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The Faberge Fiesta Championship Stories

Sometimes, Dreams Come True

Flip Kerr

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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 Ford’s latest escapade – the "Find a Lady Rally Driver" competition, or "an opportunity for the weak, underprivileged members of society to prove themselves".

If it hadn’t 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 day’s 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 home.

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 hadn’t 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 – "Isn’t 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 360s, 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 !

"How’s 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 1 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 Stuart’s 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 Ford’s confidence ?). The stage was only about 1 min 20 sec’s 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. "You’re 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. "You’re still against the clock." I puffed a sigh of relief when the last nut was tight. "Come on, dear, you haven’t finished yet. Here’s a compass and there are your instructions, and remember, you’re 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 all read.

As yet, the fifteen of us don’t 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 !

It’s going to be a hard year if I’m 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 !

Flip Kerr


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