RN ELECTRONICS EAST ANGLIAN CLASSIC 13/14 MAY 1995
Last year CMC ran an Historic Rally for the first time, Nigel Booth resurrected the Britvic name and format and modelled the event on the Welsh classic the Targa Rusticana. That event was so well received that the Historic Rally Car Register invited the 1995 event into the prestigious Safety Devices Championship. This year's event ran with a new sponsor, Roger and Sue Ray's electronic testing company, RN Electronics, a new organising team and a new name which Clerk of the Course Paul Barrett had to convince everyone slipped off the tongue just as easily as the old one...
The original date of 6/7 May had to be changed at a late (early February) stage when it was discovered the Bank Holiday had moved due to VE Day celeb / commemo / comise/ rations. Norwich, the venue for the night halt was found to be full of Americans (late again) who had booked all of the thousand hotel rooms in the city, leaving no space for the rally.
Day route co-ordinator Rob Norrington put together a mixture of regularity sections and driving tests (no NOT stages!) between the start in Boreham, Norwich and the finish at the Marks Tey Hotel near Colchester. Before departing to the USA on company business on the eve of the rally, he handed over control to Mark Andrews who had already spent hours on the paperwork, roadbook and driving test diagrams - all of which were produced to a very high standard. Secretary of the Meeting Andrew Bargery (remember him, Torque readers ?) was another official caught out by the date change, he had a commitment to co-drive the Manx national and passed his tasks over to Entries Secretary Richard Nel. Pete Tilling was in charge of the night route, constructing an ingeniously twisty and surprisingly rural one hundred mile challenge in the lanes between Norwich and Mundersley, on the North Norfolk coast. He also looked after the results, producing detailed computerised placing lists in minimal time. Steve Sparshott did an excellent job organising all the marshals and ensuring that he had just enough people to cover all the time controls and driving tests. A slightly lower than expected entry of thirty cars gathered at the start on the Saturday morning.
There was a mixture of last year's crews, Safety Devices Championship regulars (many of whom travelled from Wales and the North of England), and regional crews for whom this was their only local event. The field was headed by Richard Hudson - Evans's Austin Healey 3000 on the first regularity from Boreham to Pebmarsh, where an old Britvic Stage was used as a driving test. Any one still asleep will have been woken up by the roar of the big Healey through the woods. Also competing in the pre 1960 Class 1 were Seaxes' members Gary Andrews / Craig Marvin in an MGA and Bob White / John Banfield (whose claim to fame last year was wrong slotting their Aston Martin DB6 into the Good Easter ford and drowning out in four feet of water, spending all day getting to Norwich, drowning their sorrows in the bar in the evening, completing the Sunday leg and winning the Concourse D'Elegance) competing this year in an Aston Martin DB2/4. The next driving test was at Chilton Airfield near Sudbury. This unfortunately had to be cancelled when the wind blew a cone marker away. Another regularity took the cars to Knettishall airfield where an ingenious lapping system was set up to make best use of the venue. One early retirement was CMC club President Bill Preston whose navigator John Reed became unwell early on the Saturday morning. They were forced to retire the Preston Garages Ford Capri before reaching the petrol halt in Garboldisham, scene of many a Preston Rally start. Further regularities linked up to driving tests at Lotus Hethel, a lapped mile and bit long slalom, and Brandiston Airfield before the evening supper halt at the Norwich Airport Stakis hotel. The results showed the HRCR regulars with experience of regularity leading the field, however the night route gave those crews more used to road rallying a chance to catch up.
The results crew initially had great difficulty in resolving passage check penalties when a codeboard which none of the early crews, or even the course cars had recorded, appeared on many time cards. Enquiries revealed that the TR2 crew Peter Pratt / Julie Eaglen had found an old SCCON Phoenix Rally codeboard in a hedge and decided to "help" the organisers by re-erecting it. The appropriately named driver was awarded the Spirit of the Rally for his assistance.
One hundred miles of plot and bash navigation in sealed envelopes using short sections and traditional East Anglian navigation proved to be a challenge to most crews, especially those from principalities west of Offa's Dyke (who's she? asks Lloyd Shelley) most of whom appear to be used to pre plot and marked maps. CMC crews Lee Earthy / Richard Bonner and Roger / Paul Ray both in MK1 Escorts made big leaps up the leader board overnight, although another favoured crew Ray Heathcote / John Parsons had to retire last year's class winning Viva due to electrical failure (rumour has it that the wires linking the nodding dog on the rear parcel shelf shorted with those illuminating the furry dice, the photographer also reported three attempts at the Coltishall yump in a bid to get a good photo). 1994 champion 12 Car Rally navigator Phil Christian seemed to be struggling a bit navigating George Cridian's MGB V8, slipping to the back of the field. Other notable retirements included local crew Gordon Wellbelove / Tony Bourn who rolled their Imp about a mile from Gordon's house ( a friendly policeman pulled them out of the ditch and towed them home in his Discovery but they had to return to Essex the next day to pick up their trailer, marshalling at Hethel on the way.) and Healey 3000 crew David / Bryan Smith who blew a head gasket and faced an early trip back to Yorkshire.
At the petrol halt in Mundersley, where the Volvo garage owners had generously laid on free coffee and biscuits, it became apparent that only four crews were coping well with the tortuous route and navigation. Ken Kimber / Andy Gibson were on two minutes in the Mini followed by eventual winners Geoff Breakell / Nigel Raeburn on four in the Alfa Guilia. The second half headed back to Norwich where the hotel bar was populated with drunken football players who were having a sweep stake on the result of the rally, this didn't however prevent plenty of story swapping and ale supping into the early hours of the morning. The bleary eyed crews reassembled after breakfast for the final leg back to Essex, starting with another blast round the Lotus test track at Hethel and taking in regularities via tests at Knettishall, Chilton and Pebmarsh.
The final regularity from Pebmarsh back to finish at Mark's Tey proved to be a sting in the tail; a route defined by avoid map references caused several crews to wrong slot and resulted in the unfortunate retirement of John Dresser / Doug Brown's MGB GT which collided Clive King / Bob Ward's Mini who both met going in opposite directions on the wrong road. A healthy twenty three crews made it to the finish in one piece where the results were speedily worked out over an excellent buffet lunch in the banqueting suite followed by the awards presentation.
The 1995 East Anglian Classic was generally very well received by all competitors and the event has been invited to continue in the Safety Devices Championship in 1996, the date 11/12 May has been set.