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Hatsford Targa Rally

Ross & District Motor Sports Club

20th August 2023

Hatsford Targa Rally 2023
Winners: Trevor Disney/Aaron Toms (Ford Fiesta ST150)
Photograph: M&H Photography

Organiser: Ross & District Motor Sports Club

Date: 20th August 2023

Clerk of the Course: James Griffiths

Tests: 6 Tests (33 Test Miles)

Base: Hatsford Farm, Ledbury

Starters: 52

The wet British Summer had caused the postponement of the Hatsford Targa by two weeks. The constant wet weather in July had left the horse paddocks, which made up the entirety of the event's test mileage, too soft to support the passage of cars. This led to the delay in the running of the Targa from its intended date of 4th August to 20th August.

The organisers' resolve was rewarded as two weeks of largely dry weather left the ground in almost perfect conditions and the rally day was blessed with dry and sunny weather.

Fifty-two crews, split between the Inter Club and Club rallies, took the start. They were faced by six tests that totalled almost 33 miles in length. The route was intricate and demanded concentration from both driver and navigator.

The 2022 winners, Ben Griffin/Peter Littlefield (Peugeot 106 Rallye), were top seeds and, despite being the first car through the heavy dew of Test 1, were nine seconds faster than anyone else. Will Rogers/Lisa Rogers (Toyota Yaris) were second quickest, while Lewis Ayris/James Dempster (MG ZR) were third.

On time, Trevor Disney/Aaron Toms (Ford Fiesta ST150) were fourth, however, they had been adjudged to have left a PC control before the marshal had raised the Stop Lollipop, this added a 30 seconds penalty to their time, and dropped them to eighth in the standings.

As ever on the Hatsford Targa, test faults were to be numerous. Throughout the day 405 were awarded. Touch a cone or marker added ten seconds to the competitors' total, while going the wrong side a marker was penalised by 30 seconds, and a minute was the penalty for missing out a manoeuvre. Only two of the finishers completed the event without being awarded at least one fault.

By the time that Test 2, a repeat of Test 1, was tackled, the early morning dew had dispersed and the tracks were dry, and they would remain so for the rest of the day.

The change in conditions made no difference to the leading competition; Griffin/Littlefield were fastest once again and now held a lead of 22 seconds. Ayris/Dempster were second quickest on the test and this moved them up to second place overall, in front of Rogers/Rogers.

Test 3 was a slightly revised version of Tests 1 and 2; this caused a large number crews to make errors, picking up test faults, as they followed the earlier route.

Griffin/Littlefield were fastest by 17 seconds and extended their lead to 39 seconds over Ayris/Dempster, who were second quickest. Rogers/Rogers went the wrong side of a marker and added 15 seconds to their total; this dropped them behind Disney/Toms on the overall standings.

The demanding nature of the tracks and route started to take their toll; overheating being a common complaint. Most cars survived, but the clutch on the Escort of Phil Lloyd/Elinor Thomas failed and put the out of the rally, while a broken diff on their Citroen C2 was the cause of Simon Ledbury/Darren Jones demise.

Test 4 used the same route as Test 3, this is where Griffin/Littlefield really put their foot down; they were 32 seconds faster than anyone else. They now held a lead of more than a minute over Ayris/Dempster.

Chris Woolley/Jamie Woolley (BMW E30) had struggled on the first test, running second car on the 'road' in the wet conditions, they had only been 29th after the test. However, they were now recovering and were second fastest on Test 4, to move themselves up to eighth overall.

In contrast, Philip Bridgewater/David Motterham, who had been in fifteenth place, were towed out of Test 4 after overheating, had boiled the clutch on their Fiesta. Meanwhile, a failed diff put the Peugeot 306 of Craig Streeter/Andy Holmes out as they left the Start.

Hatsford Targa Rally 2023

After a lunch break, the afternoon session consisted of two runnings of a mammoth 8.2 mile test; this consisted of two laps of the farm.

Griffin/Littlefield completed the fifth test with their fifth fastest time; they now headed Ayris/Dempster by 1m28s, while Disney/Toms, who were penalised for hitting a marker and going the wrong side of another, were now 1m59s further back in third.

Woolley/Woolley continued their recovery; they were second quickest on Test 5, moving up four places; they were now in fourth, 1m32s behind Disney/Toms. The latter crew were struggling, as their Fiesta's gearbox had nothing above second to offer.

Things got dramatic as second placed Ayris/Dempster, failed to take the start of the final test, as the crank pulley failed on their MG.

Griffin/Littlefield therefore started Test 6 with a lead over Disney/Toms of 3m27s; they looked almost certain to claim their second Hatsford victory in succession. However, fate intervened and about a third of the way into the test a driveshaft popped out and left their Peugeot stranded, their hopes of the dominant win were dashed.

This put the focus on Trevor Disney/Aaron Toms and their gearbox. During the test the Fiesta lost all but second gear, but it survived and the crew came through to claim their first win, on what was only the navigator's third rally.

Chris Woolley/Jamie Woolley continued their faultless run to secure the runner up spot; they finished 1m05s behind the winners and 57s in front of third placed Will Rogers/Lisa Rogers. The latter crew being the victors in the Club Rally.

Apart from Woolley/Woolley, Nick Skelley/Darren Stevens were the only crew to finish the event without incurring any test fault penalties; they were ninth overall.

Shane Parry/Louise Wren had been in ninth place after Test 5, but their rapid Mini inexplicably ran out of fuel on the final section and they failed to make the Finish.

Joshua Johnson Davies/Owain Davies (Peugeot 206 GTi) were fastest over the final test, thus being the only crew, other then Griffin/Littlefield, to secure a Fastest Time accolade.