My Motoring year – 2019
The year started with a swanky do at the RAC Club in Pall Mall. The HERO awards celebrate the championship that the organisation run during the season and in 2019, I finished fourth navigator, just out of the honours. Still, Teresa and I had a good night and a few libations were taken.
My three year stint as organiser of the VSCC Measham Rally ended with a rally that was well received by some but not by others who had a bad night when they failed to read all the instructions supplied. We gave all competitors an envelope containing three sheets of paper. Many of the seasoned VSCC competitors didn’t take all the sheets from the envelope and so didn’t get to find the whole route.
A call out of the blue from Ireland found me agreeing to join Philip Armstrong on the Dutch organised Winter Trial. Recognised as one of the best events in the calendar, the rally started from Berchtesgaden in southern Germany then passed through Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Austria to finish in Salzburg. The region had experienced a huge dump of snow in the previous week before the event so we spent most of the route on slippery, snowy and icy surfaces. Philip, in his fantastic bright yellow Volvo PV544, drove very well and I had a good couple of days, getting up to third overall at one stage. However, a wrong slot forced us to turn around on an off-route lane, covered in snow. The last manoeuvre in a seven point turn saw a wheel on the verge and then we sunk down into a very deep ditch, hidden by the heavy snowbank. Time lost in getting extricated was never recovered so we had to settle for a 9th overall result in the end.
I ventured out to marshal on a night rally at the end of February – the Bruce Robinson rally held in the Lincolnshire wolds. A cold but fascinating night watching the cars approaching over hills and valleys with lights showing up from miles away.
The Old Farts’ Lash – my 12 car rally organised for Loughborough Car Club – suffered with a poor turnout due to the time of the year it was held but was well received with a worthy winner, clear of penalties and dropped minutes on the night.
Nigel Perkins and I did the Hero Challenge 1 event in his Porsche 911 but for some reason, we never really got going and finished 8th. We were in the new fangled Masters category which meant that we were not eligible for overall awards. Unfortunately, five of the seven places in front of us were also taken by Masters!
One of my favourite events on the Isle of Man was next on the calendar. The Three Legs of Mann comprises three sections over two days, the night part being particularly tricky. I was with Derek Skinner in the Cortina GT and we did well on the regularity and navigation sections, but the poor turning circle did for us on the tests.
One Thursday afternoon in April, I was contemplating that this would be the first time that I had missed being involved with the Flying Scotsman event. At around 4pm, the phone rang. “Could I get to the Lake District to replace a navigator who had suffered an injury during scrutineering?”. You bet I could! I hastily packed a case and got to Windermere to find that I would be sitting with American, Jim Gately in his huge 1937 Cadillac. We suffered on two forestry sections (yes, really!) when we caught an extremely slow Edwardian vehicle that would not move over to let us past. With the roof down for the whole event we had a great time on the fiercely contested event, finishing 14th and second in class.
I teamed up with another American, for the London to Lisbon rally in probably the most unsuitable car for a rally that I have ever been in. A race prepared Porsche 914/6, running straight-through exhausts, a roof rack for the spare wheel and very little interior space due to the complex roll cage. Things didn’t get off to a bright start when, on the overnight channel crossing, the car broke loose (the electric handbrake being rendered useless when the master switch was turned off….) and decided to play dodgems with a few other cars. Noise became a problem as the rally progressed, particularly when trying to give directional instructions, not helped by a driver that was quite Mutt & Jeff too. We finished 16th overall but won our class and I got a lovely glass trophy. Except, whilst being shipped home by a third party, it fell out of a boot and smashed. Oh well….
Nigel Perkins decided to try a different kind of rally car for the Three Castles rally in North Wales. A mark II Golf GTI was not bad in the lanes, but a bit of a handful on the tests and a result of 19th overall and third in class saw the car up for sale soon after the event.
After an absence of many, many years the old team of Parkinson & Duerden were back together for the HRCR’s 35 th anniversary event in Graham’s Sunbeam Alpine, known as Stanley. The car never missed a beat and the old boys in the car performed very well too, recording seventh overall and second in class.
The HERO Summer Trial was another event to be featuring a Masters class. This meant that Nigel Perkins and myself in the Porsche 911 were ineligible for overall awards. The Derbyshire event was not plagued by mamils and Lycra louts this year and we had a very good run to finish third overall (my best ever result on a HERO event). However, because of the exclusion of masters from the main results, we were only classified as third in class.
August saw the seventh Welland Valley Wander – the scenic tour that I organise, raising funds for LOROS, the Leicestershire & Rutland hospice. Another bumper entry of over 100 cars ventured into new territory, with the start at the fascinating Stonehurst farm and car museum before lunch on the banks of the Welland at Stamford and finishing with tea and cakes at Deene Park. I presented a cheque from the 2018 event to Teresa’s daughter Imogen, who is an ambassador for LOROS, taking the total raised to over the £20000 mark.
On the Winter Trial earlier in the year, Philip Armstrong had mentioned that he would like to do the Seasun organisation’s Milan to St Tropez rally. I was more than happy to join him in Italy for the event. An unusual event in its organisation, there was no road timing and the regularities were all calculated from data accrued by the Tripy devices, an electronic GPS timer that recorded all the times without the need for on-event marshals. A great route, passing by Italian Lakes then Alpine cols (some very high too) made for a fine and sociable rally. Our efforts were compromised firstly when I mistook a speed change point and later, when a local farmer pulled out from the top of a col in front of us and we had to follow him slowly (oh, so very slowly) to the bottom of the single track road off the mountain.
Vauxhall entered an Astra for the Fleetworld Mileage marathon, an event where I have had some success in previous years. This year, it was to be a single day outing only and there was no requirement to have a navigator. The route was left to self determination between a few given waypoints. I elected to take a mixture of motorway, trunk roads and the Fosse Way in a circular route the went from Bristol up to Birmingham and back again. I got the best consumption of any car on the event and recorded a corrected figure of 85mpg in the 1.5 litre Astra, a 40% increase on the WLTP figure.
After last year’s drama on the Rally of the Tests when Tim Sawyer’s Escort Mexico suffered clutch failure, we were hoping for better things this year. The prologue – around Exeter – contained a few tricky slots but we managed a decent start to the event. Things continued in the same vein on the following day and night section and going into the last day we were up to sixth overall (although, once again we were not eligible for overall awards). Late into the event we encountered a hesitant welsh lady approaching on a narrow lane. With no idea of her car’s width we were forced to give her much more room than she realistically needed, and the time lost in guiding her past cost us four places. We finished 10th overall (except not really shown in the results) and third in class.
The last competitive event of the year was the Beaujolais rally in the Pas de Calais, named after the weekend when the new batch of the nouveau is released. This was a new event for Nigel Perkins and myself in the Porsche 911. At the end of the first day we were positioned in twentieth place after a very dubious time given to us by a marshal. We started the second day with not much hope of making any progress. The last regularity of the event was to be held in the dark and featured a marked map. As we progressed through the lanes near to Montreuil, we noticed other competing cars going in various directions, but we ploughed on to complete the section without drama. Imagine our surprise when results were announced to find that we had finished second overall and best performance on the second day. A good end to the season.
My Motoring year – 2018
The VSCC Measham rally once again started the year, and for this event we had snow in the afternoon which then melted and froze. Evil conditions, but the event was well received and as one of the organisers, I was heartened by the favourable comments.
The Winter Challenge to Monte Carlo is an event that I have been involved with over many years as both course car driver and marshal. For my second attempt at the event, I joined Michael Moss in the big Fiat and we were awarded with second in class and the team prize.
The Old Farts’ Lash – my 12 car event for Loughborough Car Club – was marked by an absence of code boards. Somebody forgot them! But the rally turned out OK in the end.
The Scottish Malts was another event with Dilwyn Rees in the big Healey and once again, we were lucky too win the class and finish 9th overall.
My anticipated ride on the Flying Scotsman rally failed to materialise, so I ended up marshalling by a nice log fire in the baronial hall of Belvoir Castle. Bro-in-law, Ian Wilson, hit the headlines as he piped the cars up the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
The Summer Trial moved to Derbyshire for an attempt to loose the lycra pedal warriors but if anything, the cyclists – all aggression and pumped up – were worse than ever. We managed another class win and 6th overall.
My third event of the year to organise was the LoCC Easylarity event in the glorious Vale of Belvoir. I joined Nigel Perkins in the Porsche 911SC as course car and the familiar Audi coupe of Robert Robinson and Peter Mellor nearly won the event for the second consecutive year but were pipped by Clive and Anji Martin in their Escort.
Nigel Perkins and I had a good run on the Three Castles Rally in North Wales but a clipped cone on the last run of the day cost us two places and we dropped to 7th and second in class.
I didn’t stop for the prize giving of the Three Castles in Llandudno, as I was on the plane the following morning, to fly to Athens for the Classic Marathon. With Klaus Uwe Schraffrath in the Alfa Romeo Guilia, we had a very good rally in a somewhat underpowered car and won the class on a very hot and dry event.
Below: James Ewing, Klaus and myself plus Michael Moss with our spoils
The 1000 Mile Trial proved to be a disappointment again. The Aston Martin of Dilwyn Rees and myself were having a good run until the steering box decided to break leaving us with ‘directional management’ problems. Luckily, nothing was coming the other way when it happened but a DNF was recorded for the second year running.
My VX220 had a couple of run outs on Scenic Tours in 2018. The Blaston Show parade always attracts a fine selection of cars. We were a little dwarfed by the enormous Rolls Royce
The Charnwood Tour gave us the opportunity to visit some very familiar locations not far from the ancestral home.
The Welland Valley Wander – the scenic tour that I organise – was once again raising funds for LOROS, the Leicestershire & Rutland hospice, and this year we had a bumper entry of 102 cars. Reckoned to be the best yet, we started from Hothorpe Hall near Market Harborough, travelled to the glorious Grimsthorpe Castle near Bourne for lunch, and finished at Bruntingthorpe with a blat around the test track
The customary cakes were served at the finish and I handed over a cheque for the 2017 event to Imogen Cox, an ambassador for LOROS.
Teresa and I marshalled on the Alpine Trial in Switzerland and the Savoy Alps in glorious weather for the week.
Tim Sawyer’s new Escort was brought out to play on the Hero Challenge event around Bicester and we finished 8th overall and got a class win.
The VSCC decided to bring in a class for later cars on some of their rallies, so the new President of the club, Jenny Lees and myself did the Bowland Rally in the Lees’ family Citroen and we finished 7th.
Teresa and I marshalled again on the practice day for the Peking to Paris competitors.
The Rally of the Tests started well for Tim Sawyer and myself but a Lincolnshire airfield test heard the car go bang and no drive forward was the result. Transmission problems were diagnosed, but luckily, the Dutch transporter driver was able to haul on the Escort to get it to the overnight halt.
I went home to get my car to collect my things from the overnight hotel, but when I got there, the car was being dismantled, using the transporter ramps as an access lift and a new clutch was being installed to replace the ‘frisby’ that had caused all the problems.
Alas, two and half hours penalties for missed controls meant that we we never likely to get into the results, but a finish was recorded along with the two other yellow Mark 1 Escorts on the event.
The last event of the year was the London to Brighton Veteran car run. Not actually competing myself, I was helping out with support for the two entries from the Vauxhall Heritage Centre. The 1904 car broke a throttle cable so a bit of lateral thinking got the car to the seafront in Brighton with a pair of mole grips controlling the forward movement.
My Motoring year – 2017
In Autumn 2016, I was approached to see if I would be prepared to put together a route for the VSCC (Vintage Sports Car Club) Measham Rally. A long standing event, in its sixty seventh year, it is a full night navigation rally for pre war cars. I took on the role of Deputy Clerk of the Course and spend a busy few months, setting the route, PRing householders along the way and trying to calculate timings for cars to get around the country lanes of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. I travelled out on a few recce jaunts with Jenny Lees in the family Morgan. The event seemed to be well received on a cold and frosty (-6 deg c) night in early January and a good time was had by all.
Try and think of a more unsuitable car for competing around the narrow lanes on the Isle of Man, and you would be hard to match Ed Abbott’s choice of a Jaguar XJS V12. However, we came back with second in class and sixth fastest overall on scratch times for the tests on the Three Legs of Mann rally.
The North Yorkshire Classic was a last minute shoe-in with Steve Johnson and whilst our regularity times were excellent the same cannot be said of the tests which were very complicated, tight and totally rubbish. The MGB in the picture we had caught and passed and he should have been on another test anyway!
The Flying Scotsman is a cracking event and I got to do the rally with jovial Aussie, Max Stephenson in his LWB 1930 Aston Martin International. Lacking a hood wasn’t too big a problem as long as we didn’t stop. Then we got very wet!
We had a great time and got piped over the finish line by my bro-in-law, Ian Wilson.
An unsuspected delight came when I joined Steve Riddington in his Riley for a non combative Easter VSCC jaunt along the roads of South Leicestershire. Just right for a Measham recce!
The longest competitive event of the year was the London Lisbon rally with Klaus Schaffrath. The lovely Alfa proved a little low on power for some of the steep but fantastic climbs but we managed a second in class.
A triple Woolard at the finish with Klaus, myself and James Ewing.
I accompanied Graham Rood on the Baltic Classic Rally as marshals and we covered near enough 5000 kms in two weeks as the event went from Denmark into Sweden, then across to Finland before journeying across to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to finish in Germany. We had our collar felt by a very nice German police lady who wanted to check our hazardous materials as depicted by the disc on the rear side rear doors. Happy that there were none, we were left to get on with our marathon trip.
We had rain, sun and implausibly, snow (on June 1st!). The picture below is on one of the famous 1000 Lakes stages near Rovaniemi, where we were further North than Anchorage in Alaska and further East than Istanbul. Amazing.
Graham and I rushed back from the Baltic Classic in order to compete on the VSCC Targa Oultonia. Graham managed an overall win in his Riley and I had a creditable result with Tony Lees in his 1920 Vauxhall 30-98 without speedo or clocks.
The Summer Trial with Dilwyn Rees in the big Healey was free of selfish lycra louts in 2017 and we had a good time on the event, picking up a class win.
The 1000 mile Trial in Dilwyn’s latest acquisition, the glorious SWB Aston Martin Ulster, saw us record our only DNF of the year when a combination of broken damper mounts and clutch pedal fracture proved to be unrepairable on the event.
The fifth Welland Valley Wander was another resounding success, with a record entry of 90 cars. At the start at the Great Central station at Quorn, I presented a cheque to LOROS, the Leicestershire & Rutland hospice from our fundraising bringing a total of nearly £15,000 presented over the five years.
Little and Large on the WVW. Rod Dainty in his Austin Seven Chummy and Pete Walton in his Roll Royce Phantom II starting the event at Quorn.
My duties on the inaugural Blue Train rally from Deauville to Cannes, changed somewhat when Keith Baud’s broken arm meant that I became chauffeur to the Chef de Rallye and keeper of the start/finish arch. There was a bit of marshalling along the way, but also some fantastic scenery and beautiful pre war cars to enjoy during the event.
The Classic Trophy Rally in the Ardeche region of France, with Richard Prosser in his Reliant Scimitar, was my first experience of another organisation’s regularity type event and a good result was spoilt by a disputed penalty right at the end of the rally.
John Ball’s Citroen DS21 (aka ‘The Flying Sofa’) was my mount for the Rally of the Tests and it wasn’t the ideal car for the event (to say the least). Lack of illumination and body damage on a very narrow road meant that there would be no silverware for us at the finish of my fourteenth attempt at the Tests.
My Motoring year – 2016
Following the Old Farts’ Lash in January (my 12 car event for Loughborough Car Club), the big thing on the horizon was the Winter Challenge to Monte Carlo. I had done the event many times as either course car driver or marshal, but 2016 marked a red letter year when John Ball asked me to accompany him in the Flying Sofa to compete on the event. John wished to do the event as it was 60 years since the introduction of the big Citroen model ( – how futuristic was it then?…..) and it was also the 50 years anniversary of the debacle when the British cars, including the winning Mini Cooper S were disqualified and a DS model ended up winning, much to the embarrassment of the driver, Pauli Toivonen. We had a great time, getting waves of appreciation from French passers-by, and there was certainly no crew more comfortably ensconced on the event. The complicated nature of the beast caused a bit of head scratching when the semi automatic gearbox was compromised by a n actuation problem, but we managed to get round the whole event and also drive home with only a couple of stutters during the 1200 miles journey back from the Med.
David Alderson needed a last minute replacement for the left hand seat on the Tour of Cheshire so I stepped in, only to find that on a very wet event, that Beetles are not totally waterproof
It was a sad day when the Duerden fleet was thinned out with the selling of the VX4/90 rally car and the Astra A 1300 road car.
The Grande Fromage of Autocar magazine, Steve Cropley, was to try the fantastic new LED lighting system on the latest version of the Astra, and it was decided that an entry would be placed on a 12 car rally to try the adaptive lighting system in challenging conditions. I placed an entry for myself and Steve on a local club event, but unfortunately, the rally was not the best event ever and we struggled to finish seventh. Autocar got their story and I recovered some of my pride when I won the next 12 car entered, seven days later.
The great and the good of classic rallying came to pay their respects to Philip Young at Brooklands with a memorial event. A minutes noise was quite some sound!
The Vauxhall Bedford Owners Association (VBOA) annual rally came around to being the turn of the British clubs and I helped Ian and Margaret Coomber with the get together in Yorkshire. There were cars present from many territories, including Denmark, Sweden and Holland.
I teamed up with Dilwyn Rees again for the week long Scottish Malts rally. Based at Cameron House Hotel on Loch Lomond, the rally ventured over to the Isle Of Mull before going up the Great Glen to the North East of Scotland. The last day’s visit to Balmoral was cancelled as snow (in April!) blocked the route over the tops of the Cairngorms. We won our class on the event, but it was touch and go at the finish as a rear wheel bearing was crying enough and would not have seen out another sixty miles.
I had another opportunity to compete on the the Three Castles event, again with Mike Cornwell in his MGB GT
Dilwyn and I won our class on the Summer Trial, but our overall result would have been a lot better had it not been for a rude, inconsiderate and downright arse of a cyclist who refused to move off the crown of the road for a considerable distance. This lycra lout was one of many we encountered on the event but he seemed to take great delight in mucking up our event.
The two pictures below illustrate the extremes of weather that James Ewing and I saw on the European leg of the Peking to Paris Rally in July. We also had a day of torrential rain too. The falling snow was at the highest point of the leg – the Furka Pass in Switzerland at 2500 metres. Soon after leaving our marshalling spot at the top of the pass, we came down past the impressive remains of the glacier and encountered the rack and pinion steam locomotive and its wagons starting up the mountain on its winding journey up and through the pass.
In Slovenia, I saw the car of my dreams. Not a supercar or a big limousine, but a wee Steyr Puch 650 TR. What I wouldn’t give to own one…….
At the finish in Paris, there were huge crowds to greet the finishers under my four poster gantry.
This year’s Welland Valley Wander saw a bumper entry of nearly 80 cars start from Rockingham raceway. A cheque was presented to LOROS from the 2015 event and the varied assortment of Vintage Classic and desirable cars journied across Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and Rutland via a stop for lunch in Stamford, Lincs before finishing with afternoon tea at Drayton House. Daughter Claire with her friend, Conrad Cunningham, gave the VX220 its first proper outing of the year. Photographer Peter Going was out and about and he produced the lovely shot of the VX passing Fotheringhay church.
I got an opportunity to take the VX220 out on an event when Dougie and I did the Stamford Classic run. The wee boy is not a great lover of the car, and spent most of the time facing backwards to avoid wind in his ears!
I went over to Belgium with Richard Prosser in his Reliant Scimitar to tackle the West Hoek Classic rally. A curious event with some very quirky ideas, but we finished second Brits and learnt a lot about the ways of the Belge and their regularity rallying. Full blown Ascona 400 models along with Porsches and works replica Escorts running full GPS tripmeters and computers are slightly different to the way we do things in the UK.
As a shakedown for the Tests, I joined Tim Sawyer on the Throckmorton Challenge. A one day event, this gave us the opportunity to get to know one another and to sort any glitches on the car. The only ‘mechanical’ problem concerned the tripmeter. The other problem was a Ford in a ford. Tim learnt that it is probably better to go into the water a little cautiously to avoid too big a bow wave! At least Tony Large got a good photograph and the car kept going.
Straight on from Throckmorton I joined Sue & Graham Parkinson as marshals on the Alpine Trial. Once again on this event, we had glorious weather in the deserted Savoy Alps with fantastic vintage cars and three happy days of motoring.
A new venture for me this year was the unveiling of a commemorative plaque on the site of the first Vauxhall works on the Wandsworth Road in South London. Cars were produced here in 1903 & 04 before the company moved to bigger premises at Luton. The site has been redeveloped by Barratts in conjunction with Sainsburys and I was tasked with taking the 1904 car from the Vauxhall Heritage Collection to be displayed adjacent to the new supermarket entrance whilst the plaque was uncovered.
After coming so close to winning the Devon Classic rally in 2015, I tried again this year in a new partnership with Peter Keel in his Triumph Dolomite. We had a cracking run over the two days, leading most of the way. I finally managed to record an outright victory, 38 years on since the last win. Then, it was with Rodger Parker in his Fiesta. Strangely, the Dolomite was brand new in 1978 at the time of the last win.
My Devon Pixie from 2015 now has a partner. I think that she must be called Brunhilde!
A 6 litre, V8 supercharged monster pickup called a Vauxhall Maloo is probably not the most obvious choice of car for an economy run. However Lawrence Allen from Auto Express wanted to do a feature on lean driving, so we entered the Fleetworld mpg Mileage Marathon. We recorded fantastic figures but were pipped for the win by another big engined car which produced results which left some wondering how they had been achieved. Oh well….
Tim Sawyer and I had one goal for the Rally of the Tests. To get from the start in Bournemouth to the finish at Chester. If we could do it without drama or incident, all the better. After a good run on the middle day, we woke on the Sunday morning to find we were leading our class. We so nearly won at the end, being pipped for the honours by 43 seconds. Ironically, this was exactly the same time that was lost after following an extremely heavily-laden straw lorry up the narrowest of Welsh lanes. However, Tim was made up with an unexpected extra trophy when he was awarded the best newcomer title.
Along the way we visited two of my favourite motorsport venues; Shelsley Walsh and Chateau Impney.
The year finished with event planning for the 2017 VSCC Measham Rally. The Lees family flat-rad Morgan was an ideal mount for route testing.
My Motoring year – 2015
First job of the year was moving a new model Corsa. But no ordinary Corsa. One to be mounted on a piece of tarmac. And upside down at that! I moved the car to the contractors so they could mount it in the very unusual manner.
The Poppy Rally in Flanders was a shake down with Steve Johnson in his beautiful Alfa Romeo, ready for the Classic Marathon later in the year. I joined the very select Bridge Club when I directed Steve to drive over a footbridge, seduced by the siren-like photographer, Tony Large, standing on the other side. It was not the correct route! We had a couple of drive/navigator misunderstanding moments but we got round unscathed.
The journey back by Eurotunnel was not without drama. A small oil leak set off all the sensors in the carriage and we were banished to the loading jetty for further security checks. We were eventually allowed to leave with the security manager saying “it’s always happening with classic cars”. So that’s OK then…..
The Flying Sofa had its moments with John Ball throwing it around on some HRCR one-day events with gay abandon. Retrospeed’s Peter Baker was rather taken by the angles John could achieve during lurid cornering manouevres.
The Flying Scotsman Rally used the big gantry and piper brother in law, Ian Wilson, did a sterling job at Gleneagles. As opposed to doing a Gleneagles job at Sterling.
Loughborough Car Club continue to want me to organise the Easylarity Rally for novice regulariteers and we get a decent entry in very decent cars.
Des Bruton enticed me over to the Emerald isle for an outing on the Irish Classic Retro rally and I had a whale of a time with Des driving his very vivid orange Avenger Tiger like he’d stolen it. A great event.
Having managed to avoid it for many years, Ian Crammond invited me to do the mc’ing at the end of the Three Castles rally in North Wales, and to fill in the time before the finish, I accompanied Mike Cornwell on the event, achieving a top ten finish but missing a class win by one point!
The Classic Marathon was a week long journey from Lecce in the heel of Italy up to Brescia and the Italian Lakes in the North. A fabulous route with spectacular views and some pretty poor roads tested Steve Johnson’s little Alfa but it only spluttered once after ploughing through a biblical deluge. Alas, our event was done for early on, when we encountered a recalcitrant Combine driver on a very narrow road and spent a very long time in a field, letting him pass. Once our time was lost, we played catch up for the rest of the week, but to no avail.
In June, I had stand duty for Vauxhall at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The VBOA jamboree at Billing saw a valiant effort by the owners of Vauxhall Nova Sports to gather a significant number of the models together in one place to mark 30 years on. They were nearly there with 28 examples.
The Welland Valley Wander, now in its third year saw a good entry on a dry day. Starting at Kilworth House Hotel with the presentation of proceeds for the 2014 event, we finished with tea and cakes at Drayton Park near Thrapston.
The Alfas always seem to take a good water shot. Thanks to Tony North for these fabulous images
Dilwyn Rees invited me to join him on the inaugural Devon Classic Rally. How could I refuse when it gave me the opportunity to fulfil a long held want to rally in a big Healey? We had a great time and were leading the event until a local Devon farmer decided to herd his cattle along the narrow Dartmoor lane we were also trying to drive down. It cost us the event, but we still got one of organiser, Andy Ballantyne’s Devon Pixies as a trophy.
There was another nearly when John Abel and I tackled the Throckmorton Challenge in his fearsome Sunbeam Tiger. Despite going up Shelsley Walsh faster than I have ever been up there before, we missed out on a win when I muddled the instructions for the penultimate regularity, leaving us out of the honours.
The last competitive event of the year was Le Jog, from Lands End to John o Groats. Ginger Ostle, came over from Germany with his LHD Mini Cooper S and we had a trouble free run to complete the rally and put a tick on Ginger’s bucket list
My very original Vauxhall Astra 1300 featured as part of a special Astra supplement of Auto Express to mark the arrival of the latest version of the popular model. The magazine road tested and it performed extremely well. A good car.
My Motoring year – 2014
The year started -as usual – with my 12 car rally for Loughborough Car Club; The Old Farts’ Lash. I enjoy the challenge of coming up with something different ever year. But people keep coming back so we must be getting it right.
The Winter Challenge to Monte Carlo lived up to expectations, and Jim Smith and I marshalled along the entire route. We had snow in the Vercors and then again in the Alpes Maritimes.
John Ball and I had a number of outings this year in the ‘Flying Sofa’ on HRCR single-day events, including the St Wilfrids and Ilkley Jubillee rallies. The big Citroen received a very clever demon tweak over the Winter. The mod was enough to get us around the tests quicker but still the large car is still a hell of handful for John around the pylons and we loose out to the more nimble cars. On the regularity front, our times continue to improve and remain consistent.
At the Goodwood members meeting in the Spring, I donned a set of period overalls to assist Paul Clayson’s efforts with his ex-Blydenstein VX4/90. Luckily, I didn’t have too much to do. Dave Smith wielding the spanners for most of the time did the majority of the fettling.Philip Young kindly put me in touch with Max Stephenson, the original Australian ockker. Max brought his ex Peking to Paris, 1924 Vauxhall OD 23-60 tourer over for the Flying Scotsman Rally and I had the honour of sitting in the left hand seat for the rally from the Midlands to Gleneagles. We had a ball, and our regularity times were right up with the best. Unfortunately, as the vehicle is built like the archetypal brick outhouse (to withstand the rigours of trans continental journies) we struggled in the very heavy car to match the greyhounds in the lean racing machines on the test sections. But what a hoot!
The commemoration of WW1 brought the Vauxhall Heritage Collection’s 1918 Vauxhall military D type out for a number of events. The car supported the Biggles 1914 biplane at Sywell aerodrome and then the car was taken to Ypres for a magazine feature in the Flanders fields.The Alpine Trial for vintage cars saw a three person marshalling team made up of yours truly and Sue & Graham Parkinson venture off to Annecy for a long weekend of very hot motoring, but a lovely time was had by all.
Team Duerden ventured out on just one scenic tour this year. Mrs Duerden (Senior), Miss Duerden and I entered the Derbyshire Dales Tour in the Heritage Centre’s Victor Estate, and I am happy to report that Nan’s senior years are no handicap to navigating from a tulip roadbook. Claire did a good job too!
As part of the day job, I still arrange the routes for many new car launches, where journalists get to drive the cars over a carefully selected set of roads. For the Adam Rocks launch, Vauxhall elected to show the car around the Snowdonia area, and as part of the extra-mural activities, those that were brave enough could take a trip on a mile-long zip-wire, 400ft off the ground over a slate mine at Bethesda. I got the opportunity to test the facility first. I enjoyed it more that I thought that I would!
The local Blaston show was an enjoyable day in Ethel, the VHC 1924 Vauxhall 23-60. Dougie enjoyed himself.
At the Vauxhall owners club’s jamboree at Billing in July, the Nova Sport group got me to pose with them and a very smart example of the model. It seems amazing to think that we came up with the idea for the car 30 years ago. There’s not many examples left now, but we hope to have a good show of them at the event in 2015.
The Military D type was the one of the stars of the show at the VSCC’s 80th celebrations at the East of England showground. John Ball and I took the car out for the Friday tour and the car behaved impeccably. It was lovely to be in a nice tall car and be able to see over the walls and hedgerows.
The second running of the Welland Valley Wander didn’t experience the sunny weather that we had in 2013. To put it bluntly, it pi**ed down all morning, but
luckily it cleared up when the cars approached the finish. We had a grand turnout of 60 classic cars and raised around £3000 for the LOROS charity. Kilworth House Hotel treated us royally with afternoon tea at the finish.
The following weekend, we had 30+ classic Bedford coaches come to the Heritage Centre at Luton to celebrate their 75th anniversary. I complied a book to celebrate the event and we managed (just!) to get all the participants to Millbrook Proving Ground for a very special photograph on the high-speed banking.
I managed to get a ride on the VSCC Derbyshire Autumn Rally with Martin Dawson in his magnificent 1924 7 litre Rolls Royce Silver Ghost which, incidentally, has the same Peacock Blue colour scheme as Ethel. What a machine. Torque in abundance and it is true, you can hear the clock ticking! We had a good run and won our class and recorded the lowest score overall.
We were not so lucky on the 2014 Fleetworld Economy run. Partnered with one of the best navigators around – Cath Woodman – we couldn’t get a large improvement on our fuel consumption figures as the Vauxhall Insgnia boasts such good numbers in the first place.
The highlight of the season, however, has to be the Rally of the Tests. Partnered with the excellent John Abel in the superb Alfa Romeo Guilia we had a cracking run in unexpectedly clement weather (for the most part) and actually led the event, midway. We dropped back over the fearsome Epynnt ranges but still managed a top five finish overall and a class win. Never in my wildest dreams had I ever envisaged that I could be leading the toughest event in the classic rally calendar. It was a great result and very enjoyable too.
My Motoring year – 2013
The year got off to an iffy start when I was out hunting on New Year’s Day and returned to find that I was seeing double. Turned out that the identical L/Cruiser parked adjacent made mine look like an amateur as it had over another 100,000 miles on the clock and had only needed a new oil pump besides the usual consumables.
Graham P and I marshalled on the VSCC Measham Trophy event again for the third year running and marvelled once more at the bravery (stupidity?….) of the competitors in open cars in sub zero temperatures.
I continue to navigate on local club 12 car navigation (‘night-navs’ as the Iorish call them) rallies and picked up an embarrassing amount of trophies. Pot-hunter? Me? Surely not!
The Poppy Rally, based in Ypres and run around the roads of Flanders was another enjoyable continental event. Using my Astra Challenge car, but with Jim Smith on the pedals, we had a good, trouble-free run but suffered with being in the same class as the much more powerful Escorts and other ‘proper’ rally cars.
Jim came with me on a trip to Geneva soon afterwards to deliver the Vauxhall Heritage Centre’s 1926 30-98 Velox tourer. From the shores of Lake Geneva, the car was driven by various journalists to Monte Carlo, before we brought it back to Luton. I had the opportunity to drive the Monaco GP course in the old car. Something to tell the grandchildren (if I ever get any……).
The Flying Scotsman saw Wee Dougie and myself out on the event all the way to the Gleneagles finish, He’s a very popular marshal!
The finish at Gleneagles with bro-in-law, Ian Wilson on pipes
In the first half of the year I accompanied John Ball in the Flying Sofa (aka Citroen DS23) on a number of the one-day HRCR Clubmans rallies. On the North Yorkshire event, we managed a sixth overall and a class winner by dint of my getting a tricky bit of navigation correct whilst many other fancied runners didn’t.
The Derbyshire Dales scenic tour saw an outing for the VX220. A lovely day with glorious scenery and trips down some roads that I have only ever seen in the middle of the night when competing on Peak District rallies!
2013 was the centenary of the first appearance for a 30-98 Vauxhall, and the date was marked by a gathering at the location of the original outing, Waddington Fell near Clitheroe. I enjoyed the experience of riding in both the overhead valve version and the earlier sidevalve model. The latter car, crewed by Tony and Jen Lees, was glorious through the lanes of the Trough of Bowland.
The 25th Classic Marathon ventured back to its original stamping ground too. From Belgium, through Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland to the Dolomites, we encountered extremely warm conditions (unusual for this event!). For various reasons, I didn’t want to take any of my usual steeds, so I ended up buying a 200,000 mile four year old Ford C Max (yes, yes, I know – I used a four letter word……). The car never missed a beat, climbed up the Stelvio and Giau passes without hesitation and recorded 60 mpg overall for the trip. It has now become Claire’s everyday car and is always a pleasure to drive.
As soon as we got back, we were off again for the finish of the Peking to Paris Rally. Our gantry was the focal point for the finish in front of hundreds in the Place Vendome
The big event of the year, for me, was my first attempt at running a scenic tour. The Welland Valley Wander, after a slow start, ended up with 70 participants and, on a beautiful day, was a big success with lots of lovely, favourable comments. So much so, that I will be organizing the event again in 2014, albeit with a slightly different route and finish.
At the Goodwood Revival meeting, I was once again assigned the role of chauffeur to the VIPs. Driving the VHC’s FB Victor Estate, we were kept very busy with too little time to enjoy the racing. However, I did have my new hand-made and tailored Tweed suit to wear. I found it in a charity shop in Eton High Street. The previous owner’s name is stitched into the inside pocket.
The Fleetworld MPG Mileage Marathon (or economy run as I call it) came as a big disappointment this year as the wee van that I was given did not cut the mustard due to a strange problem which is not for mentioning here. However, as I had to drive the darned thing so carefully, I ended up receiving the Safe Driving trophy for the smoothest and most careful pilot on the event!
A first for me this year was the opportunity to drive Vauxhall’s 1904 6 hp car during a filming session. This was done at Bruntingthorpe on what seemed the hottest day of the year. No steering wheel and a crank to start it, made for an interesting day as fuel vapourisation became quite a problem when the car would run for a mile or so and then frustratingly restart again after going through the ‘preflight’ procedures.
Having experienced a very early Vauxhall, I also got to ride in a Veteran Vauxhall, when I accompanied Ian Parsons in his 1914 A type on a local run around Leicestershire. It was lovely to be able to see over the hedges and wave to all the onlookers!
There was unfinished business on the Rally of the Tests this year, after a frustrating non-finish in 2012 in Tony Newman’s Mini Cooper S. Despite biblical weather (storms, lightning and floods) we managed to come home with a trophy after a trouble-free run.
Every year, the local chapter of the Vintage Sports Car Club organize a Treasure Hunt tour on Boxing Day. The deal is that whoever wins it has to organize the following year’s event. In 2012, the Lees family won it but as they were jetting off to warmer climes for their Christmas holidays, I was asked to substitute for them and arrange this year’s foray. A complete journey into the unknown (no details of previous events, or pointers as to what should be done) left me a little daunted at the task, but a glorious gathering of 30+ cars turned up for the Tally Ho Treasure Hunt Tour and a good time was had by all. Mind you, with a Bugatti type 35B, a Brooklands Talbot and a Hispano Suiza in the car park at the event’s HQ, you couldn’t help but be impressed. Appropriately, the event was won by a Vauxhall 30-98. A good end to the centenary year.
My Motoring year – 2012
A cold start to the year with a very fresh through-the-night marshalling stint on the VSCC Measham with Graham Parkinson. Gosh, it was cold. Then, there was the strange case of the dead squirrel causing a puncture on the Saab on the MCC Exeter Trial (don’t ask…….). Personally I blame Keith Baud. It’s the easiest and obvious choice.
Bad News came from the Dangerous Smith Bros when Louis the Chevrolet was fired up for the first time in March. A huge crack in the cylinder head, caused by Jack Frost had appeared.
In the absence of the Chevy, Ethel the Vauxhall 23-60, was called up for service on the VSCC Spring Rally, with roles reversed with Parkinson on maps and me on pedals. Boy – was it wet!
The big event of the year was the 1000km Centenary celebration of the Swedish Winter Trial with Alisdaire Lockhart and his accurate C Type Prince Henry recreation with hospitality and succour, courtesy of Kay Mordza (and Dad). The tale is told in full through a number of posts on the News page.
A more modern outing was with John Ball in the Triumph TR3 on the Tour of Cheshire. Later, in the year, John showed his masochistic tendencies by electing to compete on the Vale of Clwyd Classic Rally in his moving armchair, otherwise known as the big Citroen DS. Rocking, and a-rolling….
Douglas, the marshalling dog, came on the Flying Scotsman Rally and helped by guarding the winning cars at the finish. He now not only has a VSCC marshal’s collar but also a Dougie size loser jacket (aka a high vis coat).
Douglas couldn’t come to Ireland for the Classic Marathon, but Graham and I had a good time marshalling on the event. A case of a quality rather than quantity in terms of entry but a jolly good route.
In July, there was an opportunity to put my money where my mouth is and compete on an Easylarity Rally, a concept which I helped to develop. On the Coalville CC event, with Richard Egger in the Puma, we managed to win the regularity (phew!) but were just pipped for overall honours by dint of not quite winning the autotest section.
The Goodwood of the North, The Cholmondeley Pageant of Power was another wet event, but luckily for me I had a saloon car to drive, demonstrating the E-REV Ampera. Another wet event was the Saturday of CarFest South, Chris Evan’s extravanza at Laverstoke Park.
The dampness spoiled the camping in the marvellous VW California. However, buy the time Sunday came and my turn behind the wheel of the Vauxhall 30-98, the weather had dried up.
For CarFest North, back at Cholmodeley, even the sun shone!
Epic British journies during the year included a fuel sipping exercise in the advanced technology of the Ampera, from the cathedral at St Asaph to Chelmsford’s cathedral. All for not a lot in terms of fuel costs.
At the suggestion of Keith Baud, I tackled a Scenic Tour with him when we took the VX220 on the Warwickshire Tour. An awful event, but enough to show us what I needed to do for my new Scenic Tour, the Welland Valley Wander to be held in August 2013.
I’ve been to the Goodwood Festival many times, but this year I had the opportunity to attend that retro fest, the Goodwood Revival. I drove a courtesy car for the celebs and had a whale of a time. Number 1 son got to attend to, on The Chap stand, and we even managed a visit to Gavin Towers, with inestimable hospitality from Mary and Jim.
I tried to do my bit by marshalling on a few night rallies in the trusty Landcruiser.
The big Toyota nearly met its match whilst taking a petrol free Ampera for delivery, ready for a trip through the Channel Tunnel under it own electric power. Coming back, the long M26 drag up the North Downs nearly killed the Toyota, such is the weight of a car, plus batteries!
Louis the Chevrolet finally got repaired and did Civic duties for the Sponsor at the Kop Hill Climb in October. It was wet – well, very wet. Then the wooden hood rail broke. Oh well, more fun and games…
The annual outing on the Fleetworld mpg Marathon saw me Vivaro mounted. Neil McIntee and I trounced the opposition, recording the best figures for the commercial section, beating the brand new Transit by a considerable margin.
The last competitive outing of the year was the Rally of the Tests with Tony Newman where the car did not finish under its own power for a third consecutive year. It’s got to change soon…..
All photos by me or Tony Large (rally ones) or where noted.