Saxon Express 23.
After 5 years of not competing at all CPO Andrew Richman and Mr Rory Lowther stepped into Andrew’s 1965 Land Rover Series 2A “Laurence” to refresh themselves in Off Road Navigation at BAMA’s (British Army Motorsport Association) Saxon Express 23.
0700 came round far too quick for our morning scrutineering but we were greeted with beaming smiles from all the marshalling team and Chief scrutineering many of which have become good friends. We passed scrutineering without any pick-ups other than the lack of roll bar which will become an issue later in the year when the rules change, don’t worry we have a plan for this.
The rest of the field was made up from a vast spread of Land Rover models from the early 60’s up till a rather nice ‘09 V8 Range Rover Sport, a Mitsubishi Pajero and many TUM Land Rovers from 1st Royal Yeomanry just proving the sport can be competitive in any 4×4 vehicle. This year the bike class was opened up with 9 bikes competing too.
Once we had signed on to the event we were given all the maps and timecards we required for the day and Andrew set about getting back into his old routine of plotting all the routes we would need to transit between each section and any QZ (Quiet Zones). With some small nerves the other cars started lining up for the Starting Marshal to send them on their way, we were the very last car, car 24.
Section 1 Nav Warm Up. The first event was something new from our previous years a warm up nav, both of us were pretty happy with this as it would set us both up for the day and get back into our old routine of talking to one another about what we can see; treelines, power cables and tracks etc so Andrew can make sure we are in the correct place on the map/aerial photograph and tell me where to go. The section was a nice trundle through a wooded section with small yellow board and black letter for us to write down on to a timecard. The ground was perfect for me as I like to slide around a little and the previous night’s rain made the ground just right, much to my amusement and Andrews’ bemusement.
As soon as we handed over our time card for section 1 we went straight into Section 2 – The Scatter, this event we are given an aerial photograph of an area with 24 small black dots at various points. The idea is to visit as many black dots on the page to physically see a board with a letter and mark it down on our timecard within a specified time limit. We normally do very well in these as Andrew’s navigation is fantastic considering the terrain we are travelling across isn’t smooth and I tend not to hang around. We managed to visit 19 boards and gain the least amount of points compared to the rest of the field.
Section 3 – Snooker. This section always turns the competition on its head and this one was no exception. The section is very clever however it takes time and as we found out the markers aren’t always where they seem. Loosely based on the game snooker you must get three red balls in numerical order before getting a coloured ball, each red ball gives you two numbers once you have three numbers the numbers you have collected make a 6 figure grid reference to where a coloured ball is. You only get points for coloured ball not red balls. We managed to get the black and pink balls but struggled with blue and brown. This event was our worst by some margin finishing this event in 7th place.
Section 4 – Gymkhana. The section is purely down to the driver putting the vehicle in the right place to drive through a route marked by canes. As this event is made to cater for people of all skill levels we had no issue driving through the section split into 3 separate routes climbing over dunes and off large drop-offs. This was made up by the local Dorset Land Rover Club.
Section 5 – Orienteering. This event we both enjoy, we are given an aerial photograph with points marked over a large area again to collect various letters on our score card, normally we would have bright orange orienteering markers to collect various punches however those were missing this time and we reverted back to collecting letter boards. We cleared this course with about 5 minutes spare and managed to catch up with some of our favourite marshals.
Section 6 – Road section. We followed a route pre-plotted by Andrew in the morning along various tracks, metalled roads around Bovington training area and the roads surrounding the area looking out for another type of letter board taking in some of the outstanding views across Dorset looking down towards Lulworth Cove. We cleared this section as did the most of the field.
Section – 7 Sequential. The sequential has me following directions from Andrew looking at an aerial photograph visiting numbered points in order to collect letter boards for our timecard. This was made slightly harder by one of the other competitors falling off a die straight track into a drainage ditch, with a recovery underway by other members of the 1st Royal Yeomanry we span the car around to retrieve the letter board from the other direction so we didn’t lose too much time. Thankfully we cleared this section too.
Section 8 – Road section. Practically the same as Section 6 following a different route but taking us through the famous Moreton Ford, an 80 foot ford across the river Frome with a foot bridge providing a great vantage point for the families who were having picnics on the side of the river as we came through. This was the most nerve racking part for both Andrew and myself and Laurence has a 2 ¼ petrol engine renowned to dislike water and with the previous night’s rainfall we took it very steady and thankfully crossed the body of water without issue and headed back to Parc fermé.
After a full on day we were very pleased with the final result of 3rd overall and 1st Team as we teamed up with another car we knew from previous years. The event for us went perfectly and it was fantastic to be back in the hot seat beating the Army at their own game and the RAF putting the Navy firmly in first place in the inter-services competition. At the presentation of awards we thanked the BAMA officials and marshals for their time and effort making the event a success and look forward to seeing them all soon at the next event.