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2013 - Memorial Serge Messine

MEMORIAL SERGE MESSINE BOEZINGE - BELGIUM - 31st AUGUST 2013

This event is organised jointly by the Ypres Historic Rally Organisation and the Kemmel Historic Committee in memory of the late Serge Messine, one of the organisers of the Ypres Historic Stage Rally. We shared accommodation just outside Boezinge with fellow British entrants Graham and Martin Moore and before the start of the event, there was work for both crews to do – a headlight bulb on Dippy had failed on the journey and the Moores had a map light to be fixed on their very smart 1293cc Cooper S. With Martin’s mechanical expertise these tasks were soon completed. 

The start venue for the 180km event was in the small town of Boezinge which, as is usual in Belgium, had given over all the car parks and main roads to park the full entry of 200 cars, including many superb examples of classic rally cars, ‘Slowly Sideways’ vehicles and a wide assortment of other classic cars. Sadly, only 2% of this full entry was from the UK - just 4 cars, comprising our 2 cars, Doug Dawe and Dave Waldron in their very rapid Austin Allegro - as their Austin 1300 was not yet ready to compete -, plus an immaculate 1980 Ford RS 2000. 

Around midday, the town was alive with cars but this was all being carefully managed by members of the organising clubs. At 13.45 hours, Documentation opened and there was time to check out the Road Book - that was printed in both kms and miles - as part of the comprehensive paperwork. As with other Kemmel events we have participated in, the whole package was just first-class, even down to the text and legend being printed in Dutch, French and English. To keep the crews and spectators entertained whilst we waited for the 15.00 hours start time for Car 1, we were treated to the delights of a Military Bagpipe Band, resplendent in their Scottish-style kilts!

On further investigation of the paperwork, we realised that this event was going to stretch both crew members and car to the limit. There were a number of new items we had not seen before, but a very helpful Belgian lady co-driver came to our aid and ran through these points with us. The appointed hour of 15.00 arrived and Car 1 left the start gantry, closely followed by the other quick machines and proper rally cars from Car Park A. We and the other entrants from Car Park B then joined the exit route from Boezinge town. The route was separated into 4 legs, interspersed with 3 rest halts. Leg 1 was the traditional Tulip-style road book, with small red-on-white background code boards to be spotted and recorded on the paperwork. One needed eyes all round for this challenge and we did not fair too well with our low score of sightings. But – hey! - it can only get better – and we are having great fun on a glorious sunny day! 

The roads used for this leg were the fantastic quiet and twisty ones that abound in the Boezinge area. After 43.89kms, we arrived at the first drink halt at De Oude Kaasmakerij, near Zonnebeke. This was an impressive cheese-making business and visitors’ centre - with an excellent café, large enough to refresh all the crews. The break here was for 30 minutes and then it was time to tackle Leg 2. This was again by Tulip navigation, on the very demanding maze of rural roads passing through Westrozebeke, Staden, Oostnieukirk, St Jozef De Geite and back to Staden. At Tulip 86, the smooth tarmac gave way to a short run on a non-damaging unsurfaced road - great fun was had here! Leg 2 came to an end at De Oude Melkerij te Gits (The Old Dairy Gits) adding another 53.46km to the route. This was an enormous restaurant that swallowed up all the 400 entrants plus organisers and served us with an outstanding 2-course hot meal and drinks with military precision. 

During the two-hour break here, the organisers had arranged a picture quiz of 12 car badge emblems, with the crews’ answers going towards the overall results - this was another new challenge for us. Then, from 19.30 hours, Road Book 2, covering Legs 3 and 4, was issued in batches to prevent bunching of cars on the narrow roads. We received ours at 20.15 and proceeded to mark up junctions and the Tulips that required clues answering, the system being used here was that we should record the first 3 letters of the road names at the indicated junctions. Now this was fine to start with, but, with failing light, it became necessary to use the car headlights and torch to get some of the more obscure ones!

The challenging roads continued via Roeselare, Kortemark, Handzame, Landzame and Ictegem. This was a great section for Dippy and crew, with us completing all the boxes on the sheet – hoping that we had found the right road names! At Koekelare, we arrived at a magnificent sports hall for the last stop of the day, this section having been 42.55km in length. Another 30 minutes pause and it was back to the lanes for the final section of 53.64kms, which would take us back to Boezinge. For this leg, there were questions to be answered en route – such as ‘What is the number above the road name?’ - quite similar to an English-style scatter event. This did require the driver exiting the car to get the right answer but no problems for us. All but one were spotted and answered - we are cooking on gas now! 

Passing through Kortemark and looping around Staden brought us to Tulip 59, where organiser Vincent took all our answer sheets and route check cards so that the results would be ready at the finish. This left us with just under 30kms of route to complete – and, with no clues to look for, we could sit back and enjoy the ride - very similar to the 60’s and 70’s UK road rallies. However, after completing about 10kms and whilst travelling down through the fields of maize - which was about 8 feet high - we suddenly lost all the headlights! Quite a shock - but we managed to stay on the black stuff, with just a few metres of grass over the bonnet. 

Plan A - wait for another crew and follow them using their lights. This seemed a great idea on the twisty roads, but, on the straights, we were left in the dust trail. So, Plan B - use indicators to give a small amount of light and wait for the next passing car. This worked well and we arrived at the finish in one piece. Graham and Martin were soon on the case and the exploded bulbs were replaced. Sadly, no fault could be found but we were very grateful to both for all their help. 

The town was now like a carnival scene - with music, drinks and a BBQ to help refresh the weary crews. The results were declared at 00.30 hours - regrettably no British names on the listing - we must do better next year! A vote of thanks is due to all the members of both organising clubs for putting on such a first-rate event - the road book, paperwork and food were of a superior standard. We would highly recommend other British crews to make the trip across the Channel, drive just 60 miles into Belgium and for €30 per person you get the event, refreshments and rally plate - what more could one ask for?!

For further information on this event and others organised by the Kemmel Club go to www.kemmelhistoric.be and www.classictourdiary.co.uk 

Our sincere thanks to Peter Fieldhouse for all his help in compiling our report.

Hilary and Mike Stratton plus Dippy - Car 159