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Next section meeting - Thursday 29 June at The Three Horseshoes, Knockholt

The Tulip Rally - Sunday 10th May 2015: “Those Daring Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies”

“The Emperor King”, cries Major Dawlish, (Peter Cook). “Gather up the Mess…..The toast is...The Monte”, Lt. Barrington, (Dudley Moore)……… “The Monte”. “The Monte”.

And it was with that level of enthusiasm that I prepared for the “AROCKES Tulip Rally 2015”. In the best traditions of the military, I prepared my Dunlop Ambassadors with both spit and polish before collecting Lt. Hylton and rounding on Petts Wood to collect Tony Curtis, (Doug Hodson!) and Jack to form a column of 105 spiders. Added to this column was the support vehicle, (VW Polo), driven by Rosie Hodson who was navigating for ‘Big John Third’, (any resemblance to Horst Muller – Gert Frobe I promise I cannot see).

The start line for this non-competitive rally, (ha ha), was the entrance to the car park at the Bull Hotel at Wrotham, (AROCKES main HQ, every last Thursday in the month).

By the time we arrived, there were a number of jaunty jalopies already in attendance. In fact 11 cars undertook the route, with only nine teams entered.

In addition to those already mentioned we were joined by Dave and Amanda (916 Spider), Peter and Malcom (164 Cloverleaf), Fred and Laura (Bertone GTV), Mark and Jeff (S4 Spider), Giovanni and Jacky (Bertone GTV), Peter and Marie (916 GT) and a beautiful FIAT 500 Abarth (badged) car driven by a friend of Giovanni, (the 11th car).

Fried breakfast baps were on offer from the hotel washed down with tea or coffee. This was much needed as the instructions were given out by the organisers of the event, Mark Webster and John Perthen. Those guys had put a tonne of work into setting the whole thing up; a big thank you to them both.

In short, we each set off at 2 minute intervals on a cross-country hack through the beautiful Kentish countryside. The weather was perfect. The roads were delightful and nobody knew where they were going. I have to confess that I still have no idea where I went. We were given a handbook with directional charts setting out the distance between turnings. This was shown against a cumulative mileage. What could possibly go wrong? We were told that it would be straightforward once we had re-set our odometers. Even Fred from Classic Alfa couldn’t work out how to re-set mine. (If anyone out there knows the answer, please email me via the Data Commissioner.)

Off we set, team by team, with 25 miles of B roads ahead of us and enough rape seed pollen in the country air to swell your eyes closed.

There were additional points for spotting destination names on marker boards and there were some code letters hidden in hedgerows on route. At 22 miles, we could see the back of John Third and Rosie Hodson in the ‘new’ spider. Then we saw Fred in the white Giulia GTV and realised we had reached the first manned check point. What a doddle we thought………The next 15 miles lead us through picturesque parts of Kent that I shall never see again and which bore a striking resemblance to Brigadoon.

Finally we made it to lunch at the Cock Horse in Oakham/Hildenborough/Tonbridge according to my SATNAV. We were so lost we had to Google the pub and let my mobile phone talk us to the post code! Never mind, it was a lovely pub and the weather was good enough to sit on the decking in the garden and order some fine grub, (even if everyone else had been there at least half an hour before us).

After lunch we set off on the 35 miles back via a different set of charts heading for the Bull Hotel once again. The cumulative mileage on the charts was the only way by which to legitimately navigate. However, Lt. Hylton had to calculate the distance between junctions by subtracting mileage covered from the cumulative mileage at the next junction. Then I had to add the difference to the mileage on my odometer……mental maths! The car was usually going at least 30mph at a control point so after I had added the figure up we had covered at least 1-2 10ths of a mile! This threw everything out and by junction six we had to admit defeat. It was then that I realised that we were not Major Dawlish and Lt. Barrington at all but Sir Cuthbert Ware-Armitage and his man Perkins, (Terry Thomas and Eric Sykes)! We set a course for Wrotham using SatNav and drove there as fast as we could to welcome some of the other drivers home. Most looked surprised to see us again. I took my time in admitting I cheated!!!!!

We sat in the Arber at the back of the pub and it felt like the Paddock at Goodwood. We nearly had a DNF, (loose flex on Mark's starter motor) and a LNSA, (Lost Never Seen Again), from Peter and Malcolm in the 164 Cloverleaf but they just beat the guillotine. John Third confused everyone by reaching the finishing line in his GTV6 (the 10th car) having set out in his ‘new’ Spider. Never got to the bottom of that one. We enjoyed a drink sitting under in the garden and Mark and John presented the winner’s trophy to Mark Rayss and Jeff Kaby. Mark had been asking where he could get an emergency epidural but the euphoria that comes with victory took away the pain, (as did a bottle of cabernet sauvignon on his return home). He credited the win to his co-driver whom we compared to Denis Jenkinson, without whom Sterling Moss would still be lost somewhere in Italy.

A brilliant day out, I have absolutely no idea where we went but would thoroughly recommend it to anyone…….roll on 2016.

David Smith

 

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