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Bath Festival Targa

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Bath Motor Club

24th February 2024

Bath Festival Targa Rally 2024
Winners: John Davies/Nick Bloxham (Ford Puma)
Photograph: © M&H Photography

Organiser: Bath Motor Club

Date: 24th February 2024

Clerk of the Course: Dave Whittock

Tests: 10 (48 Test Miles)

Base: Castle Combe

Starters: 90

For 2024 Bath Motor Club laid out ten tests based on the Castle Combe racing circuit. There were also visits to Charlton Park and South Cerney. A total of 48 test miles were on offer. It was the first round of the BTRDA Championship and a Club Rally ran alongside the Inter Club event.

There was an enthusiastic response to the offer; an oversubscribed entry was received and a capacity field of 90 cars took the start.

The first test was a 6.4 mile challenge that took crews around the circuit three times. There were 19 Passage Controls. It proved to be cleanable for a number of competitors; James Appleby/Sam Treleavan (Ford Fiesta ST150) were over a minute under the bogey. Seven cars were under the bogey and therefore shared the lead.

Dan Morris/Geth Johnson (Ford Puma) and Lynn Jones/Mark Davies (Ford Escort) were also under the bogey, but were adjudged to have failed to come to a halt at a stop line; this dropped out of the leading positions.

Having sold his Puma, Ethan Davies was competing in a Toyota Corolla borrowed from his father. Davies and his navigator, Matthew Smalley, had a short event; the car developed power steering and gearbox problems on Test 1. They finished the test in 38th place and withdrew at the end of it.

Gavin Rogers/Suze Endean cruised to the finish line of Test 1 as a broken gear selctor pin made it impossible to select any gears on their Escort. They joined the retirement list.

Another six cars retired on the test; clutch issues putting out both the MG ZR of Rhydian Jones/Darren Jones and the Rover Streetwise of Nick Burton/Dave Hiscock.

Action then moved to the four mile test at Charlton Park. This included a section that had become flooded after the recent heavy rain, but was passable.

Bath Festival Targa Rally 2024
Photograph: © M&H Photography

Morris/Johnson took the fastest time, but once again, picked up a line fault, despite this they still had the best time for the test. This put them up to third place overall, however they were to retire soon afterwards as their Puma's gearbox failed.

Appleby/Treleavan also collected a line fault, but still managed to take the lead; they were now one second ahead of Adrain White/Ellen White (BMW 318Ti) in the overall standings. Despite being another crew to have a line fault added to their time, and picking up a misfire after the watery section, John Davies/Nick Bloxham (Ford Puma) were in fourth place.

This test saw a further retirement; this time it was the Vauxhall Astra of James Griffiths/Matt Venables which broke a drive shaft.

Test 3 was on the perimeter road at the ex-RAF South Cerney base. The test was three and a half miles in length, using just one lap of the road.

Once again, Appleby/Treleavan were fastest and now led White/White by 23 seconds, while Davies/Bloxham were in third. From a start number of 22, Alyn Welsby/Dan Parsons (Ford Escort) held fourth place.

After a poor start, when they picked up both a cone and line fault on Test 1, Josh Johnson Davies/Dafydd-Sion Lloyd (Peugeot 206 GTi) were climbing back up the leader board, taking third fastest time on South Cerney. However, they were to retire on the following test when a front strut broke.

The competitors then returned to Charlton Park for the fourth test. The flooded section caused greater issues on this visit. A car in the middle order drowned out in the water and blocked the route for following cars. The test was stopped and a nominal time was issued to those cars that didn't take the start.

Up front, Appleby/Treleavan took their fourth fastest time and extended their lead. Davies/Bloxham had overtaken White/White for second place. In fact, White/White had fallen to fourth behind the BMW E30 of Chris Woolley/Jamie Woolley. However, the latter crew were only to make it to the end of Test 5 before they were stopped by a broken shaft.

Bath Festival Targa Rally 2024

Test 5 was back at Castle Combe; it was a shorter version of Test 1, using two laps of the circuit and run in an anti-clockwise direction.

Welsby/Parsons denied Appleby/Treleavan a clean seep of the morning tests by being quicker by 15 seconds than the Fiesta pair. This moved the Escort crew into second place overall. Davies/Bloxham were in third. These three cars were pulling clear of the remainder of the field.

Rich Jones/David Hillidge went out on this test after getting their Micra entangled in the Castle Combe fencing. Seventy- three crews survived the first half of the rally.

All the tests after the lunch halt were repeats of ones already contested, and the session opened with Test 6, which was a repeat of Test 5. Welsby/Parsons were fastest again, with Appleby/Treleavan second and Davies/Bloxham third. Nigel Davies/Dafydd Owens dropped out at this point; their Nova having lost all its oil from the gearbox.

Charlton Park was visited twice more in the afternoon, for tests entitled WOMAD 1 and 2, the park being the venue for the annual World of Music Arts Dance festival. In between these two tests, there was another visit to South Cerney.

Davies/Bloxham were fastest on Womad 1, eight seconds ahead of the BMW 318Ti of Gary White/Aled Jones, who were now in seventh place, but were to improve to take fourth place overall at the Finish. Appleby/Treleavan were third quickest, seven seconds ahead of Welsby/Parsons. This test saw the retirement of Evan Shepherd/Byron Jones, who had the engine fail on their BMW Compact.

Test 8 at South Cerney was to have a dramatic affect on the lead. Appleby/Treleavan had a disaster; firstly, they hit a cone and a barrier, then failed to stop across the finish lane, a fault that carried a hefty penalty. As a result, they fell from first to third place.

Welsby/Parsons were fastest on the test and took over the lead; they were now six seconds in front of Davies/Bloxham, who had been third quickest at South Cerney.

The drama was not over as on Womad 2 Welsby/Parsons collected a line penalty and, with Davies/Bloxham taking fastest time, the Escort pair dropped to second place, with the top seeds leading for the first time in the day. They were now eleven seconds ahead of Welsby/Parsons.

The final test was a repeat of Test 1, the Circuit at Castle Combe. Both Appleby/Treleavan and Welsby/Parsons beat the bogey, the latter by 26 seconds, but Davies/Bloxham were only one second over bogey and therefore came home for an unexpected victory, with a 10 second winning margin.

Three White family BMWs filled positions four to six, while Tom Brooks/Tony Brooks brought their Toyota MR2 into seventh place.

The Clubman Rally was led from Test 2 by Simon Ayris/Lewis Ayris (MG ZR); they finished over three minutes ahead of their nearest rivals.

This was the fourth Festival victory in succession for Davies/Bloxham and Bloxham's sixth win on the Bath MC event, it was also his third victory of 2024.