The Italia Sardinia Sports Car Challenge was a week of truly hard driving. 300 miles a day does not sound much in enclosed saloon car comfort on the motorway, but is something different altogether in an open sports car on mountain roads, needing a moment to spare at the end of each section to be on time at the time control around the corner and is truly challenging for both driver and navigator.
I am delighted to say that no vital organ fell off the Findhorn NG TC V8 car and we finished the event in a respectable position . In fact, the five days of the challenge resulted in me having much more confidence in the car.
The road book for the rally gave excellent directions for the navigator to relay to the driver, allowing the latter to concentrate fully on the driving. At least that was the theory, in reality it was “Speak up Dad, and do you really mean right because you are pointing left?” Well he needs only to be telepathic to sort that out!!
We needed care through the villages and the care was rewarded by enthusiastic waves and shouts of “Ciao”. Then the road book indicated “end of village in 150 yards and straight on for 5.6 km.” So it was foot down and GO.
For the Findhorn team it was an exhilarating week with a steep learning curve and then increasing confidence in driver and the TC. The car stuck to the road through the bends and flew along when asked to. The 3.9 behaved impeccably and never missed a beat despite a plastic union’s efforts at leaking all week and failing altogether on the last morning; the lesson is of course that small plastic components and serious automotive engineering do not mix except in the finance director’s eyes.
The only major potential show stopper was a kerb on the steepest and slowest hair pin descent imaginable. It nipped out and bit the side wall of the 235/40 R 17. Down at the bottom we missed the time check, but a kind Sardinian pointed us back up the mountain to the next town and a tyre shop with a pair of exactly the right tyres. Quite staggering!! That was on the last morning and completely put in context one of the challenge’s joining instructions that a certain perseverance would be needed to complete the challenge.
During the week, we stormed up mountain sides – where hung-over navigators are a less than perfect asset – negotiated flocks of goats (described in a rare road-book aberration as “coats”), bounced along tracks which would have teased even the original Range Rover owner of the 3.9 engine, squeezed along cobbled streets through mediaeval villages clinging to mountainsides, then slammed the helmets shut as we sped across mountain top plains with groves of cork bark trees. At the end of the section, a lay-by had to be found round the corner from the beady eye of the marshal threatening to give penalty points to any car appearing to be early.
Despite coming half way in the field, the Findhorn NG team had its moment of glory on the second afternoon on meeting an orange Caterham lent by the makers, to a certain ladies team, who had best be nameless. We think that the reason they were facing the wrong direction had more to do with failed electrics and bump starts than operator error!! Anyway, out with the tow ropes and the NG tug and orange Caterham barge advanced to the next time control in easy style (provided the tow drop was kept nicely taut on the down hill slopes and not threatening to break free and arrive in an untidy muddle around the navigator’s neck as an unexpected scarf!).
Petrol was a problem throughout as the 3.9 is not exactly abstemious in the fuel stakes. However, we managed it to perfection, running out 150 yards from the last time control with 45 seconds to spare and a nice down hill slope. We now know that the tank holds exactly 43 litres!
I think you will gather that Italia Sardinia Sports Car Challenge was truly challenging but enormous fun and a great proving ground for the Findhorn NG which passed with flying colours.