Firstly, of course, the fish and chips. Being that they were served from a modest establishment consisting an insulated box on the back of a Citroen Relay chassis-cab, at a cost of just £6 for each of us, our meal far exceeded our expectations. It came at exactly the right time, too, as we faced two hours of having basically nothing to do but be hungry and shelter from the rain.
This is what rally spectating is all about, you see. Arriving early to watch a flurry of cars as they dance past, then mooching around until the next batch materializes. And, when the rally itself is on your doorstep, taking a day out to literally soak in the atmosphere is a natural decision.
We’d attended the Corbeau Seats Tendring Rally before, on its inaugural occurrence in 2018, on my birthday, as it happens, as if laid on specifically for my entertainment. On that day, the sun beat down like a pneumatic drill, and we spent the time between sessions sunbathing, drinking cider and, naturally, eating fish and chips. Although last year’s were nothing like as good as this time around.
I’m not a follower of clubman rallying, or any rallying for that matter. I adore the spectacle of motorsport, and every small dose I’m exposed to is a thrill; but am insufficiently addicted to be forever searching for my next hit. A weekend at Goodwood will see me through for a year, but the Corbeau comes as a welcome, if unspectacular top-up.
A varied menu
The variety of cars that partake is welcome, too. Of course, the inevitable Imprezas and Lancer Evos made up a big chunk of the field, and there were as many Mk1 and 2 Ford Escorts as any man can stand, but every now and again, as if watching out for a tempting dish to come past on a Go Sushi! conveyor, something more novel would make itself seen.
I had my camera on hand, with an 18-200mm lens that proved to be totally the wrong tool for the job as most of the shots I took were at less than 50mm, and my pin-sharp prime would have been far better. Still, of my three hundred or so exposures, I got a dozen or so that passed muster in my efforts to capture the excitement.
Atmosphere, though, was in short supply. For the first session, buoyed up by anticipation and adrenaline, there had been a reasonable crowd on our Ship Hill vantage point, but it thinned after the cars had passed, and then evaporated altogether just after we’d indulged in fish and chips. Chips which, incidentally, were beautifully fluffy in the centre but surrounded by a crisp envelope of perfectly fried potato, and huge slabs of stunningly succulent fish whose batter was so delicate, light and fragile it could almost have evaporated.
You see, at about 11 o’clock, the rain came. After an earlier shower It had been hanging in the air threateningly for an hour or so, but it lost its patience just as we were patting our lips clean of batter residue. The scene pictured above shows how every soul, apart from the dutiful marshalls, had retired to the cars in which they arrived, leaving my wife, myself and our bikes as the only articles insane enough to remain. The black igloo in the foreground is our plastic-backed picnic blanket, beneath which Nicola was cowering at the time.
Some good came out of it, though, in that the early-afternoon session was more eye-catching thanks to the glossy sheen the road had taken on, and when the April shower returned for a second performance, it added a bit of drama to things. The limit of adhesion was lowered, the wipers were on and rooster-trails were appearing. Anything rear-wheel-drive that came past looked entertainingly twitchy, and the same was probably true of their drivers’ sphincters with the hay bale accident-containment system passing so close.
Enough is enough
The rain ceased just after the final car had passed. We decided that two sessions was enough for us and toddled off home on our bikes, cycling along the same rally route we had just been watching. Home was only five minutes away, and when reached, our heavy, waterlogged clothes were chucked in the bath and we began the process of warming up with blankets and coffee. Our hearts were full of joy, though, and our stomachs were lined with the most unimaginably delicious cod and potato to ever collide with the rallying world.
[Images Copyright RoadworkUK / Hooniverse 2019. Apologies that I failed to capture our cuisine on camera.]