Durrants have recently pledged their support to Diss-based Planner, Jasmine Philpott, in her off-road car racing pursuit. Here’s the latest updates on her progress in events around the UK. This time: the Scottish Borders Hill Rally.
The Scottish Borders Hill Rally is a season highlight for anyone in the offroad community. It takes place at the stunning 11,000 acre Forrest Estate near Dumfries and is the most challenging event of the year.
Taking place over two days, including into the night, the event is demanding on driver, co-driver and race car, and finishing is an achievement in itself.
Unlike comp safaris, this event is run like a rally, but with unique stages driven completely blind, with no pace notes. The event uses rally timing clocks, meaning every minute of your weekend is against the clock, from leaving parc ferme, to entering the stage, to your pitstops in between sections. You are penalised for being both late and early, and if you have a mechanical failure, you only have between 30 and 45 minutes to fix it.
I have attempted this event four times including this year, and have finished it once. In 2018 I had every sort of mechanical failure imaginable – throttle cable breakage, cambelt failure, gearbox implosion (which we fixed!) and finally a very embarrassing fuel shortage after a big hold up on a stage. 2019 saw the worst crash I have had in my life – I came off the track at speed and hit a tree on my side, which took some time to recover from, and my co-driver broke his foot. The event didn’t run in 2020 due to Covid, and in 2021 I finally had my first hill rally finish.
This year, I asked an experienced female Norwegian navigator to join me via Instagram. I was thrilled that she accepted my offer, and booked her flights to Manchester that day.
I felt a lot of pressure to finish the event, with Anette coming so far and at considerable cost. It’s an expensive weekend once entry fee, accommodation and fuel is factored in. One of the harsh truths of the hill rally is that mechanical failure is very likely. The event comes at the very end of the season, when the cars have been raced all year and are due some TLC. Expecting them to then finish the equivalent of 3 comp safaris in one weekend is therefore pretty ambitious!
Anette and I were the only all-female team entered, so I was aiming for a finish so that we could win the women’s award. It was freezing cold, and a few miles into the first stage we were soaked through from water flooding into the car through one of many water splashes. We made a good team, and were climbing up the leaderboard as the day progressed.
The last stage of leg 2 was amazing – very fast, open, and with amazing views (not that I was looking anywhere but ahead!). We were about three quarters of the way round when suddenly the oil pressure light came on and the dial dropped to 0. Generally this is a sign of imminent engine failure. I backed off but could not feel or hear a change in the engine, so decided it was potentially a faulty sensor. We continued for another 5 miles at race speed without issue.
During the break between Leg 2 and 3, we agreed that we may as well carry on and risk engine failure, because the engine is rebuilt every winter in any case. The third leg on day 1 runs into the night, so we put our lights on, stuck some duct tape over the oil pressure light and headed out. The car was running so well, so it was absolutely devastating when I started to hear an ominous clicking sound as we navigated a technical quarry section. It started to lose power, and then came the smoke, and we knew it was time to pull over before it blew up.
Where we parked up was beautiful, but on the top of a hill and absolutely freezing. We had to wait for the stage to finish before enduring the tow of shame back to the pits.
It is hard to know where we would have finished, but we were in 18th (out of 49) at the end of stage 3. Only 29 competitors finished the event, which makes me feel a bit better!
I am hoping to upgrade my car entirely over the winter to a brand new version of what I already have, with a faster engine. Next year I will also be competing in 4 European Bajas in the Excite car – hopefully Spain, Portugal, Poland and potentially Greece, alongside comp safaris in my own.
I’m so grateful to Durrants for their support this year, and am thrilled that they have offered to sponsor me again for 2023.