HRCR Clubmans Championship 2006
My objective is to provide a winner’s review of this
year’s HRCR Clubmans Championship, but first I thought it might be of
interest to explain how Paul Hernaman and I became involved in historic
I first navigated Paul in an RS2000 on the Moonraker road rally in 1986. A portentous debut as I missed a codeboard. Over the next few years, Paul and I did an occasional road rally and a couple of night trials, and eventually parted company in 1991. It was amicable separation fuelled by our career aspirations, and neither of us competed much until Paul acquired his 1972 Porsche 911 Carrera replica (affectionately known as Porky) in 2001.
Historic motoring was in the ascent and Paul was attracted to a week-long HERO event in Scotland called the Classic Malts. For practice we entered the East Anglian Classic and I was introduced for the first time to the strange new world of driving tests and regularities. By fortune I made an adequate attempt at the average speed stuff and then ruined our performance by mucking up the night rally. An ultimate embarrassment to me since road rallying in Norfolk had previously been my forte.
The Malts in Scotland was easy by comparison: 2nd overall but tackling the much easier form of average speed work – Jogularities.
By now I was in love with Porky: neck breaking acceleration and that erotic roar of an air-cooled engine – I wanted more.
2002 passed with just four events. We were leading on the HRCR Classic Trophy in France when an awful night section demoted us from hero to zero. I remember tackling the Pallawdr and getting home in a creditable 10th despite the trip meter not working. It was then I dubbed Paul “Mr Metronome” for his uncanny flair of maintaining a given average speed.
We attempted a few HRCR Clubmans events in 2003 and a few more in 2004 – the highlight of which was a win on the Hughes.
All through that period Paul was honing his handbrake technique and I was trying out new methods of timing; by 2005 we thought we were ready for a concerted attempt at the Clubmans Championship. As chronicled in oldSTAGERs, last year was a season that promised so much but delivered so little.
And so, positively, to 2006.
A total of 108 drivers and navigators had registered for this year’s Championship. Ahead of them were nine events, averaging 150 miles, six regularities and ten tests.
Tour of Cheshire
The opener in March. The biggest entry of the year with 63 starters with Ecurie Cod Fillet members supporting and marshalling. A good use of roads, but with a couple of awkward eponymous Gosularities (a combination of regularities and tests) and their deliberately slow marshals with Liege clocks, this added a somewhat random element to the penalties. We had to be happy with our 4th overall after dire Gosularities, cone-demolishing tests and a bent Porky on the last bend of the last test.
Regular contenders Jim Deacon/Dave Wilson took first place and an early lead in the Championship.
Run at the beginning of April, this Devon event had the fewest starters of 31, no doubt affected by the calendar proximity of the next two rounds. A great shame because the tough navigation was a real challenge.
Paul and repaired Porky enjoyed this event with fast tests at Smeatharpe and an easy FTD up Wiscombe Hill. However, the left hand seat faired less well with a scenic rather than shortest route on the last regularity. The long wait for results wasn’t helped by a protest, but I was long gone on my train home to Essex with the mood of a Crow ravaged by a fox.
Roy Gillingham/Matt Fowle were winners in their lightweight Lotus Elite. David Mustarde/Mike Burrows were 5th giving David the lead in the drivers’ championship; and Dave Wilson headed the navigators by taking 6th place, this time with John Broughall.
The entries were back up to 58 on this justifiably popular Yorkshire event, the latter part of which gave us snow blizzards in the Dales. Several tests around Skipton Cattle Market and quarries kept the drivers’ interest and the straightforward navigation on sparse roads saw modest regularity penalties except for public baulking on the narrow lanes, which contributed to our own downfall. One of the best events for testing a combined driver/navigator performance (see sidebar).
Peter Stonor/Paul Doe took outright honours in their Porsche 911, five places above our own Porsche, but this was sufficient to promote Paul Hernaman to leading HRCR driver. Jim Deacon/Dave Wilson were just three seconds behind the winners, putting Dave comfortably at the top of the navigators’ pecking order.
East Anglian Classic
The event hadn’t run in 2005 and re-emerged this year as a day‘Light’ event for the Clubmans and then continued into the night as a road rally Championship round. Frustratingly Porky was barred from playing in the dark, so we had to prove our worth on just three regularities and 12 fast "made-for-Porsche-tyre-eating" tests on Sculthorpe airfield. On my “home” territory we took the win but were still green as the nocturnal crews set out for the Norfolk night. Jim Deacon/Dave Wilson grabbed second on the ‘Light’ and went on to win the full road event. Paul and Dave kept their HRCR Championship leads.
Chelmsford MC get my vote for club of the year with three slick events: the EAC, Preston and Midsummer Enduro.
I still had blushed cheeks from the 2005 Hughes after a good run was spoilt on the run-in with a missed codeboard and a WD at the finish control. I needn’t have worried in 2006; the HRCR Clubmans coordinator – Andy Gibson – put on the smartest and most innovative event of the year with an off-road regularity through a loose surface MOD camp and novel navigation including a spotularity, deeliarity, jogularity and picturelarity. It suited us perfectly and a second consecutive win was more than we’d thought possible.
Jim/Dave didn’t enter (Jim was babysitting?) which allowed my new points tally to put “Crow” on the top HRCR perch with his driver.
Bias aside, I regarded the Hughes as the best event of the HRCR series.
I can’t comment authoritatively about the Leukaemia Rally. At the beginning of the season we decided to miss this event. Previous years had been overburdened with long tests in Caerwent and the Welsh forests, poor marshalling and strangely random penalties. However the 2006 offering had received a major overhaul and apparently we missed a good event. I was rueing our decision when the results came through. David Mustarde/Mike Burrows were top HRCR crew, and together with Mike Burrow’s second place on the Hughes, he took over as top navigator.
I thought this was the toughest event of 2006, but nonetheless attracted the greatest number of Championship contenders – 70 – to the most geographically convenient round of the year.
Early on we suffered our worst baulking of the season from horses and hay laden tractors. Notorious for its sounds-easy reality-difficult timed-to-the-minute regularity, the organisers threw in this section near the end, and what a monster it was. Brains were forced into overload having to deal with heavy navigation and endless speed changes. I gave up on the timing and passed the job to Mr Metronome while I made sure we at least followed the correct and winding route. The “megularity” often decides the event and by dropping three minutes I was sure we were nowhere in the results. It was no consolation that one of my navigator heroes – Nigel Raeburn – confessed to megularity problems too.
With one regularity to go, tiredness and, unforgivably, complacency set in; a lazy plot missed a codeboard and our safe (albeit unknown at the time) 3rd place became 6th.
Dave Keen/Andy Berry were clear and enviable winners of a hectic event. Mike Burrows guested with Andy Gibson and took 5th, but with dropped scores now having an effect, I nudged Mike back to second Championship navigator.
Only bizarre results on the last two rounds would prevent Paul Hernaman from winning the Drivers’ Championship; and after a fear his employer might despatch him aboard, and I desperately sought an alternative ride, he duly appeared and took the drivers’ crown by just turning up.
After last year’s “stage” event, a more regularity-biased rally was promised. However the event was over ambitious and under resourced, and the early crews were compromised by missing or ill-briefed marshals. Results took ages as penalties appeared and disappeared. The deciding factor was a codeboard which most crews recorded and suddenly became the only “dummy” codeboard on the event turning the results on their head.
Jonathan Hancox and Richard Lambley took their debut win, and the indifferent results of Crowther and Burrows meant the navigators’ title would have to be resolved on the Regis.
After seven tough events, would I hold my nerve for the crucial last? I’m rather a lazy navigator when it comes to marking maps, but having studied previous Regis route cards, my coloured felt tip pens were unearthed and three hours later I had bright red grid numbers and bright orange spot heights highlighted on my maps, plus a mental note of the sneaky triangles and lay-bys the organisers had used in the past.
At lunch I thought we had done well. On one long regularity loop I’d seen Mike Burrows facing the wrong way and looking puzzled. However, the mid-way results showed the majority of crews had missed another iffy codeboard adjacent to a dual carriageway – me included. The cold sweat ran down my back. For once I didn’t panic; and seeing competing cars in unusual places during the afternoon was a comfort, as was a wifely greeting when we crossed the finish line. Mike arrived, shook my hand in defeat, and went home. He’d had a miserable day; we took 4th and I to ultimate relief joined my driver as 2006 Clubmans Champion.
Dave Hughes/Andy Gibson won the event by nine seconds.
I doubt whether there is a tougher series to test the capabilities of the polymath that has to accompany a driver on the Clubmans. The word navigator is inadequate these days. I prefer nannigator (or co-driver, passenger, tulip-head, wimp) for the guys and gals doing stage rallies; and ralligator (one rung up the evolutionary ladder) for road rallyists. At the pinnacle come the polygators, who have to: solve puzzles; plot routes; read maps; perform complex fouth dimensional calculations; and deal with the tantrums of their driver and historic vehicle on an eclectic set of Clubmans events.
I personally thrived on this polygator challenge, but as the separate analysis shows the driver’s contribution needs to be increased. Maybe organisers should keep the navigation simpler so that events aim to balance pure regularity timing with a driver’s (net) test performance. Dodgy codeboards and route card trickery only serve to hinder that objective.
Other aspects warrant attention too.
A pet hate of mine is the crucial trip-calibration route, which I have previously argued before should be at least a circular tour of six miles or more. Also, I’m not a great fan of Liege clocks particularly if the marshals are unaccustomed to using them.
Queues at scrutineering are very frustrating and could be improved by deputy scrutineers
walking down the line to carry out routine tasks like checking lights and vehicle paperwork.
And why do results take so long to produce? There are good systems in place which seem to be let down by a slow delivery of time cards to the results crew.
Nobody has ever retained the Clubmans titles and I expect the trend will continue into 2007. I’m thinking of going back to my roots of road rallying, but I shall miss the characters and camaraderie of an outstanding HRCR Clubmans Championship that has given me such fond memories of 2006.
* * *
I’ve analysed the eight Clubmans events I did, extracting the penalties for the top 10 crews, and separating them into those directly attributable to the driver and navigator.
For the navigator I assumed that he/she was responsible for regularity penalties, missed TCs and PCs. Oddities, like Gosularity penalties, have also been assigned to the navigator.
All test penalties are assigned to the driver, but for true comparison I have deducted the best/bogey times from their actual time, i.e. net penalties.
The table below shows the percentage of penalties incurred by navigators plus an average for the top 10. My own percentage penalties are shown in bold/italic.
For example, I came 6th on the Ross Traders Rally and I was responsible for 97 per cent of the crew penalties.
The analysis is revealing and staggering, and clearly
illustrates the biased importance of the navigator. How many percentages
do you see below 50?
With the exception of the Ilkley Jubilee and East Anglian, the navigator is regularly responsible for over 70 percent of the penalties. And (not shown) this percentage increases as you progress further down the placings.
As you might expect if you experienced the events, the Ross Traders emerged as the most navigator dependent event (95%), followed by the Alan Rogers (86%). The Ilkley Historic (58%) had the most balanced formula: straightforward regularities and demanding tests making both crew members earn their keep. The East Anglian scored very low for navigators (41%) because of only three regularities and long tests.
The rare low navigator percentages are usually explained by outstanding regularity performances. For example on the East Anglian, Nigel Raeburn (10th) dropped a mere 25 seconds compared to his driver’s 262. At the other extreme on the Ross Traders, Geoff Twigg (8th) blitzed the tests accounting for just 16 penalties to his navigator’s 1763.