192 Miles of some of the best lanes in the country.
The much anticipated return of the Bagger, formally known as the CarpetBagger finally happened at the weekend, 21st January 2017. The event was always known as one of those must do events, known for being full on all night with very little time to catch up time and over 200 miles of lanes.
The Vintage & Classic Rally Register announced the return of the event, re-branded as the Bagger in 2016 and almost instantly there was a massive entry from across the UK. The map below shows the spread of entries from far and wide; Jersey, Scotland, Wales and England were sending their best competitors to battle it out in the Somerset and Devon lanes.
For us the event started a little worryingly, breaking down between scrutineering and noise wasn’t our intention, but a call out to a friend soon found the problem and we were all set to go!
Shire Garage in Chard hosted Scrutineering while Noise and Documentation was at the nearby Windwistle Inn at Cricket St Thomas.
Quarter past nine saw Stewart Merry in car 1 pick up his route instructions for the 200 event, including Tulips, London Maps and Map References. Not what everyone was quite use to with a few crew’s really struggling and not even leaving the start venue. Luckily for us a bit of local knowledge meant we were all plotted with times worked out on our time card with 10 minutes to spare. A quick pee and we were set for MTC1 out of the pub.
A short run down to Chard Junction took the crews to TC2 and the start of the event. 3, 2, 1 and were off! One of the first corners was covered in mud and you could already see some interesting lines going up the hedge, this was going to be an interesting night! Up across Burridge Common and past Cotley to the back of Barley Mow’s farm shop to TC3. Just 1 PC and 1 TC and we had already lost 4 crews! Owen Turner & Bob Blows (MG ZR) blew their clutch, John Summers & Clive Jones (Mk2 Escort) were stopped on Burridge Common with an unknown issue, David Thorpe & Andrew Lowe (106 XSi) blew their diff and John Sedgwick & James Aldridge (205 GTi) had their engine give up on them completely.
Carl Hawkins & Dan Stone (Colt) were on form from the off dropping 33 seconds with Richard ‘Milo’ James & Michael Gilbey (MG ZR) just a second behind and John Davies & Aled Richards (Mk2 Astra) a further 4 seconds behind, was this going to be a front wheel drive night? Pat Thomas & Mark Butler (Mk2 Escort) were in the front of the Novice class on 1:42 with Stephen Hard & Mike Aldridge (MG ZR) on 3:13 and David Jones & Dean Wiltshire (Micra) only 11 seconds behind them.
Down around Wambrook and around the large triangle at the end of Bewley Down, at this point we had caught up a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, de-plated being driven quiet erratically through the lanes! Thanks to the guys at PC2 for holding them back, I’m sure they were annoying Roger in front of us. Past Ferne Animal Sanctuary and around the next large triangle before dropping down to Crawley and a quick blast up the A30. Unfortunately, a last minute re-route due to a late PR problem meant that most crews cleaned the control by around a minute. Guy Woodcock & Paul Bosdet (Mk2 Escort) were still in 4th a couple seconds behind Davies/Richards with Iwan Jones & Neil Spiers (Mk2 Escort) rounding off the top 5 a further 11 seconds behind. Luke Quinnell & Jeff Newsum (Swift) and David Berry & John Lord (Mk2 Escort) were in 4th and 5th respectively in class 2.
Down to Howley and past the top of Whitestaunton where the event lost Paul Tod & Bryron Jones (Impreza) due to a blowing exhaust, then up to the top of Combe where TC5 greeted crews. Milo/Gilbey had moved into the lead with Woodcock/Bosdet moving up 2 places into second.
Along towards Combe St Nicholas before heading down to the back of Marsh, well… for most crews! Dan Willan & Richard Crozier (Rover 200) took a short 4-minute shopping trip down to Combe St Nicholas, not much their lads! Down Cinder Hill and through the Knapp Farm white. Another two crews lost here, us from 9th overall having gearbox issues, not being able to select any other gear then third as well as Mark Turner & Richard Pashley snapping a driveshaft in their Civic. Round the top of Marsh and up to Brown Down for TC8, a few crews seemed to have missed PC’s along this section, the beauty of South West events though is that you get a 5-minute penalty and not a fail, so your rally isn’t completely over! The top 3 were still the same with Mark Lennox & Ian Beamond (Mk2 Escort) and Ian Lloyd & Richard Bestwick (Mk2 Escort) moving up to 4th and 5th overall. Hart/Aldridge and Jones/Wiltshire where is a good battle for second in the novice class, swapping places at each TC so far.
Down to Churchinford and around a loop which caught some top crews out, missing a PC in the process. Up through Luxton and down towards Upottery over a cautioned humpback bridge, another couple loops around the river Otter before heading back up to the A303 for the end of the “Marsh” section. Not without another few casualties though, Hugh Garnish & David Bell (Rover 214) retired just before TC8, Quinell/Newsum also managed to pick up two punctures before TC10, having only 1 spare put them out of the event as well as Senior Quinell, Mike & Mark Sheppard (MG ZR) snapping a driveshaft just before the final TC.
Davies/Richards were back in the lead with a time of 5:16 with Steve Head & Stewart Merry (Mk2 Escort) in second on 6:33 and Lennox/Beamond in third on 7:05. Thomas/Butler were still dominating the novice class on 11:46 with Jones/Wiltshire in second on 18:53 and Hart/Aldridge in third with 27:37.
A few more retirements were received at ‘Data Collect A’, Hawkins/Stone from 7th, Peter Scott & Mick Valentine (Sunny) from 22nd and Phil Jobson & Jerry Hettrick (Mk2 Escort) from 24th, all for unknown reasons.
A quick blast along the Seven Mile Straight and back into the lanes towards Yarcombe, up to ‘Pidgeon’s Triangle’ (Yes, I’m now naming it that!) and along the gated road to Furley for TC 13. Milo/Gilbey moved back into 3rd with Jones/Spiers also moving up into 5th. Another two retirements saw James How & Nic Jones (MG ZR) drop out from 7th and Dave Whittaker & Terry Martin (Mk2 Escort) dropping out of 30th before TC30.
Across the river Yarty and up Witch Lane to the start of the maze of lanes around Shortmoor, Millhayes, Shore Bottom and Heathstock. Back and forwards around the top of Stockland before coming out past the television mast on the Seven Mile Straight again. Down the valley and back up the other side to Cotleigh, Retter’s White followed before dropping down to the A30 just outside of Monkton to TC16. Woodcock/Bosdet dropped out from 6th before TC15 with no rear brakes and Keith Jenkins & Tony Brooks (Volvo 140) from 25th before TC16 with fuel issues.
A few top crews picking up 5 minute penalties in this section as well as some big penalties which shook the top up a bit! Lennox/Beamond were now in the lead 1:03 ahead of Lloyd/Bestwick, Head/Merry a further 2:03 behind with Davies/Merry 10 seconds behind them and Willan/Crozier another 15 second behind. Top novice crew Thomas/Butler had jumped un into the top 10 in 8th with Hart/Aldridge still in second and Jones/Wiltshire in third.
Over Dumpton hill then using a junction twice to get Shelvin white in the route, before heading up to Luppitt Common for the end of the “Stockland” section. A couple more retirements here with Roger Holder & Peter Barnard (Civic) having Gearbox issues and Jones/Wiltshire dropping out of 3rd in the novice class. Lennox/Beamond were the Kings of Stockland dropping 6:35 over the section and moving them up to the overall lead. Second quickest were Willan/Crozier with a time of 7:12 moving them up to 5th after their earlier shopping trip and in third was Milo/Gilbey with 9:50 slowly moving them back up the leader board due to an earlier missed PC. The Novice class saw Thomas/Butler complete the Stockland section dropping 24:10, Hart/Aldridge dropping 35:19 (remember missing a control picks up time penalties, they were not OTL) in second and the final two remaining novice crews, David Berry & John Lord (Mk2 Escort) and Aubery Page & Chris Hodson (AX GT) missing everything picking up a total time of 1:50:00, 1 hour 50, not 1 minute 50!
A quick sprint along Luppitt Common took the crews into the Culm Valley section of the event. Along the great Gully Lane before dropping down the valley behind Smeatharpe Banger Racing Stadium to Bolham Water Hairpin, around the back of Smeatharpe and across the tops of Luddery Hill. A small loop down to the River Culm for the crews to show us what we were missing, having taken the car back to Taunton, grabbed the van and a McDonalds and found a spot to watch, heated seats are great! After all the cars had passed we headed off to another spot, passing TC20 in the process with Simon Heywood & Sam Treleaven stuck quite deep in a ditch with their Civic, glad we could help the guys out and get them going again! Lennox/Beamond had hit problems dropping quite a lot of time and down to 4th, handing the lead back to Davies/Richards. Milo/Gilbey had also moved back up a few places into 2nd with Head/Merry still in 3rd. Novices Thomas/Butler were still in the top 10 in 8th with Hart/Aldridge now in local territory behind them in class. The other two novices at this point I think were battling for the highest amount of penalty points gained!
Along the River Madford and around Hackpen Hill before heading back to Hemyock and down into the Culm Valley again. Culm Davy white, always a tricky slot to see, claimed a victim, Chris Powney & Mark Dunkerley (Cooper S) actually running out of fuel, I can’t imagine a mini’s tank is too big! Around Culm Davey Hill and up to the top next to Wellington Monument for the end of the first half. Unfortunately Lloyd/Bestwick retired before here with a seized engine, a shame as the crew were running 6th overall.
The King’s of Culm Valley were Milo/Gilbey dropping 3:06 and moving them up to second overall with Davies/Richards not far behind on 3:19 to move them into the lead. Head/Merry was firm in third dropping 4:41 with Lucas Redwood & Rob Newall (Mk2 Escort) in fourth on 4:45 and Mike East & Paul Taylor (Rover 200) in fifth dropping 8:04. Novice’s Thomas/Butler was sixth quickest through Culm Valley dropping just 8:11 with Hart/Aldridge dropping 16:06 through their local patch.
Into Fuel now at Wellington with the following positions at the half way point;
1st – John Davies & Aled Richards, Vauxhall Astra – 0:19.47
2nd – Richard ‘Milo’ James & Michael Gilbey, MG ZR – 0:20.19
3rd – Steve Head & Stewart Merry, Ford Escort RS – 0:21.49
4th – Dan Willan & Richard Crozier, Rover 200 – 0:28.37
5th – Pat Thomas & Mark Butler, Ford Escort – 0:32.21 (1st Novice)
6th – Lucas Redwood & Rob Newall, Ford Escort RS2000 – 0:33.51
7th – Phil Harris & Ross Whittock, Subaru Impreza – 0:34.43
8th – Mike East & Paul Taylor, Rover 200 – 0:39.11
9th – Nic Morris & Martin Phasey, Ford Escort RS – 0:40.10
10th – Martin Betts & Richard Hage, Proton Satria – 0:40.22
18th – Stephen Hart & Mike Aldridge, MG ZR – 1:11.25 (2nd Novice)
24th – David Berry & John Lord, Ford Escort RS2000 – 5:20.46 (3rd Novice)
After a bit of a rest (if you can call it that!) crews headed down to White Ball to start the “Clayhanger” section of the night. Keith Lane & Martin Lane (Ka) pulled out in this section for an unknown reason after lying 15th overall. Around Greenham Barton, Kittisford and Bathealton rising and falling through the valley’s, Phil Harris & Ross Whittock (Impreza WRX) and East/Taylor moved ahead of Redwood/Newall moving them down to eighth. Over Hadley Bridge and down to Ashbrittle before heading north west t Petton. Around the back of Bampton Down and Huntsham before following the valley along the river Lowman and to TC31 at the bottom of Beer Down. Jones/Spiers dropped out of the event here, after a great early performance, with engine issues while Lennox/Beamond jumped ahead of Martin Betts & Richard Hage (Satria) to take ninth.
Back to the top of Bampton Down and along Bampton Down White before the finish of “Clayhanger” at the top of Cove, not without another retirement, Gavin Rogers & Georgina Clark (Mk2 Escort).
Kings of Clayhanger were Milo/Gilbey dropping just 1 second over the nine time controls and seven passage controls! Second quickest were Davies/Richards dropping 12 seconds with Willan/Crozier in third dropping 31. Lennox/Beamond were 4th dropping 2:17 with Nic Morris & Martin Phasey (Mk2 Escort) rounding off the top 5 dropping 2:19.
Tom Jeffries & Dave Cooper (Mk2 Escort) ran into problems at the top of Bampton down and dropped down the leadboard and cutting to the finish, while earlier leaders Head/Merry dropped out at the section with an unknown reason.
A short run down the A396 to start the next section at the bottom of Castle Close. Up and back down Dryhill before going into the famous Cove Hairpin. A steep uphill hairpin that doesn’t allow people to pull away at the best of times, let alone in this weather. This was our next place to watch along with crews from 3 other cars that started the event! By far the most impressive was Simon Harris & Dave Allman (Lupo TDi) nipping around the hairpin and straight up the hill with no issues at all, several people struggled here with a couple even reversing back into the Armco. A couple other noticeable performances were local escort boys Redwood/Newall and Thomas/Butler both making it look easy!
Over the top of Stoodleighmoor and down to Coleford Bottom via a couple tricky junctions and NAM diagrams. A loop around Stoodleigh Beacon and back to Coleford Bottom before running along next to the North Devon Link Road and into TC40 to finish “Cove”.
Kings of Cove were both Davies/Richard and Milo/Gilbey both dropping 4:01. Willan/Crozier were 3rd again dropping 4:18 moving them up to 3rd overall with Lennox/Beamond still on form dropping 4:45 and moving them up 3 places into 5th. 5th quickest through Cove were Heywood/Treleaven on a charge after their earlier misfortune dropping 6:32.
Into the middle of Devon now for the “Little Silver” section. Starting just outside of Calverleigh heading south to Little Silver. Down across the river Dart and up the valley the other side to Upham and Hayne, around Round Hill and dropping down to the Exe Valley Way for the end of the section.
Kings of Little Silver were Milo/Gilbey dropping 2:44 and moving them into the lead ahead of Davies/Richards dropping 3:22. Betts/Hage were on a late charge dropping 4:35 and moving them from 9th to 6th with Willan/Crozier holding onto 3rd dropping 4:44. Novice pairing Thomas/Butler ran into late problems with their fuel pump dropping them from 4th overall to 10th. Paul Freeth & Chris Head (Rover 214) also ran into problems dropping several minutes missing controls.
Through Bickleigh to the start of the next section, it was tight at the top and down to the last section of the night. Over the top of Backs Wood and along Butterleigh white before dropping to the back of Cullompton and into the final control of the night.
Kings of Butterleigh were Davies/Richards dropping just 4 seconds over the two time controls with Milo/Gilbey dropping 22, Willan/Crozier dropping 34, Lennox/Beamond dropping 1:24 and Betts/Hage dropping 1:31. Davies/Richards moved into the lead by just 1 second on the final control of the night! After 192 miles, that’s all it came down to! Willan/Crozier and Lennox/Beamond held onto 3rd and 4th with Betts/Hage passing Harris/Whittock o take 5th. Steve Brew & Brian Cammack (Puma) also passed the stricken Thomas/Butler to move into the top 10 for the end of the night. In the novice class Thomas/Butler had to cut to the end, but luckily so did Hart/Alridge which meant they held onto the class win, just dropping from 4th to 12th overall. Geoff Hall & Martyn Taylor (Cooper S) moved up to 11th in the last section with Andrew Lees & Kevin Ablitt (Nova GTE) holding onto 15th. Colin Woodhouse & Chris Moore (Rover 25) also managed to make it to the end of the event coming away with 17th overall, a great improvement on their number 42 seeding.
And that was it! A short run up the M5 motorway too crews back to Wellington to the Beambridge Inn for a well-deserved breakfast!
Massive thanks goes out to several people, Roger Hunt from Vintage & Classic Rally Register (VCRR) for putting the route and event together, Bob Evans, Secretary of the event, Tony Michale for the Results, Paul Robinson for his Stewarding duties, Keith Edwards, Mike Hall & Team for doing the Noise & Scrutineering, Chris Smale and his massive team of marshals for manning up to 5 controls throughout the night (all volunteers as well, none of this renting a marshal for the night like in some areas), Andy Manston from M&H Photography who must have had a rally himself chasing what felt like 10 cars around at some points, the guys at the Windwistle Inn for the food and great start venue and also the guys at the Beambridge Inn for waking up early to feed to few who made it back to the end! A top class event with a top class entry to back it up!
It wasn’t our year for the Bagger, but hopefully it’ll be back in 2018 so we can give it another go!
Daniel Pidgeon, Navigator – Car 29, Peugeot 206 GTi