Team Gearchange

Our summary of the Mac4x4 Challenge 2014

2014 Just Giving page here: JustGiving

Thursday 7th March 2014

The start was at the Britpart HQ near Craven Arms. We arrived at about 12pm. We knew we were in the right place as you have never seen such a motley collection of 4x4's, mostly green oval, in various states of decay. Some were previously owned by Noah, others by Wallace and Gromit. Some of the teams were also attired in unusual modes. One or two vehicles needed a small amount of fettling to attain internal combustion before the event started.

We kicked off at about 2:30pm with a treasure hunt. The teams split on odds / evens. We were team 35, so we ran up the A49 to Shrewsbury, then A5/M54 to Telford, then A5 to Lutterworth and finally cross country to a campsite near Sibbertoft. Looking for clues all the way of course.

Friday 8th March 2014

Friday saw an unusual Mac event. We motored over to the Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, where we did a short codeboard section (looking for number plate fragments hidden alongside the route) before arriving at the Kart Track!

We did some Karting (which I think was just for fun), before continuing with the codeboards around the aircraft graveyard and the small off-road course. This complete, we then returned to Britpart near Craven Arms.

Saturday 9th March 2014

Saturday was the first 'full on' day. With an early briefing, we set off for the Clun Forest. Upon arrival the driver was asked three questions about their route. We were given the usual set of slightly dodgy grid references and asked to plot a route around the forest. This done, we set off, looking for and recording the codeboards hidden in the trees.

After this, we had a short drive to the start of the next stage, during which we were supposed to note down the names we spotted on numberplates, and the animals that they referred to (e.g. Dolly - Sheep). Unfortunately the navigator didn't realise this until we were close to the end of this section, so we turned around and repeated that part of the stage at tremendous speed. We were held up quite a bit by these blasted old Land Rover jalopies coughing and wheezing along. I don't think we did very well on this stage.

After the 2nd forest stage (Radnor), we were given a sheet with 9 photographs taken from our route on the first day. We had to put them in the order we'd seen them. Some were just random roundabouts. Hard!!

Then we drove over to Devils Bridge via the top of the Elan Valley for the night stage. This is another forest codeboard stage, but at night. The LED lamps on the vehicle really reaped rewards here. The route took us through a windfarm, very spooky at night.

After this stage, we had some lousy instructions to take us to Aberyswyth (note to organisers: the A4120 joins the A44 twice!), where we camped in a playing field next to a hotel.

There was a mishap on one section - we had an optional 'off road' section which was pretty straightforward. Unfortunately a 110 had a gearbox malfunction (as I understand it), and rolled. Nobody was hurt, and the AA got it running again to allow it to compete the next day.

Sunday 10th March 2014

Sunday was another early start, with another forest stage near Devils Bridge. After this, we had a long road stage, from the A44 at Llangurig via Llandeilo, Carno, Cemmaes Road, Dinas Mawddwy, Cross Foxes, Bala and Druid to finish at the Rhug Farm Shop near Corwen. This had many questions, not all in the right order. Very vexing at times. But at least we had local knowledge so that did help.

After handing in our last sheet at Rhug, we headed to the final destination at the Britannia Hotel in Daresbury for the black tie dinner and awards. We did stop in Ruthin for a cup of tea and cake, only to experience some outstandingly grumpy customer service. Boy have the Welsh Tourist Board got their work cut out to make these places welcoming to outsiders!!

The awards dinner and auction all went off very well (we didn't win anything), but it does go on rather late, so we cleared off at about 12:30am before it had finished. (Another note to the organisers: please can we start earlier!)

So in all, it was a great event. Lady Gearchange drove extremely well, and spotted more than her share of the codeboards and treasure hunt answers. And the Range Rover was an extremely comfortable place to sit for four days. The free mapping software (KDE Marble + OpenStreetMap + Mapnik + Rendr + gpsd + xgps + PostgreSQL) worked nicely, rendering map tiles from the database on demand. Even though the mapping isn't as complete as the Ordnance Survey, it was still a valuable asset.

Click here for the results.

Last modified on: 30th December 2014 by Chris Cowdery © 2013-2014

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