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Hughes Historic 2022

By Martin Pitt

The 2022 Hughes Rally saw Clubmans crews head down to East Kent, a refreshing change of scene from the more northern events preceding it in the calendar. Starting from Ashford, the rally would work its way over to the east coast via two regularities before arriving at Manston airfield for an off-road regularity and 14 tests! The afternoon section would then be a further three regularities to return everybody back to Ashford via more excellent Kent lanes. 39 crews made up the entry list and with only 8 master crews there was plenty of opportunity for a good result.

Plotting for all six regularities was given to crews on Friday at signing on, which made for a busy evening for the navigators, especially as several of the plots came across as slightly ambiguous, but everyone got there in the end. I didn’t start plotting until quite late in the day, which in hindsight could have been my undoing on this event…

As this was the Hughes, code boards would be an important part of the day, as the organisers set out to catch those navigators who hadn’t spotted the nuances of the plot. 23 crews missed at least one code board during the day which really mixed up the results. Some of us even managed to miss multiple code boards, oops.

Regularity A started immediately from the start venue, so there was little time to ease into the day although the regularity itself was quite long using a wide variety of roads as it wound its way eastwards towards the village of Barham. En route (most) crews found an incredibly ‘white’ yellow road which didn’t really start to resemble a ‘go-er’ until about 75% of the way along, drivers taking quite a bit of convincing from their navigators to keep pushing on. Just at the point that navigators started to doubt themselves the intrepid crews were rewarded with a code board, phew! A great piece of navigational road rallying.

Leigh Powley and Brian Goff in for a dip on the Hughes Historic.  Photo by MandH Photography

After a quick transport over an A road, Regularity B started to take crews to the coast, with everyone hoping that their interpretation of the green dot/red diamond plot would be the right route and not result in anything being missed. A transport then took the cars to a services for fuel and refreshments before arriving at Manston airfield.

First up was an off-road regularity around the perimeter of the airfield, using both grass and concrete tracks. With several speed changes, code boards, controls and cones to negotiate there was a lot going on, but this element proved to be a great use of the expansive Manston site, what a fantastic venue. After some lunch (that for once didn’t involve any plotting for the navigators) the tests began, using the runway and interior of the airfield. The tests were quite open and flowing and made good use of the space available, the abrasive concrete wasn’t too kind on the more flamboyant drivers and proved too much for the differential on the Crammond/Vokes Mercedes. Two tests were on loose surface, a ‘windows up’ affair due to the dry conditions, the resultant dust cloud after a 360 around a cone definitely slowed a few crews down. Initially planned to be 2 runs of 7 tests the first circuit proved to take a lot longer than anticipated and the organisers decided to cancel the final 5 tests before the time schedule was affected too much.

On to regularity D which contained a mysterious ‘BLANK’ section in the middle of the plot with reassurances this would all make sense once crews arrived. Indeed, on arrival mid regularity a handout was issued showing what appeared to be a relatively straightforward farm track, although several crews struggled to find their way out of the farm on the first attempt. With a lot of speed changes and a crafty NAM right before the final control, this proved to be a tricky regularity.

Hugh Garnish and David Bell on the tests at Manston Airfield. Photo by MandH Photography

Regularity E was short and sweet, both in plotting and distance, with a couple of LWR junctions thrown in to tax the weary. The final regularity of the day would start near Chilham and would use some of the lanes above Ashford before returning everyone back to the start venue for food and awards. I was relieved to see all my code board boxes filled in for this regularity after mixed day on the navigation.

Leigh Powley and Brian Goff in the Toyota Corolla ended the day with a convincing win ahead of Stephen Owens/Nick Bloxham (Porsche 911) and Alan Pettit/Peter Rushforth (Volvo Amazon), who were also best Experts. Best novices were Graham Skeggs/John Murdoch (MG BGT) in 15th. Best regularity performance was by Harvey Steele/Martin Pitt (Volvo 144), although missed code boards and the associated penalties knocked their chances of a top 5 result, fastest on tests went to the overall winners Leigh Powley/Brian Goff (Toyota Corolla).

Thanks to David and all the organising team for a great day’s rallying, great roads and a fantastic venue in Manston airfield.

Photos below By kind permission of MandH photography