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Next section meeting - Thursday 31 August at The Bull Hotel, Bull Lane, Wrotham, Kent, TN15 7RF.

Tulip Rally - Sunday 22nd April 2012

Sunday 22nd April 2012 was National Drive Your Classic Car Day and Jason Andrews of the Sevenoaks and District Car Club chose to mark the occasion by organising the Tulip Rally, a gentle jaunt through the north Kent countryside in the style of a regularity time trial, (for those with dashboard-mounted twin stopwatches!). Jason generously extended a warm invitation to members of AROCKES through Doug Hodson and it turned out to be a super day.

A sleepless night worrying about the weather proved to be unnecessary as the morning was crisp and bright. This was my first proper outing in the 2000 Veloce Spider, recently acquired from Mark Fuller. Whilst meeting up with Doug and Jack Hodson in their 1750 boat-tail Spider at Locksbottom, we were passed by a Jaguar E-Type and a Marcos. Having set off down the A21 it wasn’t long before a Triumph Stag and a Karmann Ghia shot past in the opposite direction; the day was clearly going to be all about ‘boys and girls and their toys’!

We arrived at The Toby Carvery, Badgers Mount at 9am and were greeted by Jason and Shelly who own a beautiful V8 Sunbeam Tiger. Also there was Mark Clifford in his pristine 1966 MGB Roadster. Not soon after we were joined by Stuart Palmer and his brother in his 1750 boat-tail Spider and various others, including a Daimler Dart and a couple of very tasty Mark 1 Ford Mexicos, (it was a Rally after all).

Once all assembled we were briefed on our route; not our destination! Each car needed a driver and a navigator. We were given route sheets marking overall distances, turnings and distance between turnings, (and a post code to the first check-point for those with SatNav who got hopelessly lost). A big thank you to my co-driver, Luke Hindmarsh, who also tagged along to a wet National Alfa Day last year and should really have bought an Alfa Romeo by now.

Jason marshaled us into a start line and we were waived off at 1 minute intervals, with Doug at the wheel leading the Alfa contingent and Jack clutching the Directional Chart. The first leg of the journey took us down towards Riverhead, Ightham, Shipbourne and Ivy Hatch all on the most beautiful roads, often single lane with passing points and bordered by hedgerows. I have never before noticed how many ‘twitchers’ and cyclists there are around first thing on a Sunday morning. After a beautiful drive on these classic winding British ‘B’ roads with barely another car in sight, (and having covered 25 miles) we arrived at The Premier Inn, Beefeater at Wrotham. Having started fourth, I found myself arriving 3rd to a cheer from Doug and Jack. The MGB of Mark Clifford, who had started before me, had taken a wrong turning and didn’t re-appear until everyone else had arrived.

Following a short break for a cappuccino, we were given our second set of Directions. Again, as we assembled at the start line we mingled with a selection of other cars taken out by their proud owners. A lovely Jensen Interceptor shot by and as we covered the route, other Alfa drivers flashed us with their headlights. The second session covered a route of approximately 50 miles and took us ultimately via a series of villages that I had never heard of, (even having lived in Kent all my 46 years), to The Chequers Inn at Lamberhurst, via some beautiful views and past the odd vineyard. I have to say, that Kent on a sunny day is as beautiful as any county in this country and the architecture of the villages and the absence of modern vehicles made it feel like we were driving our cars in the days of a by-gone era.

Having parked up at the Chequers it became clear that it was Stuart’s turn to have missed a sign-post and having been clapped in by the other participants it was into the pub for a pint, some lunch and a chat with fellow enthusiasts. All in all a super day.

David Smith

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