The following is tale of epic heroism and down right stupidity during the events of the Regional Rally 2008 on the 16th of August 2008. It was a typical Northern Ireland summer day. Rain again.
After a quick drive to get petrol at an exorbitant price of £111.90 which equated to relieving my wallet of £25.00 and barely filling the tank, I set off to Forestside Shopping Centre. I was met by four other cars in the carpark and promptly parked up. After a great fry up, I risked the elements to venture a look at the cars now assembled, one of which was the much anticipated van of Bertie Lyttle.
It appeared that as it was the vans first outing since being rebuilt everything was to be perfect, including the two new magnetic signs that had been created for the van… the two signs of which only one was left! It seems that due to the vast quantities of polish, the heavy rain and speeds in excess of 45 miles per hour, the other sign had blown off on the motorway! (It was recovered sometime later).
All too soon we set off. Due to my non-existent route finding skills when behind the wheel, I elected to follow Andrew and Oliver Elwood. Finally, we made our way to the Lisburn Civic Centre. David McCulloug having had no time to properly seal his window screen in the Lowlight, had temporarily become a mason with the right trouser leg rolled up to avoid the water dribbling down the corner of the window. Finally, having called enough at Forestside, all the carpet was removed to the relative dryness of the boot. This made bailing the water out of the car much easier.
Further madness ensued as Sam, Isabel, David and I decided to explore Lisburn Town Centre. On walking through the gardens we discovered a small stream had appeared running down the tarmac. The rain only seemed to get heavier and by the time we returned to the Civic Centre we were all thoroughly wet through. On arriving back we found that Robert Hoy’s sense of humour had not been dampened was attempting to give rides on a wheelchair to anybody and everybody!
Soon we were off again, on route to La Mon Hotel for dinner, we found the road flooded and everyone turning around and heading back. By the time Andrew and I had turned we had lost everyone else with the exception of Chris Drummond, and we set off on our own route.
I later learned that Northern Ireland had received its full monthly rainfall in just one day. The roads and flooding got progressively worse. Finally, we encountered the deepest stretch we had seen. Andrew and I managed to cross with some engine spluttering, but on peering behind me as I climbed the hill immediately after, I could not see Chris’s Traveller. I signalled Andrew and we turned round and were met with the sight of Chris, trousers rolled up no shoes or socks on, standing in the middle of the small lake taking pictures of his stranded Traveller!
I immediately jumped out and waded towards Chris having decided against taking off my already drenched boots. We managed to push the car clear and Oliver jumped in and got it started. We agreed to make sure we all keep each other in sight at all times as the only person who knew where they where heading was Oliver Elwood! I decided to let David know where we were and after crossing increasingly wider and deeper stretches of water (though not as deep as the one we had crossed earlier) we made it only 15 minutes after dinner had started!
Dinner was excellent and the raffle soon followed later with top prize being a TV. No one believed that things had got that bad until I showed the pictures I had taken. The shields and finishers awards were presented by the Mayoress of Castlereagh who joined us for dinner. After the meal the manager of the hotel informed us how bad the roads had become and offered good rates on rooms. It didn’t look good.
After becoming veterans of river driving Andrew, Chris and I thought it couldn’t get worse than what we had already been through… we were wrong! A river runs beside the car park at La Mon and it had burst its banks and flooded the car park. An Austin Healey Sprite was completely swamped and many of the other cars were in deep water. Luckily our three cars were parked away from the slowly rising waters!
Still being thoroughly wet, Sam and I pushed out two Minors and then, deciding that retreat was the better part of valour, I decided to leave in convoy with David, Chris and Bertie all heading my way. I took up station at the rear and followed them out to the main road. We hit at least five bad stretches before reaching Roselawn Cemetery where things were really bad. This water was even deeper than Chris had got stuck in before. David led the way in his Lowlight, and I couldn’t help feel a little envious of the lowlight having the electrics up out of the way of splashes.
Bertie and I stopped and as I was still wet through I decided to get out and watch proceedings, only to discover Chris’ Traveller being pushed by David and Chris at the other end of the mini lake (the water was up to door bottom level). We were too far away to help so I jumped back in and decided to follow in Bertie’s wake, at least the van would protect me from the 4X4 splashes!
We made it through, after WD40ing Chris’ electrics we were off again. At this point I discovered that I had little or no brakes and drove most of the way home with the handbrake on 1 click. There was one point where we all nearly crashed into each other! Eventually our brakes dried up and we all made it home in one piece.
Just to add, when I checked the brakes the next dry day (and it took a while to get a good day) both sills were full of water which after parking on the hill drained off OK. The full month’s rainfall had fallen in that one night and the new Westlink underpass was full with an estimated 20ft of water!