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  Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 11:30 GMT
Heart in mouth in the forests
BBc Sport Online's Bryn Palmer prepares to take a spin with Formula One pundit Tony Jardine
Your intrepid reporter gears up for life 'on the edge'

The closest most of us get to the Rally of Great Britain is standing for hours in a Welsh forest, often in the dark, waiting for cars to pass periodically in a noisy cloud of mud.

But for the drivers and their navigators, it means four days of speeding round the hillsides where one mistake could catapult you into the valley below.

So given the chance to experience why Cardiff will become the centre of the rallying universe on Thursday, I am not about to refuse.

The car that provides me with the ride of a lifetime is an MG ZR - the same vehicle Welsh ace Gwyndaf Evans and former Grand Prix driver Mark Blundell will drive on this year's event.

MG, the only British manufacturer in the event, will provide four of the 90 cars attempting to cover 1,600km of gruelling gravel roads over 17 timed special stages.

Climbing into a rally car for the first time, you are struck by the stripped-down nature of the fittings.

No back seats for a start - in fact nothing much of anything in the back - but plenty of firm strapping across both shoulders by a way of a double-strength seat belt.


It is a novel experience being whipped round 180 degrees almost on the spot at every hairpin.

It is easy to imagine why this is necessary hurtling through the Welsh forests, with danger lurking round every bend.

If your co-driver calls it wrong, or you do not heed his specific advice, chances are the car will end up on its side, or its roof, or in a ditch.

But that doesn't prevent me getting excited by the possibilities of the six-speed sequential dog-engagement gearbox of the MG.

It is certainly impressive in the capable hands of Formula One pundit Tony Jardine, who has entered the GB Rally for a 11th successive year.

Such is the exhilaration of driving almost continuously "on the edge", as these rally boys are fond of saying. Better than "over the edge" I suppose.

The speeds may not be much faster than you see on the outside lane of the M4, but the car's ability around the corners is something to behold.

MG rally car
The MG has prodigious cornering abilities

Every turn seems to be a hand-braker, and it is a novel experience being whipped round 180 degrees almost on the spot at every hairpin.

It is the co-driver-cum-navigator I feel sorry for.

At least when you're driving you have the comfort of knowing just how hard you've hit the accelerator, and when the brakes are going to kick in.

Even with the radio link-up in our car, I can barely hear Jardine through my earphones, such is the noise of the engine.

It is up to the guy in my position to get the instructions spot on, shouting out what is round not just the next corner, but the following three or four.

But even if he gets that part right, there is always the unpredictable nature of the weather to undo the best-laid plans.

South Wales in November can bring just about anything, with fog common in the mountains and ice another possibility in the early mornings.

Contemplating these speeds in those conditions, it is comforting to note the MG chassis is replete with a welded-in roll cage.

This apparently is usually enought to protect you in even the most dramatic of incidents.

Failing that, a good insurance policy appears absolutely essential.

RALLY GB STAGE GUIDE
SEASON SO FAR
TOP TEAMS AND DRIVERS


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08 Nov 02 | World Rally
21 Oct 02 | World Rally
10 Oct 02 | Motorsport
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