Rally of the Tests 2008

Having successfully won their Class in the 2007 Rally of the Tests, Andrew Duerdon (VVOC Club member and Vauxhall Heritage Archivist) and Dave Smith were looking to retain their title in the 2008 Rally.

Entered again in Andrews 1963 FB VX4/90 417HBE, this was another chance for Andrew to put his finely honed navigational skills, and Dave’s impressive driving skills to the test, starting in Bournemouth on Thursday 20th November, and finishing in Llandudno on Sunday 23rd November.

This year they were joined on the Rally by two other FB VX4/90’s, the 1962 4FTM (Rally number 83) previously owned by Warren Kennedy, but now under the ownership of and driven by Nick Jarvis and navigated by Chris Winter, and 634CRX (Rally number 60) another 1962 car driven by Warren Kennedy and navigated by Philip Swain but previously owned by Nick Jarvis.

The first day of the Rally was blessed with winter sun, with a number of tests around Bournemouth culminating with the final test at the Winter Gardens. After the first day Andrew and Dave were leading their class, and in overall 4th position overall in an entry of 85 varied cars including a number of ex works cars, and specialist classic competition cars. 634CRX and 4FTM were in 6th and 9th in class respectively, and 25th and 40th overall.

Day two was to be a long day in more ways than one, with the route passing across Dorset, into Devon and finally back to Somerset for an overnight stop in Taunton. I met up with the Rally at lunch on the second day at Escot Park near Ottery St Mary in East Devon, where it was planned to hold a test section but the recent floods in the area washed away some of the estate bridges, and so an extended lunch break was enjoyed by all the crews.

I followed the progress of the Rally from there via Exeter on to Dartmoor where there was a test in the grounds of the Military Camp above Okehampton where I managed to take more photos of the 4/90’s in action. I apologise for the poor quality of the pictures, I am more of a family snaps man than a sporting action photographer. From there I followed Andrew and Dave through the Okehampton traffic and along some very narrow lanes at speed into the village of Sampford Courtenay where I live, and on up to Winkleigh for a time control check. This was the first opportunity I had to speak to Dave and Andrew and apologised for having stalked them all day, but luckily Andrew had recognised me at the roadside at various points. By this stage they had dropped back in their class and were trying to make up some time as I evidenced from the skillful overtaking maneuvers of Dave along the winding road to Winkleigh. At Winkleigh I left them and wished them both well for the remainder of the Rally, but little did I know what lay around the corner for them.

That evening I read the on line Rally report posted by the Classic Rally Association which read..’’….the list of retirements grew as the night progressed, Dave Smith and Andrew Duerdon have damaged the suspension in their Vauxhall VX4/90 so it is unlikely that they will be going much further, but rally drivers are resourceful and who knows what the morning will bring….’’
In his words, this is Andrews account of events;

Dear Stalker

I’m afraid it was an early bath for us on this event. (Last non-finish was in 2002 with Ian Coomber when the Cresta’s gearbox cried enough). We were maintaining our position (just!) despite an onslaught from the very rapid and competitive Alfas and the FIA Historic Regularity Champion’s Rapier, but on a forest regularity section near Dunster we were getting a little frustrated by catching slower cars at each of the very short section controls and Dave, whilst taking my instructions a little too earnestly, turned 90right crossroads just a tad too early and caught the ditch. Normally, a bit of ditch hooking wouldn’t be a problem, but a brick culvert in the ditch stopped the car rather definitely, pulling the wishbone out of the chassis. Instant retirement. We rigged a lash-up and drove the 25 miles back to Taunton where the vehicle was recovered the following morning. Amazingly, on the journey back to Taunton, the tyre didn’t burst, despite the cockpit filling with smoke as the Vredestein rubbed against the inner wing.

The other two cars finished, albeit out of the class awards, 4FTM finishing 5th and 634CRX finishing 7th in Class.

Thank you to Andrew for providing the better pictures you can view in the Gallery Section on this site, which remain copyrighted to him, and for the account of their excursion from the prescribed route. Whilst he now has his work cut out repairing the damage I am sure we will see him and Dave campaigning again next year.