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RALLYE INFERNALE (or Pennine strikes again)


Friday 9th June, Simmonites workshop and all is normal until a phone call is received then all hell breaks loose! The reason being the Rallye Infernale is definitely on the next weekend and David wants to enter, but one small problem, the motor isn't fit to go to Bradford let alone the gruelling Infernale near Paris in a -weeks time. The recruitment went very well with David saying "Team

Simmonite" needs you, hence the team assembled David Simmonite-driver,  Jonathan Oldfield-navigator, Raymond Sagar-service mechanic and last but not least Melanie Simmonite as chief cook and bottle washer. In 5 days the Series 3 Land Rover TNA480K had to be almost rebuilt, licences, carnets, insurances and entries had to be obtained.(Thanks must go to Jake Wright for sorting all the paper work out)


In 5 days(and nights) we fitted a new clutch, gearbox,front axle,steering damper, long spring hangers,sporty exhaust, half shafts,diffs, roll cage, tool boxes, jerry can holder, brakes,tyres, radiator, reworked cylinder head removed,  sills strengthened the chassis and bumper,checked every nut except the one behind the wheel and even found time to sign write it and add French style 'go faster' stripes.


The other entry was John Wright and Graham Cockell in Johns Range Rover which we transported in Davids superb new caravan cum horsebox cum transporter with the Land Rover on a trailer.


The journey to London was uneventful apart from Melanie being chatted up by a Spanish wagon driver, while driving through London a new Gymkhana game was discovered - drive a 36' outfit with one hand, eat a Cornish and drink tea with the other hand taking care not to swerve so as not to spill David’s tea and don't brake too hard in case the kettle falls off the stove down Jonathans neck - believe me it's not easy!


A bit of ace navigation by Jonathan had us on the road to Dover without one wrong turn to catch the l-50am boat to Calais. Swapping drivers we decided to drive all night to Magny-en-Vexin, our destination, approx, 60 miles NW of Paris where we arrived at 10am, Surprise, surprise, never been known before Siramys team were actually early with not another Rally motor in sight we wondered if we had the right town! A short parlez with a local workman assured us we had camped on the start line - hence we had to move sharp. When John and crew arrived we realised we had no maps which meant a 40mile round trip to Mantes, the nearest large town. Competitors started arriving that evening and proved to be very friendly, especially No 24 'Diablo' who must have known the Pennine 'cos he gave us a bottle of wine and directed us to the nearest bar, which had to wait until we had signed on and traced the route on to our maps. All paperwork completed, it was time to get down to some serious drinking with locals buying us plenty of ale - "Reight folk these Froggies!"


First job Saturday morning was scrutineering???. A quick walk round the Landy and we were in. Having a late start number at 121,John at 122 it enabled us to check the opposition which mainly consisted of buggies powered by V6 engines, Porsche, VW and Renault units. Also entered were Citroen DS21's, Renault cars and a Golf. In the 4wd class were David and John plus a French entered RR pickup fitted with fibre glass body panels, unfortunately a non starter due to a broken camshaft.


A Hotchkiss jeep fitted with a Ford 0HC engine finally a special called a LOHR resembling an overgrown Haflinger but powered by a rotary engine making it indecently quick.(NB.No ATOC)

Finally we set off and were handed a route card which gave details of the order and number of times the rally stages had to be completed that day and road timing to avoid  penalties for arriving late.

Section 1. Blamecourt was 2 miles long and set the pattern for the day, fast, long farm tracks with a surface like ice due to overnight rain making handling a  nightmare, but worse forest sections with branches at windscreen level making us thankful for an external roll cage.


This was a bad start for .David when he managed to get stuck on a corner after a number of trees failed to yield to a bit of bumper and took a few shunts to get going. John managed to crack his windscreen but finished 9th at 5-49, Dave 30th 7-08 fastest was 5.00 ahead.


The next section Artieul was the fastest with no forest anywhere and 3 miles of tracks John finished this about 20' behind David both going like the clappers, John 9th 7-57, Dave 24th 8-54, FT 7-04.


Section 3 Gernainville was another track/forest section where the trees were brushing the bodywork and adverse cambers throwing the vehicles sideways at them. John finished with a modified bonnet/wing and a slow time due to sliding off the track into a ditch John 30th 11-23. Dave 32nd 11-29 FT 8-12.


Section 4 Chaussy saw little problems Dave 19th 14-48, John 26th 16-02, FT 12-36


Section 5 St -Clair (Lucifer under a new name) A section designed for the spectators. This had to be done 6 times each day but due to the rain it was  cancelled. David and I walked the worst part and it could only be described as lethal 1 downhill hairpins on clay through a forest and it was evident that many accidents had occurred. Officials directed most of the competitors to return on convoy to Magny but David and I decided to go sightseeing and so returned late. To end the first day stages 3&4 had to be run again after a  compulsory 1/2 hour service break. Gernainville proved no problem except for John hitting trees again which jammed his door shut for the rest of the rally. John 21st 11-40.Dave26th 12-02 FT9-0 Chaussy meant an hours delay due to a buggy inverting itself (very painful) and in this time the section was turned into a river as it P___ it down! Water filled ruts 1' deep for 3 miles would test any water proofing yet the LR had none - it conked out. Thanks to the Jeep driver who shoved it till it started we made it to the end on 2 cylinder's, John later said, "What water" John 26th 17-0? Dave 34th 19-4l FT 12-0 Sunday morning dawned with brilliant; sunshine and throbbing heads. Much sadness when told that David was not 11th but 24th with John 18th and 5 mins ahead.


Section 1 Blamecourt. Dave having trouble with petrol starvation but John was able

to allow Graham to jump out when they were baulked and remove the branch which broke his screen on Saturday. John 26th 9-12 Dave 30th 10-04 FT 6-4l


Section 2 Arthieul. With the sun shining and the ground slowly drying buggies were able to go faster than ever but the Land Rover still proved a handful on corners with 1st often being used when in boggy fields. John I0th 8-l4 Dave 32nd 9-45 FT 6-59. Gernainville John l6th 11-02 Dave 25th 12-56. Chaussy John 9th 13-10 Dave24th 17-30. Chaussy proved to be an absolute classic for  avid, halfway round he caught a buggy but was unable to overtake. He stuck behind with the result that the whole screen was covered in about an inch of mud. Unable to see he stopped and I had to scrape it clear much to the amusement of the French spectators St Clair. It was made clear that we had one run to check the course and then to return and run competitively. Taking it steady with memories of the previous days walk Dave set off. The first half was very fast straights but then deteriorated into a trials type section very much like Burnley, breathe on the brakes and a trip through the trees was certain. Downhill tracks on adverse cambers with trees either side certainly gets the nerves on edge although the spectators applauded loudly when David went down at 1mph in 1st gear low box.The finish was like an autocross where a big engine would have been a help. John 27th 5-53 Dave 26th 5-27 FT 4-07.


Gernainville had to be completed again and Chaussy in the afternoon which was the end of the rally but a seperate event compulsory to all competitors had to be entered, finished and the vehicle driven back to Magny on neutral sections obtaining stamps to receive any prizes or trophies for the Infernal. Gernainville John 9th 10-01 Dave l8th 11-19, Chaussy John 3rd 10-45 Dave 20th 13-01.


It must be stated here and now that rumours about me going all round Chaussy, the end of the Infernal, with fingers crossed is a lie its just a nervous complaint,  honest!


The seperate event "Coupe de la ville St Claire sur Epte" consisted of 4 runs at St Clair the fastest time to count. On Davids first run the trees jumped in the way embedding the bumper in the tyre but he managed to drive to the finish with John catching him fast. After pulling.the bumper straight for David John on his second attempt also had a trip into the trees which took an hour to recover with a Toyata breaking its winch, Johns engine boiling up and 30 Frenchmen lifting it back on to the track, while John pinched some wine to drown his sorrows. The Range Rover was now completely bent with panels loose, missing (the French returned all lost parts) while the Land Rover was in pristine condition, French TV was there and taking film of Pennine in action with someone pulling him out of the way at the last second. It was here that the leading buggy rolled 30 yards before the finish, wrecking its transmission - so unable to drive back to the finish collecting  check stamps he lost the Infernal but received the prize for the fastest on St Clair. John Wright was 4th fastest with 3-4-2 FT 3-31.


Prize giving was held in the Town Hall that evening and a memorable occasion it was too! John had finished 10th 0verall and 2nd in class (cup and F600) David was 17th overall and 1st in class (cup and F600) but also together they gained 2nd International team with. medallions each. The applause gained by our entries was something to remember and all our team say 'Vive la France' and roll on next years Infernal.

Jonathan Oldfield.


For a service crews eye view of the whole proceedings you'll have to wait for next months BB and read Raymond Sagars report , there will also be a couple of pictures from the Infernal which have had to be left out of this issue due to technical problems


MSA and ARC club members are welcome to come along and join our events. Phone Mark on 07866 506521 / 01282 703718



Pennine Land Rover Club, Pennine LRC