Ask anyone to describe Lincolnshire and undulating isn’t a word that is likely to be used, but as day two transported the rally into the Wolds, there was indeed the odd summit to climb, often revealing far reaching views of the second largest county in the UK. As well as the literal gains in altitude, others were making big steps up the leader board, on a day that would see an almost constant change of positions as the regularities and tests ticked by.
A long drive out to the competitive sections greeted the competitors, but in the brilliant morning sunshine it was certainly a pleasurable experience, which is what this rally is all about. Picture postcard villages punctuated the flowing roads, and the early signs were pointing towards a good day.
Despite the lengthy run to the timed sections, the route managed to squeeze in two regularities before the morning coffee halt, which ended and began in quick succession. One featured a tricky slot past a beautiful, isolated church, that caught one or two pairings out early on and by the time both regularities had been completed there had been the first shake up of the leader board, as Paul O Kane and Henry Carr took over the top spot, with the Shepherds in hot pursuit in car 74 in second and Rodney Hanson and Clare Grove now into third.
Indeed, there had been winners and losers all over the field, and the tight table didn’t much resemble the previous evenings version. If the snakes and ladders had proven anything though, it was that anything could still happen, with plenty of competition left in the day.
Another regularity awaited before the morning’s road sections would be complete, again through the beautiful lanes that criss-cross the farmland so prevalent in the Wolds. It finished in the pretty little village of Alford, with many folk choosing to watch the cars from front gardens and other kerbside vantage points, waving and clapping the competitors through, sometimes from the most unusual of spots.
Before the morning could be declared complete three tests would take place on the airfield at the former RAF East Kirkby, now home to the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre and their magnificent Lancaster and Mosquito exhibits. Before the competitors could get a look at those over lunch though, they would need to channel the nimbleness and deftness of touch of 633 Squadron, particularly on the second test, where tennis ball would need to be deposited accurately into a bin by the navigators turned bombardiers!
There were mixed results, with a fair few crews more dumb blunders than Dambusters, and perhaps thinking that the test name of ‘Ball’s to You’ was a pretty accurate reflection of their feelings! Still, there would be a chance for a second shot at the bin after lunch, and most importantly the publishing of the results at the halfway point! The lead hadn’t changed, but the top three certainly had, with Lee Clarke and son Max now into second place in the pretty Triumph TR4. “We’re amazed to find ourselves in second” said Lee, “Max only did the Novice Trial a year ago, so he’s doing very well.” Third place had also switched hands, with Constant Busch and Najib Nakad’s consistent work during the morning promoting them up to the podium.
The afternoon wold see a repeat of the airfield tests to shake off any lunch fuelled malaise, as well as three more regularities to challenge the crews, and with such a small pocket of time separating everyone at the sharp end of the table there was no time for anyone to rest on their laurels.
It wouldn’t take long for the lead to change again, as car number 60’s afternoon began with a large time penalty after a wrong test, in the end Paul O Kane and Henry Carr would drop 51 seconds across the afternoon, but with the competition on this usually placid event so stiff, it would remain to be seen who would take the opportunity to swipe top spot.
As it was, it would be car 47 that would continue to impress, with more consistency across the afternoon and improve their lunchtime third position into first by the final time control. Second remains in the hands of the Clarkes and third has been reclaimed by Rod Hanson and Clare Grove. There are many lurking just a few seconds behind though, Malcolm Dunderdale and Anita Wickins being one of the chasing pack, and Tim and Mel Green also sitting close to the podium after making big strides in their Mini across the day. John and Tracy King are also doing well, sitting in sixth spot, just 12 seconds off of third in the MR2. “The navigators doing well” said John, “I might even keep her on! We seem to not be making the same mistakes we used to make, it’s going well, but it’s so tight one small slip could see us plummet to mid table.”
Sage advice for the leaders and encouragement for the chasing pack, with half a day to go and just a minute separating the top 20, the win is still anyone’s as the rally goes into it’s final leg. There are still four regularities to contest, and plenty of miles for the competition picture to change, as the battle of Bomber County heads towards its conclusion.
*The Shires host Round Two as the Challenge Increases