Round 5 of the HRCR Clubmans Championship took place in East Anglia and was hosted by Chelmsford Motor Club. The weather on the day did not disappoint with dry and hot conditions that would test both the cars and the crews in equal measure. However, with few of the Championship contenders taking part it could give the opportunity for those chasing to make inroads into the Staniforths lead. Now with this rally taking the Championship over half way all points would be vital in seeing who would take the honours at the end of the season. However familiar faces would include Dave Leadbetter and Cath Woodman back together in the BMW 2002 and Roger Bricknell this time competing with Pete Johnson in the VW Gold GTI.
The day started an hour before departure with 5 regularities given out to wake up the Navs whilst the drivers as usual drank coffee and waited for their up and coming departure time in anticipation of the day ahead. Early casualties were Darren Everitt and Susan Dixon who were out prior to the start with a transmission vibration following an engine transplant.
Reg A was a mixture of spot heights and gridlines that was quickly followed by our first visit to Thorpe Abbots airfield for two special tests on the concrete and gravel. Then it was into an early coffee break and a download of times. First blood went to Leadbetter/Woodman who had just 6 penalties from Reg A and some very respectable tests times. In equal second place were Steve Johnson and Henry Carr in the Ford Escort RS 2000 and Richard Isherwood and Ian Canavan replacement, Ali Procter, in the VW Golf GTI.
Dave Leadbetter and Cath Woodman back together in the BMW 2002 Photo by kind permission of Suze Endean
Coffee out was straight into Reg B which was a series of approaches and departures from grid references. It was then back to Thorpe Abbots for three more tests that, with air temperatures rising towards 30 degrees, would certainly put the cars under strain. A chance to cool things down was given by Reg C that was 40 minutes long and consisted of a series of symbols and letters that would take the crews into lunch and a chance to cool off.
The ever popular activity of crowding round the lunchtime results ensued as they were updated and showed that Isherwood and Procter had jumped into the lead with Martyn Taylor and Amy Henchoz in the Vauxhall Astra were in a close second 3 points behind. Leading Experts Harvey Steele and Martin Pitt in the Volvo 144 were in an excellent third. However Clive and Anji Martin in the Ford Escort were lurking within touching distance in fifth.
From lunch there would be no break until the completion of the rally and with just 71 points separating the top ten there was still a lot of competition to be had. Reg D was 20 miles plus long and had 4 IRTCs. Then it was to our first visit at the Larkshall Farm complex for two tests around the barns where there was no respite from the heat especially for the marshals who did an excellent job in testing conditions. A late change was the route around the Wretham Park Test that was originally 4.85 miles long but this was altered to a challenging 1.85 miles over farmyard, soft sandy soil, stubble, grass and a path cut through crops. A very exciting challenge that saw the Martin’s in Car 14 achieve equal fastest time alongside James Griffiths and John Pearce in the Austin Mini 1275 GT.
James Griffiths and John Pearce Overall Test Winners. Photo by Kind permission of John Overton
The final “normal” Reg was another 40 minutes long and Gareth Hockridge and Rob Henchoz in the Volvo Amazon 121S amassed just 4 seconds of penalties. Then back to both Larkshall and Wretham Park to repeat the tests before the last two Regs. Reg K was an off road specimen that was predicated on 30mph and contained two passage checks however there were just 5 cars who achieved penalties of less than 5 seconds. Then the last hurrah was a plot and bash given on departure from IRTC F consisting of 9 pictures of grid squares to show the route.
The crews then recovered to MTC 3 at The Grange Hotel for some cooling refreshment and some shade for the cars. Final results were speedily posted and showed that Car 4 with Richard Isherwood and Ali Procter had prevailed, finishing on 1,334 points. Car 14 who had been lurking in 5th at lunch remained consistent throughout the afternoon and with some excellent test results propelled Clive and Anji Martin into second position just 3 points behind. Maintaining their third position was Leaders on the Experts Championship Steele and Pitt in car 15 who were just 1 point adrift and will surely be disappointed by such a near miss. First Championship Novices in 10th were Ken and Sarah Binstead followed in 12th overall by Phil Wood and Kelvin Phipps.
So as predicted Richard Isherwood takes the lead in the Drivers Championship and with Darell Staniforth missing the White Rose he is sure to extend his lead. However Thomas and Roger Bricknell are back together on the White Rose and still pose a threat on both the Drivers and Navigators Championship. Harvey Steele and Martin Pitt are still safe at the top of the Experts , for now but things could get close as there is plenty of competition this weekend. In the Novices, Phil Wood is still in contention for the drivers behind myself but Sarah Binstead is increasing her lead at the top of the Navigators table.
We shall see how the White Rose shakes things up in just a few days time.
|1||34||Richard Isherwood and Ali Procter||VW Golf GTI|
|2||6||Clive and Anji Martin||Ford Escort 1600 Sport|
|3||6||Harvey Steele and Martin Pitt||Volvo 144|
|4||1||Gareth Hockridge and Rob Henchoz||Volvo Amazon 121s|
|5||34||Pete Johnson and Roger Bricknell||VW Golf GTI|
|6||2||Dave Leadbetter and Cath Woodman||BMW 2002|
|7||2||James Griffiths and John Pearce||Austin Mini 1275GT|
|8||2||Steve Johnson and Henry Carr||Ford Escort RS 2000|
|9||1||John Peterson and Ian Graham||Austin Mini Cooper S|
|10||6||Ken and Sarah Binstead||MGB Roadster|
A full set of results can be found via the Chelmsford MC website or MTC1