West Glos & Dean Forest
Motor Cycle Club

Celebrating 66 Years of Motor Cycling 1953 - 2019

ISDT Centennial Rally 2013

Words by: Mike Wells

ISDT/ISDE Centennial Rally - Carlisle City Centre - August 16th Ė 18th 2013

After a 6 hour drive myself and my riding mate Lee Salt turned up at the Devonshire Walk car park, just below Carlisle Castle on Thursday August 15th to take part in 3 days of rallying. Lee is from Stoke on Trent, so we had met up at junction 16 on the M6 and left my van at a nearby lock up. The car park was to be the paddock area for the event as well as the start and finish. The city centre location is unique to this rally, with most others happening in forests and fields away from civilisation. The event was to mark 100 years of the ISDT / ISDE, with a ride out on the Sunday planned for the older bikes, linked to a round of the All Terrain Rally Challenge series.

One of our founder members rode the full ISDT back in 1961. Meet Wilf Parker

We quickly got signed on and scrutineered, the organisation was very efficient and in no time I had my start number of 19 stuck to the front of the bike and was enjoying a cuppa from my new commemorative Centennial rally mug. By 6.00pm we had checked into the Swallow Hilltop Hotel and parked the van in a safe location to keep the bikes safe. I had my KTM 500EXC loaded and Lee had brought 2 bikes, a Cagiva Elephant and a back up bike, a KTM 520 EXC. We bagged a good deal with the hotel, consisting of bed, breakfast, 3 course evening meal and a daily packed lunch all for £35 per night, result.

Friday morning dawned cool, bright and dry which was a welcome change from the torrential rain of the last 48 hrs. With my start time of 10:10, I had time for a coffee and a chat with the other front runners, all being a little apprehensive with most not having competed in a 3 day rally before.

My time arrived, and I rode off into the Friday morning traffic which is a somewhat different starting experience from the usual races. Heading off to Kershope forest, the road liaison was about 16 miles to the first checkpoint. Leaving the tarmac we approached a slippery wooden bridge and noticed a bike and rider in a place where he shouldn't have been. He had had a big off as his front wheel lost traction. It later turned out to be Edo Mossi, Dakar rider and FIM rally organiser. He had torn shoulder muscles and effectively his rally was over, although he did complete the 1st timed special but decided the pain was too much.

We soon found ourselves on the fast fire roads, arriving at the first checkpoint, times were refreshingly tight, leaving a little over 3 minutes spare before heading off onto the next stage. We had 1 sighting lap followed by 2 timed ones. The route wasn't technical in comparison to an enduro, but it certainly kept you on your toes with fast fire-road twisting and turning, rising and falling, giving plenty of opportunities to stretch the bike's legs. A few hazard warnings saw the bike airborne on more than one occasion if you weren't careful. The timed special stage was more of the same and while it wasn't difficult, it did require you to stay focused for the duration, with no time to relax. A 180 degree, downhill right-hand hairpin with a very loose surface caught a few folk out. Our fuel had been transported out to a point on the course which we would pass each lap, so just a top up each time, just enough to last the 35 miles or so per lap.

After the special, the times were still tight, so I couldn't relax too much on my way to the next checkpoint. Onto the first timed lap, and it all just flowed. I know I could have gone a little faster, but this was day one of a 3 day rally so priority was to get a finish. The whole day passed without any major dramas, no bike problems and no off's. My special test times were hard to judge, all I knew at this time was that I had not caught anyone, and no one had passed me. I should have been following Patsy Quick but she was a DNS for the whole event, prepping for the Greek Serres international rally instead.

After the last checkpoint, having completing 2 timed laps I headed back onto the tarmac for the liaison returning to the paddock. On arriving there I gave the bike a once over, changed the air filter and re-fuelled, in readiness for an early 08:10 start with heavy rain forecast for the following day. Saturday would be the longest day so I wanted to be sure that the bike was spot on. Goggles prepped with roll off's and kit sorted I was ready, but it was a different story for Lee, my riding partner. His Elephant had been playing up all day, with the alternator light on and the front end pushing harder than a Gloucester drug dealer. He decided to call it a day for the big Cagiva so we rounded up 18 strong lads and managed to manhandle it into the back of Lee's ex-Sky TV road show Ford Transit. No rear doors, just a left sided display type door, a 4 feet loading height, and some steel ramps for the 200KG monster, not an easy job at the end of a long day in the saddle, the good news though was that it was to stay in there for the duration, phew!

Saturday dawned wet and windy, as per forecast. The start was noticeably earlier to allow the organisers to get in a full days riding, originally planned for 240 miles, but cut down to 195 due to issues with newts or butterflies or some other form of fluffy wildlife. The road liaison was much longer at 32 miles taking us out to Kielder forest. Arriving there, I recognised some of the trails and course from the Kielder Rally which I rode in June, although some of it was going in the opposite direction from what we'd done then. The times had been relaxed a little. They were still tight on the lap, but the last checkpoint left enough time spare to get re-fuelled and grab a burger or drink from the mobile catering van. We had the dubious pleasure of riding with Chris Moss, regular contributor to the TBM magazine. For those of you who have not met Chris will not be aware that he can certainly talk for England, very loud and very blunt. One of the other riders who had to listen to Chris at each checkpoint did make a comment "has that bloke got grease nipples fitted to his jawbone, if not he needs them?" Enough said!

Again we had a sighting lap, a good chance to view what became known as the 'ski slope', a horrible boggy, slippery, rutted downhill slide of about 100 m. I don't think anyone had anything good to say about it. I'd came across this section at the Kielder Rally, I didn't like it then, and I didn't like it now. Every lap there was some poor soul on their arse with a marshal trying to assist, but unable to stand up himself, just like the Welsh really.

Onto the first timed lap, and it went without a hitch, the 14/48 tooth gearing proving a perfect match for the 100mph straights, but still usable for the slower parts of the special test which had a mix of ruts, stream crossings and a half mile run down a rock based water filled track. The second timed lap was not so clever, the initial problem being an occasional mis-fire. I was beginning to think about all sorts of technical fuel injection problems and how I could be heading for a DNF. Then at the last checkpoint, as I watched my minute click over I thumbed the started button, nothing, a dead bike and 59 seconds to get it going and cross through the check. I started kicking it over, the first time ever! I guess I should have tried some time before but electric starts are so reliable aren't they? Then out of nowhere appeared Peter Gray, founder of Wilderness Wheels, the bike tour company in Morocco. He held the handlebars straight and knee'd the front wheel which allowed me to stand on the pegs and give the big Katoom a healthy kick with my size 11's, she sparked into action and I got through with a few seconds to spare.

It turns out that Peter had lost his oil drain plug from his borrowed Honda XR600, only noticing the issue when his toes on his left foot felt toasty warm. One of the check point officials was trying to graft a shaved down wooden peg back into the engine casing when another helper had a moment of inspiration. He went over to his bike trailer and removed a wheel stud, result, same size, same thread, Peter was back in action after an oil refill from the same generous marshal.

I limped on to the final checkpoint with the misfire getting worse, we'd been instructed to just head straight back rather than waiting for our minute. With nothing between there and the finish apart from the road liaison, and considering it was tipping it down with rain as it had been pretty much all day, this was a welcome decision by the organisers.

Reaching the paddock, I handed over my time card and quickly got changed, dried and warmed up. I pulled the seat off the bike to check for obvious signs and to my pleasure I found a loose battery lead so gave it a tweak, top job, starter back in action and fingers crossed for an end to the misfire. Another fresh air filter, oil checked and fuel top up and the KTM 5 hundred was ready to go.

On the Saturday evening about 200 riders, helpers and interested parties attended a meal and talks from various figures involved in rallying, including Lyndon Poskitt and the bandaged up Edo Mossi. There was some interesting news and future plans discussed there, a proposal for a 2014 UK round of the FIM world rally championship, but more of that another day!

The forecast for the final day was mixed and it was indeed mixed. Wind and torrential rain encouraged me to stay in bed as long as possible, and yet by the time I was up and out on the start line, it had dried up quite a bit. This last day was back at Kershope forest, where we'd been on Friday. After an appeal by some of the riders the night before, the race distance had been increased from 2 to 3 laps, so I had a quick rethink of my fuel strategy and had chucked an extra 5 lite can on the fuel van just for good measure.

As we'd done this same course before, there'd be no sighting lap, just 3 timed laps. The good news was that the misfire was now cured. I felt significantly quicker as I started to remember parts of the 11 mile special test. All in all Sunday's ride was pretty uneventful except for one very hairy moment, hitting a fast sweeper too quickly, losing traction on the now worn out rear tyre and dragging the rear wheel across the edge of a 3 feet water drainage ditch for about 10 metres before it finally gripped and shot me back into the track. Panic over, stay cool.

Many of the riders had noticed 2 kids near a hump back bridge on a road liaison section taking photos. Nothing too much out of the ordinary, except that they had been placed there by their father who was getting them to take pictures of riders getting air over the bridge. He was on a personal crusade to get the rally stopped by handing the photos to the Police, showing riders numbers.

Arriving at the final checkpoint I chatted to Iwan Evans , he was riding one of the few modern 2 strokes in the event, a KTM 300 EXC. Pointing down to his kickstart he asked if I thought he had any compression ? I pushed it down with my hand, no compression, actually less than my 1976 Fantic Caballero with swinging pedals. His race was over, he was towed 16 miles back to the finish area by his mate Cefin Evans, he must have been gutted as he had ridden for almost 3 days and had blown his engine with just 16 miles of road work to get to the finish. Even worse, was that he was leading his class and running 2nd overall in the rally.....pesky 2 strokes !

I rode back to the start / finish in convoy with a handful of other bikes and on arriving I handed over my time-card and was presented with the finisher medal. A hot cuppa and a Lakeland steak baguette finished the event nicely. I had completed the longest, both time and distance UK rally and it was a satisfying achievement. About 30 of the 170 starters had DNF'd, a fair few of them being some of the international riders on their twinshocks.

We left Carlisle by 5.00pm and headed south down the very boring M6, arriving at Stoke at 8.00pm. A quick change of vans and I was back on the M6, M5, M50, and back home at 10.30. I had booked Monday off work, good decision as I was well knackered. I had covered 650 miles in vans and 500 miles on the bike over a 4 day period, stiffness had set in.

Results were posted a few days later and I had won the Rally Lite class for enduro bikes up to 574cc and had been placed equal 3rd overall, with test times exactly equal to Steve Hague aboard his KTM 690R, a multi time Dakar finisher. Great news as this has cemented my lead in the overall ATRC championship, giving me a 32 point lead with 40 points up for grabs from the last 2 events. An 11th place at the Hafren rally on Sept 22nd will see me wrap up the championship, one better than last years 2nd spot in the big bike single class.

The winner of the event was Ollie Lloyd, an upcoming young rider on one of the Speedbrain Husqvarna rally team bikes, as used in this year's Dakar (23,500€ if you want to order one). Make a note of the name, I'm sure you will hear more of it in the near future. He has already done well in some of the international rallies and I guess his aim is to ride the Dakar one day, maybe sooner rather than later. I had enjoyed this event, taking part in a piece of history and getting a good result with it, it doesn't get much better.

Until next time, Mike Wells.