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Cotswold Historic 2023

By Mike Vokes

Hot pre-event favourites Leigh Powley and Mark Appleton lived up to the expectation and scored a convincing win on Round 6 of the HRCR Clubman Championship, Tavern MC’s Cotswold Historic Rally, run on Sunday 2nd July and based at Cirencester Rugby Club. They didn’t have it all their own way early on but took the lead by lunch and never looked back. It hadn’t been easy for Leigh in the run-up to the event following failure of a new engine on the East Anglian Classic, and it was only thanks to late nighters assisted by ex-MN legend father Roger that the old engine for the Toyota Corolla AE86 was re-prepared and fitted in time.

The event comprised of 6 regularities including an off-road jogularity in Charlton Park and 7 mixed surface tests at Kemble Airfield, Charlton Park and a new test venue at the Cotswold Driving Experience rally school.

The regularities were designed to get harder as the event progressed, and this certainly proved to be the case, concluding with the final regularity being plot and bash grid lines, and 11 speed changes. Navigation across the regularities was by a mixture of map references, spot heights, herringbones, grid lines, map features and the rarely used clock face times. Being mainly pre-plot the real challenge wasn’t so much the plotting but finding the difficult slots with a couple of non-convincing yellows catching many crews. Plus the numerous speed changes and the unavoidable delays with traffic, cyclists and the occasional horse made life more complicated than it might otherwise have been. As Martin Pitt who finished 3rd overall navigating for John King commented, ‘it was fun, but as hard as you would want it to be!’ Steam must have been pouring from the Curta of Lynsey Procter navigating for Roger Fildes in the Escort with no less than 17 speed changes on Reg 5 – leading at coffee they were to finish 7th after losing a minute at ITC6B. Traffic wasn’t great for some later crews just before lunch, but in general wasn’t anywhere near as bad as might have been expected for a Sunday in the Cotswolds, no doubt helped by a sensible choice of roads and average speeds, although we for one were glad we didn’t meet anything down the extremely narrow and twisty Fosse Way by-way regularity. HRCR Clubmans Championship Secretary Ken and Sarah Binstead saying that although local residents they weren’t familiar with many of the roads and lanes used by the event.

Darrel Staniforth and Henry Carr (Toyota Corolla) posting competitive tests on the Kemble tests.  Photo by M&H Photography.

Test venues were a good mix, with Kemble Airfield offering grippy tarmac and the off-runway pads not as slippery as they have been previously. That enabled the agile Toyota MR2 of John King / Martin Pitt and the Ginetta G15 of Mike Vokes / Graham Raeburn to post competitive times, alongside Darell Staniforth / Henry Carr in the immaculately prepared and fantastic sounding early TE27 Toyota Corolla and Paul Crosby / Pete Johnson in the Mini Cooper S. When it came to the loose and the gravel at Charlton Park it was Powley / Appleton at the front, whilst Dan & Nick Darkin in the Mazda MX5 were smooth and very quick on both surfaces and took the laurels of fastest overall on tests. Both they and Staniforth / Carr were to slip slightly down the overall order following wrong slot / route choice errors on the final Reg 6 and capped maximum 1.00m penalties at a control. The twisty and challenging rally school tests were a hoot, if a little dusty at 30 second intervals, the stop astrides amongst the trees appearing out of the gloom!   

John King and Martin Pitt (Toyota MR2) having fun on the Cotswold Driving Experience special tests. 3rd Overall. Photo by M&H Photography.

The Expert category was won by Elliot Dale and Charlotte Ryall in a terrific 2nd place overall, Charlotte putting in an excellent and consistent regularity performance second only to Mark Appleton, who really is the man to beat. Quick test times from Elliot despite some over exuberance at the Kemble slaloms, this was a popular and hugely well deserved result. Second experts home in another fine performance and 4th overall were Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane in the BMW323i. Mark Goodwin and Anthony Davies in the Triumph TR7 endured more bad luck when chronic clutch slip developed, and they needed a helpful tow up an incline to reach the morning coffee halt – they went no further. Suzanne Barker, out in the driver’s seat this time, with Clare Grove navigating were also destined for an early non-finish when the wheel bearings on the Nissan Cherry cried enough and were later seen spectating at Kemble. Rich Harrison and Peter Boyce were glad to see the finish after major electrical issues afflicted the MGB in the queue for scrutineering, but they experienced no further problems on the event.

Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane (BMW323i) working out the nav down the “yellows”. 4th overall.  Photo by M&H photography

Novices were led home by non-HRCR championship crew of Russ Smith and Dan Harrison, both returning after a lengthy lay-off in a newly acquired Peugeot 205 GTi, they were to finish 15th overall after the gear linkage fell apart on Kemble, but not before lying a highly creditable 3rd overall at coffee, Dan obviously proving to be none too rusty on his return to the maps. They were followed by Nigel & Sally Woof in the VW Golf GTi and Lewis Ayris / Simon Lassam in the MGB Roadster, the latter posting very quick test times, particularly on the loose. Peter & Delia Kettle were not so fortunate retiring with a shock absorber through their Morris Mini petrol tank in Charlton Park.

In the Club Rally which followed the same route but used a tulip road book and jogularity route instructions it was the Porsche 911 of Peter & Louise Myles that led the way overall and on the tests. Runners-up were Jonathan & Kay Shepherd in their BMW325i, whilst Simon & Matt Outhwaite in a Rover 216 took the final podium place and had the lowest reg penalties.

So in terms of the HRCR Overall Championship this result must put Leigh Powley back on track for a bid at the Drivers title. Phil Barrington Wood who had previously been leading the Drivers with 5 scores was out on the Cotswold with Emily Anderson in the Porsche 924S but finished just outside the Top 20. Ken Binstead who had been lying second strengthened his position with 8th overall and with a Cat 2 car is scoring well. Finishing an impressive 3rd overall (on a tie-break with Elliot Dale / Charlotte Ryall) John King also remains in the thick of the fight though like Leigh Powley is hampered in the scoring with a Cat 4a car. In the Navigators overall, only Sarah Binstead from the Top 5 entered the Cotswold so despite some self-described ‘navigational muppetry’ on the regs (we’ve all been there…) will now be chasing Iain Tullie hard after a similar solid points scoring 8th overall. In the Experts Phil Barrington Wood and Les Andrew continue to fight it out for Drivers, and in the Navigators Mike Cochrane with his fine 4th will have improved his standing behind Peter Blackett. In the Novices Drivers Peter Higton should still lead from Phil Cheek, David Morris and Nigel Woof, whilst in Novice Navigators Oli Waldock will be challenged by Chris Rhodes.      

The 2023 Cotswold Historic was a credit to Clerk of the Course Gavin Rogers and the team at Tavern MC including CLO Suze Endean who was keen to point out she also faultlessly navigated Gavin around the route on the day. Organisation, route book, test diagrams and documentation were of a high standard and as Gavin commented ‘everything that was planned worked’.

Top 10                                                                                  

  1. Leigh Powley / Mark Appleton Toyota Corolla                    
  2. Elliot Dale / Charlotte Ryall Ford Escort Mk1            
  3. John King / Martin Pitt Toyota MR2                        
  4. Angus McQueen / Mike Cochrane BMW 323i                          
  5. Mike Vokes / Graham Raeburn Ginetta G15                        
  6. Dan Darkin / Nick Darkin Mazda MX5                        
  7. Roger Fildes / Lynsey Procter Ford Escort Mk2               
  8. Ken Binstead / Sarah Binstead MGB Roadster                   
  9. Darell Staniforth / Henry Carr Toyota Corolla                    
  10. Paul Crosby / Pete Johnson Mini Cooper S       

    All photos by kind permission of M&H Photography