DESPITE a terrible weather forecast, the country’s recession and the yo-yo’ing cost of fuel, Morecambe Car Club’s Illuminations Rally Jubilee Run attracted members past and present from as far a-field as Tenerife and the Algarve to participate in a 200-mile run of nostalgia last Saturday.
Morecambe Car Club’s Illuminations Rally was, in the halcyon days of road rallying, one of the toughest and yet most popular events in the motorsport calendar – an event which was an achievement to even be classed as a finisher.
Those fortunate to have had the accolade of actually winning the rally form part of a list that reads like a ‘Who’s who’ within the highly competitive world of rallying.
Last Saturday the club’s President Fred Bent laid on a route that would provide entrants with a taste of the past – the route utilising roads and tracks that featured on routes held during the past 60 years of the club’s Illuminations Rally’s history.
In concept, this event was not actually officially timed and didn’t require crews to complete the entire route.
However, the 200 miles combined with the terrain would surly test the various vehicles entered.
What no-one quite expected was the intervention of Mother Nature, bringing monsoon-like rains to the summer months.
Historically the Illuminations Rally has been held in October, and as such inclement weather would be expected to intervene in the proceedings.
However, what actually happened on Saturday put a very different aspect on the rally – traversing Blea Tarn, Wrynose Pass and onto Hardknott Pass was, in many places akin to driving along a river – occasionally more than a foot deep in water!
When Morecambe Car Club was formed, the members met at the Seahorse Bar in the Midland Hotel. Among those founder members were Arthur Caunt (founder of the Morecambe Visitor), Arthur Senior (renowned baker in the district) and Jack Shaw (garage proprietor in Torrisholme), still in motorsport, still competitive and still entering the Illuminations Rally is Arthur Senior – having won this rally back in 1957 along with Cec Hall.
This time Arthur was participating in a Riley 1.5 with his son (Phil Senior) on the maps.
Other local rally enthusiasts taking part were: Geoff Hall (Mini) – Geoff having won the event on many occasions, Tony Payne (Jaguar XK140), Graham Payne (MGB Roadster) – Graham having his wife Mary alongside and giving him directions.
Another husband and wife crew were Ian / Vicky Brown (Talbot Samba), Bolton-le-Sands father and son Peter and Jon Wood had their respective Mini Cooper ‘S’s entered – Jon having regular navigator David Malin alongside on the maps.
Bob Cordingley/Dave Grundy were in their Mini Cooper, while making up the fourth car in the ‘Mini Italian job’ was the restored ‘Orange Box’(ex-Roy Mapple) Mini of Steve/Suzanne Entwistle.
Dan/Jack Willan were using their successful Proton Compact, Tony/Ayrton Harrison were in another Proton Compact. Phil Darbyshire/Terry May were also entered.
Anthony/Ethan Harrison were in a Peugeot 205 Rallye. Thomas Vipond had father (and Portugal resident) John reading the maps in their Peugeot 206Gti – John, although never having won the Illuminations rally became one of the most successful navigators in the road-rally scene.
Eric/Marcus Pomfret (MGF), Cath Simpson had son Philip alongside her, and finally Andrew Elliott/Andrew Merchant (Honda Civic).
Local late entries were: Martin Taylor/Hazel Talbot (Rover BRM) and Paul Garth/Grant Bretherton (Ford Ka).
Other past winning navigators attending were Mike Wood (winner in 1964), Derek Fryer (winner in 1991), Kevin Savage (winner in 1981, 1995, 1999 & 2002) – Kevin had his wife Christine providing the directions, Paul Bosdet (winner 1982, 1996, 2000, 2003 and 2006), and Don Davidson (winner in 1974).
Don was also sat alongside his old driver John Edwards-Parton. However, this time they were in a Lancia Integrale EVO.
Others attending and involved in past Illuminations rallies were Bob Redhead and Tony Mason – both Clerks of the Course for the event during the fabled Motoring News Championship years.
Starting from the Midland Hotel, the route headed north through Halton Park and into Gunnerthwaite for a special manoeuvrability test, followed by Wash Dub Wood and eventually to High Barns for another test.
Crews now headed west, taking in the steep hairpins of Tow Tops before proceeding north via Cartmell Fell and (previously planned) Winster Ford.
However, due to the weather and a 2ft deep ford, the organisers had produced a detour. Next sections included the previously mentioned Blea Tarn to Hardknott Pass followed by Birker Fell and Jackson Ground – taking in ‘the impossible scissor hairpin’ – scene of much competitor woe during the Ford Cortina and Escort era.
Next to be visited was Tarn Hows, ‘the Struggle’ and onto Kirkstone Pass before passing Ullswater enroute to Waters Farm (Shap area) and an opportunity to have a ‘splash ‘n dash’ at Tebay Services.
The final sector visited such rally folklore favourites as Fox’s Pulpit, Mansergh and Sunny Bank before the finish at the Bolton-le-Sands Community Centre where exhausted crews could finally emerge from their cars and enjoy well-earned refreshments.
Finishers awards were presented by Don Barrow – winning navigator on the Illuminations Rally no less than five times alongside Jimmy Bullough – the duo competing in various Ford marques.