Berwick-upon-Tweed has a long history as a town hosting battles between the English and the Scots. Indeed, records show that control of the town changed hands no fewer than 13 times before England finally claimed it as its most northerly outpost in 1482.
Thankfully the bloody conflicts of yesteryear are a thing of the past as nowadays battles between the two countries have more of a sporting flavour. Take for example the Berwick Classic & Targa Rally where crews from both sides of the border put their driving and navigational skills to the test in a bid for national bragging rights.
This annual two-day event took place over the last weekend of April with a capacity 60 car entry lining up at the start, in the shadow of Berwick’s famous three bridges, for Saturday’s opening leg. Forming part of the English challenge were Quentin James from Kirkham and Tom Howe from Lea who were flying the flag for Blackpool South Shore Motor Club in their Citroen C2 GT.
Saturday’s opening 50 mile leg to the South and West of Berwick was designed to test the navigators to the full with a pair of lengthy regularities before the drivers honed their skills on a brace of tests. The Shore duo were happy to come through unscathed finishing fourth in class in the overnight standings.
Sunday’s 110 mile route took competitors north of the border starting with a test at the Torness Power Station. An intense competitive schedule was then made up of three regularities and a further 14 tests, many in sight of the North Sea, before surviving crews reached the Dunbar finish. After a long day James and Howe made the finish third overall and collected awards as class runners-up, picking up a useful points haul in their bid for honours in the 2016 NESCRO Rally Championship.
Fast forward two weeks and the pair were back north of the border to tackle the next NESCRO round, the William Paterson Memorial Targa Rally organised by the South of Scotland Car Club. Starting and finishing in Dumfries a compact 50 mile route was interspersed by 14 tests, spread over seven venues, some of which were run by members of Spadeadam Motor Club. Most were run on loose surfaces, not ideal for the C2 as it still has its ABS system in operation, and the crew suffered a few overshoots and unscheduled slides.
Notwithstanding the dramas they made it to the finish ninth overall and emulated both their Berwick and Saltire results by taking the awards for finishing second in class. The result puts them at the top of the NESCRO Targa Driver and Navigator Championship standings heading into next month’s Lake District Classic Rally.
Their closest rivals are experienced Scots duo Craig Wallace and Clifford Auld who took victory on the Berwick in their rapid Toyota Corolla G6R. Another Toyota crew, William Paterson Memorial Targa Rally winners Ryan Hay and Niall Thomson are currently third in the NESCRO rankings. James and Howe, who are also members of Kirkby Lonsdale Motor Club, Garstang & Preston Motor Club and Wigton Motor Club, are hoping to get the better of their Scottish rivals on a rally held entirely on English soil.
The growing popularity of the Targa Challenge is borne out by there currently being no fewer than 25 crews in the series standings, five more than those listed in the Classic Challenge.