A day in the shoes of a rally hero

Blog post posted on 19/06/18 |

It was 29 May and it was a beautiful, bright, hot sunny day. Later that evening I’d be doing my favourite type of presentation, a co-presentation with mature driver ambassador and rally driving legend, Paddy Hopkirk, to South of London Advanced Motorists.

The plan was to pick Paddy up on the way to London and drop him home afterwards. This was a great opportunity to prepare for our double presentation.

As it was such a lovely hot day I decided to drive down to Paddy’s in my shorts and t-shirt and change once I was at his house into my formal clothes. Unfortunately, the further south I went the worse the weather got. At first it got very dark, then it started to drizzle and then a full blown thunderstorm appeared that virtually flooded the motorway.

It was at this point that I realised I didn’t have my smart shoes with me! Although the trainers that I was wearing were black, ‘Vans’ weren’t really appropriate to wear with smart trousers and a shirt.

I arrived at Paddy’s house in High Wycombe just at the tail end of the storm and was warmly welcomed into his office where we worked on our presentation. He had a good laugh at me for the predicament that I was in, he very kindly went to find me a pair of shoes that he knew would fit, and although he described them as ‘old man shoes’, they were much better than anything else I had to wear. Of course, I was very grateful for his kindness and helping me out of this difficult situation.

On the way to SLAM we had to navigate safely around the lanes in his area due to a tree blocking the road. This meant avoiding potholes, craters and crossing flooded patches. Once we reached the M25, Paddy mentioned how harsh the ride seemed in my company car, I love it but sometimes it can be a bit firm which I explained to him.

Things started to become a little strange when the cats eyes felt like three foot deep potholes to drive over. No warning lights flashed up on the dashboard and we were steering straight so I guessed maybe a spring had snapped - something to check when we got there.

We pulled off the M25 at Heathrow Airport and followed quite a busy A-road past Staines reservoir, it was at this point that the guy in the car to our left signalled to us that we had a flat… marvellous! We carefully pulled into a haulage yard on the left and went to inspect the damage. A rather flat but undamaged looking tyre looked back at us.

Like many cars these days mine didn’t have a spare; I did instead have a compressor and a bottle of gunge for situations like this.

I’d never used one before though, so I wasn’t really sure how to put it all together. Before I could even think about this, Paddy had the compressor and the bottle in his hand, had explained to me how they work and had attached it to my tyre ready to repair the damage - I was amazed!

In my presentations I always talk about the benefits of old and young working together passing over experience to those that haven’t experienced certain things before, but I’d never seen it in action.

Although I had to drive at 50mph and check the tyre a couple of times, thanks to Paddy we arrived there on time. I arrived there properly dressed and we both got home safely. It was an eventful night, not one that went to plan, but one that went well nonetheless.

The final words of the night to myself from Paddy were: “I don’t have to ask you any more what would you do if you were in my shoes, you’ve already done it!”

By David Gallagher, IAM RoadSmart's younger driver