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Cotswold Historic 2024

By Jeff  Wincott and Anne Tweddell.

Glorious sunshine greeted the 75 crews assembled at Cirencester Rugby Club for Tavern Motor Club’s round of the championship, headed as usual by the affable Gavin Rogers. Of the total, 20 teams opted for the ‘Clubman Run’.

A significant number of participants, of both genders were dressed accordingly in shorts, except for your correspondents, having departed Cheshire in less favourable conditions.  Much conversation ensued whilst queuing for Chairman Paul Loveridge to perform scrutineering duties, prior to receiving our route instructions. The CoC provided assurance that plotting the route would be straightforward, but once the number of speed changes were noted, it was obvious where the emphasis lay!

Unfortunately, the balmy temperatures failed to continue into Sunday morning where many scantily dressed people could be seen attempting to warm up with hot drinks and bacon baps. The day’s action began literally “just up the road” with Reg 1 defined by a set of ‘tulips’ to just south of Cheltenham. Reg 2, by way of crossing grid lines brought crews some way back south to the coffee halt at the Highwayman Inn adjacent to a dormant A417. The selection of exquisite cakes offered was very impressive. Already enduring a fraught rally due to mechanical issues, I failed to gain the general seal of approval from our renowned Yorkshire expert, but am confident that future visits to this establishment would be highly recommended.

Results at this stage showed the No.1 seeds (Paul Crosby/Ali Proctor) correctly positioned, (11 secs) followed by Peter Higton/Phil Savage, (12 secs) then Ian Crammond/Matthew Vokes (13 secs). First and third placed crews would both subsequently suffer mechanical issues, dropping them out of contention.

Paul Crosby and Ali Procter (Mini Cooper S) leading at morning coffee but a broken throttle cable would spoil their chances. Photo by M&H Photography.

Reg 3 instructions, merely compass directions, had initially caused a degree of confusion during plotting. Were they entry directions into grid squares? No. Were they exit directions? No again. Have we plotted the start correctly? Yes. Eventually, the inevitable had dawned! 

This section maintained the Southern trajectory towards the first couple of Tests at Kemble Airfield. Quickest pilot on the first test being Dan Darkin, beating the bogey with John Haygarth 2 secs behind. Cars 1,6 & 7 beat the bogey on the second attempt, with Dan Willan flying into second place, one second adrift. Having enjoyed the mostly smooth tarmac at this venue, it was a short run South to Charlton Park for two more Tests of a different nature. Scattering the gravel (and dust) to best effect on the 1.6 mile long “camp” test was Dan Willan on 3.17 followed by John Haygarth a substantial 10 secs adrift.   Unfortunately 6 cars beat the bogey on the “showground” test.

The familiar Crudwell Village Hall, situated midway between both venues once again provided lunch, where the 2 James’s were spotted sitting outside, next to their car with the engine running! Cue one duff starter motor. The less tall of them was later seen to be hobbling around with a torn calf muscle due to a ‘push start’ exercise that caused a debilitating injury.

James’s Griffiths and Howell (1275GT Mini) sans starter motor but that didn’t stop them from achieving 2nd overall despite a torn calf muscle.  Photo by M&H Photography.

The leader board at this stage took on a different scenario. From a distant 12th at coffee, Dan Willan/Naill Frost now headed the field (10.10) with Darell Staniforth/Henry Carr (10.26) edging out the top seeds (Paul/Ali) to third by a single second!

Dan Willan and Niall Frost back together once again in the Ovlov PV544.  Photo by M&H Photography.

The afternoon resumed with an even shorter run-out than the morning with Reg 4 taking a circular route around Tetbury assisted by 4 map extracts already provided followed by a further 5 extracts to be gained on route. The ultimate section of this Reg, utilising the Fosse Way, almost warranted a speed lower than 18mph to negotiate comfortably. Reg 5 consisted of another circular route to the East of Malmesbury, defined by a herringbone diagram, incorporating a further portion of ‘by-way’ but much more amenable.

Merely one mile further on brought crews back to Charlton Park. Dry conditions still prevailed ensuring more dust, especially so as our on-going mechanical problems necessitated letting later cars overtake as they caught up. The re-run of the “camp” test was won by John Haygarth with a time of 3.21 from Dan Willan on 3.22.  The second run of the “showground” test showed Dick Baines gain an unusual time to beat the bogey followed by Elliot Dale,  with a more realistic time of 2.20.

The return to Kemble Airfield presented crews with a couple of minor changes to the format along with them being reversed for added variety.  Frustratingly, 4 cars beat the bogey on the first run, with no less than 9 cars gaining no advantage either on the second attempt.

The final Reg defined by a mixture of symbols and spot heights formed another circular route through Barnsley. No, not that one! All to the East of Cirencester and finishing near Cricklade, it contained a tricky junction at the penultimate speed change that apparently caused a moment of indecision for the winning crew.  Therefore, it was  Willan/Frost that remained in the top spot on 20.29. Despite it’s reluctance to start with it’s ignition key, the little green machine of the 2 James’s (Griffiths/Howell) excelled itself to finish next on 21.27. By the smallest of margins, Matt Fowle/Ryan Pickering made the last podium position with 21.28. Top slot on the Clubman’s Run was taken by the Whittock’s, Ross & Dave with a time of 22.51.

Officially, no such “Spirit of the Rally” award ever existed but by common consensus, special mention and the events’ Gold Star must go to Paul & Sandra Heaney. Not only did they stop on the Fosse Way to tow out of the ditch a car that had pulled over to enable someone to pass. The cheek of it to decide to overtake at that moment. They later picked up an itinerant couple wandering up the road in search of fuel, gave them a lift to the fuel station and then provided a container in which to put said liquid and then back to the test venue, to enable continuation of proceedings. You’d never believe such bad luck, but a below parr performance, without doubt. The culprits names have been un-intentionally omitted to save further embarrassment.

If there was one the ‘Spirit of the Rally award’ would surely go to Paul and Sandra Heaney (Triumph TR6), 22nd overall.  Photo by M&H Photography.

Deserved thanks must go the Tavern team for producing a slick event and assembling a huge band of marshals to cover the extensive test venues.

All photos by kind permission of M&H Photography.