Forever Autumn

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Oulton Park, November 23: rallying bathes in mellow fruitfulness

Single-venue rallying is nothing new at Oulton Park, but it’s a relatively rare custom. The first such event I attended was the Ian Harwood Stages in February 1980, when a Hillman Imp chased me across the frozen Cheshire tundra. When I mentioned this incident in print, more than 30 years later, I received an apologetic email from one Paul Rogerson, who felt sure that he’d been the guilty party…

I missed a string of similar events during the balance of the 1980s, but was present again in 2012 when Bolton-Le-Moors Car Club staged its Neil Howard Memorial Stages at Oulton for the first time – a November initiative that added a hint of bright, autumnal splendour to a traditionally leafy backdrop.

Conditions were equally sunny when the event returned, one year on. The entry list was oversubscribed with everything from the customarily banzai WRC warriors to Richard Sutton’s V8-engined Triumph Dolomite – club motor sport at its most beguilingly diverse. Some of the more potent four-wheel-drive entries had almost too much traction for tighter parts of the course, an amusing contrast to the Ford Escort armada’s gymnastics, but the newer kit eventually prevailed. Graham Coffey/Victoria Myers (Subaru Impreza) beat John Stone/Ian Jones (Skoda Fabia) by just 2sec after eight stages, the last of those in twilight.

The only thing missing is loose-surface mileage (although some drivers devised their own). It’s oft forgotten that Oulton Park hosted rallycross events during the 1980s, so the time for creative renaissance is perhaps ripe.