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John Bloxham Memorial Rally 18th Nov 2023

By David Bell

First running of the event and 50 crews lined up at the start not quite knowing what to expect. At the briefing CoC Nick Bloxham promised a challenging but straight forward event with the advice not to worry too much about odd seconds here and there plus the warning that there were a lot of pot holes!

Documentation handed out at scrutineering included three pre-plot regularities, test diagrams, a road book of tulips linking the tests and regularities, but no overall schedule. The pre-plot instructions for regs 2 and 4 caused a bit of head scratching but all became clear after a couple of beers, reg 2 simply required careful reading of all the instructions on the sheet and reg 4 careful reading of all the instructions on the sheet and the finals. Always a good idea to look at the average speed changes when struggling with the nav!

The start was a tad chaotic due to circumstances well out of the organisers control but more of that later. The route was planned to visit Apley Park Farm Shop for MC0, MC1 and lunch, unfortunately a Christmas Market and muddy car parks soon knocked that on on the head but the organising team coped well.

Navigation for regs 5 and 6 plus the TC section including reg 7 were collected at MC0 with 60 minutes plotting then it was MC1 and navigation for reg 1 followed by a short run out to two tests in the Apley Estate. Driver name checks on the tests and navigator name checks on the regularities. Car 8 Bevan Blacker was fastest on both tests by 11 seconds on test 1 and 10 seconds on test 2 with Car 7 Leigh Powley second best on both, the tests were very straight forward but good code board reading skills were an asset! The link section to the start of reg 1 took the crews past the entrance to Apley Park Farm Shop and with the main road blocked with queues waiting to get into the Christmas Market things did not look good for the lunch halt.

A familiar view to competitors and marshals of the Escort of Beavan Blacker and Sam Spencer.  Photo by Phill Bramhill.

Reg 1, Welcome to Shropshire, 25 mile jogularity, running through Bromley (and not Rindleford!), The Hobbins, Roughton, Barnsley, Farmcote, Woundale, Hopstone, Rudge, Kingslow, Chesterton, Bradney, Worfield, Catstree, Cranmere, finishing at the B4176 to the east of Stableford, 7 timing points, 5 PCs including one or two off-piste loops, best performance car 3 Iain Tullie on 11 seconds from car 10 Oli Waldock on 25 seconds.

Short run to test 3, RenNew Brickworks, fastest car 12 Graeme Cornthwaite 1 second quicker than car 4 John Haygarth. Test 4, Solari Farm 1, fastest car 8 Bevan Blacker 3 seconds quicker than car 2 Dan Darkin. Test 5, Solari Farm 2, fastest car 11 Mike Vokes 1 second quicker than car 12 Graeme Cornthwaite. Test 6, Solari Farm 3, fastest car 2 Dan Darkin, car 11 Mike Vokes and car 12 Graeme Corntwaite tied fastest.

Mike and Matthew Vokes performed well on the tests but car troubles would take their toll. Photo by Phil Bramhill.

Reg 2, Barrymore, 13 miles, pre-plot, running through Grindle, Evelith, Kemberton, A4169, Kemberton, Havenhills, Harrington Hall, Cotsbrook Fm finishing on the white through Norton, 5 timing points, 7 speed changes, best performance car 12 Lynsey Procter on 16 seconds from car 3 Iain Tullie on 19 seconds. Should have been back to Apley Park Farm Shop for lunch but re-directed to Stockton Church and back into Apley Estate for card collection, virtual lunch and a handout for reg 3.

Top 3 at ‘lunch’, Car 8 Blacker / Spencer 12:14, Car 7 Powley / Whyte 12:48, Car 3 Fildes Tullie 12:53

Reg 3, Sutton Shenanigans, 4 miles, Deeliarity, running through the Estate, Norton Sutton House, New House, 3 timing points, 1 PC, 5 speed changes, best performance car 11 Matthew Vokes on 21 seconds from car 23 Mark Dunkerley on 26 seconds. Longish run via petrol to Reg 4 crossing the Severn at Coalport onto map 138.

Reg 4, Flat Stanley, 14 miles, pre-plot, running through Colemore Green, Severn Hall, long white through the grounds of Stanley Hall, Cross Lane Head, B4373, Linley Brook, Willey, Haughton, The Croft, The Lye, Underton finishing in a farmyard at Harpswood, 5 timing points, 5 speed changes, best performance car 3  Iain Tullie on 13 seconds from car 2 Nick Darkin on 20 seconds.

Roger Fildes and Iain Tullie (Ford Escort Mk2) had some excellent performances on the regs but would it be enough.  Photo by Phil Bramhill.

Reg 5, Diamond Geezer, 21 miles, plotted at MC0 and a bit of a taster for the TC section on the evening menu with several arrowed off-piste loops, running through Eudon George, Tedstill, Oldfield, Overton, Sidbury, Chorley Covert, Northwood, Bagginswood, Prescott, (should have gone through the ford to Hardwickforge but re-routed via Upper House to Well Farm), The Down, Loughton finishing on the  bridleway before joining B4364, 6 timing points (reduced to 5 after the re-route), 1 PC, 7 speed changes, best performance car 3 Iain Tullie on 17 seconds from a brace on 22 seconds cars 7 Elise Whyte and 8 Sam Spencer.

 Top 3 positions at card collection 2, ‘tea’, Car 7 Powley / Whyte 14:19, Car 3 Fildes Tullie 14:28, Car 8 Blacker / Spencer 14:43

Time to remove the spotlight covers, the rest of the event in the dark, kicking off with two tests at Ditton Priors ex-Army base. Test 7, Ditton 1, fastest car 8 Bevan Blacker on 4:37 from car 2 Dan Darkin on 4:51. Test 8, Ditton 2, fastest car 42 David Morris on 3:00? from car 8 Bevan Blacker on 3:22. Very short link to Reg 6.

Reg 6, Abdon Burf, 20 miles, plotted at MC0, running through Hillside, Cockshutford, Abdon, Tugford, Diddlebury, Middlehope, Harton, New Hall, Birtley, Chelmick finishing at the B4364 to the east of Church Stretton, 5 timing points, 3 PCs, 6 speed changes, best performance car 2 Nick Darkin and car 8 Sam Spencer on 29 seconds. Link section through Church Stretton and All Stretton to TC3 and the TC section.

TC Section, Night Moves, and a trip down memory lane for all the crews who have enjoyed old school road rallying, especially in Wales. Plotted at MC0, timed to the minute, route defined by grid references for TCs, PCs, GWs and vias. This offering split into 5 sections (4, 4, 7, 4 and 5 minutes) with 6 PCs including an arrowed loop through a very muddy field and a farm yard that was later scrubbed due to cars getting stranded. Route ran west to east along the top of map 138. Four crews cleaned TC4 (cars 3, 4, 7 & 8) but only one crew cleaned TC4 & TC5 car 3 Roger Fildes / Iain Tullie), in fact they went on to clean all five TCs followed by cars 7 Leigh Powley / Elise Whyte and 8 Bevan Blacker / Sam Spencer on 1 minute. But the fun wasn’t quite finished, straight into reg 7 with the time at TC8 the start time for reg 7.

Reg 7, Punchin’, 11 miles, plotted at MC0, running west to east across map 138 finishing very close to the finish of reg 4, 2 timing points, 2 speed changes, best performance car 18 David Bell on 2 seconds (which came as a bit of a surprise as the trip had been mis-behaving all day) from car 4 Martyn Taylor on 4 seconds. Short link to MC2 and dinner.

Top 3 positions at MC2, ‘dinner’, Car 3 Fildes Tullie 24:05, Car 8 Blacker / Spencer 24:20, Car 7 Powley / Whyte 24:43

Reg 8, Nineteen to the Dozen, 32 miles (defined by 66 tulips and 5 NAM), pre-plot (could have been plot & bash handed out at the reg start, now that would have been a challenge), running in the NE quarter of 138 using most of the roads not used on reg 1, 8 timing points, 6 PCs, no speed changes (hurrah!) and a very large puddle, best performance car 8 Sam Spencer on 2:08 from car 5 Pete Johnson on 2:27. Time penalties an indication of how tricky a section with no speed changes can be, Night Moves part 2! And that was it.

The flood on reg 8 later in the day would be the undoing of Graham Cornthwaite and Lynsey Procter causing a DNF. Photo by Phill Bramhill

Final positions. 1st o/a car 8 Bevan Blacker / Sam Spencer 26:28. 2nd o/a and 1st Master car 7 Leigh Powley / Elise Whyte 27:40. 3rd o/a car 3 Roger Fildes / Iain Tullie 28:06. 7th o/a and 1st Expert car 27 Les Andrew / Peter Blackett 41:23. 15th o/a and 1st Novice car 44 Nigel Woof / Sally Woof 56:29. Best on the tests car 8 Bevan Blacker. Best on the regs car 8 Sam Spencer. Best TCs car 3 Roger Fildes / Iain Tullie.

Personally I thought it was an excellent event, straight forward tests and navigation, cracking roads, wonderful marshals, very happy to come back for more, but I would as I’m a road rally wrinkly who still hasn’t quite got the hang of this regularity stuff. A quick look at the test penalties shows very few faults and no wrong tests, in my book that is how tests should be laid out.

David Bell

Views from the right hand seat

A tough and fitting finale to the season, thoroughly enjoyable, a bent rim (pot hole) and subsequent second puncture on the last regularity put paid to a good run. Congratulations to Nick and his team, plus all those wonderful marshals

Hugh Garnish

Photos in the gallery above all kindly supplied by Phill Bramhill