By Paul and Sandra Heaney
The East Anglian Classic was last run in the sweltering heat of 2019, when Richard Isherwood and Ali Proctor were victors. This year’s temperatures soared again, a day early. With just a pre-plot for start and end points to complete on Friday night, the navigators might well have been sweating but not over their maps. All this was saved for the morning, with an hour’s grace to manage 4 regularities and the promise of a plot n bash to provide a challenging finish.
48 crews started the 120 mile day from The Grange Hotel, Bury St Edmonds, including 8 Club runners – most notably Julian and Sarah Riley in their 1959 Riley 1.5! There would be 6 retirements as the day’s tests took their toll on differentials, clutches and head gaskets.
The day started with the first of 11 scheduled tests – a mile dash with just 2 turns and a code board across undulating farm tracks, with the bogey time beaten by no less than 34 crews. All tests were repeated in the opposite direction and test 9 deleted during the day. Test 1 reappeared as test 11 with 2 extra code-boards with the result that now only 25 crews could match the 1:58 bogey.
Then into the first regularity of the day, a spot height challenge taking us into the farmland North East of Bury St Edmunds. A long regularity with 5 check points now guaranteed to shuffle the leader board. The crews of (1) Dan Willan/Niall Frost and (2)Leigh Powley/Brain Goff just picking up 2 seconds a piece thus setting up the battle of the day.
Dan Willan and Niall Frost Tackling the Mickle Mere Test. Photo by M&H Photography.
Test 2 at Camp Farm, a lovely flowing test around a series of industrial buildings with a tricky start round some awkwardly placed cones. (1) and (5) Owen Turner/Amy Henchoz again beating bogey and (6) Matthew Abrey/Ian Canavan topping the return visit, in reverse, as test 10.
A coffee stop at the Angel Inn at Larling provided time for a quick break and result collection.
To be noted the road book proved very clear, each transit section nicely marked on an OS extract clearly picking out entry/exit points and Regularity end/ starts points (latter useful for checking plotting).
A stretch down the A11 took us West towards Thetford, then North to test central – 3 very different tests again, with access kindly provided by the local farming community.
Test 3 & 7 were “simple” runs, anti-clockwise then clockwise into a double loop around a large farm building; but with a lumpy, loose surface and clouds of dust, it was more than it appeared. With a single point of entry/exit the timing marshals ran a very efficient station here to keep the dreaded test queue at bay. (6) again picked up fastest time on Test 3 and (16) Dan and Nick Darkin on Test 7.
Test 4/6 around the the Mickle and Hill Mere was a big favourite – a 1.8 mile winding track with the usual challenging tractor sculptured surface, 90 degree bends scattered the route and dire warnings of ditches and ramps. Bogey broken by 8 cars on the first run but just by car (2) on the return run after the addition of 2 passage checks.
James’s Griffith and Howell (1275GT Mini) and Harvey Steele with Martin Pitt (Volvo 144). Enjoying the quiet Suffolk countryside. Photos by M&H Photography.
Test 5/6 was a combination run of fast open track and building slalom, the route modified slightly from publication by the unfortunate parking of a pair of onion trailers! This was the location of the only scheduled passage check of the day. Crew (5) setting the pace on the first run and crews (1) and (9)James Griffiths/James Howell beating bogey on the reverse.
The run to a buffet lunch at the Fighting Cocks at Winfarthing was via Regularity B – a series of grid lines crossings to be resolved and 4 time controls to be found. An East to West run with a long way round instruction that a few crews failed to spot. Crew (9) not one of these, picking up just a 1 second fault.
Lunch time found crews (1) and (2) just 9 seconds apart with scattered rain being the feature of the afternoon. Regularity C utilised all the pre plots for the route and speed changes, the passage of Great Ellingham being a key point lower in the field with rally cars coming and going from all directions. A tricky test overall, with a 5s penalty achieved over 4 checkpoints by (4) Harvey Steele/Martin Pitt being the best.
Regularity D of the text crossing the road format featuring 40 green dots Crew (7) Paul Hernaman/Ian Tullie putting in an unbeatable 1s run.
The big drama of the day was set for regularity E with (1) Dan Willan/Niall Frost holding a slim lead of just 3 seconds over (2) Leigh Powley/Brain Goff. The plot and bash appeared through the window as a set of 28 tulip junctions incorporating 5 speed changes to bring us back to the Grange hotel. The result was decided in the end not by the navigator skills but by the ever present rally gods gifting Powley/Goff a tyre flat prior to the first check point, the ensuing 5 minutes maximum penalty ending their challenge whilst Willan/Frost posted a solid 3s run. Crew (8) Gavin Rodgers/Suze Endean with just 0,0,2e finished on a high.
So back to the hospitality of the Grange for a post run meal and the final settling of the results with (1) Dan Willan/Niall Frost confirmed winners followed by (6) Matthew Abrey/Ian Canavan and (5) Owen Turner/Amy Henchoz – a great result for the Chelmsford Club.
It was an emotional prize giving with presentation by the widow and daughter of Gavin Leech a CoC of the event for many years, Niall Frost being presented with the inaugural Gavin Leech memorial Trophy.
Of note for the Clubman’s championship novices, (16) Phil Cheek/ Chris Rhodes managed a regularity total of 1:37, topping many experts on the day.
Overall a great day out for the crews who ventured to the far East which deserves to attract more crews in the future. The event was run in support of the local air ambulance.
All Photos By Kind Permission of M&H Photography.