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By Peter Blackett and Les Andrew


The ever present and returning team of Ian Crammond and Mathew Vokes showed all the way home on a much improved and still challenging Hughes Rally in the lanes of Kent. The weather took a break from the rain and warmth and sun greeted all from start to finish. The lanes were littered with bluebells and the Kent countryside put on a beautiful display for competitors.

Starting in Canterbury this year the route began with a regularity followed by 7 Tests at Manston Airfield which would prove to be real wake up call for everyone with fast flowing tests and very hot engines, with the prospect of a further 2 tests later in the day.

A change  of dates from the usual May Bank Holiday Weekend seemed to make all the difference to our journey to and from Canterbury for this years Hughes, even the M25 didn’t cause too many problems. And then to everybody’s surprise by the time we arrived at the spacious Polo Farm Sports Centre used as Rally HQ the sun was out and the temperature was rising. Very welcome after the cold and wet we experienced in Cheshire for the last event.

Come Saturday morning  Dave Hughes gave us a very jolly briefing, warning that the navigation would be a little unusual and sure enough after picking up their instructions for Reg A and G, all the navs were huddled in groups trying to interpret the instructions.

By the time of the 1st car starting Reg 1, all had agreed how to plot the instruction ”only turn right at jcts in certain grid square” and the cars were off, led away by Mercedes Benz 280SL of Ian Crammond and Matthew Vokes.

Ian Crammond and Matthew Vokes (Mercedes 280SL) led the competitors away and were rewarded for their efforts.  Photo by M&H Photography.

The roads were reasonably busy and some cars were soon unluckily experiencing delays.  Best on this one were Car 1 Matt Vokes followed by Car 5 Sarah Binstead and then a group of cars on 12& 13 sec.

Reg B had to be cancelled in the week preceding the event due to all the wet weather spoiling the planned off road route round some woods.  So it was off the NAAFI at the Manston Museum for a quick coffee and a chance for everybody to discuss what the Tests to come at Manston had in store.

The spacious Manston Airfield was sure to favour the more powerful cars with the opportunity to really get your foot down, however they did not have it all their own way as the final test results would verify. Tests 3,4 and 5 saw cars in number beating the bogey so the early and later tests would prove to be decisive, so a fast and measured drive would be the order of the day.

After a steady start Matt Fowle and Ryan Pickering in the Escort Mexico really got into their stride and by test 4 set a string of fastest times to clinch the fastest overall at the finish. They were pushed hard by a chasing pack which included local man Alan Petit who was second fastest in his MX5, but the stars of the show were the two extremely well driven Mini 1275 GT’s  of James Griffiths/James Howell and Novices Lee Davies / Richard White finishing 3rd and 4th  in the Overall Test Results.

Alan Petitt and Peter Rushworth (Mazda MX5) second overall on the tests.  Photo by M&H photography.

Once we had done the tests I think it was felt by most crews that the tests were much improved from previous years with clearer cone marking and more open, less complicated layouts.

After the 1st group of tests there was a  short wait at  the gatehouse before tackling Reg C.  Again all the navigators were in huddles going through all the permutations of whether any of the little whites around the area were goers and might be used.  It didn’t take long to find out which were the ones to use and Sarah Binstead did the best on 5s, in 2nd was car 25 David Morris/Jacolyn Wales then car 1 Matt Vokes  and car 19 Phil Matthews/Carl Ellis.

Car 6 James Griffiths and James Howell in their Mini “Pea Poo” skipped this one having had a distributor problem on Test 6 and having to cut to lunch.

Lunch followed and at this point the leaders were 1st Matt Fowle/Ryan Pickering,  2nd Ian Crammond/Matt Vokes and 3rd Ken/Sarah Binstead.

Matt Fowle and Ryan Pickering (Ford Escort Mk1) leading at lunch.  Photo by M&H Photography

Straight afterwards a short run took us back to Manston for 2 more tests then Reg D.  This being a 9.2 mile thrash round the perimeter tracks and runways.  The majority of the tracks on the site being grass covered and quite slippery and the grass hiding some quite substantial bumps.  Best on this were car 16 Peter Engel/Mark Dunkerley, 2nd Alex Beavan/Kelvin Phipps, 3rd John King/Henry Carr.

Leaving Manston behind I’m sure many cars were happy to get back to the lanes.  Reg E followed this being given out on Friday evening allowing plenty of time for study.  This was a mixture of map features, spot heights and a herringbone.  The lanes on this one were pretty narrow and through the centre of the village of Elmstone but the mainly 20mph average didn’t prove too difficult.  It was also on this one where the dreaded code boards re-emerged but they did seem a bit clearer this year.  Best on this one was car 2 Matt Fowle/Ryan Pickering, 2nd car 10 Kelvin Phipps, 3rd car 5 Sarah Binstead.

Alex Beavan and Kelvin Phipps (Volvo Amazon) nailed the regs and managed an excellent 4th overall. Photo by M&H Photography.

Reg F was a London map type with references plotted on Friday night confusing everybody as one of them plotted on the route for Reg G.  Anyway in the event this wasn’t a problem and proved relatively straightforward.  Best car 2 Matt/Ryan 0s, 2nd car 8 David Mann/Ian Doble, 3rd car 13 Angus McQueen/Mike Cochrane.

Next Reg G which proved surprisingly significant in the results catching out 6 crews from the first 9 seeded cars and another 9 cars from further down the field. The 2nd line of the instruction for this one said that we had been allowed an extra minute to cross the busy A road on leaving the Garden Centre.  Having started we should have adjusted our times to cancel out our minute but all 18 of these cars either didn’t see this or just forgot to do it and got a 1 min early penalty as a result (myself included).

Best on this one were car 6 James/James in Mini Pea Poo, then car 1 Ian/Matt and 3rd car 16 Peter/Mark.

This just left Reg H.  This was handed out as we left the start control and was a relatively straight forward “direction of leaving grid squares” instruction.  The roads proved a bit tricky to find to start with, but fortunately a long run to the 1st timing point allowed for catching up any time that had been lost while plotting.

Best on this one car 1 Ian/Matt, 2nd car 16Peter/Mark, 3rd car 10 Angus/Kelvin.

This just left the short run back to Polo Farm for the meal and a beer and the wait for the results.  Results didn’t take too long but severa crews were surprised to see their 1 min early penalty for the Reg G.

Results: Ian Crammond/Matthew Vokes had taken the overall win swapping lunchtime positions from Matt Fowle/Ryan Pickering in 2nd with John King/Henry Carr in 3rd.

Expert class was won by Peter Engel/Mark Dunkerley from car 15 Andrew Parr/Bob Duck with Angus McQueen/Mike Cochrane in 3rd.

Novice class was won by car 24 Martyn Craske/Dan Middle with a good 11th overall from Lee Davies/Richard White in 2nd and David Morris/Jacolyn Wales in 3rd.

Speeches were made including  a tribute to all the work done by the late Andy Gibson for the Hughes Rally, the Blackpalfery Motor Club and and the Clubmans Championship for theHRCR and it was lovely to see his 2 daughters there to present the trophies.

All photos by kind permission of M&H Photography