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The team competed in both the GRAF Adventure Series and King of Portugal races recently

The Gigglepin off-road team recently ventures to Portugal to compete in two fierce off-road races: both the GRAF Adventure Series and the ‘King of Portugal’ – the final round of the 2022 European Ultra 4 Championship.

These events were a chance for the team to unleash their all-new vehicle, nicknamed ‘Mistress’ – an LS7 7-litre V8 powered monster that, like all of Gigglepin’s other machines, proudly sports EBC Brakes’ Bluestuff NDX pads all-round.

You can read how both events panned out in the team’s own words below.

GRAF Adventure Series

“It’s been three years since our last adventures in Portugal and it was time to get back into the action with two events – first, the four-day GRAF Adventure Series event (comprising special stages that vary from difficult to downright insanity!) and second, the King of Portugal event – the final round jewel in the crown of the 2022 European Ultra 4 Championship.”

Day 1

“We used our new heavily modified vehicle ‘Mistress’ for this event. This Ultra 4 racer is not designed for winch challenges, but we made several modifications, including fitting a rear winch, and we were super confident we could make it.

“It all started with two night stages on the Wednesday night, and we got off to a flyer, hitting the fastest times in both stages. A five-minute penalty for hitting a tape dropped us down to 8th – not the start we wanted.”

Day 2

“The next day, we were greeted by heavy rain and temperatures in single figures as we headed out for eight hours of racing across 10 special stages. Thankfully, the weather gods had a change of heart and after getting drenched on the drive to the site, blue skies appeared and the sun was soon beating down once again.

“We were on good form in the stages and took a few stage wins with co-driver Chris Abel working hard to run the winch lines as Mistress showed us what she can do. But a further 20 minutes of penalties saw us still floundering down the table in 7th position. We needed to up our game!”

Day 3

“This day saw us returning to the amazing river stages that GRAF is famous for. Huge rocks,
dried out riverbeds and pools of water, in vast, technical stages. It was time to start showing these guys what this car could do, and we laid down fastest time after fastest time with zero penalties.

“Only one more day of battling to go, and we can felt like we were catching the leaders.

“But first, we had two more night stages. As midnight approached, we took to the hills. Our Lazer Lights blazed into the darkness as our Maxxis tyres hunted for grip on the Portuguese rocks. We needn’t have worried as we put down fast times; winning one stage and coming second on the other.

“The next day, we woke to find the scores are up, and we were back in the game! We had blazed up to 3rd place – only a few seconds behind second place and five minutes behind a flying Helder da Rocha.”

Day 4

“This was a new site for the GRAF, and when we arrived, we found a heavily forested site littered with giant boulders. It looked more like a giant’s playground! It was staggeringly beautiful. Our first stage was insane with four cliff faces to winch, and tight, technical areas through shallow rooted trees. We started well but it soon turned to hell after an error put us on our roof and we left the stage with a DNF and three penalties! It was an absolute disaster. We consolidated and gathered our thoughts, and in the next stages we lay down good times. In the fourth stage, we just couldn’t get finished in time and take yet another DNF. This is a bad day and getting worse! We soldiered on and took two fastest times, but in our penultimate stage, reverse gear decided it didn’t want to play anymore. As we entered the final stage, we knew another DNF was looming. It wasn’t a good day for the team.

“But we did get to watch our great friends Helder da Rocha and Flavio Gnomes lay down a masterclass. They were the only team to clear the final stage and by doing so sealed a well-deserved victory.

“The prize giving at GRAF is always fantastic and we were there with our team, Brian and Thomas from Malta, as well as co-driver Chris Abel and driver James Marsden enjoying a superb feast to celebrate this fine event. Then it was prizegiving. The last day had killed our chances of winning, but we hit the podium with a 3rd-place in 44 Class, as well as 4th overall. It’s not the result we wanted but sometimes you have to roll with it and there was no time to waste as we had to get Mistress ready for King of Portugal which is only four days after this event ended.”

King of Portugal

“Car preparation for most events takes weeks to complete, but we only had four days to get Mistress battle-ready for King of Portugal – the final event and the jewel in the crown of the 2022 European Ultra 4 Championship.

“Chris Abel flew home after co-driving at GRAF, and Michael Whitting flew in on the Monday to bolster the team and help with the preparation. So, a team of four tasked with changing gearboxes, differentials, removing rear winches, changing air intakes and straightening this girl’s battered body panels. Thomas and Brian, alongside Jim and James, worked late into the evenings and started early to be sure that everything was just right.

“Then on Wednesday morning, we left the workshops of ‘By Toucas’ and Flavio Gnomes headed to Vimioso and King of Portugal!

Day 1

“We arrived to find an already-packed stadium where 65 teams would be based for the next three days of intense Ultra 4 race action. James Ayre flew in late that evening to join Jim as co-driver. The plan was simple: get out in front and stay there.

“First up was the prologue. An 8km super stage that is fast, furious and with plenty of big jumps. Emmanuel Costa set the pace and we left the line nearly last in our class. Mistress was incredible, the thunder of her LS7 7 litre V8 engine, beefy Spidertrax axles and monster Fox shocks soaked up the punishing course with style. We crossed the line in a cloud of dust, park her and rush back to find out if we have done enough…

“We had smashed it. Half a second faster than our nemesis Emmanuel Costa. It’s the perfect start to our campaign.”

Day 2

“The sun was shining and promising high temps of up to 27°C. It was going to be a long day, with five 38km laps and with three super tough special stages to contend with around the course.

“We had the honour of leading out the field and we roared to the line, 650bhp surging us on into the Portuguese terrain. Only 190km to go!

“Everything was going well for the first 36km, and we had pulled out an eight-minute lead over the chasing pack. “James, I have lost throttle response” I say over the radio as Mistress rolls to the side of the track. It’s a bitter blow when everything was going so well. But we never surrender and as I pulled her apart looking for the fault, James is already sprinting to the pits to get parts. An hour later and a new throttle body fitted, we were back on track and hauling. But two laps later it came to a halt again as the transfer case decided it didn’t want to stay attached to the gearbox. So, with only three of five laps completed, we had to retire with heavy hearts. Back in the pits the guys soon tore down Mistress and start making the repairs so we could be ready for the final day.”

Day 3

“The scores were not good. After the disastrous previous day, we were languishing down in 29th position. But we also knew we had a pace that few could match, and I couldn’t wait to get started.

“The cars left the line in 30-second intervals, and we had five 27km laps ahead of us, but this time it got really serious with the monstrous dinosaur eggs and two special zones to test our skills. It was going to be a tough day.

“We left the line and Mistress felt fantastic! It wasn’t not long before we were carving through the field and making fast decisive overtakes on quality opposition. At the dinosaur eggs, we had already caught cars in the top ten. but couldn’t find the bypass line and had to sit in traffic wasting 20 valuable minutes. Once again, Mistress delivered and we passed another four cars on the massive boulders. We crossed the line to finish lap one and we had made up 18 places! It was a great start and we powered into the dust clouds.

“On lap two, we passed another four cars in the first 5km on the slower, technical rocks. For the next four laps Mistress delivered and we kept up a continuous pace.

“We reached the finish line and crossed it in physical third place, having passed everyone left us pondering what would have been, if we had not had the problems that we did.

“The prize ceremony at King of Portugal is always exceptional. With over a thousand people in attendance, the local town pulled out all the stops, providing food, wine and entertainment. Who knew bagpipes were a Portuguese invention?!

“The scores were announced and we were 7th overall for the event, which is a great comeback after starting the final day in 29th position.

“But the prizegiving was not over, as this race was the championship decider for Ultra 4 European Championship. “In second place, in the Championship, Jim Marsden and Gigglepin Racing!” What a shock, what a surprise and what a team. The months of hard work had paid off, but sadly we couldn’t celebrate for long as we had to leave at 4am to catch a ferry back to the UK.”

“So, it’s a huge thank-you to our team at home and at the race track. They are Staci Reeson, James Ayre, Helder da Rocha, Chris Abel, Michael Whitting, Thomas Tanti, Brian Aguis, Jack and Tom Saunders and the James’s. Then it’s a huge shout out to our sponsors and partners that work so hard behind the scenes to make this all happen.

“Now it’s time to strip down, rebuild and get ready for a new season and new adventures!”

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