oldSTAGER No.97
April/May 2006

 

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West Essex Car Club


The Legacy of '69

I read the 2006 "Blue Book" on the way to the Carpetbagger. Sad, I know, but with five and a half hour's worth of train journey from Essex to Devon to kill, I thought it was time to brush up on the MSA's rules of competitive life.

I reckoned the last time I read the thing from cover to cover (well at least the equivalent of sections B, C, E and K) was probably in 1973, when I was first asked to clerk a "big" road rally – West Essex Car Club's Clover Leaf.

Most interesting is that the basics of rallies that use the public highway are still controlled by statutory instrument 1969/414, an historic document better known as The Motor Vehicles (Competition and Trials) Regulations 1969 – MVR – which comically came into effect on April 1st that year.

This document is the reason that, amongst other things: time controls must be at least two miles apart; you have 30 minutes OTL; cars start at not less than one minute intervals; and the maximum average speed is 30 mph.

It contains one classic legal speak paragraph - Standard condition 11 which says "The rules of an event shall be such that once a competitor has been penalised for arriving at or departing from a control point along the route of the event after the time at or by which he was required by the rules to arrive at or depart from that point, the times at or by which he is required to arrive at or depart from subsequent control points along the route and to arrive at the finish of the event are adjusted so that he will not incur fur her penalties for failing to make up the time by which he was late and for which he has incurred a penalty."

Can you recite that without pausing for breath? It's why we can't have cumulative penalties on regularities in the UK.

Of course the main reason for this enactment was to pass the government of public highway events to the RAC/MSA, who have built upon these standard conditions over the years via the Blue Book.

What's changed in the Blue Book from 30 years ago?

Well, it's a lot thicker (only in an alternative universe would the regulations for anything get smaller), but road rally competition life has adapted rather than changed. PR work is stricter, targa timing has disappeared, the grading of events has evolved (for closed read clubsport/clubmans; for restricted read National "B"), and Competitive (a banned word) sections are now Standard, and Links are now Neutral or Transport. There's even guidelines for the design of code boards. And relevant to this audience, we have well-developed regulations in place for historic daytime road rallying, which runs happily without rule bending and timing innovations. Running a competitive night rally is now solved with consideration of “Location, Location, Location”, car restrictions, navigational complexity, and the occasional bit of distance pruning and looping.

I raided my rallying archives and found a copy of the Clover Leaf 1973 ASRs to compare them with the Carpetbagger 2006, and found surprising few differences. Other than above, one-inch OS maps have gone, and awards lists seem to have shrunk. The Clover Leaf had almost two pages of cash, trophy and accessories awards, including 1st to 10th overall; the Carpetbagger stopped at first overall. With more motor clubs, but fewer members, club finances are clearly stretched, although many events now admirably donate their profits to charitable organisations.
Sure, times have changed, but we can safely refer to the “Good New Days” as well as the “Old”.

* * *

The name of Stuart Turner cropped up three times recently.
First, the editor had proof that Stuart reads this column. Wow!
Second the man himself was in fine pre-results speaking form at the finish of the Tour of Cheshire. However, trying to convince the audience to abandon historic road rallying and head for the new Rallystar series fell on deaf ears. We like our old cars and the public roads and don’t want mix it with the young stars on stages.
Coincidentally at the same venue someone asked me why there was a Sierra Cosworth on the box of the Rally Round board game. Well, I met Stuart in 1986 when he was Ford’s Director of Motorsport and he agreed to fund the small plastic cars which were the playing pieces in the game. Originally designed to be in the shape of a Sierra Cosworth, manufacturing and tooling constraints saw them sadly emerge as something more like a squashed Skoda.

* * *

Grump of the issue: The Tour of Cheshire was a great event, but maybe the eponymously named Gosularities ought to be changed to something more appropriate, like GotYoularities – for me anyway.

* * *

Thought of the issue: Shouldn’t the ageist/stageist title of this magazine be more appropriately named youthfulRALLYER.