Reviews & Reports‎ > ‎2014 Reviews‎ > ‎

2014 - Serge Messine - 30 Aug

This was to be the 3rd running of this tour, held in memory of the late Serge Messine, former President of YHRO (Ypres Historic Rally Organisation) and a leading light in rally events in the region of Boezinge. The event was organised by the Kemmel Historic Comite and YHRO. The small town of Boezinge was once again the choice for both the start and the finish, with the focus being on the Café De Zwann, a hostelry steeped in rallying history. 

A fantastic entry of some 190 cars had signed up for the tour, these being split into categories of exclusive, rally and replica plus historic. The exclusive cars included a Lamborghini Gallardo Leggera, a Nobel M10, a Renault Alpine V6GTA, a Ferrari 328 and a Jaguar D Type to name but a few. In the rally section, there was an ex-works Metro 6R4 from the David Richards stable, a Triumph TR7 bearing the name of Tony Pond and a Ford RS 200 with the registration C142 JJN. The star of the event should have been No. 161 - an Opel Ascona to be driven by Jimmy McRae – but sadly this car did not start - we believe there were some problems over the car’s paperwork. There were 3 UK entries - Terry and Helen Schraider in their immaculate Triumph TR4A, Doug Dawe in his nicely-prepared MG Maestro - a car from the challenge days - plus ourselves in Dippy. The whole town became a giant car park to house all the entrants, the marshals doing a very good job of using all the pavements to accommodate the cars, making use of every square inch. 

Our first task was to distribute a flyer to all the entrants for a new UK event - the Principality Classic Trial and Traditional Tour - which generated a lot of interest with the Belgian crews. This to take place at the end of April 2015 and will take in the length and breadth of Wales with all its glorious quiet roads and is being organised by the Principality Automobile Club. More details and entry forms can be found by logging onto www.principality-automobile-club.co.uk

While we waited for the proceedings to start, we were entertained by a fine Pipe Band playing in the town square, surrounded by the classic cars. Following documentation, which opened at 11.00 hours, the 00 Course Safety Car - a superb rally-prepared BMW 327 - left the town square start at 12.30 hours. At 13.00 hours, the exclusive and rally cars made their way under the start banner. As with other tours we have entered in Belgium, there were the traditional photograph clues to be spotted en route and the first 3 letters of some of the road names to be recorded on the time card.

Leg 1 was 55.42km long and took in a route via Birkshoter and Langemark, passing through some very nice villages and then passing around the much-visited Tynecot World War 1 Cemetery. More interesting roads took us via Zonnebeke, Brielen and Vlamertinge to the first drink stop of 30 minutes. Rest over, it was time to start Leg 2 which would add another 70.49km to the route. We were soon out of the habitation and into the more rural roads - some with a good covering of ‘modder’ (Flemish for mud). A nice run through the forest brought us to Westouter, which was followed by some English-style 3-ply roads and lots of 90 degree bends with 2-metre high maize at the side to keep the drivers occupied!

The climbs around Monteberg gave some stunning views across the valleys that saw a lot of conflict in the 1914-1918 years. The next place of note to be passed was Zillebeke, followed by more forest roads and then on to the evening meal rest halt at the Bellewaerde Passim - a massive, family tourist attraction - a bit like Alton Towers on steroids! There was much interest from the general public, looking at the wonderful display of classic cars. All the crews retired to an enormous function room, in which around 400 of us were to be served with a hot 2-course meal of soup, followed by pork tenderloin with all the trimmings and a very generous serving of the famous Belgian chips - a meal to die for! This whole operation was accomplished in true Belgian style - with courtesy and a smile. 

On arrival at the meal halt, we had been issued with a time to collect Road Book 2 and this was very carefully monitored by the KHC marshals - no road book until your time ticked around! The second road book was similar to the first, split into 2 legs, the only change being that on Leg 3 we would now be looking for code boards. These small red signs would be on the right-hand side of the road - so the UK drivers were now guiding the car and also having to keep an eye open for the boards. Our due time out for the start of the 35km Leg 3 was 19.23 hours. 

Again, the choice of roads was excellent - lots of junctions and short sections to keep both the crew busy. We travelled via Geluwe, Terhand and Beselare to Hollebeke for another break at the De Palingbeek near Zillebeke. A 20-minute drinks’ break had been allowed for here and our time card was taken at the In Control so that the organisers could work out the results ready for the finish. Darkness had now arrived and the entrants had a choice of following the Tulip Book Leg 4 back to Boezinge, adding 35.78kms to the total, or taking a more direct route back to the finish using the road book map. Eager to try out Dippy’s new Hella Spotlights, we chose the tulip route option. This was fantastic - no more photographs, road names or code boards to be spotted - just follow the tulips and enjoy the ride! The lights worked well and, once again, the organisers had made very good use of the network of roads available. It was just like turning the clock back to the good old road rally days in the UK, but sadly the 35kms went far too quickly – and we were not allowed a second lap! 

Back in Boezinge, there was a true party atmosphere! At De Zwann, a jazz band was playing out in the main street, complemented by a vast choice of Belgian beers - what a way to finish the tour! At around 22.00 hours, the results were declared and the awards presented. Us Brits fared quite well - Doug Dawe was 9th overall in the Maestro, the Schraider’s were 21st, with ourselves one point behind in 22nd place, despite Hilary’s few wrong slots! 

We were also presented with the award for the crew who had driven the furthest distance from home. A big thank you to Vincent, Dirk and all the members of KHC and YHRO, who gave their time to put on another splendid event - excellent value at only €75 for a crew of 2. We recommend you give these events in Belgium a try - there are many of them and Ypres is only 60 miles from Calais. For more information and photographs on this tour plus forthcoming events visit www.kemmelhistoric.be and www.classictourdiary.co.uk 

Mike and Hilary Stratton plus Dippy

Our sincere thanks to Peter Fieldhouse for all his help in editing and proof-reading our report.