A 912 on the Fourth Grand Tour:
Cape to Cape 2007
Author: Brod Purdy.
Before the off.
Under a cloudless blue sky with temperatures climbing up to the mid-twenties, and with the sounds of bombs exploding to the north, two Tornadoes, having completed their bombing runs, climbed to high level for their return to base. Iraq? Afghanistan? No…it was the start of the Fourth Grand Tour, Cape-to-Cape 2007 in support of Macmillan Cancer Support, from Cape Wrath to Cape Clear, but Cape Wrath was closed…
35 crews in classic cars and ‘modern’ classic cars, amongst which was the 1966 912 SWB Coupé of Carolyn and Brod Purdy, were about to start this classic car tour organized by rally navigator Dennis Greenslade.
Day One: Durness to Inverness.
The first half of the route took us from Durness through some outstanding scenery and narrow, quiet roads, down the western coast of Scotland before cutting across to Inverness (our first night stop). We drove through outstanding scenery along narrow roads and steep hills along the west coast; some, no doubt, not traversed by the average tourist as they were off the beaten track. But the lochs, mountains and sea views were magnificent. The first programmed break came at the fairly inaccessible lighthouse at Cluas Deas where we had a wonderful sight across the Atlantic…and a slight panic when the driver thought she’d lost the (only) ignition key just as we were about to depart. The route then continued via Lochinver, Strathan and Inverkirkaig to the Aird of Coigach, Inverpolly Forest and past Cul Beag to rejoin the main road at Drumrunie. We then headed for Inverness, passing through Ullapool and Muir of Ord, and on to Inverness.
Day Two: Inverness to Greenock.
The second day started off misty and took us via Loch Ness, up an extremely steep hill climb course just off the B852, apparently called ‘The Corkscrew’…very appropriate, that caught us out with a less than perfect handbrake on two very steep hill starts where penalties were awarded for those of us who slipped backwards…(including Carolyn in our 912). After this horror…and accompanied by a smell of hot clutch plates…we then had a drive along a gated road where the navigator (me) had to leap out of the car, open the gate to let the car through, then close the gate again. A very welcome stop for coffee and Scottish shortbread in Fort Augustus followed. The route took us through more magnificent scenery along the Caledonian Canal and on through Glen Bogle country to a further stop and tour of the Dalwhinnie Distillery. And then via more ‘off the map’ road sections, and a confusing section across a ‘not on the map’ road between two hydroelectric power facilities before a road section that took us all to the ‘Rest and be Thankful Hill Climb’, now a Forestry Commission road and no longer used for its original purpose. This was where we swapped drivers…I drove and Carolyn kept her eyes closed. Well, that was the original plan, but as we approached the start, a very loud bang accompanied by clouds of blue smoke foretold something nasty. So I drove gently up the hill to park at the top and investigate the problem. Fuel pouring out of both carbs. So we drove slowly from Rest and be Thankful and on to Gourock for the night’s stop…and hopefully the chance to sort out the problem with the fuel leak. A spanner did the job and we were ready for the following morning.
Day Three: Greenock to Antrim via Cairnryan and Larne.
A clear day once the early mist over the route past Loch Thom cleared; a good augur for the afternoon’s ferry crossing. Then through to Largs where an accident caused the route to be closed so we were instructed to head straight for the start of the Tulip section to the east of Maybole. The route was easily followed without recourse to maps, although an ambiguous instruction led us to drive further into the forest than strictly necessary…The route was a great driver’s road for a driver sitting on the right side of the car…not so easy for the left hooker. Then to Barr, after which the route was straightforward…head for the coast and the ferry port at Cairnryan for embarkation to N. Ireland.
The ferry crossing was smooth and many took the advantage of a quiet room to catch up on sleep, and worry about the regularity sections that had to be completed later on the tour; others made for the refreshment areas to catch up on tales of woe and despondency. From Larne, the route was a straightforward drive to the hotel in Antrim where an excellent dinner was served…and some further fettling carried out in the car park.
Day Four: Antrim to Donegal.
From Antrim we headed towards the coast at Carnlough and Waterfoot, a very scenic route. At Waterfoot the route turned back inland through the Glenariff Forest, Cushendun and Cushendall where we should have headed along the coast road before passing through Ballycastle on the way to the Giant’s Causeway and a welcome rest, but a slight navigational error caused us to miss out on this section. (More financial penalties). As an amateur geologist, Carolyn took the opportunity to have a look at the geological constructions here. I just fumed at my simple error.
After departure from the Giant’s Causeway, the route followed the coast through Portrush and Portstewart, (passing the former RAF Marine Craft base at Portrush, where I remembered the days of ‘dinghy drills’ off Portrush and being winched up by the SAR helicopters…), through Coleraine, Dungiven then over some scenic and not so scenic roads through the Sperrins and a straightforward route to Strabane.
We crossed into the Republic of Ireland at Strabane/Lifford and through farmlands around Raphoe and Convoy, the twin towns of Ballybofey and Stranorlar where we headed towards Welchtown and the Blue Stack Mountains and towards Donegal Bay and into our hotel for the night, just outside Donegal Town.
Day Five: Donegal to Kiltimagh.
The morning’s route was very straightforward as the meat of the day’s excitement was slated to be the two regularities run just after lunch. We thus set off towards Sligo, keeping Donegal Bay on the right and the Dartry Mountains on the left. Once through Sligo, the route branched off via Tobercurry to cross the ‘Slieve Gamph’, or Ox Mountains, heading out for Ballina where we headed southwards between Lough Conn and Lough Cullin where, once through the very picturesque town of Westport, we headed south towards the Carig Bar where a welcome bowl of soup and plate of sandwiches awaited all. And the start of the ‘dreaded’ regularity section.
The first crew left the start of the first regularity on time, followed by the rest heading into unknown territory. No plotting was necessary, and the route was very straightforward, but this section gave us rally afficionadoes the chance to get our own back on the trials drivers who may be able to start on steep hills, but had difficulty juggling stop watches, maps and average speed tables. My first regularity as a navigator was not handled well…I reset the stop watch too early and thus lost my timing accuracy. (57 secs late) The second regularity section was much better and crew co-operation was spot on…only 2 seconds late. After the end of the second regularity section, we headed for the new hotel in Kiltimagh…with the option of a stop at Ashford Castle outside Cong, where many took the opportunity to gorge themselves with the Irish equivalent of a ‘Cream Tea’ before a hectic dash through Claremorris to Kiltimagh and the Dinner and Auction.
Instead of the usual penalty announcements, Dinner at Kiltimagh was the forerunner to an auction of items that raised more than the £3750 for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Day Six: Kiltimagh to Ballybunion.
After the start from the hotel the route took us past Galway on towards Kinvarra and the Burren Perfumery and a welcome break with coffee and buns. Again, some ambiguity in the Route Book had cars missing a crucial slot left, but eventually we found the correct slot and the Perfumery. And no doubt some wallets were lightened as gifts for those ‘at home’ were purchased. With a small car park, pressure was on for us to carry out a quick turn round and to retrace their routes towards Carran, across the Limestone Pavement (one of only two in the British Isles), Ballyvaughan and on to Black Head, Fanore and on to Ennis and Limerick.
At Limerick the route crossed the Shannon and the last haul to the hotel at Ballybunion. However, there was a sting in the tail as we were directed along a very exposed coastal road through Beal and Leansaghane to the golfing hotel in Ballybunion where we met a couple of very wet and cold marshals sitting at the side of the road.
And the weather was definitely on the turn.
Day Seven: Ballybunion to Rosscarberry via Baltimore and Cape Clear.
The final day dawned wet and windy…the previous days of glorious sunshine and sub-tropical temperatures had changed into the standard west of Ireland dampness. The first section of the route was straightforward to Tralee where it became interesting with us all driving along a very narrow track to pick up the site of ‘Scotia’s Grave’, Killarney and then the sting in the tail…the Healey Pass. For those that may not be aware, at the bottom of the pass is an old petrol station…but one pump advertised ‘Murphy’s Stout’…this caused us to miss the main road over the Pass, but we found some rather nice rough roads, to the consternation of the local farming community that was not expecting to see a 1966 Porsche 912 driving along! A retrace of the route and we discovered our error…or rather, my error! A slow ascent and descent, just to take in the scenery…a pity that the view point at the top had been taken up by a bunch of motor-cyclists, so no room for the Porsche. From the top we could see the classics ahead of us and below us…it was terrific.
Then to the main road with only the short distance to Baltimore via Bantry and Skibbereen and the ferry left to qualify as finishers. Except that Bantry was having a Festival and 1200 runners, joggers and walkers took over the whole of the road and we were all forced to drive at their pace…very slowly. This added another dimension to the comment that we could not be classed as finishers unless we made the ferry…and time was fast running out. However, we all made the ferry, as the organizer had wisely delayed departure by 15 minutes owing to the delays through Bantry.
Standing on the poop deck of the ferry, lashed by wind and rain, we saw Cape Clear in the mists off the southern coast of Ireland…and formally completed the Tour. At the Gala Dinner that night, the organizers announced that together we had raised over £56,000, which, with Gift Aid, would probably end as over £75,000. All for Macmillan Cancer Support.
2008? The route from Cape Cornwall to Cap Ferret is now being prepared with a start date of 27 April 2008. Regulations are available now from email@example.com. And details will be found on my (new) website www.pr4motorsport.com as and when they become available.
The route looks fantastic, starting from Cape Cornwall, heading for the overnight ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff and then through NW France to Cap Ferret and the finish.