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St Wilfrid’s Classic, Ripon MSC, Sunday 6th August 2023

An entry of fifty-five cars included no fewer than sixty-two HRCR Clubmans Championship contenders, who would do battle with a good number of local crews on maps 99 & 100. The talking points on Saturday afternoon at scrutineering were the new test venue, Dishforth airfield, the interesting seeding and whether the rain would ever stop…

…so it was good news when Sunday morning dawned dry with even some blue sky, as John Ruddock’s white Mk I Escort led the crews away from the start at Thirsk Auction Mart as car 0, with John’s daughter Abi on the maps, driven by Bevan Blacker who had recently finished restoring it. Great to see the car back out as a very fitting tribute to such a popular Yorkshire driver who is very much missed.

After a short run out, the day would start with a pre-plotted regularity (defined by spot heights and grid lines) heading South from Thirsk, followed by the first visit to Dishforth to tackle the six tests laid out there. Crews would return for the second go at the tests after Regularity 2 (again pre-plotted, this time junction colours) to the East of Ripon and a coffee stop at Yolk Farm near Boroughbridge. Here the navigators received the plotting for Reg 3, which would follow the second batch of tests. Reg 3 was junction instructions and took crews East onto map 100 with little time for a breather before Reg 4, the tulip instructions for which were handed out at the final control on Reg 3. This took us generally North East, finishing near Wombleton before a relatively late lunch at Beadlam Grange on the A170 East of Helmsley.

Leigh Powley and Brian Goff (Toyota Corolla) leading at lunch.  Photo by GF Rally Images.

After lunch the navigators had a decent length transport section on which to untangle a spot height and grid line number string to define Reg 5, which started near Sutton Bank and took in Caydale Mill ford before heading North over Osmotherley Moor, then West back onto map 99. It was then South to Reg 6 which went East back onto map 100, before turning back West once more to finish North of Thirsk. The plotting for this final piece of route was a herringbone (thankfully not circular) and again was handed out at the final control of the previous section. Added incentive, as if you needed it, to make sure you follow the right route otherwise you could miss the handout for the next section too.

The speed changes during the day were mainly at 30 and National speed limit signs in and out of villages, but also at IRTCs and other features, so the navigators were kept busy with no advanced calculations possible. One or two changes were a little vague, resulting in penalties at a couple of controls being rightly cancelled. The speeds were mostly sensible given the road widths and the fact that we were driving around a popular tourist area on a Summer Sunday. Although it was a dry day, the recent rain had still kept a lot of other road users at home, so there were not many reports of crews being held up – just as well as there was no joker to drop your worst lateness penalty.

The six varied tests were on a mixture of surfaces, mainly sealed. Test 2/8 was a ‘head to head’ slalom, unashamedly copied from the 3 Legs of Mann back in March. Test 6/12 was a ‘3-leaf-clover’, looping round a central cone but not always the same way.

The other four tests were all more substantial, from a third to two thirds of a mile in length, but with little chance of crews beating the 30 mph bogey times. All had a few circles around cones (usually on the slippier surfaces) as well as code boards in among the manoeuvres, which served to keep the speeds down. Some of the distances between cones were not quite as they appeared on the diagrams, resulting in plenty of overshoots and a fair few wrong tests, as the leeway was only ‘cars length’ rather than allowing crews to undo their mistakes before the next cone. Even the slippy bits had dried out a lot for the second run of tests and with crews now familiar with the test layouts, the times on the second pass were much lower, some crews enjoying themselves so much they were asking for a third run!

Not so slippery  second time around. Phil B Wood and Kelvin Phipps (Porsche 924S) 11th Overall.  Photo by Tony North.

Forty-eight of the fifty-one starters made it back to the Auction Mart for dinner, after which the results went final and awards were presented. Faring best among the HRCR Novices were Nigel & Sally Woof in 16th overall, from Suzanne Barker and Simon Malins in 21st, very respectable on Simon’s first go in the navigator’s seat in the Marathon-Award-Winning Nissan Cherry. Phil Cheek & Chris Rhodes were not far behind in 27th, ahead of plenty of Expert crews, including Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane, but credit for them for finishing the event after a break down on test 4 meant they missed tests 5 and 6 and all of regularity 2.

Top of the HRCR Experts were Baz Green navving David Alcock’s Datsun 280Z to 4th, with Andrew Parr and Bob Duck an excellent 8th in the Cooper S. Graeme Cornthwaite and Lynsey Procter rounded off the top ten, closely followed by Phil Wood and Kelvin Phipps in 11th and Paul and Sandra Heaney bringing the TR6 home 12th.

David Alcock and Baz Green(Datsun 280Z), Andrew Parr and Bob Duck (red Mini), Graeme Cornthwaite and Lynsey Procter (yellow mini). Photos by kind permission of GF Rally Images.

The only retirements among HRCR contenders were in the Masters class, both with broken clutches, the MGB of Ken & Sarah after test 6 and the Mini of James & James on test 8.

The battle for honours among the Masters and for the event win was a close family affair, Darrel Staniforth and Henry Carr edging out daughter Nikki and last year’s winner Andy Pullan by 9 seconds at the finish. Leigh Powley and Brian Goff were only 29 seconds further back in 3rd.

Father and daughter fighting it out.  Darell Staniforth and Henry Carr (Toyota Corolla) and Nicky Staniforth with Andy Pullan (Peugeot 205GT). Photos by Tony North

Many thanks to the Ripon MSC Team and all the marshals but especially Doug Smith, Adam Blacker, David and Yvonne Wainwright and finally Graham King, who was unwell and not able to be at the event after all his hard work beforehand – wishing him a speedy recovery. Similar good wishes to Mark Goodwin and Graham Richardson, who both had to withdraw their entries due to illness in the run up to the event.

Iain Tullie