Coventry Automotive Rally Report No 1
April 2011
The Letter M (part II)

This is the first report of 2011, and it is already July. That may appear to be odd, but mainly it is because not much of note has happened to the team. The Mintex Mini was used for the usual season opener the Agbo Stages at Weston Park. An uneventful run saw us take 52nd overall, 8th in class. A single venue at Down Ampney was entered as it is the last year the venue is to be used, and the only thing of note was a dubious record of managing to retire twice! A driveshaft problem which took us out of the main event was repaired so that we could take part in the Trophy Rally over the final few stages – only to have another problem that put us out of that.

Trevor, as part of his ongoing attempt to fill the workshop with BL products with ‘M’ names, has now taken on another Metro. This time it is another ex-works car, one of the original Metro GTi Challenge cars, and one that Alan Reid of Fast Hoses worked on whilst he was at Rover. It was used on the Challenge race series in the early 1990’s, and has been a little used rally car for a few years now. With a 1400cc K Series engine it has plenty of power, and when we have finished a few minor modifications and updates it should be a nice car for the class.


Rover Metro rally car

The first event that we have used the car on was the Rally of the Midlands. Based in nearby Hinckley and using stages at local stately homes and an army base, as well as the motor industry proving ground MIRA and the car park of the Hinckley Town Council (!), this is always an event we look forward to. Friday evening saw us on the first stage around the town council car park, which is always a bit of fun for such a short stage. Half a mile of constant turns and accelerations, over with very quickly. Must be hard work in a Subaru or Evo, but just right for the nimble Metro. Further stages at Arbury Hall and MIRA were soon over, and it was clear that the Metro GTi was a fast little car, but Trevor was fighting the diff as it was set a little too tight for his driving style.

Rally Metro airborneService saw us back at the Hinckley United football ground for some brief checks and a bit more fuel. All was going well and with a couple more stages under our belts we left the car at the overnight parc ferme at the Triumph motorcycle factory. Tomorrow would be another day. It was quite an early start as we had the bulk of almost 25 stages to get through on the second day. On only the second of these, the car started to perform oddly. It would almost cut out, and then suddenly return to full operation, with Trevor’s foot buried in the accelerator. This made for some interesting moments, not the least of which was the hump back bridge at Arbury Hall. Still, it makes for a good photo...

At the end of that stage we ground to a halt, with no electrics. A good look under the bonnet revealed that the a lead had broken and we were running on the battery itself. A bit of pushing and some roadside repairs saw us back to service, where the repairs were finished off. The final stages were generally uneventful, and Trevor was gradually learning about this new car and how it handled. We finished 39th overall, 4th in class which was quite pleasing. Until we found out that 3rd in class was only 15 sec in front of us. If only the electrics had not broken on that one stage we would have beaten them. If only... but then again, we had finished our first rally in the new Metro.

After the rally Trevor and I quickly changed and headed up the M1 to Chesterfield as we had a second rally that weekend, or more correctly a Scenic Tour. This was to be a navigational event for classic cars around the Peak District, not a competitive event and some very nice scenery along the way. We had a black TR7 to use for the day, loaned to us by TR7 enthusiast Chris Turner, one of Trevor’s long term customers who was driving his Levis Coke TR7. Also on the tour were Dave and Hilary Wyer in his Sunbeam Alpine, so a bit of friendly rivalry obviously crept in.

TR7's

Coventry Automotive Rally Report No 2
April 2010
Marina Rally CarThere is something about this Marina that we can’t quite work out. Every time that we’ve got close to a rally something seems to happen. This time Ian was in southern Germany as the Icelandic volcano ash cloud started to develop, and he had an epic 19 hour journey back involving an 800km drive to Calais, a late evening ferry crossing and a drive back from Dover to arrive back home at 3am on Saturday morning. Only three hours before getting up again to go to MIRA for the rally...
The MIRA proving ground is considered a home event for the team, as Ian has spent many hours here testing lots of different vehicles over the years, and knows the tracks very well. Trevor has competed here for quite a few years also, and we really make best use of home knowledge. The first stage was a bit of a warm up for the event, and Trevor and Ian took a little time to get into the swing of it. The lack of a quick rack really hampered Trevor through the tighter chicanes and hairpins, as the four turns lock to lock had to be fully used to negotiate the course. New sticky tyres were a definite bonus however, and the Marina is really beginning to turn into a nice little car. The changes to the engine, including revised cam and carb, had transformed the driveability and it was now a joy to drive.
The second stage was showing how good the car can be, with some good flowing lines. Towards the end of the stage, exiting a tight hairpin, there was a big bang and the car lurched to a halt. It was immediately obvious that we had either a major puncture or, more seriously, had lost a rear wheel. A quick look behind showed that we’d lost a wheel, and would not finish that stage.

(Photo Courtesy of Rallying Online Ltd).

TMarina Rally Carhe marshals and recovery crew were brilliant, and the car was recovered to a place of safety where we could examine the damage in more detail. A rear axle halfshaft had broken, and the wheel and brake drum had parted company with the rest of the car. A close look revealed that it had been part broken for some time, but where do you take a forty year old part to return it under warranty?

Marina Rally CarAs we had another axle back at our workshop nearby, we were able to get a replacement, but that left us with the problem of getting the broken halfshaft out of the axle casing. The service crew were very inventive, and managed to show how they would have ‘coped in the desert’, by getting it out with only the use of some levers and a pair of mole-grips. Putting the new one in was plain sailing in comparison.

So we were off and running in the Trophy Rally, the final three stages of the normal rally run for those cars that had retired earlier in the day but were now repaired. Five cars started the first stage, and that was down to four within 300 yards as an Escort was stopped at the side of the road. The Marina was performing a little oddly on the straights, but a quick check and tighten of the rear axle U bolts at service after the stage cured that. The second stage saw the Marina really starting to fly and we were having some fun sliding the car around. The final stage came round all too quickly, and we were quite surprised to see many of the marshals waving at us in encouragement as we went round. Seems like we’re starting to build quite a following with the car, and it really felt like a lap of honour! It must be a combination of the car itself and Trevor’s enthusiastic driving style.

At the end of the event we had learnt a lot more about the car, with some changes more needed. We need to track down a quick rack for the car and some stiffer front torsion bars. Neither of these will be easy, but they will really improve the overall driveability of the car.

And what of the Trophy Rally? We ended up winning it, so we now have a trophy in the Marina rally car cupboard. The first of many? Too early to say, but we were happy. Thanks as ever to the service crew Dave, Steve, Kostas and Cookie, and special thanks to Andrew who helped with the ‘Great Escape’ from Germany!



Marina Rally CarWCR40 at Gaydon
The day after the rally at MIRA the Marina was on show at the event organised to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the 1970 World Cup Rally. There were many of the cars that took part in the original event, plus many other rally cars with historic pedigree. The Marina caused a bit of interest, and Brian Culcheth who actually drove the car on the 1971 RAC Rally was there and spent some time with Trevor discussing ‘AOX’ and rally Marinas in general. There were also quite a few of the people who were involved with the Competitions Department and Special Tuning at Abingdon, and it was good to get some more feedback on the car

 





Coventry Automotive Rally Report No 1
March 2010

Marina barbecue1971. Hot pants were the fashion of choice, Benny Hill had ‘Ernie, the Fastest Milkman’ in the charts and Phillips launched the VCR recorder. And British Leyland launched the Morris Marina. To raise awareness of the car an entry was made on the RAC Rally with Brian Culcheth/Willy Cave driving it. It finished 1st in class, 20th overall, not bad against the Escorts of the day. And then the car was put into storage.

On the way to the rolling road an underbonnet fire caused major damage, and would have burnt the car completely if the local fire brigade from Brinklow had not arrived in time. Extremely fortunate as it turns out, because the fire station is due to be closed as part of the efficiencies that Warwickshire Fire Service is putting forward...

That left one month to strip out the car and rebuild it (again) in time for the AGBO Stages at Weston Park. Not much time at all, especially as the insurance company had to be involved. How refreshing it was that the insurance company, Hagerty Classic Car Insurance, were behind us and actually encouraging us to get the car finished in time for the event.

Smoked MarinaWith all the regular helpers and suppliers rallying round to help out with parts and assistance, and help from the Marina Owners Club, miracles seemed to happen and it was finished just in time. There were the usual long hours in the week before the event, but at least it was going to rally. The event at Weston Park starts early and we had to be on the road from our base at 4:30am, well before dawn. It was a lovely morning, but we would rather have been in bed!

Scrutineering went well, as soon as the scrutineer found out which car it was he spent time with us reminiscing about it. He wasn’t alone in that, and during the day many people came up to us to chat about Marinas, both rally ones and roadgoing ones. The first couple of stages didn’t go well. We did wonder if all that effort had been in vain, and that the car wasn’t going to be very good. The engine tune would be more at home on a race track than a rally stage, the steering rack took too many turns form lock to lock, and the tyres, well they were just too old to have any grip. The car was an accident waiting to happen, and how we managed to keep it out of the large straw bales on the chicanes I’ll never know.

Marina Rally CarA change to newer, forest tyres changed the handling dramatically and now at least we could stay on the road. It also helped Trevor attack the corners and keep the cam somewhere near where it should be. This was starting to be fun, but it all stopped, literally, when a mysterious ignition fault occurred. We coasted to halt out on the stage and had to be towed back as nothing we tried made any difference. But the car was having a laugh, as it started up first time when it got back to the service area. At least we could continue, and the final four stages gave us a taste of what could be.

We now had a list of the changes to make before the next event, the D’Isis Stages at MIRA. At least we have a rally car that is running, and we can work on. And ‘AOX’ is back on the rally stages!

The events that we have currently planned for the year are from the Heart of England Rally Championship (see below), plus some more events that we’ll fit in around these dates. We’re particularly looking forward to getting the car back into the forests again after all those years.

A big thanks to all that helped out, we couldn’t have done it without you!

HEART OF ENGLAND RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2010
7 April D'Isis Rally, MIRA, Nuneaton, West Midlands Quinton Motor Club
18 & 19 June Rally of the Midlands, Nuneaton & Hinckley, West Midlands Streetly Motor Club
10 July Quinton Stages Rally, Llandovery, Dyfed Quinton Motor Club
4 September Woodpecker Stages Rally, Ludlow, Shropshire Sixty & Worcester MC
26 September Patriot Stages, Caerwent, Gwent Forresters MC
31 October Ditton Priors Stages, Ditton Priors, Shropshire Telford Auto Club
Come along and see us!

 

Trevor Godwin & Ian Harrop Coventry Automotive

March 2010

Motoring News articleThe Marina rebuild is well under way, following an underbonnet fire earlier in the year, special thanks to Brinklow firefighters!
Hopefully it will be out on the Agbo Stages Rally at Weston Park on 21st March 2010.

Press release

April 2009
Agbo Stages

MiniThe start of the season has been interesting, to say the least. As we had been spending all of our time working on the Marina rally car, we did not have enough time to get the Mini ready for the Agbo Stages. Fortunately we had the kind offer of using the Mintex Mini for this first round of the Heart of England Championship, but the event turned out to be one to forget. We broke a driveshaft less than a mile into the first stage. Needless to say we were very disappointed and it hardly seemed a fair reward for getting up at 4am in the morning to be there...

Rauno AaltonenRace Retro is an annual event held at Stoneleigh, and caters for Historic motorsport in all its forms. They have a rally stage where the Group B cars and other historic rally cars are demonstrated for the entertainment of the spectators. Our good friend Basil Wales managed to organise 60’s Mini expert Rauno Aaltonen to drive the new Mini on the Sunday, and both he and Ian were invited to sit alongside him for the two runs he did in the day. Very enjoyable and considering he hadn’t sat in the car beforehand, let alone driven it, he really put it through its paces.

The Horiba D’Isis Stages at MIRA is one of the events that we always try to compete on each year, as it supported by our old sponsors and friends Horiba, and it is less than 10 miles from the workshop! Over the past few years it hasn’t been kind to us, but at least we don’t have far to go home.

MiniMiniThis year we were able to run the car on 17” wheels and tyres and they really made a difference. Trevor commented on the way that the car felt a lot more stable on the bigger tyres, and was trying as hard as he could to keep up with the leaders. Unfortunately they all have a bit of a weight advantage over us, and we couldn’t quite manage to stay with them. We did finish in the top 50, with a 13th in class out of 21, so it wasn’t a bad result.

Images copyright Rally Action Photography

Next event will be the Rally of the Midlands on June 19th and 20th, with stages at Mallory Park, Bramcote and Merevale, all of which are accessible to spectators.  Servicing will be at Hinckley United Football Club as last year, so come along and see what we get up to!


March 2009
Coventry Automotive Season Opener

The 2009 rally season is upon us, and the usual season opener The Agbo Stages Rally at Weston Park is next weekend (Sunday 8th March 2009).

Due to circumstances, Trevor and I are using the Questmead/Mintex Rover Mini rather than the BMW Mini rally car we used throughout last year, and our thanks go to Alan at Questmead for allowing us to use his car. This allows us to enter the Heart of England 2009 Rally Championship in the up to 1400cc class and use the Marina later in the year. Yes, the Marina is very close to completion, and will be out on the stages this year sometime.

The Mintex Mini needs some running after having a good overhaul in the closed season, so running it fits in well with our plans for the rest of this year.

The Agbo Stages is always a fun event and as we know it so well it will be a good opportunity for us to play ourselves in. The grounds of stately house provide some good tarmac stages, and the surfaces are always just a little bit testing. The ford always adds a little surprise, and a good opportunity for the photographers to practise!

Here’s to a good event, and I will let you know how we got on.

Ian Harrop
Trevor Godwin

February 2009
Coventry Automotive Class Winners - Heart of England Rally Championship 2008

Heart of England Class Winners 2008Heart of England Class Winners 2008Trevor and I won our class with the Mini in the Heart of England Rally Championship 2008, and he won third overall driver and I won second overall navigator. Not bad for a first full season with the Mini, and we were in the most competitive class in the championship. The results went down to the wire, as the class was wide open with three crews capable ofwinning the class going in to the last event.


Ian Harrop
Trevor Godwin

Coventry Automotive



January 2009
Coventry Automotive End of Season Events 2008

The final two events of the 2008 season were 'eventful' as it turned out. The Richard Burns Memorial Stages was a non-championship event for us and we were competing partly to support such a worthwhile event, but also for a bit of fun on what is an active RAF base where Tornados were being readied to go out to on operational duty in Afghanistan soon after we left.  RAF Marham Saturday morning saw us heading over to RAF Marham to get the car scrutineered and checked over for the rally. 

The scrutineering bay was one of the hard shelters normally occupied by a Tornado, and later in the evening it became the centre of the entertainment including the bar and disco.  After the vehicle checks Trevor joined in an impromptu service session on one of the Tornados which the RAF service personnel were showing off.  The aircraft looked like it had had a hard life, but was due to go out on operational service in the next few weeks.

The event got underway, and we soon found that the car was performing well, and we were gradually moving up the order.  Taking the right lines and not overdriving was definitely the way forward, and the event video really showed how many people couldn't get the basics right with quite a few having not mastered the 'not driving into the bales' lesson.

Our progress up the order was dealt a big blow when one of the cars that we had caught up with decided to go just a little too fast trying to keep ahead of us.  He lost it coming out of a chicane, nudged into a straw bale and left us with no place to go.  Our front right hit his left rear and we were both out on the spot, with damage being done to the suspension on both cars. Bang!After we had got the car back to the service area and surveyed the damage, it became clear that if we could only straighten the front arm, we could be out rallying again.  A call upon the RAF enabled us to use a well equipped workshop and some keen assistance to sort out the bent part, and we were ready to roll again. 

We would have to wait until the re-start the next day, but all was looking well again.

Sure enough the car was running well, but it now had an enthusiasm to wobble on high speed cornering.  After a few stages of this we decided to call a halt to our event to preserve what was left undamaged on the front suspension, and to avoid what could be a more expensive incident.

It was a shame to have to end the event this way, but it was probably a wise decision. 

Even an airfield has some solid bits to hit if things go wrong!As there was only a little time to re-prepare the car for the next event, we set off for Caerwent with some uncertainty. 

This was the last round of the Heart of England Championship and a good finish on this event would see us well placed in our class if not the championship overall.  Our hopes took a turn for the better when it became clear that the class leaders were not able to take part in this event.  Now all we needed to do was finish this rally and we would win the class.The early stages went well, and we were once again heading up the overall positions. 

Caerwent has been used for armaments storage and the rally consists of the roads around the base. It punishes those who stray off line, as the high kerbs are notoriously hard on driveshafts and steering joints.  The faster parts of it were fun, but the tighter, twistier parts are much more technical and require accuracy.  The roads are generally narrow and overtaking is always difficult, unless the slower car assists.

Halfway through the rally we were doing well, but were now worried that we may not finish.  There was obviously some damage to the driveshaft following the Richard Burns event, and it was gradually working it's way out of the diff leaving a trail of oil which was getting more by the stage.  A quick rebuild by the ever efficient service crew meant that we had stopped the flow for a while.  Another rebuild later in the event left us just another couple of stages to do.

The final stage was upon us, and we had no idea quite how much oil remained in the gearbox.  We had nothing to lose, so set out more in hope than anticipation.  In the queue at the start of the stage, a couple of the marshals helpfully pointed out that we were losing oil, to which we replied that we were OK.  As we moved forward each time, they followed up with the 'oil dry' and covered our tracks.  It looked like they would stop us running, and that would be it for the championship.  As we edged closer to the start the chances of us being stopped lessened, and then we were away. Trevor drove quite sensibly throughout the stage, and the car didn't let us down, and we were very relieved to reach the finish.  We still had enough oil in the box to drive to the service area and change the shaft (again) and refill the gearbox with oil for the drive home.

When the results of the Heart of England Championship were revealed, not only had we won the class, but Trevor had been placed third overall in the Drivers Championship and I was second overall in the Co-Drivers Championship.  Not a bad result for the new car, and one of which we are both very proud.Thanks to all who helped out during the year, the service crew of Kostas, Steve and Dave, and to all who assisted in the development of the new Mini.Seasons Greetings and all the best for the New Year. 

2009 should see the long awaited return of the Marina Coupe to the rally stages, and I for one cannot wait!

Trevor Godwin
Ian Harrop

Coventry Automotive


August/September 2008
Coventry Automotive Mini Mid Season Update

Since the last update Trevor and Ian have had quite a successful season with the new Mini, and are in a very competitive position in the Heart of England Championship both in class and overall.

Coventry AutomotiveThe D’Isis Stages Rally, held entirely at the MIRA Proving Grounds, was a learning curve for Trevor and the car. As Trevor has spent much of his rallying career in the forests on the loose, the neat and tidy approach that tarmac requires needs more practising. The car responds well to tarmac, and we’re sure it can be developed into a very competitive vehicle with some more work and some new parts. We finished 34th overall, and 7th in class, which was reasonable reward for our efforts. Our friend Basil Wales, ex of Special Tuning, was honoured to be able to carry out the presentations at the end of the day, but sadly we didn’t make the prizes.

The Rally of the Midlands proved to be a disappointment as we were in a position to gain a good finish over our rivals when we broke a driveshaft at the ultra fast MIRA Proving Ground stage. With local knowledge at this tricky venue we were making up good time and were heartbroken when the shaft broke without warning on a tight hairpin. It had been a testing event up to that point, including a very slippery part of the Bramcote stage which was like trying to drive on ice which had formed on glass.

Coventry AutomotiveThe Azimghur Stages at Colerne Airfield in Wiltshire was an event Ian was particularly looking forward to as he had competed at several sprints there many years ago. It is mainly very good smooth tarmac, with some wide-open spaces that allow the car to be driven very fast. Trevor by now was really beginning to get the hang of the Mini on tarmac and the stage times were showing this. We were eventually pushed into 8th in class by one of our rivals in the Heart of England Championship by only 2 seconds, which was galling to say the least. Even taking out all the weight we could think of on the last stage didn’t make up enough to overcome the six-second deficit we had at the start of the stage. We were left with the ‘if onlys’ at the end of the day, but 40th overall was a decent result. August saw us at Twyford Woods for the Centenary Stages. This is an ex-airfield that is now owned by the Forestry Commision and they have used the infield areas to grow trees, but left the airfield surfaces as access roads. They are now in quite bad condition and we ran forest tyres and soft suspension all day. The Mini suffered through the deep potholes and we punched both front suspension top mounts through the rubber. We managed a good finish, but lost most of the front ride height and caused the front tyres to rub on the bodywork! 26th overall and 7th in class was the hard-won reward for the days action.

We have one event in the Heart of England championship remaining, at Caerwent near Chepstow. If we finish the event in a reasonable position we could win our class, and be in for a ‘podium’ in the overall standings. This would be a fine result for the first season in the Mini, and just rewards for the hard work put in by Trevor and Ian and the service crew of Steve and Kostas, not forgetting the support given by Dave.

Details of the Patriot Stages Rally at Caerwent can be found on:

www.forresterscarclub.co.uk

There is one event that we have entered for a bit of fun and also as a bit of a memorial to one of Britain’s lost talents. The Richard Burns Memorial Rally to be held at RAF Marham near Kings Lynn on September 13/14th should be quite interesting, as the Subaru World Rally Team has entered a car for Markko Martin, and there will be other surprises we are promised. Details can be found on:

www.richardburnsmemorialrally.co.uk

Trevor and Ian Coventry Automotive

(Photos courtesy and copyright of Steve)



25-27 July 2008
Silverstone Classic Event


Works Morris MarinaThe Coventry Automotive Marina made it's first public outing at the recent Silverstone Classic event, on the Ex-Works and Special Tuning stand ably organised and run by Basil Wales.

Abingdon Morris Marina Rally CarThe stand included many of the ex-works race and rally cars including Austin Healeys, Minis and Triumph Dolomites. The event was a celebration of the classic forms of racing and rallying, with over 700 cars and 900 drivers entered for the on track events, and no doubt as many wandering around the infield car club displays and book, picture and memorabilia stands. The weather was fine and there were over 50,000 spectators.

The plan is to get the car ready for it's first event sometime later this year, and to get the Marina back in the forests again where I'm sure it will bring a smile to many a spectator's eye. And hopefully a grimace to some of the other competitors...


9th March 2008
AGBO Stages, Weston Park

The AGBO Stages held at Weston Park, just off the A5 is a tarmac event using the roads around the estate, though you may have had trouble working that out from some of the lines Trevor was using, as he used more grass than almost anyone else it seemed.  Must be that forest experience coming out!

This was the first real event that Trevor and I had competed in for almost 18 months, as Rockingham Stages in December was a bit of a wash out for us, quite literally.  Trevor could really start to learn how the new Mini handled and how to get the best out of it, as the day was dry, bright and sunny.  His style with the classic Mini, going down the gears to get around the corners, wasn’t working for this new car on the first stages and we were working hard to keep in touch with the others in the class.  Changing the style a bit, using the lower gears less and letting the engine pull out of the corners seemed to be working better.  The brakes were also far more effective in the new Mini and Trevor could drive right up to the corner before standing on the middle pedal to slow the car down.

By the third or fourth stage we were getting the hang of it and the car was flowing more and the times were better.  The last stages saw the car really start to fly, and may be a little too much on a couple of occasions as the new Mini seems to work better with a smoother driving style.  Trevor was a little ragged on some corners and one in particular caught out the photographers who didn’t expect the cars to get quite as close as we did!

The car performed well, and the only real work that the service crew (Steve and Kostas) had to do was change from the intermediate tyres that we started the day on to the moulded slick tyres for the latter stages.

Trevor’s efforts to straighten out the chicanes by nudging the hay bales with the car were not having much effect, but at least the car survived.  The last two stages saw the watersplash being used, it is a particular feature of Weston Park and is a great spot to spectate from.

The end result was 34th overall, 7th in class.  Not bad considering that there were 19 finishers in our class.  Now if only we had cut 2-3 seconds from our stage times, we would have been in the top 30 and up to 5th in class…

The next event is the Horiba D’Isis Stages on Saturday 12th April at the MIRA Proving Ground.  For insurance reasons it is a non-spectator event..

The photos are from EDP Photographic - www.edpphoto.com
Ian Harrop
Trevor Godwin

6th December 2004

A Troubled Ending

This year, 2004, is the last year that the classic British Mini is eligible for competition on the international scene, in its multi point fuel injected form. Knowing this, we at Coventry Automotive planned to give the old car a fitting send off with an entry on the last round of the World Rally Championship (WRC), which was Rally Australia. This involved getting the car, all its spares and equipment, plus ourselves halfway across the world.

Initially there were several teams interested in taking Minis to compete in Australia, but as the event got nearer and nearer the commitment waned, leaving just myself and driver Trevor Godwin to make the long journey, together with Garry to help us with the servicing. Shipping was arranged, and at the end of September we packed the car into a container and sent it on its way. Five weeks later we met up with it in Perth, none the worse for its journey.

In the meantime we had been in contact with Cono Onofaro, owner of Minicraft, a Perth based company specialising in Minis. Cono turned out to be just the sort of guy we needed, as he had so many contacts and a ‘just do it’ attitude which fitted in perfectly with our own outlook. Being a low budget outfit with no sponsorship other than my own bank account, we could not have competed on the rally without the support of Cono and his wife Ruth. The local service support was arranged through Minicraft, and suddenly we were a team of nine ‘on a mission’.

As Trevor and I went out to look over the stages to be used for the rally in a car borrowed from the local Toyota agents, Cono, Garry and the guys set about the final preparation of the car for the event. Some long hours were spent getting the Mini ready for scrutineering, but when ‘beer o’clock’ arrived, it was there looking great. The only problem we had with getting the car through the final checks was that it was underweight, which meant we had to bolt 25kg of lead to the floor of the car to ensure it met the FIA standards.

The rally started on the Thursday night, with a ceremonial presentation of the cars and crews and a first run over the spectator stage. The spectator stage was set out in a stadium in downtown Perth, more usually used for horse trotting races. The Superspecial stage format is similar to that used on every other WRC round, namely a course which allows two cars to go head to head against each other on a stage which has a cross over bridge so that both cars cover the same mileage.

As we lined up for the start, we were being treated to a rapturous reception though that was not apparent from within the car. The local spectators were very knowledgeable, and the pre event publicity had been promising the last competitive run of the Mini for some time. The Superspecial stage, whilst being ideal for the spectators, is more like trying to ride a bike around your living room for the competitor, with no room for error. We had decided to take it very easy on this first stage, as the action would really start the next morning in the forests around Perth, and a sensible run saw the car left in the overnight parc ferme in pristine condition.

Friday dawned bright and early, which was very encouraging as the inspection of the stages earlier in the week had taken place in foul, wet conditions. We had not been looking forward to wet stages as the mud would have sapped the limited power of the car and made it very difficult for us. There was a long run out to the first stage, and the road timing made it a bit of a dash to get there on time. The first couple of stages were around a man-made reservoir, which involved flooding a natural bowl. The trees that had formally grown there had been left to wither in the water and created a surreal landscape of blackened trunks appearing out of the water. I had noticed this on the earlier inspection of the stages, as I certainly didn’t have time to see them whilst we were attacking the stage for real.

The first stages were quick fire and had plenty of corners. They really suited the nimble Mini and we were settling into the rally. The next two stages were a little more open and we had the opportunity to stretch the car. The road surface was quite hard after the sun had dried out the roads, and the ruts left by all the four wheel drive cars didn’t seem to be having too much of an effect on the Mini. This was good, as the car does not have much ground clearance and the track of the wheels is not the same as the modern cars, meaning that Trevor had to choose which of the ruts to use. There were some very rough places, but the Mini seemed to be shrugging the punishment off.

On the run back to Perth for the service there were a couple of occasions when the car was felt to dart across the road. Neither of us spoke about it, hoping it would go away. After a check over by the crew we were on our way for the final two gravel stages of the day. It became apparent that the darting was not going to go away, and that it would be foolhardy to carry on with the competitive stages. The trees in Australia are very much closer to the road than those familiar with British forest, and any error would be severely punished. We reluctantly decided that we had to retire, which was a great shame as we were leading our class at the time.

A feature of WRC events from this year is the Super Rally format. This allows a competitor who has retired to repair his car and restart the rally at the start of the next leg. There are a couple of drawbacks to this arrangement: it meant that we were out of the rally proper, and we had to repair the car in the service area. Which effectively meant taking the engine out to replace the diff in the middle of a field.

The team got onto the job straight away, and the plan was to use a scaffold pole, some chain and every available person to hoist the engine up out of the car. It was a simple plan, and it worked very effectively, though it probably looked very odd to the passers by. There were obviously some optimists amongst them however, as we were asked whether the car would be taking part in the Superspecial stage again that evening, approximately an hour and half later.

Cono had rushed back to his workshop and rebuilt a diff that he had available and brought it back ready for fitment. The engine rebuild completed, it was duly put back into the car using the scaffold pole again, and the car was fired back up. After draining the oil to get rid of as much broken metal from the diff as possible, some proper oil was put back in, and the car put away in parc ferme ready for the next days stages.

Saturday was hotter than the previous day and the first stage was not kind to the car. There was still some floating metal in the oil despite all the work the previous day and it all ended up on the magnetic cam sensor. The engine was running very sickly and we had to pull off. The sweeper car caught up with us as we were attempting to repair the car and hung around. It was interesting talking to them, and hearing that they were really behind us. They even offered to help us out, though Trevor didn’t need the assistance.

Once we had got the car going again all seemed well for a while, though it soon became apparent that we were in trouble again. Cue our second retirement, though there was the option of running again in the Superspecial later that day, and for the final days stages, if we could repair it. Back to the service area and after some cleaning and checking of the engine management sensors we had got the car running well again.

The Superspecial on the Saturday night was a bit special for us, as we were able to put on a bit of a display for our crew and for the masses of spectators that were following the Mini. Trevor even tried to get the Mini sideways through the tunnel for extra excitement, though fortunately for me he got it pointing the right way in time.

Sunday was going to be our day. We had had problems with the previous days, but surely all that was behind us? As we got to the start of the first stage, it was clear something was different. There was one of the official helicopters flying around, and that only happens to the guys running at the front of the field. As we waited for the start one of the marshals came across to us, and said that the helicopter was going to fly alongside us and film us down the stage. Our five minutes of fame had arrived!

The stage started well for us, and Trevor was really trying. The road surface had baked hard in the sun, and the ruts were quite deep in places, but the Mini was coping. And then the engine management let us down. Problems with the system meant that we were running on much reduced power, which was not good for our TV footage. The system cleared itself and we were off on full power again, but only for a short while. As we got to the end of the stage, both of us were very disappointed. With the car playing up like this we would be lucky to get it to the end of the rally.

Sure enough, towards the end of the next stage, with only two more stages to complete, the engine started to overheat. As we were close to doing irreparable damage to the engine, Trevor called a halt to it, and we pushed the car off the stage. As the same stage was being run again we did have the chance to spectate as the top runners came through. They were very impressive with the exceptional speed with which they could travel on the unique ball-bearing surface that Australia has, but it was sad to be sat watching rather thancompeting. Many spectators came to look at the Mini, and have their pictures taken next to the car, but we were looking to retire to the nearest bar to drown our sorrows.

Rally Australia was a roller coaster ride for us, but it was an event I’ll never forget. It took a lot of effort to get the car and team out there, but it was rewarding in so many ways. We met people out there who became friends, and we will go down in history as the last Mini to compete on the World Rally Championship. However at the time I would have happily given that up for a decent chance to show what the Mini can really do on the difficult Aussie stages!

Ian Harrop

1st October 2004

SIMON CLARKE PHOTOGRAPHY © 2004
A first in class in the recent Bill Gwynne Rallyschool Stages over the classic Sweet Lamb rally stages was a final shake down for the Coventry Automotive Mini in preparation for Rally Australia. Those of you who have been following Trevor over the years will know that the homologation finally runs out on the Mini at the end of this year, and it can no longer compete on International events. Rally Australia is the final round of the World Rally Championship, and so Coventry Automotive will be there. We were one of the people who ran Minis on the first event after the car was re-homologated, and we will be there at the end.

As we speak, the car is on the water in a container bound for Perth. It arrives there on October 27th and Rally Australia starts on 11th November. More details of the event can be found on www.rallyaustralia.com. Watch the press for details of the team’s ambitious project, and when we get back we’ll tell you all about it.


24th January 2004

Mini to end rallying career on a high!

Coventry Automotive have been rallying the classic British Mini since the 1960s and have an enviable record of results in International events since the car was re-homologated in injection form. We have always tried to compete on interesting events and have entered many of the classic World Rally Championship (WRC) events around Europe.

This year, 2004, is the final year of homologation for the Mini and driver Trevor Godwin and co-driver Ian Harrop have big plans to enter the Acropolis Rally, Rally Finland and Rally Australia, to give the popular car a big send off. The Acropolis Rally is one of the classic events that we have not competed on and is a particular ambition for Trevor. We have competed on Rally Finland half a dozen times since the re-homologation of the Mini in 1995 and we are looking forward to giving our car one last run over the famous 1000 Lakes stages. Rally Australia is the final round of the WRC and as such is the last event at world level that the Mini is eligible to compete in.

Coventry Automotive is a small, tight knit team, who are very resourceful when it comes to getting the job done. The Mini is always immaculately turned out and attracts attention wherever it goes. This will be especially true during this final year of competition at the World level. The venerable Mini may not be as quick as some of the more modern machinery, but everyone just loves to see it attacking the stages.

There are opportunities for companies and individuals to get involved in helping Trevor and Ian with their ambitious project. If you feel you can help with some of the costs or are able to offer suitable services, then please feel free to contact us. We will be able to offer space on the Mini for advertising, in return for your support, and other opportunities can be discussed.


Coventry Automotive can be contacted by telephone or fax: +44 (0) 2476 637472 , or use the link below to e-mail.

 

26th July 2003

The long awaited first event for the new eight port Mini took place on the Quinton Horiba Stages, based around the mid Wales town of Builth Wells. The eight port engined car has been prepared over the last year, using the rebuilt shell from the original Coventry Automotive Group A car which was written off in Finland. A lot of development work has gone into the engine, which uses four Amal carburettors of a type more normally associated with classic bikes. The eight port configuration was used quite successfully in Minis during the sixties, but this installation has benefited from a few modernisations that were not available back then.

In typical rally fashion the car was only finished off just before the event, and was run in on the way across to scrutineering! A tentative start to the rally was soon replaced with a full out attack as confidence was gained, and the car was really pulling well. As Trevor said “The engine has so much power I can pull out of hairpins in second, where before I was having to use first and struggling. The car is a thousand times better than previously”. Obviously happy then!

Just when things looked like they were going well the engine suddenly went off song, and the car limped back into service. A terminal problem with the engine was diagnosed and an early bath was called for. Nevertheless the team were not downhearted, as it was clear that there will be some development called for on this new installation. The car is expected to be quite rapid when it is developed to it’s potential, so watch out for it on the stages!

Thanks to service crew Steve and Kostas, and support from Horiba, ITG and Fast Hoses.

30th May 2003

The year did not start well for Trevor as on the Newton Abbott Audi Stages in January the yellow Mini suffered an accident on the road section between the final two stages and was declared an insurance write off. It was a great pity as Trevor and navigator Ian Harrop were leading their class with just one stage to go. The event was held in Devon on a day that went from wet, low lying fog to bright sunshine and everything in between.

The accident occurred in the narrow Devon lanes and the Mini was totally blameless. It was hit on the driver’s front corner and the shell was bent, all caused by a Peugeot 305 driven by a woman driving without due regard for the conditons. The insurance company has written it off, but it has taken some time to agree the final settlement with the company…. you know what insurance companies are like!! The shell is now in the body shop and we are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the attempt to straighten it.

All of this means that the proposed entry to the Acropolis Rally will have to wait until next year, and any other International events this year will have to be decided upon after the car is rebuilt.

In the meantime Trevor hasn’t been idle. The original blue car has been re-shelled and is now a fetching silver and maroon. The eight port engine that will power it is nearing completion and it is expected that the car will begin being shaking down in the next few weeks. Much assistance has been given in the build up of the engine and gearbox, and thanks are due to some long time colleagues for that. Watch out for the new Group B machine on events in July and August.

Customer cars

Two new cars have been prepared and are now out competing. They are a new Peugeot 106 for long time customer Richard Clews, and a recent addition of a Ford Puma for regular Mike Jones.

Richard’s bright red Peugeot has been competing since the beginning of the year and an excellent result on the Tour of Cornwall was reward for a spirited drive. The car is being used for the Tarmac Championship this year, and several events have already been entered, with some worthwhile results. Richard is expecting to get faster through the year, and be in a position to challenge some of the more established runners. See his own web site for more details: www.richardclews.co.uk

Mike’s Puma is a recent purchase and was originally built by Ford’s Boreham workshop. It is a 1400cc version of these potent machines and it’s maiden outing in Mike’s hand netted a second in class in the recent Rally of the Midlands. After the first stages Mike admitted it would take a little getting used to, as it is a serious rally car. Inspection of the car after the event revealed some damage to the six-speed dog box, and some odd suspension settings, both of which made the event frustrating as the gearbox was jumping out of gear and the car was a little lively over the bumps. Watch out for the next outings of the car, when it should be a bit better prepared. Coventry Automotive to the rescue again!

See the gallery for photos of these new rally cars.

November 23rd 2002

Coventry Automotive are out rallying on a couple of events in the near future.

Catch the cars on The Killarney Historic Stages Rally in southern Ireland on December 1st, where the team is supporting long term customer Mike Jones in his beautiful black MkII Mini Cooper S. Apparently the car used to be owned by the Police in Yorkshire at one time in it’s history. I bet that surprised a few people!
More info can be found on www.irish-rallying.com

Trevor himself is out again, with regular co-driver Ian Harrop, on the Grizedale Stages Rally in the Lake District on December 7th. Some famous old RAC Rally stages will be tackled in the trusty yellow Mini before it is put away for the winter.
Details can be found on www.grizedalestages.co.uk

For the future, Coventry Automotive are looking into the possibilities of entering The Acropolis Rally in 2003. The rally is a famous round of the World Rally Championship, held in Greece in early June 2003. The event is generally considered to be the roughest round of the championship, but the team are not deterred. As the homologation on the car runs out at the end of 2004 there is not much time left to compete in the footsteps of the legendary works Minis of the sixties, and Coventry Automotive want to be there! If you are interested in getting involved in this exciting project, contact Trevor for more information.

Coventry Automotive can be contacted by telephone or fax: +44 (0) 2476 637472 , or use the link below to e-mail.