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Bath Festival Targa Rally

Bath Motor Club

18th February 2023

Bath Festival Targa Rally 2023
Winners: John Davies/Nick Bloxham (Ford Puma)
Photograph: M&H Photography

Organiser: Bath Motor Club

Date: 18th February 2023

Clerk of the Course: Dave Whittock

Route: 10 Tests (47.68 Test Miles)

Base: Castle Combe Circuit

Starters: 88

For the second year in succession Bath Motor Club used the Castle Combe Circuit as the base for the Festival Targa Rally. The event opened with a long test at the Wiltshire venue; the seven and a half mile test, with numerous loops, was repeated as Tests 1 and 2.

Following these opening two tests, there was one each at the familiar Charlton Park and Kemble Airfield sites. The first half was completed with two tests at the former RAF station at South Cerney. After a break at the Cirencester Auction Market, there were four tests, using South Cerney, Charlton Park and two back at Castle Combe.

This gave a total of almost 48 test miles for the 88 starters to tackle.

The opening test proved that the event was going, once again, to be a battle for the Pumas, as the fastest three crews were all competing in the Ford two seater. The 2022 winners, John Davies/Nick Bloxham, were quickest by 13 seconds, with Ethan Davies/Dafydd Evans taking second.

The Ross Targa winners, Dan Morris/Geth Johnson, were third, having picked up a line fault penalty for failing to stop prior to a control. This added 10 seconds to their total, and they were 26 seconds off the lead.

A large number of stop astride penalties were issued throughout the day, with very few crews escaping without at least one. In fact, Davies/Bloxham lost their lead on Test 2 as they picked up a line fault. Despite being baulked, Davies/Evans put in the fastest time and now headed Davies/Bloxham by seven seconds.

Morris/Johnson lost ground to the two leading Pumas, and were 32 seconds off the lead. At this stage the trio of Pumas were being chased by a trio of BMWs. Adrian White/Ellen White were in fourth, while Gary White/Bradley White followed them and were in front of Chris Woolley/Jamie Woolley.

A number of crews failed to make it to the end of Test 2. Having made the long journey from Durham, Kevin Stones/Chris Holden had their Toyota MR2's clutch fail on the opening test, while Gareth Price/Liam Evans had the gearbox break on the stop line of the test. Meanwhile Steve Burles/Tilly Burles holed the radiator in their Rover 25 and were also out at this point.

Exmoor Targa winners, Keith Lane/Martin Lane, were sixth fastest on Test 1, but bent the steering of their Ford Ka on Test 2. They took over an hour to complete the test and retired soon afterwards.

Fastest on Test 3, Davies/Bloxham closed the gap on the leaders by two seconds, as these two crews pulled further away from Morris/Johnson in third. Davies/Bloxham were fastest again at Kemble on Test 4 and retook the lead. They were now 20 seconds ahead of Davies/Evans, while Morris/Johnson were 23 seconds further back.

The battling Pumas were now over a minute ahead of Gary White/Bradley White, who had pulled in front of Adrian White/Ellen White, but only one second separated the two BMWs after Test 4.

Bath Festival Targa Rally 2023

South Cerney was the venue for two three-mile tests before the lunch break, which was taken at the nearby Cirencester Auction Mart. Test 6 saw the demise of the Escort of Gavin Rogers/Georgina Clark as the gearbox/clutch failed; they had been well inside the top ten prior to their retirement. The same problem halted another Escort on the same test, this being the car of Mick Valentine/Zak Valentine.

Meanwhile James Griffiths/Matt Venables posted yet another DNF; they were forced to withdraw their Astra with brake failure on Test 5 (South Cerney 1).

At the lunch break Davies/Bloxham led Davies/Evans by 14 seconds, with Morris/Johnson another 15 seconds further back. However, the latter crew didn't go much further; their Puma suffering a gearbox failure on the return visit to South Cerney after the halt.

In the battle of the BMWs, Gary White/Bradley White had pulled away from Adrian White/Ellen White and were 47 seconds in front after Test 6. This would put them in third place after Morris/Johnson's retirement.

Davies/Bloxham extended their lead slightly over Test 7 and 8 (South Cerney 3 and Charlton Park 2), returning to Castle Combe for the final two tests, 25 seconds ahead of Davies/Evans.

A crew that was progressing well was the father and son team of Tom Brooks/Tony Brooks (Toyota MR2); they had been in fifteenth place after Test 2, but had moved up to fifth after Test 8.

The pressure on the top two crews was shown on the final test when Davies/Bloxham picked up two stop astride penalties, which added 20 seconds to their test time, however, Davies/Evans were penalised for a jump start at a Stop/Go control, this put an additional 30 seconds on to their time.

The result was that John Davies/Nick Bloxham came home over a minute ahead of Ethan Davies/Dafydd Evans for another Ford Puma 1-2. A number of fastest test times during the day secured a clear third place for Gary White/Bradley White.

Brooks/Brooks continued their rise up the order and took fourth place, finishing just four seconds ahead of Ben Griffin/Steve Conner, who had taken fastest time on the final test. Despite being one of the few crews to avoid any test fault penalties throughout the day, Adrian White/Ellen White dropped to sixth place at the Finish.

Repeating their success on the Ross in Caerwent Clubman Targa two weeks previously, Paul Hands/Dan Johnson, took a clear win on the Festival Clubman Rally, finishing six minutes ahead of their nearest rivals.