A year ago many of us were looking ahead to April 2018 as the Corbeau Seats Tendring and Clacton Rally drew closer. It was to be the very first event in England to use the new ‘closed roads’ legislation, so earned the hashtag #firstontheroad.
So what was it like and what can we look forward to in 2019?
The rally took place on a glorious hot and sunny weekend that really took motor sport to the people. East Anglia has a good amount of special stage rallying, often utilising old MOD airfields, so this means it takes place ‘behind the fence’ and out of sight. This rally was to be completely different.
After months and indeed years of planning, working with Tendring District Council, Essex County Council and Parish Councils along the route it was finally time for the rally. The UK motor sport community pulled-together to bring-in the huge number of volunteers needed to run such an event.
The weather couldn’t have been better for the weekend as crews set-up on Saturday at the service area on the grassy promenade overlooking Clacton Pier and the sea. There was a wonderful atmosphere as locals and crews mingled in the sunshine, chatting away and looking forward to the event. Most local people were pleased to see the event coming to Clacton with some just a little unsure of what to expect.
One of the first people I met on Sunday morning was co-driver Robin Nicolson who’d journeyed from a business meeting in John O’Groats the day before. He felt he just had to be at the event. Event Director Tony Clements, awaited the start and said “It’s simply awesome to be where we are today and to see the event get underway”.
Recently appointed Motor Sports Association (now Motorsport UK) Chairman David Richards was also at the start on Sunday morning to chat to crews, visitors and the TV crews covering the event.
As crews started returning to the service area after the first loop of stages a theme quickly emerged. The stages themselves got a mention, but the overriding impression made was of the sheer number of people out at the roadside, smiling and waving at the crews as they passed.
The event had designated spectator areas and people who lived in the villages the event passed through were guided to safe viewing points too. During the event Tendring District Council estimated over 6,000 people watched the rally in Clacton and the surrounding countryside. Local businesses reported a valuable boost to trade.
Social media feedback from local people made it clear the event was a big hit with them. Another theme was coming through, especially from those who hadn’t been sure of what to expect; it was how well organised the event was and how friendly and helpful the marshals were. During a gap between stages, one group of marshals was even invited to join a barbeque at a resident’s garden party.
The rally saw a fantastic variety of cars take part, including the eventual winners Melvyn Evans and Sean Hayde in their Subaru Impreza, who won by just 12.5 seconds, after 15 special stages, from Hugh Hunter and Rob Fagg in a Ford Fiesta WRC.
Winner Melvyn Evans said “This has been a brilliant day and to win the first closed road event in England was very special for us. The spectators were amazing and with the event running like clockwork the organisers did an incredible job. Let’s hope this is the start of a new era for rallying”.
Planning for the second running of the rally began shortly after last year’s finished and as before there is a lot of work going-on liaising with local communities.
We are looking to offer more competitive mileage for the competitors, an additional spectator area and various other initiatives to build on the success of the first event.
We’ll bring you more news every month from now until April, so please keep in touch through this page and by using the new hashtag #tendringrally