It’s fair to say that 2020 has been a rather strange year for the Kent-based off-road racing crew, Team Gigglepin. With the majority of national and international races that would normally fill up their diaries sadly erased thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, it gave the guys the time to take stock and prepare for the next time they were allowed to turn a wheel in a competitive manner once more.
One of the most significant changes during this down-time was the re-acquisition of ‘Bad Penny’ – the infamous machine built by Team Gigglepin a few years back, winning no less than three international races in 2015 in their hands before being sold to its new Danish owner shortly after.
Bad Penny utilises EBC Brakes’ Bluestuff pads and brake fluid on all four corners. Arriving back in Kent over the summer, it wasn’t long before the modified off-roader was once again set to prove itself out on the mud, when the team got the phone call that, against all the odds, the week-long Polish-based Rallye Breslau extravaganza would run as planned in September. This seemed like an almost poetic way for the team to wrap up the otherwise fairly uneventful year, with Rallye Breslau being the final event they’d claimed gold in back in 2015 with Bad Penny before selling it off.
With over 200 teams descending on the Western Polish town from across the continent and the event running in an updated five-day format (instead of its usual seven), Gigglepin driver Jim Marsden and navigator James Ayre couldn’t have been more excited to take on the 1300km ‘Extreme’ class course. Below is how it all panned out in the team’s own words.
“Jim and James put in a great time as they went into the first main stage, despite losing their spare wheel and jack.
“There are long ‘liaison’ sections between each sprint at Rallye Breslau, meaning a gap to gather their thoughts before the second, super-fast 76km dash. Here, a technical failure meant the guys lost their brake pedal for the final 20km of the stage, still somehow managing to finish it off in one piece and heading back to the camp in high spirits.
“An 11-minute time penalty was sadly slapped on the drivers, pushing them down to sixth place at the end of the first day.”
“There is nothing better than giving Jim someone to chase, and on this day, Estonian Hardo Mere had a target on his back as the 287km course lay ahead.
“James nailed the navigation while Jim set a blistering pace. They carried out a near-faultless stage and crossed the line, retaking the lead after race leader Mere lost time.”
“Overnight, the team fitted a new radiator and Bad Penny was ready for the ‘big one’: Day 3 with two race stages, two liaison stages followed by the fabled night stage.
“With a seven-minute lead going into this day, things were looking up as the boys dived into the first stage and charged hard. But, as with all motorsport, everything can change in a second, with Bad Penny’s A-frame bushes suddenly failing and making the vehicle feel like it was driving on ice.
“Nursing the off-roader through 175km of special stages and 165km of liaison routes, they amazingly only lost eight minutes to a flying Mere during this period, who re-took the lead by one minute.
“The ground team scrabbled to set up their new camp and organised some new bushes to be fitted before the highly anticipated night stage arrived.
“Jim loves night racing and was hoping to regain the lead here. Sadly, 15km in, Bad Penny started to cough and splutter, barely able to pull itself along even in first gear.
“It was a long night where they were passed by almost everyone as they staggered across the line. With the terrible day behind them, the drivers were pleased to learn they’d only lost 18 minutes to the race leader. After a long night, the power issue was identified as a stick stuck in the fuel pick-up pipe.”
“The boys knew they needed a superb day if they were going to re-take the lead, with 264km facing them on day four to potentially get things back on track.
“With Mere experiencing navigation issues and Bad Penny flying better than ever, Jim kept up the pace to put the team back in first after the first stage.
“Despite the fluke problem of a winch rope getting stuck on the drum later on in the day, the team finished up with a two-minute lead as they prepared for the fifth and final day.”
“There are no easy stages at Rallye Breslau, and even the final stage was a staggering 131km of deep water, bogs, high speeds and difficult navigation.
“With the advantage of a fragile two-minute lead, but the disadvantage of starting first, Jim and James knew that rival Mere would be hunting them every step of the way.
“Jim engaged warp drive, but the team had to deal with slower traffic from other classes throughout, expecting to see Mere appear in their mirrors at any second. But the pace was vicious and he was nowhere to be seen.
“Then, in the distance, a pinprick of dust and a fait V8 roar approached, as Bad Penny rounded the final bend and took the chequered flag to secure the class win of the week!”