oldSTAGER No.106
October/November 2007

 

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Restricted Entry

Just as I started to write this column the Devonian Rally was cancelled due to lack of entries. I felt for the organisers having been through, just six weeks earlier, that pre-event trauma of waiting for entry forms to drop through the letter box for the Cloverleaf Rally. The Cloverleaf only ran as a Clubmans Championship event because it filled the gap left by the Alan Rogers rally which had been cancelled for the same reason earlier in the year.

In my naivety I was convinced that the Cloverleaf’s limit of 75 entries would be oversubscribed. Regs were out very early, our marketing was substantial and we promised plenty of innovations. Entries rushed to 30 and I wagered confidently with the event timekeeper they would at least double before closing. We limped to 46 and I lost the bet.

The entry statistics were significant. Ten entries were for the secondary event: an organising club-based run over the same route. Of the 36 historics, only 10 crews were registered for the Championship. Other than the Ross Traders, where flooding depressed the number of starters, this was lower than other events including the 16 of the 24 in total that entered the Devonian before it was cancelled.

So far this year, on average, only about a third of the historic entries on Championship events have come from Championship contenders. For a championship event to be viable it has to tempt historic “outsiders” or boost the entries by running a secondary permit for endurance, touring or club-only categories.

The Cloverleaf’s lack of contenders was disappointing, but I know that the holiday timing didn’t help and maybe others were deterred by the event’s virgin status. Thankfully we had many “outsider” and clubman entries, attracted mainly to the Cambridge location, simple navigation, the Championship status and marketing hype. Without them there would have been another cancellation.

With only about 28 Clubmans crews to draw from in 2007, achieving satisfactory entry levels was always going to be difficult. I hope the initiatives of the Newcomers Rally School and HRCR 100 Rally Series will induct some new blood and old cars for the 2008 season.

I don’t know whether the competitive features of Clubmans’ events has a bearing on entry levels, but on the Cloverleaf we tested the water with some variants of the established formats …

* * *

Doing without Passage Controls on regularities made sense to me. Unlike a road rally there’s no real need to insert every means possible to slow cars down to keep within the constraints of a 30 mph average; besides marshals can be better deployed elsewhere. If a crew misses a loop their time will be compromised so why hit them with additional penalties?

Nor did we use code boards. I’ve had more than my share of affected results due to missing, misplaced or mischievous boards, and if it had been really critical that passage of a particular part of the route was checked then I would have used a permanent roadside feature or deployed a marshal. We only had one complaint about lack of codeboards from a navigator who argued that it gave his driver something to do on regularities!

I must say, however, that codeboards on tests is a good idea. The marshals we saved on PCs were primarily assigned to observing test safety rather than correct route. That was okay on straightforward tests, but those with complicated manoeuvres could have been verified by a codeboard at strategic places.

Making all the regularities self-start was another marshal-saving exercise and this was popular except for the few that forgot to record their times.

Dropping the worst two regularity penalties, introduced to combat the effects of baulking, had little effect on the wide lanes of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. Personally I would have longed for such an idea in Yorkshire or Devon.

The coloured marked maps (an extreme of the HRCR trend to easier navigation), with a few exceptions, kept competitors on the right route. Since such an event had never run in the area before, it was important to us that our diligent PR work wasn’t undone by crews getting lost. Yet not everyone appreciated this simplification. Despite burdening the navigators with extra speed changes some still craved for the occasional tulip or spot height.

Perhaps the most controversial additions were the driver-only and navigator-only regularities. The majority of competitors treated them as a fun and interesting diversion, but some serious contenders were less impressed. For the sake of making the Cloverleaf a unique experience I favour retention of these “singularities”, but perhaps marginalising their effect to keep the purists happy.

I think the new ideas were considered to be interesting and thought-provoking, but not the panacea to solve the problem of restricted entries.