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Exmoor Targa Rally

Tavern Motor Club

28th October 2023

Exmoor Targa Rally 2023
Winners: Ethan Davies/Daniel Pidgeon (Ford Puma)
Photograph: M&H Photography

Organiser: Tavern Motor Club

Date: 28th October 2023

Clerk of the Course: Gavin Rogers

Tests: 12 (36 Test Miles)

Base: Wheddon Cross

Starters: 48

The Exmoor Targa was based at Wheedon Cross, in the midst of the Breedon Hills of Somerset. The event's start, halfway halt and finish were in the village.

The competition consisted of 12 tests, all on the old stamping grounds of the late lamented Somerset Stages. The event used the forestry tracks in Kennisham and Croydon Woods and the tarmac of the Porlock Toll Road.

There was a disappointing entry, with just 48 starters; this compared to 69 in 2022. This was probably due to the number of Targa events taking place around the same time; the Exmoor was the fourth BTRDA Championship round in October.

The first two tests were in Kennisham and were near identical. They were just over a mile in length. Fastest on both were John Davies/Nick Bloxham (Ford Puma), who held a lead of seven seconds over Ethan Davies/Dan Pidgeon (Ford Puma) after Test 2.

The next two tests were in Croydon Hill; again there were two near identical tests, but these were each over five miles long. The conditions were treacherous, with the tracks having not being used for some time; they were slimy with a covering of leaves.

Davies/Bloxham were quickest again on Test 3, taking another nine seconds from Davies/Pidgeon, who were second fastest. Both crews had been caught out by the slippery surface and incurred 10 second penalties for failing to stop astride a control line, where the control was located just over a crest.

Test 4 was almost the same as Test 3 and saw the demise of Davies/Bloxham's Puma; it broke an engine mount and the leaders were out.

In their place, Davies/Pidgeon were quickest and at the end of the test they were 22 seconds ahead of Lucas Redwood/Zak Linham (Ford Sierra). Chris Woolley/Jamie Woolley (BMW E30) were in third, but already over a minute off the lead.

Also out of the event by this point were Pat Thomas/Oliver Luxton, whose Ford Escort was towed out of Croydon. Lewis Ayris/Simon Lassam had been expected to go well; they'd been fifth fastest on Test 1, but then their MG ZR's engine started to play up and they withdrew at Croydon. Luke Quinnell/Kayleigh Dingle also gave up the fight after Test 4 as their MG ZR had developed a serious misfire.

The 2022 Exmoor winners and top seeds, Keith Lane/Martin Lanes (Ford Ka), were running first on the slippery roads, they were caught out on one bend and slid into a ditch. They lost six minutes before they could extract the car.

Two runs up the Porlock Toll Road, run in a heavy rain shower, completed the first half of the event. Multiple Exmoor winner, Owen Turner, who had Mark Appleton navigating, had started badly with two poor times in Kennisham, however the pair had recovered to fifth place after the Croydon tests. They now put in fastest time on Test 5 and were in fourth place by the halfway halt.

Redwood/Linham stormed up the second Porlock test, beating the bogey by two seconds; this put them into the lead as Davies/Pidgeon were 25 seconds off the bogey.

At the halfway point therefore Redwood/Linham held a lead of seven seconds over Davies/Pidgeon, while Woolley/Woolley were still in third, but now only 46 seconds off the lead.

Exmoor Targa Rally 2023

The second half was a near copy of the morning, with more visits to Kennisham, Croydon and Porlock, with slightly revised tests.

Davies/Pidgeon retook the lead on Test 7, as they were two seconds faster than Redwood/Linham, who added another ten seconds to their total as they were penalised for hitting a cone. The story was the same on Test 8; Davies/Pidgeon beat the bogey, while Redwood/Linham were 15 seconds over the bogey and had another cone penalty added.

With track conditions in the forest vastly improved from the earlier runs, the Puma crew entered the two Croydon tests with a lead of 30 seconds and left them with their advantage extended to almost two minutes. They were 15 seconds faster than any other crew on both of the tests.

Redwood/Linham continued their cone bashing afternoon, hitting two more in Croydon and falling to third place overall behind Woolley/Woolley.

Robert Smithson/Jeff Fields, who had been in third place in the Club Rally at the lunch halt, became beached at a PC triangle and couldn't continue.

Davies/Pidgeon beat the bogey on both Porlock tests that completed the event, giving them a victory margin of 1m53s at the end.

Woolley/Woolley were one of five crews to beat the bogey on the final test and came home in the runner up spot.

In their big Ford Sierra, Redwood/Linham hit three cones on Test 11 and this allowed Turner/Appleton to take third place, a position the MG crew held until the Finish. Prospective winners, Redwood/Linham, finished in fourth place.

The father and son team of Colin Evans/Harri Evans were the first non-Expert crew home, taking their BMW 318Ti Compact to ninth place overall and a Class 6 win.