Throwback Thursday: 1966 Bristol Rally

#OnThisDay, we ran a rally through the night and on to some special tests at Castle Combe Circuit the following day.  Here’s how the regulations described it and how it was reviewed in the February 1966 edition of Driving Mirror….

The Bristol Motor Cycle and Light Car Club have great pleasure in inviting you to enter this restricted event. The route has been prepared by regular rally competitors who feel confident that they have selected the best there is to offer in the West of England—only grid references and no tricks. The whole thing conceived on the most modern lines with manned passage Checks enforcing the route and a minimum of time controls. There will be a number Of special chronometric sections which Will be timed to the second.

The road section of the rally will finish at breakfast on the outskirts of Bristol, where competitors will then proceed during Saturday morning to compete in driving tests and a special section using the race circuit at Castle Combe. There will be a final control in the centre of Bristol during the afternoon followed by a Rally Dance in the Arnos Court Country Club, Bristol, when the results Will be announced and the awards presented.

The 1966 Bristol Rally started for marshals and competitors on the evening of Friday 4th February but for the organising committee it started 6 months, 4000 miles ago. Much visiting of people living on or near the route wag accomplished by the four sector marshals and several short sections of route were re-routed to meet the whims of the nativés. Award givers were also found and many problems large and small were surmounted before the big date arrived. On the Friday all marshals congregated at the Shell Garage in Feeder Road before being taken
to their controls by their respective sector marshals for their lonely vigil.

Meanwhile 57 of the 60 entrants were gathering at Temple Meads Motors who were our main sponsors. After scrutineering and collecting road-books, navigators were soon at it over their maps plotting the 80 map references of tho 250 mile route. At this point Colin Pook, at Bridgwater noticed that one map reference plotted in the Bristol Channel. As this marshal did not have a boat Colin phoned up the start to have this altered. Thus was immediately rectified and all crews informed.

At 9.30 p.m. Chris Lovell and Julian Chitty led off the convoy — the first 20 being nagged away by Cllr. Dalby. The start of the competitive road section was timed to the nearest 5 secs by hand held chronometers and crews quickly found that the clerks of the course did not intend them to have a quiet night. The nearest to clean were Chris Lovell and Malcom Gibbs/Derek Tucker, who both dropped minutes. By this time several crews had fallen by the wayside with Tony Chappell with a sick motor and Dave Franklin with overheating.

The next section was cleaned by the faster crews, but the section after a neutral section thro’ Elbridge had everyone penalised, the tightness of the route being aided by fog on the high ground. This brought crews to the first rest and refueling stop for 15 minutes, at the Esso Garage, South Molton. Several cars were looking the worse for wear here and drivers of some had emergency panel beating to carry out.

After this short respite crews set out again, the first section being easily on, but the next, which included a not as map junction and a very muddy white, had everyone except the faster crews penalised and the next section was similar. Then came the 2nd chronometric section which was only just possible for those that really tried. The next road section was easily on and took crews to half way stop (10 mins) where they had to hand in their control cards for the first half. Here they were met by the club caravan and the results team. Before the first car arrived the caravan and crew were plagued with flies, but these were soon exterminated by a spray carried by the course car, the potency of which can be verified by any member of the results crew who almost joined the flies with their legs in the air.

The cars proceeded to the next control where the marshal inadvertently let the first car go 10 minutes early, but he did not gain any advantage from this as the section to the next control was easily on for most crews. However the next section, I mile in 3 mins. and involving a series of hairpins on a 1 in 3 hill, first, down then up saw no crews clean — some dropping up to 10 mins. The next few sections were around the multitude of whites Hartland Point. There was no time for relaxing here and while experts were dropping minutes, novices had to omit controls to keep within their 30 minutes maximum lateness. Competitors were soon arriving at the Esso Garage at Fremington — some well before their due time. Before this Martin Clarke/Paul Stephens retired with no gears. Tim Pearce had had a very close look at a manure heap; D. Henry was changing gear by putting the lever in the socket every time, several had rolled or had slight contretemps in other ways.

From here and through Barnstaple competitors started on the last stages which eased the pressure until the 3rd chronometric. Two straight roads joined by a right angled bend and the whole issue shrouded in dense swirling fog. Despite this most of the survivors cleaned it. From here a tight section around Exford, past Dunkery Beacon encl over Brendons to the last time control of the night. R. Shiner/R. Radford took to
the ditch with suspension failure almost within sight of this control.

From here tired crews and cars travelled to Lulsgate Airport for a shave, wash and breakfast. Outside, service crews and garage mechanics changed wheels and tended the worn out cars. Several ears were completely filling B.M.C. ramps, one with no exhaust and Ken Hawker searching for some brakes which he had lost well before the end of the road section.

All needs replenished, crews meandered to Hengrove Park where Alan Hallpike and Roy Maggs had set out 4 entertaining driving tests which competitors tackled with renewed zeal — obviously letting their hair down. The crocodile then ambled out to Castle Combe for a two lap special stage giving many crews time for an hours rest before competing. After this back to Bristol Centre and to receive individual results of the road section.

With a few hours to spare everyone had a chance to really freshen up before going to Arnos Court, to hear full results, receive awards and either celebrate, drown sorrows and (only a few) to dance. This was marred by a protest, which could not be resolved that evening causing most awards to be withheld, much to the dismay of R. Mayo, who had to take them all home again.

All competitors agreed that it had been an excellent and straightforward thrash” with no trickery, and no complaints reached committee, who felt that all their work had been worth while.

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