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John Bloxham Memorial Rally Preview

18th November 2023

By Phil Barrington Wood

The final round of the 2023 Motorsport News Historic road Rally championship beckons and whilst the overall Drivers championship may have been decided with Leigh Powley being the Champion and John King as the runner up, the Navigators championship is going down to the wire. Iain Tullie currently leads by 20 points from Brian Goff, Kelvin Phipps is a further 16 points adrift followed closely by David Bell 6 points behind him (but these last pair, unlike the first two, both have to drop a score)  However Lynsey Procter is in prime position to benefit should something unfortunate happen to Mr Tullie!  It is definitely tight at the top.

Leigh Powley,(Toyota Corolla), 2023 drivers champion will be looking for a win, this time with Elise White. Photo by Dave Leadbetter.

To the event itself – being organised by the south staffs and Wolverhampton Car Club in memory of the late John Bloxham.

John Bloxham was a well-known rally driver who came to prominence in the late 1960s. In 1969, at a time when road rallying was very much the pinnacle of motorsport in the UK, he won the coveted triple-crown of: RAC British Rally Championship, Motoring News Rally Championship and the BTRDA Gold Star Rally Championship.

John’s rallying exploits took him to all corners of the globe, in varying styles of events. He competed in a 3-man team in the 1970 London to Mexico Rally, which took in the capital cities of all the countries that were taking part in that year’s football World Cup. Unfortunately, the team retired somewhere outside of Rio De Janeiro with transmission issues on their JCB-backed Hillman Hunter. John competed in numerous stage events, both as a privateer and as a works driver, including the RAC Rally, Britain’s World Rally Championship round.

Road rallying at the time was thriving in the UK, and it was in this branch of the sport that John achieved most of his success. Paired with his long-time navigator, Richard Harper, the duo was a force to be reckoned with on the National Scene, achieving many Motoring News Championship victories in a career spanning almost two decades.

With John’s son Nick Bloxham as Clerk of the Course, the promise is of a challenging but enjoyable route and with Andy Pullan as chief keeper of the watches, we should have a great event to look forward to.

But who will be victorious? John Haygarth and Martyn Taylor (Opel Kadett Rallye) have got my vote  but expect serious competition from local members Dan and Nick Darkin in the rapid MX5 with Steve Head/Niall Frost (Escort), Roger Fildes/Ian Tullie (Escort), Leigh Powley, this time with Elise Whyte, (Corolla) and Stephen Owens/Oli Waldock (911 SWB) also in with a very strong shout.

John Haygarth and Martyn Taylor (Opel Kadett Rallye) will be back out chasing the top spot. Photo by Tony North.

In the battle of the Experts, John King, this time with Mike Cochrane (MR2), are a pair to watch with Les Andrew/Peter Blackett (104ZS), Tim Sawyer/Suzanne “the cake” Barker (fresh from her continental travels on the Costa Brava) (Escort) and John & Alistair Woolstenholme (911) also trying very hard.

To the Novices, and there are some very, very good ones coming through the ranks. We have quite a few “locals” out this time so Malcom Oxborrow/Kevin Hogan (Rover), Simon Bentley/Julia Perry (Mini), Bob Ward /Karl Ellis (Escort) and others will be challenging regulars Phil Cheek and Chris Rhodes (Avenger), Nigel and Sally Woof (Golf) and David Morris and Jacolyn Wales (MGB).

Phil Cheek and Chris Rhodes (Hillman Hartwell Sprint Avenger) will be looking for a good result to close the 2023 season.  Photo by M&H photography.

Apologies if I’ve missed you out but at my age remembering my log on password is becoming ever more challenging! Long live the bus pass club!

What I do know is that we are looking forward to this last round of the 2023 Championship as much as we looked forward to the first. The format is slightly different than other rounds, with a later start, first car away at 10.00, and 175 miles later, including 40 miles of TC sections and 9 tests on private land, a later finish than we are used to, in the dark, with the first car due in at around 8.00pm.

The very best of luck to you all, competitors and organisers and a Very Big Thank You to all the marshals and other officials.