This year’s Exmoor Targa boasted a full entry list with reserves on the run up to the event. With the announcement of the Somerset Stages rally taking a break in 2018 this event was now the best option to enjoy the forests around Exmoor and the Brendan Hills. The event attracted crews from as far away as Anglesey and Chelmsford, as well as several south west crews.
The event started at the Ralegh’s Cross Inn on Exmoor, a great venue with plenty of space inside and out. Noise and scrutineering were all in the Field at the back of the venue, with light rain I’m sure the tent for scrutineering was appreciated! Signing on all went to plan and before long the drivers briefing was finished and crews were getting ready for the off at 11:15. With a few crews dropping out last minute 54 cars were due to start, from Owen Turner’s MG ZR at car 1 to George Cooke’s Saxo at car 55.
The event was laid out in two roadbooks, one for the road sections and one for the tests. Both laid out in a tulip style with Inter and Total distances, so a trip was definitely helpful but not necessary.
A 9 mile road section took crews down to Croydon forest for the first test, 6.15 miles with 36 tulips, eight codeboards, two passage checks & two splits. A lot of the junctions had cones on them to tighten them up and try and slow competitors down to the 30mph average. Croydon 1 was a great mixture of fast open section’s where you could test your nerve to tight junctions to test your navigator to get the correct route, a real test for driver and navigator. The code boards were well laid out as well. As you came up to them there would be a cone in the middle of the road, which side of the cone you went depended on which lap you were on. Attached to the top of the cone was a codeboard at 90 degrees, some were slightly angled so you could start to read them as you approached, others you had to get along side to read them. Also a great thought, the route on the second lap would be quicker or easier at each codeboard, in theory allowing the quicker car on their second lap to pass slower cars on their first lap at various different locations throughout the tests. Great idea!
Published results showed the tests times with a collection of penalties being added at the end of the event. Quickest time of test 1 were novices Aubrey Bage & Shaun Tolman (Rover 200) beating the target time of 12:18, I do have a suspicion that they missed a split as the second quickest time was 13:06! Join second quickest were Owen Turner & Rachel Vestey (MG ZR) and Gary Edgington & pete Johnson (106) both setting times of 13:06. Third quickest experts were Brendan Wellman & Daniel Pidgeon (206 GTi) on 13:13. The Semi-Expert classes saw Jim Munden & Nick Eccles (MX-5) set the tenth quickest time overall of 13:54 with Paul Watts & Kevin Wills (MG ZR) in second on 14:03 and John Taylor & Nick Taylor (Rover 214) close behind on 14:10. Second in the Novice class were Douglas Brown & Joshua Brown (Corsa) setting the fifth quickest time of 13:15 with locals Phillip Luxton & Alex Giles-Townsend (MG ZR) getting to grips with the cones and setting a time of 13:56. In the Clubman section David Harris & Eric Harris (Corsa) set the quickest time of 14:11 with John Brooks & Richard Brooks (205 XS) close behind on 14:28 and John Parsons & Sheldon Furby (MG ZR) in third on 15:37.
Just six miles down the road and crews are already at test two, Knowle forest. 5.29miles with 32 instructions, 10 passage checks and six codeboards and two merges. 1.34 miles into the test our rally came to a competitive end… A 90 right with two cones on the left which you had to keep to the left of, tightening up the junction. With the rain in the morning it was quite slippery and we under steered into the undergrowth and over a tree stump, we were beached on the sill! A massive thank you to James Newbould & Lizzie Pope who soon came along and tried to give us a tow, as well as Lucas Redwood & Rob Newall who tried as well, sorry for the time you dropped guys! Brendan managed to find half a tree and between that and a jack we managed to get it under the sump guard at the front of the car, it was still wedged so back round to the back of the car and grab the tow rope and hope someone would stop. Along came our hero’s in the shape of a dark green Proton! Gareth Andrews and Luke Quinnell, we owe you both a drink! I managed to attached the tow rope and between me hanging off the tree under the car, Brendan giving the throttle hell and a good old yank from the Proton we finally got the car off! With a 5.29 mile test though this gave a test maximum of 21:10 which put us close to the back of the pack! It only took us 32 minutes to do it…
Quickest through the first run of Knowle were the novice crew of Brown/Brown with a time of 11:56 with Edgington/Johnson just one second behind and Turner/Vestey a further second behind them. Third experts were the Welsh crew, Lee Matthews & Sion Matthews (Mk2 Escort) with a time of 12:05. The Semi-Expert class saw Munden/Eccles on top again with a fourth overall quickest time of 12:01. Pat Thomas & Sam Davies (Mk2 Escort) were second quickest in class on 12:12 with Watts/Wills 3rd on 12:30. Luxton/Giles-Townsend were second quickest in the novice class and ninth quickest overall on 12:22 with Mark Skinner & Natalie Weller (205) third in class on 12:41. Tom Jefferis & Andy Matravers (Mk2 Escort) were quickest on the clubman event with 12:39 with Roger Fletcher & Derek Mines (MG ZR) second on 12:45 and Brooks/Brooks in third on 12:53.
A great little drive next for people who aren’t from the area travelling through Dunster and Porlock Village, and now onto the tarmac roads of Porlock Toll! If you don’t know the road just google it, a fantastic twisty road winding its way up the side of the hill. 2.60 miles long with 18 instructions, five passage controls and two codeboards as well as a few sheep here and there! I’m glad Brendan had done the Somerset Stages a few times as we flew up here catching the car in front about half way up.
Wellman/Pidgeon were quickest up the hill on 5:38 with Edgington/Johnson second on 5:41 and James Newbould & Lizzie Pope (Corsa) and Semi-Experts Keith Lane & Julie Lane (Ka) third quickest on 5:47. Second quickest in the Semi class were both Taylor/Taylor and Jeff Fields & Rob Smithson (Escort) on 5:56. Quickest novices and sixth quickest overall were Nikki Peskett & Matt Neal (214 Si) on 5:56 as well with Luxton/Giles-Townsend second on 5:59 and Brown/Brown third on 6:05. The Clubman event saw Harris/Harris complete the test quickest on 6:03 with Dan Lukas & Norbert Celejewski (E30) second on 6:08 and Brooks/Brooks just one second behind them.
Back down the hill with the fantastic views across the Bristol Channel and to the start of Porlock again. Simply if you were doing Porlock 1 you would queue on the left at the bottom and Porlock 2 on the right. With 30 second starts there were little to no queues at the bottom. As we had dropped back the running order as well it meant we had slower cars in front, so again caught a car near the toll about two thirds of the way up.
On the second run of the hill Newbould/Pope and Thomas/Davies set the quickest time of 5:30 with Lucas Redwood & Rob Newell (Mk2 Escort) third quickest just a second behind on 5:31. Andrew Lees & Grace Lees (Nova) rounded off the top three in the expert class with a time of 5:36. Fields/Smithon were second in the semi class with a time of 5:41 with Taylor/Taylor just a second behind. Novices saw Peskett/Neal on top again with a fourth quickest time this time of 5:33. Brown/Brown were second in class with 5:48 and Skinner/Weller third on 5:50. Clubmans Harris/Harris were ontop with 5:45 with Brooks/Brooks second on 5:55 and Jefferis/Matravers third on 5:56.
A run back to the top of the Brendan Hills now for Kennisham, a forest that hasn’t been used on this event for several years. The shortest of the event at just 1.02 miles, 11 instructions, two codeboards and one passage check. A great little test though with some nice fast sections in the middle (see the picture at the top of the sideways MX-5!)
The first run of Kennisham was ruled by the Semi-Experts, Munden/Eccles setting the quickest time of 2:32 with Dave Ward & Geno Cook (205 XS) second quickest on 2:44 and James Griffiths & Liam Rollings (Astra GTE) in the experts and Brown/Brown in the novice class in third on 2:52. Second quickest experts were both Lees/Lees & Paul Freeth & Chris Head (214) on 2:52. Third Semi-Experts were Lane/Lane on 2:59 with Peskett/Neal second in the Novices on 2:55 and Ashley Aslett & Rob Aslett (MG ZR) third quickest novices on 3:04. Brooks/Brooks were quickest on the clubman event on 3:06 with Fletcher/Mines second on 3:08 and Harris/Harris third on 3:10.
At the end of the forest you loop straight back to the start for Kennisham 2, the same as Porlock you just queue on different sides of the road.
Parsons/Furby were the quickest crew through the second run of Kennisham on 2:30 with Newbould/Pope in second on 2:38 and Ward/Cook quick again on 2:40. Redwood/Newell and Wellman/Pidgeon were second quickest Experts both on 2:51. Munden/Eccles were quick again in the Semi class on 2:42 with Thomas/Davies in third on 2:51. Luxton/Giles-Townsend were quickest in the novices setting the fifth quickest time of 2:50 with Brown/Brown in second on 2:54 and Mark Redgate & Andrew Smith (MG ZR) in third on 2:58. Second clubmen were Jefferis/Matravers on 2:53 with Harris/Harris third on 2:58.
After the second run through Kennisham it was a short run back to the Ralegh’s Cross Inn for lunch. A brief one for us as we caught up on time, but there were some great baguettes and bar snacks for sale behind the bar to keep up going through the day.
At lunch times (no penalties included) were as follows;
1st – James Newbould & Lizzie Pope, Vauxhall Corsa – 0:42.31
2nd – Douglas Brown & Joshua Brown, Vauxhall Corsa – 0:42.50
3rd – Jim Munden & Nick Eccles, Mazda MX-5 – 0:43.03
4th – Owen Turner & Rachel Vestey, MG ZR – 0:43.15
5th – Lucas Redwood & Rob Newell, Ford Escort Mk2 – 0:43.38
6th – James Griffiths & Liam Rollins, Vauxhall Astra GTE – 0:43.58
7th – Tim Owen & Jake Ramsden, Citroen Saxo – 0:44.10
8th – Phillip Luxton & Alex Giles-Townsend, MG ZR – 0:44.21
9th – Paul Freeth & Chris Head, Rover 214 – 0:44.32
10th – Worth Birkill & Jon Prior, MG ZR – 0:44.33
2nd Semi-Experts – Paul Watts & Kevin Wills, MG ZR – 0:44.48
3rd Semi-Experts – Steve Smallbone & Michael Spicer, Ford Puma – 0:45.44
3rd Novices – Mark Skinner & Natalie Weller, Peugeot 205 – 0:46.08
1st Clubman – David Harris & Eric Harris, Vauxhall Corsa – 0:45.17
2nd Clubman – John Brooks & Richard Brooks, Peugeot 205 XS – 0:45.33
3rd Clubman – John Parsons & Sheldon Furby, MG ZR – 0:47.44
We’d managed to claw our way back to 35th after dropping down to 39th after our test maximum!
A few crews dropped out during the lunch halt including Gary Edgington & Pete Johnson who were setting top times at the start of the day. Gearbox issues meant they only had second gear, forcing them out of the event.
The evening would be the same route as the morning, with a few changes in the tests such as a different way through a slalom or different side of codeboards on the first lap. So back to the great Croydon for the second loop in there.
Griffiths/Rollings took the top spot on the second run through Croydon with a impressive time of 12:31, with Turner/Vestey just one second behind and Newbould/Pope a further five seconds behind them. Quickest semi-experts and fourth quickest overall were Munden/Eccles on 12:44, a good distance ahead of Thomas/Davies who were second in class on 13:12 and Lane/Lane on 13:17 in third. Brown/Brown were close to the top yet again setting the fifth quickest time overall and fastest novice crew on 12:49. A whole 35 seconds ahead of Luxton/Giles-Townsend who were second in class on 13:24. Another 41 seconds behind them were the third novice crew of Redgate/Smith with a time of 14:05. Harris/Harris were keeping their clubman lead with a quickest time of 13:35 with Brooks/Brooks close behind on 13:41 and Rob Alderman & Paula Alderman (MG ZR) third clubman on 13:45.
Another run through Knowle with Keith & Julie Lane picked up a test maximum on this run through, later on retiring, a shame as the Ford Ka crew are very quick in that little car!
The MX-5 crew of Munden/Eccles were on form again setting the quickest time of 11:35 through Knowle, Redwood/Newell were second on 11:37 and Turner/Vestey one second behind them. Newbould/Pope rounded off the top three experts on 11:51 with Thomas/Davies second semi’s on 11:46 and Watts/Wills back in the top three on 12:11. Novices saw Brown/Brown at the top again on 11:51 with Luxton/Giles-Townsend second on 12:43 and Aslett/Aslett third on 12:49. Harris/Harris again were at the top of the clubman section on 12:14 with Brooks/Brooks on 12:35 in second and Jefferis/Matravers third on 12:41.
Another nice run down through the Exmoor villages to Porlock. Griffiths/Rollings who were getting quicker and quicker as the day progressed unfortunately snapped a shaft on the 360 causing them to retire from the event.
The Escort crew of Thomas/Davies were on it on the third run of Porlock setting the quickest time of 5:39, a whole 6 seconds quicker than Newbould/Pope in second and Redwood/Newell in third on 5:47. Third experts were Lees/Lees who seemed to be quick on the toll road with a time of 5:51. Fields/Smithson were the third Escort in the top four and second in the semi class on 5:48 with Munden/Eccles not too far behind on 5:55. Novices saw Peskett/Neal at the top again on 5:48 with Skinner/Weller in second on six minutes dead and Brown/Brown another second behind them. Alderman/Alderman were top clubman on 6:03, one second ahead of Fletcher/Mines and two seconds ahead of Harris/Harris in class.
Another run of Porlock and Wellman/Pidgeon set the quickest time of 5:31 with Newbould/Pope second on 5:34 and Turner/Vestey third on 5:40. Fourth quickest and top Semi-Experts were Thomas/Davies again on 5:42, Munden/Eccles were second in class on 5:47 and Gee Warner & Ryan Harris make their first top three appearance on 5:49. Peskett/Neal were obviously enjoying Porlock setting a time of 5:45 to put them quickest in class, Brown/Brown were second and Skinner/Weller third on 5:52 and 5:56 respectively. Harris/Harris were quickest clubman on 5:50, four seconds ahead of Brooks/Brooks and 11 seconds ahead of Alderman/Alderman on 6:01.
Back to the final forest now, Kennisham. Munden/Eccles were showing that they ruled Kennisham with the quickest time of 2:40, just one second ahead of Thomas/Davies and two seconds ahead of Dariusz Grzesik & Andrzej Jasik (Punto HGT) who managed to find a test and set a good time. First Experts were Freeth/Head on 2:46 with Lees/Lees a second behind and Worth Birkill & Jon Prior (MG ZR) another second behind them. Third semi-experts were Watts/Wills on 2:51. Brown/Brown set the quickest novice time of 2:49 with Luxton/Giles-Townsend second on 2:50 and Peskett/Neal in third on 2:53. Second clubman were Harris/Harris on 2:49 with Brooks/Brooks third on 2:52.
One last run through and you’ve probably guessed, Munden/Eccles were quickest on 2:36 with Newbould/Pope second on 2:40 and Brown/Brown, Redwood/Newell and Turner/Vestey all third on 2:41. Second semis were Thomas/Davies on 2:44 with Watts/Wills third on 2:49. The novice class saw Aslett/Aslett come in second quickest on 2:52 and Antons Kuzenko & Alan Spencer (206 GTi) third in class on 2:54. Harris/Harris and Brooks/Brooks were first and second clubman again on 2:46 and 2:50 with Jefferis/Matravers third on 2:52.
So, at the end of 12 tests (8 forestry and 4 tarmac) James Newbould & Lizzie Pope set the quickest times of 1:23.49 with Jim Munden & Nick Eccles second on 1:24.20 and Owen Turner and Rachel Vestey third on 1:24.33. But… If you haven’t forgotten, the penalties then get added! These ranged from Owen Turner & Rachel Vestey and Mark Skinner & Natalie Weller who didn’t pick up any to Aubrey Bage & Shaun Tolman who picked up 12:20 worth!
Results finally looked like the following;
1st – Owen Turner & Rachel Vestey, MG ZR – 1:24.33
2nd – Douglas Brown & Joshua Brown, Vauxhall Corsa – 1:25.03
3rd – James Newbould & Lizzie Pope, Vauxhall Corsa – 1:25.09
4th – Jim Munden & Nick Eccles, Mazda MX-5 – 1:25.50
5th – Tim Owen & Jake Ramsden, Citroen Saxo – 1:27.25
6th – Worth Birkill & Jon Prior, MG ZR – 1:27.48
7th – Lucas Redwood & Rob Newell, Ford Escort – 1:27.55
8th – Paul Watts & Kevin Wills, MG ZR – 1:28.58
9th – Paul Freeth & Chris Head, Rover 214 – 1:29.00
10th – Phillip Luxton & Alex Giles-Townsend, MG ZR – 1:29.15
Semi-Expert 3rd – Jeff Fields & Rob Smithson, Ford Escort – 1:31.05
Novice 3rd – Mark Skinner & Natalie Weller, Peugeot 205 – 1:31.44
Clubman 1st – David Harris & Eric Harris, Vauxhall Corsa – 1:29.56
Clubman 2nd – John Brooks & Richard Brooks, Peugeot 205 XS – 1:30.12
Clubman 3rd – John Parsons & Sheldon Furby, MG ZR – 1:35.57
Just for a little bit of fun, I’ve also worked out the top three crews of each venue.
1st – Owen Turner & Rachel Vestey, MG ZR – 0:25.38
2nd – James Newbould & Lizzie Pope, Vauxhall Corsa – 0:25.55
3rd – Douglas Brown & Joshua Brown, Vauxhall Corsa – 0:26.04
1st – Owen Turner & Rachel Vestey, MG ZR – 0:23.36
1st – Jim Munden & Nick Eccles, Mazda MX-5 – 0:23.36
3rd – Douglas Brown & Joshua Brown, Vauxhall Corsa – 0:23.47
1st – James Newbould & Lizzie Pope, Vauxhall Corsa – 0:22.36
2nd – Bendan Wellman & Daniel Pidgeon, Peugeot 206 GTi – 0:22.38
3rd – Lucas Redwood & Rob Newell, Ford Escort Mk2 – 0:23.00
1st –Jim Munden & Nick Eccles, Mazda MX-5 – 0:10.30
2nd – James Newbould & Lizzie Pope, Vauxhall Corsa – 0:11.11
3rd – Douglas Brown & Joshua Brown, Vauxhall Corsa – 0:11.16
And that was it for another year! Looking at the times we would have been competitive, so we’ll remember that tree stump next year!!! A fantastic even put on by Gavin Rogers and the team at Tavern MC, slickly run, great tests and a great day. Well done and thanks to all the organisers, marshals, scrutineers and everyone behind the scenes for the event. One thing to point out before I forget, two club members of Tavern volunteered to do the results for the event, never an easy task so well done to them! See you next year!
Daniel Pidgeon, Navigator – Car 5, Peugeot 206 GTi – 22nd Overall
Thanks to M&H Photography (www.mandhphotography.co.uk) for all of the photos. Make sure you check out their pages for more examples and for details on how to purchase yourself a copy!