|At the risk of all the men saying rude words (like
jammy devil !) your editor has persuaded me to put pen to paper and recall the history of
Fords latest escapade the "Find a Lady Rally Driver" competition,
or "an opportunity for the weak, underprivileged members of society to prove
If it hadnt been for Joyce
Smith assuring me that the initial application form was purely based on personal history,
rather than listing the qualities of a rally driver in the correct order, or something
similar, then I might never have entered.
Fords were somewhat surprised by the response received -
nearly 2,000 applications. This was back in February this year (1978) and in due
course I was asked to attend a preliminary round held in Wouldham chalk pits, near
Maidstone on April 3rd, together with 154 other females. (Several other similar days were
held around the country, testing approximately 900 of the original applicants).
My particular days entry list included such names
as Juliet Slaughter, Rose-Anne Clinton (BTRDA ladies rally champion for the last two
years), Gislaine Smith (rallying here and abroad), Sue Northover (rallies including
Catalan rally), the daughter of Jill Robinson etc. I nearly turned tail and went
The first experience was for each girl to drive a figure
of 8 i.e. two straights and two opposite bends, against the clock and I decided that the
handbrake was the only answer, since the chalk surface had been improved by overnight
drizzle. Some of the girls drove as if on a shopping expedition, and one even froze with
her foot full on the throttle, going from one lock to the other and in and out of the
ditch. From that, selection was down to 22 girls. A third pylon was put in the line and
again timed, and then that we were down to 12 girls, each of whom was asked to do a
continuous 360 degrees around a pylon. (As I chased Uncle Roger round the pylon I thought,
thank God for auto testing!) We were then asked to do a third run round a slalom course
and, hey Presto,I was through to the final day with four others Rose-Anne
Clinton, Geunda Eadie (JRS skidpan instructor) Viv Ayres and Teresa Goddard (both
autocross females) and an unknown 18 year old, who had impressed everyone.
On July the 28th, Glenda and I travelled up
to Scarborough, surmising what lay in front of us (Fords are very secretive). Having made
some devious phone calls previously, we dropped into Thornton Dale Quarry and found 3
pretty white RS2000s parked neatly behind a large blue caravan, but we hadnt allowed
enough time to inspect Wykeham Forest where I knew some marshalls had been asked to attend
the following day.
On Thursday evening, us 31 females were shown a Rally
School film and given a strong lecture etc. about dedication by Stuart Turner. (So strong
in fact that one girl disappeared in the night !) So there were now only 30 ! We were also
taken down a dark alley (!) and given an eyesight test, reading signs by torchlight.
An early morning rise on Friday at 5.30am (always my
best time of the day), and on to a coach. During the run out to Thornton Dale, we had to
fill in a questionnaire as if replying to reporters questions "Isnt
rallying dangerous?" "What do you think you could offer a sponsor?" etc.
Neither my brain nor my pen were functioning too well at that time of day.
And so to the meat of the exercise four hours of
practical driving by John Taylor, Russell Brooks, and Will Sparrow - doing continuous
360ºs, pendulum figures of 8 and a pear shape (i.e. wide open bend, to straights, and a
hairpin), then one practice and two timed laps on a stage set out in the quarry. It was
tempting to use the handbrake on the hairpins, which for me would have been much quicker,
but the obvious part of the exercise was not only time, but to see what you had absorbed
of the earlier instructions, and chuck the car into bends on opposite lock. Well I tried !
"Hows your initiative, girls", says God.
Across the basin of the quarry we run (on foot that is) halfway up the side, collect an
envelope containing nuts and bolts and a long scribe about your mechanic requiring an
exact inch measurement and not having a tape. You know that the bolt equals 1½ ins, so
mark on front of envelope, the 1in. measurement. In amongst the blurb, it states that 24
threads = 1in. and by coincidence, our bolts had 24 threads so easy answer, or even
easier guess. "Please take envelope to marshall with Ford umbrella." With
binoculars, he would have been easy to find, but with the naked eye, he was a spot on top
of the steep quarry on exactly the opposite side to where we were.
All this was against the clock. "You lot are not
very fit", the Master comments to a gang of speechless, heaving females.
Next exercise. Off to Wykeham by coach, which proceeded
to have a puncture (another of Stuarts little initiative tests, we all thought), so
rest of journey was completed by ferrying marshalls. A small stage had been set out,
complete with 60 marshalls and an ambulance (example of Fords confidence ?). The
stage was only about 1 min 20 secs worth and, for my first experience of driving on
the loose or in a forest, I thoroughly enjoyed it and wanted another go ! But no, out of
the car, off with the helmet. "Youre still against the clock", says the
marshall. "Just follow the arrows." Through bracken, over tree stumps, I plod on
out on to the track and down to a waiting car. "Just change the wheel, dear",
says a cheerful marshall. "Youre still against the clock." I puffed a sigh
of relief when the last nut was tight. "Come on, dear, you havent finished yet.
Heres a compass and there are your instructions, and remember, youre still
against the clock." Sadistic lot "Due south for 110 yards", it read
that was straight up a mountain, and so it went on, 14 minutes of sheer sweat for
me, 10 minutes for others and 40 minutes for those who got lost ! It was about 7:30 pm
before everyone had finished and the results announced which by now you will have
As yet, the fifteen of us dont know exactly (and
neither do Fords) what is in store for us in 1979, except a Championship of 6 rallies and
6 races, which will mean a lot of training, together with a "knees-up" fitness
course for me !
Its going to be a hard year if Im going to
achieve any results, but what a hell of an opportunity !
Vacant, for unknown length of time, one left hand seat
in comfortable Escort, heater and cigarette lighter available, never a dull event
fires a speciality ! On second thoughts, maybe Des would swap seats !