Dawn Refuelling: Run to the Castle report

Major Waffle
Last week, a few cars converged on Pentillie Castle for Dawn Refuelling: Run to the Castle. Here's a brief report on the drive.

It appears that it isn't just me who likes to get up at an ungodly hour to go for a drive across the countryside. Barely a week after the Volvo V60 Dawn Raid, I found myself waking up early once again. This time however, I would be joined by five other hardy fellows. This was Dawn Refuelling: Run to the Castle.

In preparation for a drive to the Pentillie Festival of Speed in August, I'd organised a small gathering of petrolheads at Pentillie Castle. For most people, the prospect of bacon sandwiches and coffee was enough to head straight for the castle. But the rest of us met at Sourton Down at 7am and drove the long way to the castle. Game on.

I wasn't sure how many people would be there, so I was delighted to find Rob in his Porsche 944 and Chris in his Nissan GT-R already parked up. No sooner had I arrived, then Jason arrived in his heavily modified Skoda Fabia, followed by Steve in his wonderful Renaultsport Mégane R26. I assumed that would be it, until Adrian Crawford arrived in his 520bhp Porsche 993. With my on-loan Suzuki Swift Sport completing the set, we hit the road. PetrolBlog doesn't do evo magazine group tests, but if it did, I'm pretty sure it would look something like this...

Dawn Refuelling cars in layby near Holsworthy in Devon

Leaving the layby at Sourton, we headed for Holsworthy via the A3079. It's one of those roads that can either be immensely frustrating or tremendously fun. The sweeping bends are intersected by glorious straights, visibility is great and potholes are few and far between. But get behind a slow moving bus or lorry and it becomes a torturous stretch of road. Fortunately for us, the road was totally clear and aside from a number of damp patches, conditions were great.

Well what can I say? The 18 miles to Holsworthy were exceptional. Slowing down only to negotiate the sleepy streets of Halwill Junction, each driver enjoyed a fantastic early morning drive. Choosing the Suzuki Swift Sport as the lead car could have been seen as a mistake, especially given the exotic metal also on offer, but we needn't have worried. The Swift made for an exceptional lead car, winning unanimous praise from the other 'dawn radiers'. At an impromptu stop on the A388 just past Holsworthy, Steve was quick to point out that he had to "work hard to keep up" with the Swift. Given that he was behind the wheel of the immensely talented Mégane R26, this was no mean feat. Chris jokingly said that he "had to check the gearbox temperature" on his GT-R. Let it be said that the little Suzuki one a few friends this morning.

Rob King's Porsche 944 at Pentillie CastleThe stopover on the A388 was brought about by the disappearance of two cars after exiting Holsworthy. Looking in my mirror, I noticed that the Porsche and Skoda were missing, so we pulled over to regroup. Knowing that Rob was having oil pressure problems in the 944, we feared the worst. After a few minutes contemplating our next move, we heard the distant rumblings of engines. Moments later, a very turquoise Porsche 944 appeared over the brow of the hill, followed quickly by the modified Fabia. Turned out the 944's oil pressure light had come on, forcing Rob to break open his new bottle of oil.

After we had regrouped, we made our way towards Launceston. A slow moving Vauxhall Corsa did its best to ruin the drive, but when a long straight gave us the opportunity to get past, we were on our way again. Sadly though, once at Launceston, the fun was over as we were forced to trail behind a van for the drop down to Pentillie Castle. To be honest though, the fog on the A388 would have made it impossible to replicate the thrill of the drive we had on the A3079.

Porsche 993 Turbo FVD BrombacherBut this didn't stop Adrian showing off the amazing talents of his 520bhp 993 Turbo. A recent import from Italy, the FVD Brombacher-tuned Porsche is an absolute beast. Adrian commented that it's one of the most powerful and engaging cars he's ever driven. All I know is, the acceleration is almost unbelievable and the soundtrack is incredible. Ordinarily, Adrian prefers the delicacy of a rear-wheel drive Porsche, but in the case of this 993, the 4-wheel drive system is "devastatingly effective". I might need to sort out a mini-review for PetrolBlog...

Shortly before 8.30, we arrived at Pentillie Castle. With other drivers already parked up outside the castle and well onto their second bacon sarnie, we felt a little late to the party. This was highlighted in no better way than us being told to make our way to the visitors car park, rather than join the display that contained the likes of an Aston Martin, Model T-Ford and AC Aceca. I had to chuckle. Suzuki, Renault and Skoda doing their bit for PetrolBlog! Underdogs and misfits 'til the end.

But once settled in to the end of the display, we enjoyed bacon sandwiches, good coffee and great chat. Sammie and Ted at Pentillie Castle were the perfect hosts and didn't seem at all phased by the influx of petrolheads at such an early hour. But then, it's all good practice for the main event in August - the Pentillie Festival of Speed.

Cars at Pentillie Castle Festival of Speed

We had a chance to walk the hill and all agreed that it will make a formidable hillclimb challenge. With a couple of narrow gates to navigate and a steep camber, it will test the best of drivers. PetrolBlog is working with @RalphHosier to come up with a competition that will appeal to readers of this blog. More details on this to follow.

In the meantime, I can categorically say that Dawn Refuelling was a great success. The six-car run to the castle was delightful and the venue for the finish was perfect. It's highly likely that there will be another Dawn Refuelling in May, so keep an eye on Facebook and @DawnRefuelling for more details.

Thanks to everyone who came along and thank you to Ted and Sammie for the breakfast.

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