January was out of the way and by mid-February everyone was starting to get ready for the 2018 version of the Bath Festival, this year taking the form of a Targa Rally. The end of February soon came around but so did the snow… With a few feet in places the decision was made the week before to postpone the event to a later date, always better to be safe than sorry!
With a very quick turnaround the event soon announced the new date just 28 days later. This time there was quite a healthy flow of rain the days before the event, but it was going ahead this time. The rain held off on the day and there was a good buzz around the start venue, this time the usual Festival starting place, The White Horse Country Park at Westbury. As the books were already printed for the previous version there were a few amendments to make at the start, but when you sit back and look at it, there wasn’t much at all! Just one test lost and using others once instead of twice or the other way round. New overview maps were handed out for the road sections so these could just be followed if needed and a plethora of cautions on the tests for being slippery.
18:45 soon came around and Gavin & Carrie Rogers (Mk2 Escort) were at the exit of the car park at MTC1 ready to go. Having a quick look at the entry list there were entries from all over the place in a variety of vehicles, from the Mk2 Escorts to a Fiat Seicento and from Jersey to North West Wales, great to see.
Tests were given out both is diagrammatic and tulip form so you could use what you wish. The forests were maps so you could pick out a few more corners on the maps, but the tulips had distances so you knew how far to go until the next sharp corner or junction, as we didn’t have a trip I stuck with the diagrams and maps!
A quick note before going through the times of the test and time card, classes were split as usual into Experts, Semi-Experts, Novices and Clubman, but also split again into under 1400cc and over 1400cc, so Experts were classes 1 and 4, Semi’s 2 and 5, Novices 3 & 6 and Clubman 7 & 8. For this report I’ve merged the two engine size classes otherwise I’ll be just relaying names and times for far too long! So, to the action.
Test 1, Witham Hall, a regular visiting spot for the Festival either as a test or during the usual road rally, so regular competitors would know it. It wasn’t very long with a bogey of just 58 seconds but as usually it head a healthy covering of water, mud and cow muck to make things interesting. Off the start and straight into a very slippy 90 right under a bridge and then a 90 right at a large bump, around 3 cones and stopping for a PC and then over the bridge and up the hill to the finish. On the long fast section to the finish we came across one of the fence posts in the middle of the track, someone in the field was trying hard! Owain Bedwyr Rowlands & Daniel Jones (MX-5) set a blistering time of 1 minute dead but unfortunately hit a cone and picking up a 10 second penalty, Jason & Daniel Stone (318ti) had another quick time of 1:03 but again, hit a cone. So, without penalties three crews came out on top, Rogers/Rogers, Keith & Martin Lane (Ka) and Mick Valentine & Tony Brooks (Mk2 Escort) all on 1:04.
Test 2 was back to Witham Hall running on the 30 seconds between the crews still doing their first run. For us this time the wooden fence post was across the track and we didn’t manage to avoid it this time, hopefully it didn’t cause too much chaos for the car behind! Rowlands/Jones hadn’t learnt from the first run through, this time hitting a cone and going the wrong side of another picking up 30 seconds, disastrous on such a short test! The same three culprits were at the top on the second run through but this time Lane/Lane stepping ahead with a blistering time of just 59 seconds. Rogers/Rogers and Valentine/Brooks were in joint second both of 1 minute and 1 second.
Test 3 at Frome showground was lost from the first date so it was onto the next one to the west of Longleat, Ashen Copse. He’s where I made my mistake for the night; with test 3 now missing I turned to the next diagram, test 4. This one was now running as test 4 and 13 after the amendments had been made and for some reason my 1 wasn’t much of a 1… So reading out the wrong test diagram was not my brightest move! Luckily Ashen Copse was pretty straight forward so we could follow by sight before I figured out what was going on! It was a shame to see Will & Ed Rutherford at the start of the test with an alternator that wasn’t charging after Will had come over from Jersey, better luck next time guys! Anyway, back to the test. A nice smooth strip of fast tarmac with two RC boards to slow everyone down before PCA just after a loop around a cone. Then further along the tarmac to a 90 right off the smooth stuff and into the trees before looping all the way back to the tarmac next to the first PC again. Another loop around and straight on at the split and loop around the south of the forest to the finish. Again at the top it was a dead heat for the quickest time. Lane/Lane, Rogers/Rogers, Paul Freeth & Chris Head (Rover 214) and Stone/Stone all matched their time of 5:34.
Test 4, Southleigh, was just south of Warminster. This time all on the loose, straight down to a slot hairpin right before a few 90’s and a quick stop at Luke Quinell for a signature before heading down to the loop. This point would be my only criticism of the event, and it’s not a very big one, down to the merge and we slot 90 right. Out to the end of the track, past a Rover 25 in a ditch to a couple of 90 lefts and to the split, first time turning left. After the split you then headed back to the merge facing traffic, with the event being run in the dark every time we got to this point we were met with two main beams and a set of spots on full blast pointing into our faces. Anyway, after the second merge we passed the Mini who looked to be struggling a little with the bumpy forest, back around the loop and along the edge of the forest to the finish. Rogers/Rogers were on top again setting a time of 6:27 with Freeth/Head in second on 6:32 and Stone/Stone third on 6:44.
A quick jump across the A350 to the first card collect, hear Rogers/Rogers were in first on 14:06, Freeth/Head in the 1400cc Rover in second on 14:14, Lane/Lane in third on 14:24, Stone/Stone on 14:41 in fourth and David Lobb & Jim Bowie (Corsa) in fifth on 15:01.
Looking further down the field Matt Heal & Will Warne (MG ZR) were leading the Semi-Expert classes on 15:41 with Tony McCarthy & Mark Johnson (Micra) just one second behind and John Leigh & Keith Emery (Corsa) rounding off the top three on 16:05.
The Novices saw Tony Perks & Brett Wookey (Micra) at the top on 17:25 with David Marfleet & Chris Holloway-Jenkins (206) and Craig & Hazel Cooper (Rover 25) in second and third on 18:10 and 18:27 respectively.
Clubmen were a mix of abilities but without the need to purchase a MSA licence, Bob ‘Fence Post’ Wisniewski & Antons Kuzenko (Ibiza) were ontop on 16:04 with Tim Smith & Matt Clark (Corsa) in second on 16:15 and Oliver Keates & Gavin James Bull (205 GTi) in third on 16:20.
Back to the action and straight into the Longleat Test 5. I was given a bit of a heads up about this one from David Whittock at the start in that there was a long concrete climb with a sharp 60 left at the top which was very slippery, so at each crest we backed off just to make sure, once we got to the top we finally found the 60 left with a lovely looking white MX5 in the bushes straight on! They were out though and waving everyone else on, a shame for the guys who travelled down from near enough the Llyn peninsula for the event. A nice 3.9 mile long test with a short loop in the middle to increase the length, a shame this one wasn’t run twice but with the recent weather the conditions of the roads weren’t quite up to scratch. Rogers/Rogers were on top again on 8:01 with Freeth/Head and Stone/Stone on 8:08 and 8:21 respectively.
Down to the A303 now and to test 6 near Mere, Castle Wood. A long run down the hill with some sweeping corners to a hairpin left at the merge, a fast section down along the valley and back up the other side to the split right and looping back around to the merge before heading back up the hill to the finish just down the road from the start. Rogers/Rogers had an absolute blinder here setting a time of 6:45 with the second quickest, Lane/Lane a further 21 seconds behind them! Worth Birkill & Jon Prior (MG ZR) made their first top three appearance with a time of 7:09.
Test 7, King Alfreds was just around the corner, a short one at just a mile long. A short run down to a merge (I was a little confused why at first, but all will become clear), hairpin left followed by a very slippy 45 right up a steep hill which then flowed lovely all the way to the top of the hill and into the finish. Ed Scott & Mike Thomas (Satria GTi) had a great run on this test setting a time of 2:05 with Rogers/Rogers in second on 2:26 and Luke Matthews & Tjay Lewis (Astra GTE) in third on 2:34.
Another very short road section and straight into Test 8, Serpentine. A fantastic test with a large loop with both fast and tight corners, a bit of everything. Along the side of the hill to a couple cones and into a PC before a split steep uphill hairpin right and into several long 90 corners. A blast up the hill to collect PCB before heading back right next to the start for the merge, back past the cones and the PC before split left and to another merge. Remember the merge on the last test? Same spot. Running the same end as test 7 so we already had a little bit of practice at that bit! A usual sight at the top with Rogers/Rogers, Freeth/Head and Lane/Lane on 8:10, 8:12 and 8:25 respectively.
Back onto the A303 now and to the Esso Garage just north of East Knoyle for MTC2 and MTC3 at the re-group. The last run of four tests saw Rogers/Rogers quickest with a total time of 25:22 to keep them in the lead with Freeth/Head second on 26:17 and Lane/Lane third with 26:43. Stone/Stone and Lobb/Bowie rounded off the top 5 on the section with 26:57 and 27:07 who also rounded off the top 5 overall.
Heal/Warne were the quickest through the four tests in the Semi-Expert classes dropping 28:13 to stay ahead of the pack with Matthews/Lewis close behind on 28:19. McCarthy/Johnson were third quickest to keep them in second overall in class on 28:48, Phillip Luxton & Alex Giles-Townsend (MG ZR) moved up to third overall on a total time of 45:24.
Quickest novices were Barry Lyn Quibell & Jack Major (Mk1 Escort) with a great section time of 28:30 moving them up to quickest Novices overall with the new pairing of Jake Evans-Luter & James Storey (Mk2 Escort) second quickest on 29:53 and Cooper/Cooper in third on 30:49 to move them up to second, but with Marfleet/Holloway-Jenkins only 4 seconds behind overall.
Keates/Bull were quickest Clubmen to move up to second dropping 29:29 with Wisniewski/Kuzenko in second just a second behind on 29:30 to keep them in the lead. Martyn Roberts & Peter Littlefield in the great looking rear wheel drive Corolla had a third quickest time through the four tests with 30:28 only for them to retire at the re-group. Dropping back to third overall in the Clubmen was Smith/Clark on 46:56.
Time for the second run through most of the tests and a new one to finish off! Tests 9, 10 and 11 were re-runs of 6, Castle Wood, 7, King Alfreds and 8, Serpentine all just the other side of Mere. The usual suspects were quickest on Test 9 with Rogers/Rogers, Stone/Stone and Lobb/Bowie on 6:32, 6:36 and 6:46 respectively but Test 10 saw the novice pairing of Evans-Luter/Storey sneak into the top three on their first attempt of a Targa Rally! Top three were Rogers/Rogers, Stone/Stone and Evans-Luter/Storey on 2:17, 2:18 and 2:21. The longer Test 11 saw a top three the same as Test 9 with Roger/Rogers pulling another large gap at the front on 7:49. Stone/Stone were to follow on 8:07 and Lobb/Bowie third on 8:11. It’s worth noting that Evans-Luter/Storey were fifth quickest overall again on this one, definitely keeping up with the top runners when not getting lost!
Another card complete and you guessed it; Rogers/Rogers were quickest on the card again with a fantastic time of 16:38. Stone/Stone were second quickest on the car with a time of 17:01 which moved them up to third overall ahead of Lane/Lane. Lobb/Bowie were third quickest dropping 17:27 with Evans-Luter/Storey up there again in fourth and quickest Novices on 17:55. Freeth/Head rounded off the top 5 with 18:06 to keep them at second overall at this point but only by a couple seconds.
Luxton/Giles-Townsend was on a charge being quickest Semi-Experts on 18:40 with McCarthy/Johnson second quickest on 19:14 and Heal/Warne on 19:31 in third to keep them in the lead of the Semi-Experts.
Quibell/Major extended their lead at the front of the Novices with a second quickest card time of 18:41 with Rob A& Paula Alderman (MG ZR) setting the third of 19:32. Cooper/Cooper dropped right back out of the top three Novices overall, allowing Marfleet/Holloway-Jenkins and Perks/Wookey to move up to second and third.
Clubmen saw Keates/Bull have a fantastic run through these three tests with a time of 18:22 moving them up to the lead with Wisniewski/Kuzenko dropping back to second with a time of 19:56 and Rich Baker & Greg Clark (BMW 320 Compact) third quickest on 20:03 leaving Smith/Clark remaining third overall in class so far.
Test 12 and 13 were re-runs of Test 3 (Ashen Copse) and Test 4 (Southleigh). The end of Ahen Copse caught us out this time and to be fair, it looked like a lot of other people had had interesting finishes! The test ended coming out of the forest with a 60 right on a track in a field and down to the finish. With all the rain that the area had had if you moved ever so slightly off the track you were in a wet muddy field, the tracks were quick amusing to look at! As we came to a stop between the cones at the finish we didn’t realise that we slipped slightly to the left while stopping, meaning when we tried to pull forward to the marshals, we were in the field… After a good minute 30 or so of shunting forward and back Steve managed to get the 206 out just before the next car came out of the forest to finish the test, thankfully this was all after we had stopped astride and officially finished the test!
Test 12 saw Novices Aubrey Bage & Shaun Tolman (Rover 200) take the quickest of 5:34 with Stone/Stone in second on 5:42 and Rogers/Rogers third on 5:45. Test 13 were back to the usual names with Rogers/Rogers on 6:27, Freeth/Head 6:31 and Stone/Stone on 6:33 to make up the top three.
Test 14, Bucklers Plantation saw us head back to Longleat for one last short blast. At just 0.92 miles it was pretty straight forward with one stop/go marshal, two PC’s and a single cone to avoid before the finish. This one was a little cut up by the time we got there so a wise move to only have one run through! A similar sight again on the first test, this time though with Stone/Stone piping the post with 2:13, Rogers/Rogers close behind though on 2:15 and Freeth/Head on 2:17.
Rogers/Rogers were quickest on the final card with 14:27 to secure them the win with Stone/Stone in second on 14:28 moving them up to second overall. Freeth/Head were third quickest on 14:45 dropping them behind the Stone’s to third overall. Lane/Lane were fourth quickest on 15:01 securing fourth overall in the mighty Ford Ka with Evans-Luter/Storey now in the swing of things setting the fifth quickest overall and quickest novice time on the car of 15:15.
Luxton/Giles-Townsend were on a last minute missing setting a time of 16:17 which moved them from third to quickest Novices overall with both Nick Burton & Craig Rodford (Rover 25) and Mark Peterson & Simon Bartholemew (MG ZR) on late charges as well taking second and third quickest on 16:36 and 16:45 on the final time card. McCarthy/Johnson held onto second quickest Semi-Experts and taking the class 2 win with Heal/Warne moving back to third.
The Novices saw Alderman/Alderman set the second quickest time of 16:21 to move them up to third in the classes with Quibell/Major in third on 17:01 to keep them at the front overall. The late charge from Evans-Luter/Storey saw them come in second quickest Novices after earlier picking up two Test Maximums, one of which was 10 minutes! Definitely two names to watch out for in the future.
The Clubman classes saw Wisniewski/Kuzenko quickest on the final card with 16:09 but this wasn’t enough to catch Keates/Bull who wern’t far behind on 16:12 to take the honour of quickest Clubmen. Third quickest were Smith/Clark who secured the third quickest Clubman time overall.
And that was it! At the early hours of the morning we found ourselves back at the White Horse tucking into a Chilli or Curry and awaiting the results. Rogers/Rogers obviously came out on top with 11 out of 14 quickest test times and a massive lead of 2 minutes 34 seconds! The full list of final award winners can be found at www.britishroadrallying.com/bath-festival-2018-results.
Big congratulations and thank you to all of the team at Bath MC. A fantastic event with a quick turnaround from the initial date, running in the dark was different but added to the event making it special. Thanks also to all of the Test Commanders and Marshals who stood out in the cold all night, luckily the rain held off! If you were Marshalling on a Start or Finish I hope you enjoyed your mini Cream Eggs, if you were on a PC of Stop/Go, sorry you didn’t get one! I hope the thanks was enough.
Daniel Pidgeon, Navigator – Car 43, Peugeot 206 GTi – 31st Overall
Thanks to M&H Photography (www.mandhphotography.co.uk) for all of the photos. Make sure you check out his pages for more examples and for details on how to purchase yourself a copy!