After Ross had told me all about this Indian spectacular he asked, a little out of the blue: "Why isn't there anything on your blog about the classic car rally?" It was a good question.
Ross and I had travelled to the Moray region of Scotland in the summer to take part in a classic car rally organised by our old school. It was the first year that they had run it but it seemed like it might be good fun. Frustratingly my car was in France at the time but I managed to line up the use of an Aston Martin DB7 Vantage for the weekend in the hope that it might pass as a modern classic. The organisers didn't seem to mind about our choice of car and so we officially signed up for the event.
I am very familiar with the DB7 Vantage but Ross hadn't driven one before. As such, it seemed appropriate that it was he who drove us to Drummuir Castle where we would be staying the night before the rally. It was a brief introduction but enough to give him a taste of the fun we would be having on the Highland roads the next day.
Neither Ross nor I had taken part in anything like a car rally before. This one was going to be relatively lightweight, being a half-day journey with checkpoints followed by a mini concours event. Our fellow competitors seemed new to this as well and we all listened intently during the briefing as the concept of tulip diagrams was introduced to us for the first time. I say competitors but it soon transpired that we would have no timings taken; it was a non-competitive event. This was a bit of a shame as a note of competitive camaraderie was developing amongst the group, fuelled partly by the absurdly well-stocked whisky cabinet.
The Aston was getting a fair bit of positive attention as well, though its drivers soon had a bit of a reputation for speed. By mid-morning it seemed that we were known amongst the group for liking to overtake other competitors. Actually we just wanted to make the most of these stunning roads and were thoroughly enjoying ourselves. The deep, warbling roar of the V12 engine is addictive and we exercised every opportunity to hear it by flooring the throttle pedal.
The roads were as diverse as the cars in terms of quality. Some were horribly scarred by years and years of abuse from the elements. In a purer sports car this might have been a problem but the softer set-up of the Aston seemed ideal. Then there were longer sweeping roads which would suddenly turn into a series of quick corners. However fast we were on the open road, on these tighter sections we were well and truly beaten by the agility of the featherweight Caterham. We were also grateful for having a fixed roof over our heads when it started to rain. Other competitors were forced to pull over and quickly raise their roofs or, in one case, pull over and hold an umbrella up until the worst had passed.
Self-inflicted noise pollution aside, our hangovers eventually passed. We were comfortable with the tulip diagrams and only made one mistake which was towards the end of the rally. Thankfully I employed a bit of local knowledge to get us back on track and we found ourselves first to the finish line feeling secretly triumphant.
The concours event that took place as part of the junior school's Highland Games was a foregone conclusion; the stunning vintage Bentley (below) rightly taking the honours, the DB7 Vantage coming in sixth place. Even so, again the Aston proved popular with the crowds and we were more than happy to leave the doors and bonnet open whilst we found the burger stall, giving people a chance to look around and sit inside.
It was a really fun day and I must confess, I now have an appetite for a slightly more serious rally. Watch this space...