Tarky is in high spirits as he looks forward to meeting the splendid chaps who make up the membership of the motor club and smiles to himself as the curious pitching motion created by the crude suspension reminds him of being perched on an elephant when tiger hunting in India.
Of course, he had never actually managed to hit a tiger with ‘Old Thunderer’, as he called the ancient firearm he used for such events, but was rather more successful in managing to remove assorted body parts from a number of the native beaters – much to the amusement of the other ex-pats in the party – though not necessarily to the amusement of the unfortunate beaters themselves!
Arriving at the hillclimb venue, Tarky is waved through the gateway of a farmers field that is to serve as the lower paddock and is mightily pleased with himself as he catches a cheerful “He`s here!” from a group of fellow club competitors, fortunately missing the preceding “Oh Christ…” that only a grinning Rogers hears as they drive past. Parking in their designated space, Tarky spots ‘Mungo’ Nicholson arriving in his new yellow, Renault Race-about. “Good looking car but a bit of a brash colour for an Englishman” Tarky comments to Rogers, who is celebrating his own safe arrival with a large snifter of nerve calming whisky.
Walking through the paddock to signing on, Tarky greets the Club Chairman, Mr Murdock (some sort of retired media mogul, rumour has it…), as well as ‘Bunty’ Benson who is Chief Marshall for the event, ‘Tick Tock’ Addison, acting timekeeper and a number of other competitors including budding author ‘Scribbler’ Rowland, ‘Sideslip’ Stevens and ‘Whoops-a-daisy’ Hamilton who has brought along his fearsome three-wheeler.
Tarky spends the hour after the driver`s briefing touring the paddock and cheerfully chatting with the other competitors, regaling them at length about the virtues of the ‘Tythrington Special’ and how he appears to have the only dedicated racer at the event – a view not shared by anyone else, as they are all aware of the history of the special and how the previous keeper had been an ‘absolute wizard’ for offloading it for such a healthy price!
As Rogers had previously pessimistically predicted, their first practice runs up the hill in the morning turn out to be less than record breaking as Tarky struggles to get cleanly off the line and bullies the wheezing contraption around the bends; cart spring suspension bouncing and crashing with all the control of a dingy in a North Atlantic gale!
It`s an embarrassed and slightly despondent Tarky that`s quaffing champers at the lunch break as he explains to those around him that it`s really rather difficult to control such a thoroughbred racing machine – “I mean, it`s not like driving a normal car, you understand?” asks Tarky of the assembled audience that fortunately appears to be in total agreement with this particular observation.
The first timed run after lunch mirrors the morning`s dismal practice performances and with only a single run left it`s a highly motivated, if slightly squiffy, Tarky that`s lined up for a final shot at club glory. “It`s do-or-die time Rogers!” announces Tarky as he sparks up another fat cigar, causing the increasingly uneasy riding mechanic to think to himself “yes; you do and I`ll die!” and to begin quietly muttering, “Dear Lord, graciously receive this soul of thy servant and repentant sinner…” just in case there wasn`t a priest handy when he needed one later.
On the start line Tarky decides that a spot of Dutch courage is called for and pulls out his hipflask, unscrews the stopper and is just about to take a decent swig when Rogers notices that the starter is in the throes of flagging them off. “Look out – go, GO!” shouts Rogers above the noise of the engine, causing a startled Tarky to drop the open hipflask into his lap and floor the throttle. They leap off the line in a welter of noise and smoke and roar along to the first set of open bends, with Rogers pumping furiously to keep the fuel pressure up as Tarky saws away at the steering like a demented helmsman.
To Tarky`s astonishment and the surprise of all the spectators, the special seems far better balanced than its previous attempts and it`s quickly onto the steeply climbing section of the hill before a sharp left hand bend which opens onto a long straight sprint to the finish. Tarky takes a moment on this steep section to adjust his soaking trousers and nearly misses the turn which he enters by frantically heaving at the wheel, inducing the back end to breakaway and the ‘Tythrington Special’ scribing a perfect scything arc around the bend and positively rocketing onto the final straight. ‘Ruddy marvellous’ thinks Tarky, letting out a whoop of joy which immediately releases his glowing cigar to drop down his overcoat and ignite the, by now, large amount of brandy soaking his crotch.
Tarky instantly reacts to the conflagration by springing upright (fortunately keeping hold of the steering wheel) which crushes the small bolt acting as a throttle stop and allows the Guzzle & Paylots carburettor to fully open for the first time. The engine takes a deep breath and the ‘bitsa’ contraption charges forward harder than anyone ever thought possible.
The extraordinary sight of the ‘Tythrington Special’ thundering across the finishing line with steam pouring from the radiator cap, it`s driver standing up and seemingly trailing smoke and fire from his backside and with a maniacally grinning mechanic vigorously punching him in his groin, presumably in an attempt to beat out the flames (as Rogers would later claim), brings the finish line crowd to a stunned silence highlighting the bellowing exhaust note, above which could be clearly heard a blood chilling shrieking that later led the finish line officials to question whether the car was fitted with a supercharger, as it had just won its class and set fastest time of the day!
Meanwhile Rogers, by now in an enhanced state of concern for his own self preservation, spots his opportunity to abandon ship and perfectly times a leap into a fast approaching duckpond, neatly tackling the blazing Tarky who happens to be in his way and bundling him from the car to hit the water like a human meteorite – later earning him an award from the Humane Society and a fat bonus and generous pension for life from an ever grateful Tarky!
What happened to the ‘Tythrington Special’? It was last seen disappearing into the distance to be later declared a total write off by Rogers who had been sent to retrieve it, as it had apparently plummeted into the local quarry. Which was just as well, as a bruised and barbequed Tarky had decided to give up racing cars and concentrate on something a little more sedate instead. Strangely, rumours persisted for a number of years after that something resembling the ‘Tythrington Special’ was doing sterling service hauling quarry wagon.
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