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Exmoor Targa Rally

Tavern Motor Club, Burnham-on-Sea Motor Club & Minehead Motor Club

26th October 2019

Winners Photo
Winners: Owen Turner/Rachel Vestey (MG ZR)
Photograph: Andy Manston (M&H Photography)

Organiser: Tavern Motor Club, Burnham-on-Sea Motor Club & Minehead Motor Club

Date: 26th October 2019

Clerk of the Course: Gavin Rogers

Tests: 10 (40 Test Miles)

Maps: 181

Starters: 65

Owen Turner/Rachel Vestey made it a hat trick of wins by taking victory on the Exmoor Targa Rally for the third year in a row.

The Exmoor has become one of the most popular targa rallies on the calendar, utilising, as it does, the forests familiar to many rallyists from the Somerset Stages, plus the excitement of ascending the Porlock toll road. It wasn’t surprising therefore that there should be a maximum 70 car entry for the 2019 edition.

With a number of non-starters, 65 cars left the start at the event’s base at Ralegh Cross. Forty-six were competing in the National B category, while there were 19 contesting the Clubman event.

Crews faced ten tests during the day, opening with a double run through 4½ mile Longwood Test, part of the Croydon Forest. The heavy rain that had been falling since the early hour of the morning had not ceased and made going treacherous for competitors and miserable for marshals on the early tests. It did stop raining at lunch time.

Owen Turner/Rachel Vestey took fastest time on Test 1, putting them into a lead that they weren’t to lose. Two seconds behind was the Escort of Pat Thomas/Sam Davies, however by the end of the following test the crew knew that they had problems and retired, while holding second place, soon afterwards with clutch failure.

There was a tight battle for third place at the end of Test 1. George Newman/James Nock in Car 70 were third. Their seeding being due to a lack of information on their entry form, rather than a lack of experience. They were in the top ten for the first three tests, but fell back after collecting a large number of test penalties during the rest of the day and finished in 11th place overall.

Chris White/Graham Capper tied with Richard Jones/Nic Morris for fourth fastest on the test. White/Capper dropped down the order after punctures delayed them on the second run through the test. Jones/Morris took fastest time on Test 2, but were penalised ten seconds for failing to stop astride a line at a PC, this dropped them behind Turner, who thus made it two test wins out of two.

Robert Hall/Bradley Pettet only made it to the first corner before putting their Citroen C2 into a ditch; they were extracted after a massive delay. They missed out Test 2, but despite completed all the remaining tests, were over their time limit at the Finish. Four cars – Roger Fletcher/Derek Mines (MG ZR), Chris Jones/Richard Jones (Peugeot 206), Peter Hedges/James Hedges (Peugeot 205) and Aubrey Bage/Shaun Tolman (Rover 200) – failed to make it to the end of Test 2.

Owen Turner professing to liking longer tests and proved this to be the case by being 19 seconds faster than his nearest rival on Test 3, the 5.6 mile Knowle 1. Despite a severely slipping clutch Thomas/Davies still held second place at this point, but had to call it a day before Test 4. Jones/Morris picked up both a cone and an astride penalty on the test, but still held third place after it.

The Porlock Toll Road was the venue for Tests 4 and 5, the same test being tackled twice. The slippery conditions made it difficult for the first cars on the road; Owen Turner being astounded at the difference between his two runs, the second after more than a dozen cars had been up the road on the first run.

Turner was only third fastest on Test 4 after picking up a stop astride penalty. Fastest was Car 9, Chris Woolley/Jamie Woolley, who were quickest again on Test 5. They might have been battling for the lead but they’d lost over three minutes on Test 2; they’d picked up a puncture 1½ miles from the end and decided to run on it, unfortunately the final sections were steeply uphill and they lost time as the bear wheel simply spun on the wet gravel.

A lunch break was taken back at Ralegh Cross, where, after test penalties were applied, Owen Turner/Rachel Vestey had a lead of 2m 40s. Remarkably three crews were tied for second place on 48m 14s. Richard Jones/Nic Morris took second place over Paul Freeth/Lizzie Pope after the tie break – fastest on Test 1 – was applied. The third crew on the same penalty were Clubman competitors, Peter Faulkner/Wolfgang Schnittiger. At this point Chris Woolley/Jamie Woolley held 12th place in the Nat B event; which was 14th when Clubmen times were included. They were to climb back up the leader board during the afternoon and finished third place, also taking the class win.

After the break, crews tackled the Bats Castle test, a variation on the earlier Longwood section. This was run twice as Tests 6 and 7. Richard Jones/Nic Morris were fastest here and pulled clear of the scrum for the runner up spot that had existed at the lunch halt. Brendan Wellman/Gavin Bull were quickest on the second run through Bats Castle, as Owen Turner picked up a stop astride penalty. Wellman/Bull were now in third, but couldn’t continue as their Peugeot 206 lost a number of wheel studs, which made it unsafe to carry on.

Owen Turner/Rachel Vestey took fastest on Test 8, Knowle 2, by an astounding 52 seconds. He also topped the table for Test 9, Porlock 3. These performances meant that he finished the rally 5m 11s ahead of second place. This was the crews third win in a row on the Exmoor, Turner’s fourth in succession.

Chris Woolley/Jamie Woolley took quickest time on the final test, Porlock 4, which moved them into third place, just over a minute behind the runner up crew of Richard Jones/Nic Morris. Robert Whelan/John Whelan, who had amassed a number of stop astride faults on early tests, worked out the correct passage control procedure and recovered to finish in fourth place.

Peter Faulkner/Wolfgang Schnittiger maintained their lead in during the afternoon in the Clubman Rally. Their times would have put them in fifth place in the Nat B event. Faulkner/Schnittiger finished over three minutes ahead of their nearest Clubman rivals. John Brooks/Richard Brooks took the runner up spot, just one second ahead of Nikki Peskett/Matt Neal.

The battle for the Class 2 win was even closer, Mark Peterson/Jim Bowie beating Gareth Andrews/Steve Cox on a tiebreak.