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Exmouth Memorial Rally

Sponsored by Historic Motorsport South West

Exmouth Motor Club

12th/13th December 2020

Winners Photo
Winners: George Williams/Cadog Davies (Ford Escort)
Photograph: © JMSPhotographic

Organiser: Exmouth Motor Club

Date: 12th/13th December 2020

Clerk of the Course: Daniel Pidgeon

Route: 150 Miles

Maps: 191 & 192

Starters: 28

The Exmouth Memorial Rally saw road rallying returned to the English lanes after a 10 month hiatus caused by the CoVid pandemic. The valiant organisers had laid on a 150 mile route in the wet and muddy Devonshire lanes.

Temporary CoVid related rules, stipulated by the local RLO, limited the maximum number of starters to 30 and, with two non-appearances, it was a starting list of 28 cars that took the flag at Cullompton at Midnight. They faced six sections, all of which were regularities.

The first section started to the north-east of the host town. It was 18 miles long and included five timing points, plus 11 route checks. It showed that the pairing of George Williams/Cadog Davies (Ford Escort), starting from Number 2, were going to be the pace setters. They were the only crew to clean the section to lead by a minute after it.

The final timing, RF1, at 192/949¾040½, was to cause confusion for some crews. It was a three metre control with the route taking the base of a triangle at the junction with the A396, just south of Bickleigh. The OS map shows a white cutting across west to the main road; this was included on the diagram, but the actual route shown went closer to the give way before turning to the junction. Top seeds, Kevin Willis/Liam Burns (Subaru Impreza WRX), dropped a minute here, this put them in second position.

Andy Brown/Jamie Mills (Ford Fiesta ST) dropped 41 seconds at RF1, but had been a little too quick to the first timing point on the section; they’d arrived 26 seconds early. The total of these two penalties put them in third place, seven second behind Willis/Burns.

John Cosidine/Jeff Brown were the first crew on the retirement list; their Fiesta suffered head gasket failure within ten miles of the start. Clutch failure put the Suzuki Ignis of Jack Brazier/Zak Linham out of the event after the end of the section. Also in trouble were Andrew Dawe/Andrew Lowe, whose Nissan Sunny was experiencing gear linkage problems, this contributed to them missing a route check on the first section. They persevered and finished the event in tenth place.

Section 2 ran onto Map 191; it was 22 miles long, with seven timing points. The course car crew did a sterling job to keep the route open when they encountered a fallen tree halfway through the test. They managed to move the obstacle sufficiently to allow the competitors through. Crews also had to contend with flooding just after TC2E.

Williams/Davies dropped their first time of the night at TC2F, the penultimate timing point; they were 1m02s late. Brown/Mills were three seconds quicker than the leaders to the control and moved into second place as Willis/Burns picked up a total of 2m08s on the section.

Benn Lewis/Mark ‘ATFF’ Robinson mis-plotted the approach to TC2B and entered the control via a mile long very rough white. Their only reward being a 15 minute penalty for a wrong approach.

Car 3, Simon Heywood/Shaun Layland, completed the section, but withdrew as their Honda Civic was suffering from severe electrical problems. Similar issues had led to the retirement of Nigel Hughes/Garry Thomas after Section 1.

The third section was a relatively straightforward 13 mile test with four timing points. At TC3A Willis/Burns arrived early and a little quickly. They slid past the control marker before backing up back past the board. However, the marshal had spotted their indiscretion and booked them in on their arrival, a minute early. Assuming that they were still on schedule they then booked into the next control on what they thought was their due time, but this was now a minute late. They thus picked up two minutes unnecessary penalties. Despite this, they still held on to their third place, albeit almost three minutes down on second.

Williams/Davies again cleaned all controls, while Brown/Mills dropped 13 seconds at TC3B. The leaders now had a margin of 1m21s over their challengers.

Section 4 was the shortest of the event, it was ten miles long. It started south of North Tawton and finished on the A38. It had four timing points. Significantly it was a plot ‘n bash section, with navigation being via tulip diagram. This led to a wide range of penalties at the first timing point as some crews stopped to plot the section before moving off from the start control.

Williams/Davies dropped 22 seconds at TC4C; they were quickest through the section and saw their lead extended to almost two minutes. Nigel Davies/Russell Williams (Ford Focus) had been in fourth position after Regularity 3, but plunged to 13th position after missing a timing point on Regularity 4. Revelling in the tougher navigation, Matt Fowle/Andy Pullan (BMW M3) moved into fourth place.

Petrol was taken at Whiddon Down, before the action moved to Dartmoor and Section 5, the longest of the night. It was 28 miles long, had eight timing points and used some very demanding and narrow roads. Patchy fog added to the excitement.

The infamous Pepperdon Hall Lane, narrow with stone walls, proved as demanding as ever, even the leaders dropped 46 seconds at the following time control. The tight uphill hairpin on the lane caused significant problems for Adrian Beer/Adam Beer as their MG ZR struggled to get up the track; they dropped over 14 minutes. This dropped them from sixth at Petrol to ninth. They managed to lose further time on the final section of the night; they got struck in a ditch while reversing having overshot a code board.

In greater trouble at the Pepperdon hairpin was the Austin A40 of Chris Mockridge/John Varney; the venerable car was suffering from a slipping clutch. They failed to get up the hairpin and cut from there to the Finish. Despite this cut, they still scooped the Historic Car Award.

Williams/Davies emerged from the section with their lead extended to over eight minutes. Brown/Mills, in second place at Petrol, and with over a two and a half minute lead on third placed Willis/Burns, came to grief on the Pepperdon Hall Lane. They hit a bank; the impact deranged the spotlights on their Fiesta. They pressed on, but the lights were so bent that they were obscuring the crew’s vision, especially in the fog. They had to stop and sort the lights out. The whole episode cost them over five minutes and they fell to third place, three minutes behind Willis/Burns.

Top Novices, Phil Luxton/Oliver Luxton, moved into fourth place after the section; they were over 40 minutes ahead of their nearest class rivals.

Competitors now skirted to the north of Exeter as they moved to the last section. This was 13 miles in length, but only had three timing points, the last of these being at the Finish venue’s car park.

There were no last minute dramas for George Williams/Cadog Davies; they were on schedule at all the timing points and finished with a winning margin of 8m 08s. For them it had been a trouble free night and they were just glad to be out and “having a spin”.

Willis/Burns took the runner up spot, over three minutes ahead of Brown/Mills. Luxton/Luxton took fourth, with Tim Owen/Sophie Buckland completing the top five.