More than 60 classic rally cars – some from as far afield as the Czech Republic – are set to participate in the fourth biennial Poppy Regularity Rally, which takes place in Belgium from 20-22 March.
Based around the historic town of Ypres, the event will involve each crew tackling 600km of winding Belgian roads, with each competing for top honours. The majority of the route comprises regularity sections where crews attempt to maintain an average speed over set distances, but the Poppy also includes a large number of driving tests – some of which are held on closed roads.
The event will begin in Poperinge on 20 March, where cars will undergo scrutineering before crews will have the chance for one final shakedown run. The competition proper begins at 8am the following day, where the route will take competitors towards Ypres.
Among those already signed up are Peter Horsburgh and Anthony Preston, who drove their 1965 Morris Mini Cooper S to second position in 2013, only to be beaten to the top prize by the Belgian-registered MGB GT V8 of Eddy D'hoe and Bjorn Van Overschelde. Also taking part are John Bateson and Iain Tullie, whose '69 MGB Roadster finished third in 2013 and second two years earlier.
However, hot favourites Jan Ebus and Jan Berkhof are fancied to take another victory following their success at last year's Winter Challenge.
Other crews taking part include Cheshire’s Howard Warren, partnered by Brian Goff in a Porsche 911. Warren recently took the UK’s HRCR Clubman’s Championship on the final round of the series, while his navigator on that event, Ryan Pickering, partnered Alexander Leurs to victory on the Winter Trial in Norway. Pickering will be competing on the Poppy with the massively experienced Kevin Haselden in a Mini Cooper S.
The Historic Endurance Rally Association's Kev Haworth told C&SC: "Paul Crosby and Andy Pullan are dark horses following their recent win on the VCRR Winter Rally. They're still without a European win, and if it wasn't for a wrong turn on last year's Le Jog event, they could have challenged for a top spot."
“For me, The Poppy is the event to do," said Paul Bosdet, navigator to legendary Irish Rallycross driver Dermot Carnegie. "The maps and organisation are superb, the closed roads tests add another dimension that is hard to find anywhere. With the roads being so flat and featureless, concentration is the key on this event for navigators; I got distracted last year and took a wrong turn which cost DC and I the win. We’ll be back this year and will hopefully fare better!”
There's still time to sign up for the event, but spaces are limited. Local crews may qualify for a special discount.