23rd January 2021

The Devil’s Own rally has its origin back in the glory days of the Motoring News Road Rally Championship of the 1970’s and early 1980’s.

Those old enough to remember will recall the days of Group 4 Escort BDA’s, Chevette HSRs and TR8’s thundering down the lanes using pace-notes on the “selectives” timed to the second. That just got a bit too silly and our governing body at the time outlawed such antics.

The Devil’s took a breather for a few years but came back in the 1990’s as a Clubmans’ Historic/Targa type of  rally, with some success for a while. Dwindling entries and date clashes with other more popular events saw it disappear again.

However, with a new team of organisers from Kirkby Londsdale Motor  Club, lead by Martyn Taylor and Kevin Savage, the event had a revival and is now regarded as one of the better, and tougher, HRCR events.

Paul Slingsby and I had entered the 2016 event in Paul’s MGB, but as I had woken with a migraine and not really being able to see a map, never mind read it, we had to retire at half-way – we were pretty much OTL by then anyway !

Last year we marshalled on the event and got a taste for competing on it again, so Paul duly put the entry in for this year, again in the venerable MGB ( 39 events and only one mechanical retirement so far!) and running in the colours of Airedale & Pennine Motor Car  Club.

The Devil’s poses quite a challenge, starting at lunch time it runs into the night and finishes around 10PM.

This year, the route was all on Sheet 97 and the regs. said that crews would be issued with a Road Book and the route should be plotted in that. Great – no rubbing out the next day required on my maps !

Noise, Scrutineering and measured mile check went smoothly and we  were soon signed-on at the start venue – Westmorland Show Ground.

The route consisted of 7 tests and 8 regularities. Three regularities were given out to plot at signing-on, which left 5 to be handed out as you left the MTC’s for plotting on the go.We managed to get the 3 regs plotted with about ¾ of an hour to spare before the Drivers briefing and had time to chat with other crews and enjoyed  our pre-event burgers and coffee.

It was also good to see Ian Dawes and Tony Shields at the start who were out marshalling – hopefully we would see them again later in the event!

So, at 13.10 it was our time to leave the start and on to the first test, less than a mile up the road towards Milnthorpe. The car had a severe dose of coughing and spluttering as we pulled away from the start, but seemed to clear itself during the test.

Regularity Start 1 was immediately after the test and was a pre-marked map provided in the Road Book. This seemed to go OK, but there were seven speed changes and a few tricky junctions to navigate. A “not as map” turn to avoid going into Sandside quarry caught a few crews out I think.

Test 2 had been cancelled so a fairly long transport section took us up to Test 3 and 4 in the quarry at Clawthorpe and then up to test 5. That was a slippy one – around Elm Tree Farm   A wrong-slot in Wharton lost us some road time, but I managed to plot Reg 3 ( grid lines and black spots) on this section. Test 6 followed, then a quick coffee stop and PC at Gilpin Bridge Inn.

A short drive up the A5074 towards Windermere took us to the start of Reg 2,  that one was given out at signing-on and took a route through spot-heights and map features. A very deep ford gave some cars severe problems but the MGB sailed through it. The final spot height was in the middle of Astleys Plantation by Newby Bridge – so some gravel driving to do ! Again, some tricky navigation with 5 speed changes.

It was then straight onto Reg 3 which used lots of yellows south of Newby Bridge, went under the A590 and using a white to avoid  High Newton.  The end of the reg was two laps round a very slippy  camp site near Lindale – Paul did very well not to slide off into the undergrowth here !. A quick drive back up the A590 took us to the evening halt at the Lakeland Motor Museum for soup and a sandwich. We had a bit of spare time here so we plotted Reg 7 in the car – grid references, with 9 speed changes to consider on the way round !

From the museum it was a long run out up to the top of Grizedale forest, where Reg 4 started. Reg 6 and 8 (Tulips) had been handed out as we left the museum so I got Reg 8 onto the map on the way up to Grizedale (unfortunately not quite accurately enough it would transpire!). The thrash through Grizedale was fun but we were glad there were the tracks form earlier cars to follow as I must confess to getting rather lost on the map towards the end !. The reg finished half-way up lake Windermere, but as the ferry was not running we had to go back down to Newby Bridge and pick up the A592 to Bowness on Windermere, where we had a coffe stop at the Boatman Café.

After an unscheduled tour around Bowness , we made it to the start of Reg 5. This was short and sweet, but with a hard to see white entrance towards the end in order to approach  the finish control on the A591 from the south.

Turning right on the A591 for a mile or two took us to Reg 6. This was a long one with 6 speed changes and using a few whites. Up until then, we had a full timecard, with no missing controls or PC’s. The times were not fantastic, but at least we had been on the correct route. Our luck was to change ! Somehow one of my plots must have been wrong  (LWR triangle at junction perhaps – although I thought we did go LWR!) and I got that sinking feeling when the marshal at control TP6.2 entered his time in the box below where I was expecting !!  Towards the end of the reg we then overshot a tricky slot left at Patton Bridge. We realised our error but it was a bit too dangerous to try and reverse or turn around at night in such a narrow lane so we took the penalty on the chin.

A short 2 mile link section took us to Reg 7 This took us back down the map, thorough a plantation, skirted Killington Lake, crossed the M6 then underpassing it on a white, then crossing the M6 again to finish at Old Hutton.  All controls signed for on that one !

Test 7 followed, then onto the final Reg 8. This was all tulips, but obviously had tricks in store for us as there were about 30 tulips in less than 2 miles!! Turned out, it was a tour around the Westmorland Show Ground car parks. After taking a marshal’s directional  advice at a cross road, the tulips just did not seem to run properly at all so we just headed for a control we could actually see. In the end it did not turn out too badly as we feared – we got all the controls and the worse time was a 52 secs early.

So that was it – we managed to conquer  The Devils Own !!

Results ? Well, we didn’t win, but we weren’t last either ! We ended up 36 overall, out of 65 starters, on a time 30.16 ( 5 mins lost on Reg 6 remember). Guy Woodcock (Escort) won the event for the third time, this year with Ali Procter; they had penalties of 10.56. Second was Geoff Hal and Paul Bosdet in the Austin Cooper S and John Haygarth (also from APMCC) and Bob Hargreaves came a superb third in the Kadette.  The top 20 were covered by less than 10 minutes so that shows just how competitive these events are.

It really was a good, well organised event and thanks must go to all the organisers and marshalls. Martyn was right when, at the drivers briefing,  he said  it was going to be tough, but just keep going !

Paul Slingsby / Mike Fox, car 40, MGB roadster