The 2018 Highland Three Day Classic Tour
By Alan & Linda Baverstock
‘I think you might quite enjoy it………….’
A casual comment at a FellMog noggin led to team Baverstock signing-up for the Lancashire Automobile Club Highland Three Day Classic Tour for September 2018. We were assured that our car, a well sorted but fairly standard 2011 Morgan +4, was suitable for the event, though a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, warning triangle and hi-vis jackets were compulsory and might be checked at scrutineering! We later observed that some of the other entrants sported full four-point safety harnesses, Halda rally computers, extra spot lights and old rally stickers. This suggested that the event was perhaps not just a gentle amble through the glorious Scottish countryside. Though not classed as a rally, having a MSA certificate of exemption, we soon realised that it would be rather different from our leisurely FellMog tours of France and Spain.
First Lesson: although it was described as a three day event, it actually covered four days – the first day, day Zero, being optional, though most entrants chose to take part.
Day One – or Day Zero depending how you looked at it – had us assembling at a rather nice hotel near Dumfries ready for a leisurely dinner and an early night in preparation for an early start the following day. However this was September 19th and Storm Ali had just passed through parts of the UK doing considerable damage. One victim was that night’s hotel which had lost its electricity supply, giving the event organisers the challenge of finding alternative beds for fifty plus people at very short notice.
To their credit this was achieved although we ended up sleeping at Cumnock, fifty-four miles away. A late evening drive and an extra early start the following morning got us back to the planned destination for the beginning of the event. A flexible attitude was obviously going to be an asset over the next four days!
This was our first experience of Road Books and Tulip Diagrams and we were grateful for some earlier informal training from a relative experienced in the world of historic car rallies.
The first day’s driving took us on a devious route through South West Scotland to Dunkeld: about 200 delightfully traffic free miles, unintentionally made even more complicated by a tree-blocked road within the first thirty minutes. The highway authorities were struggling to cope with the damage caused by storm Ali. A light lunch was provided each day but before that we had our auto tests; the first organised by Monklands Sporting Car Club MSCC at Forrestburn Sprint Circuit. This tight and hilly circuit would have been challenging at speed but regulations required a modest, say 5mph, approach, the aim being to achieve the same time on two separate runs – in our case without the use of a stop watch. We also had our first experience of a special navigation section which was an intensive route planning and driving exercise using OS 1:50,000 map sheets following often obscure clues devised by John Hartlay.
Our splendid hotel that night overlooked the River Tay and offered guests a wee dram on arrival – all very Brigadoon and our favourite hotel of the tour. At breakfast the following day we were supplied with maps and instructions for another navigation section in addition to the now familiar Day Book. Being new to this event we concentrated on our Full Scottish breakfast but did observe many other entrants paying more attention to their maps than to their food. We had much to learn! These navigation exercises were challenging in preparation – and on the road. Lots of lateral thinking, but we enjoyed the challenge and looked forward to that part of each day. Surprisingly, we only dropped one point in the three days.
The next two days followed the same pattern of Day Books and Navigation Exercises as we progressed through the Highlands, driving between two and three hundred miles each day but always arriving at our overnight stop in time for a relaxed and leisurely evening in good company. The organisers had us driving some amazingly quiet roads including the Pass of The Cattle at Applecross. Two nights were based at Elgin before we returned to Dunkeld for the final night. Each day’s optional auto test took a different form. One in the carpark on Cairngorm in very heavy rain. Another on a circuit at the Grampian Transport museum at Alford. The museum was well worth looking round and curiously, being so far from Lincolnshire, contained the Guy Martin car and bike collection. Plus that wonderful Spitfire engine from the TV programme.
Over the four days we got to know several of the other entrants. They drove a mixed bunch of interesting cars – a good number of English sports cars including one E type, one XK140 and three Healeys. Two other Morgans took part besides us, one a 1982 4/4 hired for the event by a couple from Canada. They obviously enjoyed the experience and talked of buying a Morgan to add to their collection of English sports cars. Once Storm Ali had passed, weather for the event was, well, very Scottish and we were grateful for our easy-up hood which spent significantly more time down than up.
Dinner at Dunkeld on the last night was more formal than on the other nights: an excellent meal, a few speeches and some presentations, to a background of photographs of the last few days. Comments were heard as to how often those photogenic Morgans, appeared on the screen!
Only at that point did we realise that although the event was, as the Clerk of the Course emphasised, ‘not a competition’ there was a results sheet and some trophies for the Gymkhana! The ‘winner’ drove a MGCGT and the close runner up a highly desirable 1977 Alfa Romeo GTV. And somehow, we still don’t quite know how, we managed to come sixth out of the 25 cars that finished the event.
Did we ‘quite enjoy’ the event as was originally said?
Understatement – we enjoyed it greatly –it was tremendous fun and if we are accepted for 2019 we’d sign up without hesitation.
Alan & Linda Baverstock