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Tour Of Cheshire 2020

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Tour Of Cheshire 7 March 2020

At last, two days of relatively dry weather ensured good conditions for this years highly anticipated Tour of Cheshire which as usual wouldn’t be as straightforward as it first looked.
It was an early start for the 76 cars that departed the Bickerton Poacher on Saturday straight into two pre-plotted regularities on the quiet roads around Whitchurch and Nantwich. The first Reg used a London Map to pass through various points and the second a gridline/ gridsquare plot, both allowing the crews to settle in to the task. Ian Crammond and Matthew Vokes in a Mercedes 280SL were straight in to their stride with just two 1 second penalties on the first reg and 6 seconds on the second. However Nick Bloxham and Niall Frost who were seeded 77 due to a late entry, showed that they meant business with just 7 seconds of penalties over the two Regs.

On then to our first visit to Oulton Park for two special tests around the rally circuit and its alleged slippery surface. Howard Warren with Iain Tullie in a Porsche 911 put up a good fight in the first test but were beaten by Bloxham and Frost by 3 seconds as were Colin and Anji Martin in a Ford Escort in the second.

A coffee stop at the circuit allowed the crews to catch their breaths before going back out for Reg C that used coloured road junctions and county boundaries to find the route. Richard Isherwood reunited with Ian Canavan picked up the honours for that reg with just a 1 second penalty across the 3 time controls.

The tight car parks at Radbrooke Hall then beckoned for two more special tests. Colin Martin was making his motorsport experience count with a second place followed by a first pushing out the more experienced rally crews.

The dreaded circular Herring Bone was the next technique used by the Knutsford Motor Club Team but there were sufficient clues to ensure that most crews had little difficulty plotting it. Crammond and Vokes managed to win this one with judicious use of their joker adding just two seconds to their penalty score with Warren and Tullie just 1 second behind. Lunch then beckoned but to earn it, two tests around the familiar car parks at Booths Hall would have to be completed. Paul Crosby and Ali Procter who had been producing good scores all morning came to the fore and secured top position on both tests, one second ahead of Darren Everitt and Susan Dixon in a Triumph 2000 and Bloxham/Frost respectively.

Nick Bloxham and Niall Frost showing how its done around Oulton Park Rally Circuit. Photo by Paul Lawrence

Lunch results showed no major surprises at the top with Bloxham/Frost leading the pack 18 seconds ahead of Crosby/Procter and 33 seconds ahead of Crammond/ Vokes. Elliot Dale and Charlotte Ryall in a Derby Bentley were holding up the novice charge in 10th place after some excellent test times and consistent regularities. First Experts were Mark Goodwin and Anthony Davies in the Dolomite Sprint despite the dolly coming up with new ways to break down!

A quiet Saturday morning drive in the Bentley.  Elliot Dale and Charlotte Ryall, 10th overall at lunch. Photo by Paul Lawrence.

An off road regularity on the Cheshire Showground was the after lunch entertainment. With 4 timing checks and 3 passage checks to contend with and cars feeding in from various directions, it all made for an exciting and challenging section. Crammond and Vokes were out on top once again with several cars 5 seconds behind. A quick blast up the exit drive was won by Everitt/Dixon in just 26 seconds, 1 second ahead of Crosby/Procter and 2 seconds ahead of Harvey Steele and Martin Pitt in a Volvo 144 which didn’t even have an engine fitted on the Thursday morning prior!
Reg F was a straightforward spot height plot, which may have been designed to lull the crews into a false sense of security. There was very little between the top crews but that was soon to change.
One test around the buildings at Hulme Barns Farm was next up with Bloxham/Frost taking poll once again with 4 crews tying in 2nd place 2 seconds behind.

The next Reg would prove to be one of the toughest with 13 crews missing a control and picking up a 300 point penalty putting them out of contention. A selection of map symbols and county boundaries were used to identify the route but the hardest part was plotting it correctly as there were various ways it might have been interpreted but only one correct one and 3 crews in the top 10 used their joker on this reg. Bloxham/Frost tied the Reg on 5 seconds with John Hancox and Richard Lambley in a TR4.

Two more tests at Oulton Park followed before the final Reg H beckoned. Conditions were similar to the morning as was the top position with Bloxham/Frost taking the spoils 2 seconds ahead of three cars on the first but just 1 second ahead of a flying Volvo P1800 with Phill Wood and Kelvin Phipps onboard.

Reg H consisted of two parts with grids squares being used to start before moving onto a tulip Jogularity style route. Just to catch the unwary, hidden amongst the directions was a control in a farmyard that needed an accurate trip and care to ensure the correct way through the barns. Although impressive, most crews picked up some points here but Warren/Tullie managed to nail it with only 8 secs lost.

Back then to the Bickerton Poacher for the award of the traditional Cheshire Cheese for each competitor that finished and to wait for the results.
Coming in first place with just 11:10 of penalties, of which just 54 seconds were on the Regularities were Nick Bloxham and Niall Frost. Second were Howard Warren and Iain Tullie 11:24 and 47 seconds and just one second behind, Paul Crosby and Ali Procter 11:25 and 1:01.

First Experts were Mark Goodwin and Anthony Davies 14:12 and 03:05.
An excellent and consistent run by Stuart and Emily Anderson in a Bentley Derby 4 ¼ managed to get them the best overall Novice award in 25th place.
Another great Tour of Cheshire rally from the team at Knutsford Motor club and both Clerks of the Course Mike Harrison and Graham Raeburn are to be congratulated on putting on such a smooth running and enjoyable event.