By Pete Johnson
The Westmorland Road Rally is etched into the history of Eden Valley Motor Club and its absence from the 2012 calendar had played heavy on the minds of a number of club members. But who would be brave enough to take the helm, carrying the weight of expectation that comes from taking on the organising role of an event with such a high reputation. Whispers were a former organiser was up to the challenge. Like Starsky and Hutch, Dan would inevitably need a Pete to complete the organising Team. As is the case with a lot of Dan’s schemes I was involved before I even realised it. We initially agreed we were simply organising the February 12 car but we felt it was time to revive the Westmorland at the same time killing two birds with one stone. Jerry Hetrick can take the credit for being the first to successfully run a Saturday night twelve car and with the ok from the route liaison officer and a permit from the MSA the wheels were in motion for us to follow a similar format. In the past we have always tried to use every inch of mileage we were allowed to usually around 75miles but this time we were given permission to run 100 miles.
EVMC’s twelve cars in recent times have sadly dipped in popularity from a few years ago when we were oversubscribed on every event. The events are still fantastic quality but due to fuel prices etc, It’s not as easy to find people who can afford to play out. One goal I set myself was having a full twelve cars running on the event. In the end I found this task more time consuming than the usual organisational tasks. Using whats app, Facebook and the British Rally Forum and all the usual suspects in the mobile phone contact lists we managed to achieve a quality entry. Competitors came from far and wide Morcambe, Preston, Appleby, Carlisle in a fantastic range of cars MkII Escorts, a Chevette, 205 GTI’s, Nissan Sunny, Sierra, Focus, Astra and a Rover 400 Type R.
On the day of the event after a nice warm week we were greeted by snow. I had doubts we were going to be able to run, but Dan would hear not a word of doubt, and as we put the code boards out the snow cleared and the roads even dried out.
The route started just outside Tebay and to test the crews from the very first miles Bretherdale was the first loop of the event. They would then head towards Penrith via Bampton and Askham. The next classic Westmorland challenge was Cliburn Cammels. Then over to Milburn and back under the bypass through Morland, upto Great Strickland, Newby, Sleagill and then a timed to the second test through Hardendale and Shap Quarry. The Quarry had a drive through cone gates on the lower gravel sections to bring the average speed down to a more road rally friendly speed. Thanks to Dak and Neil Rudd for setting this up for us.
After the fun of the quarry a break from action for fuel at Westmorland Services, then back off for the final half of the night. By now the temperature had begun to drop as crews headed through Orton and up the hill towards Appleby turning off to take a cold dip in a couple of fords on route to Kirkby Stephen and then heading back to the finish taking in Tomy Road and Sunbiggen Tarn.
Stand out performances came from Dave Jones and Iaine Tullie who had been leading the event when some ice and a wall got in the way. Graham Potter and Mike Dunning expertly navigated the route and only an error on the organisers part prevented them from a significantly improved final result. Apologies for that. 1st novice Chris Thornton and Dan Whitmore in the 205 GTI put in a really impressive drive. (They have promised a newsletter report with a competitors eye view of the event)
The crews and marshals were welcomed to the George Hotel in Orton for bacon and sausage buttys at the finish. Thanks to them for staying open late and keeping the kitchen running. The food appeared to be most appreciated by all.
We were pleased everyone seemed to have had a good night and hope we provided an event worthy of the Westmorland name. Although we chose not to run as a full road rally I think in the current climate that was a good decision. We decided to go this route for a number of reasons but the main reason being we wanted to cater for club members who may have chosen to sit out the event, if it had required the additional expense of an MSA licence and a higher entry fee from a more expensive event permit. The Saturday format and £20 entry fee certainly seemed popular and talk of future 12 cars on Saturdays run under the Westmorland title in the form of a short series sharing the load between a few organisers, is one thought on a possible evolution for the event.
Thank you to all the marshals, who made the effort to come and stand out in the cold. We were well supported by marshals from other clubs as well we were very well supported by Spadeadam MC with a number of competitors and marshals thank you to them.