oldSTAGER No.105
August/September 2007

 

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West Essex Car Club


Clerk of the Caws

Just two weeks before the Cloverleaf Rallies and the “Crow’s” head is full of a Clerk of the Caws to-do list.

Having not organised a rally for 30 years, at least one that couldn’t be completed on a table top, putting the Cloverleaf together from scratch in seven months has been ... er … challenging.

What started as a small step towards bringing road rally life back to West Essex Car Club after a gap of many years, evolved into a major exercise of logistics, paperwork and people management. Not helped by the fact that the event became absorbed into this year’s HRCR Clubmans Championship, and was thereby open to the additional pressure of inspection by my peers in the historic rallying community.

My fading memory tells me that running the 1977 Cloverleaf was a doddle. The event was well-established and it was simply a matter of dusting down the previous year’s paperwork, changing the date and we were almost ready. For 2007 the revived team started with nothing but distant experience and plenty of enthusiasm.

How times have changed, or have they? The MSA road rallying requirements don’t seem very different; sure rally cars are less in-your-face, and instead of blistering Selectives we have tame Regularities, and the “stages” are just run at 30 mph. Yet matters like the authorisation process, PR, supplementary regulations, and the struggle for marshals have been just like before.

The biggest change for me has been computerisation. I’ve spent hours as a slave to the grey box beneath my desk, which despite my support of energy saving policies, hasn’t been switched off since January.

Word, Excel, Paint Shop, FrontPage have been fully active for all aspects of documentation; and Outlook and Explorer permanently open for communication and marketing. My Cloverleaf email folder contains over 1,000 emails including, sadly, some to my wifely Entries Secretary; but at two o’clock in the morning when Mrs Crow is fast asleep and a signing-on issue comes to mind, sending her an email is the best guarantee it will be dutifully dealt with.

Desktop computers were non-existent 30 years ago, and reproduction of paperwork was by typing onto a plastic stencil, attaching it to a drum of a Gestetner duplicator and hand cranking copies. Symbols like herringbones or tulips had to be hand-cut on the stencil with a penknife; imagine how accurate that was? Anything more complicated and we had to recruit a professional and expensive printing company.

There have been no organisers’ meetings, unless you count the lubricated session in a pub last December when I first floated the Cloverleaf revival idea. Thankfully, most of the issues and planning have been resolved by email. Yet in the 70’s we seemed to be having meetings every other night. Finding leisure time wasn’t an issue for 20-year-olds, but now the same 50-year-olds are just too busy with their jobs and family to get them together in the same place at the same time for a planning meeting.

One aspect of organisation that has been pleasantly trouble-free compared to Cloverleafs of old has been the PR. At the peak of the night road rally days the PR crews hated the job, knowing that if a resident on route caught them delivering a leaflet they were often confronted, lectured and obliged to register a complaint. Contrast this year where residents have been genuinely interested in the passing of a daylight event with an eclectic convoy of vehicles.

I expect the course car job will be quite different. Going as fast as possible to keep ahead of car 1 and then tweaking Targa-timed watches is not on the agenda. I’ll be poodling around the route within the speed limits, which will easily keep me in front of the regularity pack and give me plenty of time to chat to and thank the marshals. I’ll probably tippy-toe through the tests too, since I’ll be debuting my shiny historic rally car – a 1973 Escort RS2000 – which was newly acquired as an appropriate vehicle for an historic rally organiser.

We’ve taken a few gambles with Clubmans’ event innovations like fully marked maps, dropping of worst regularity scores, elimination of codeboards and driver-only/navigator-only regularities. Come August 13th I’ll know the outcome. I guess the event will not satisfy all; if it is most, then I'll be relieved and perhaps I'll consider such tortuous responsibilities again next year.

Thereafter, albeit temporarily, I’ll return to the less intense activities of gardening, writing, talking to chickens and table-top rallying organising before I tackle Tour Britannia with Paul. That will be something to reflect on next issue.