History of the Jersey Rally

You may be surprised to learn that car rallying in Jersey actually started in the very early days of the JMC&LCC – in the 1920’s cars were invited to join the motorcycle competitors in reliability trials – driving across many farm lanes, steep hills and tricky Island paths. The first car rally was held in 1935 won by Mr D Woods in a 10 bhp Ford.  There was great enthusiasm and through the 1950’s the numbers grew for these “standard” road car events.

Closed road rallying, permitted under Jersey’s International Road Race legislation (from 1947), commenced in 1977 with two successful events.  Dave Piczenik and Brian “Puffin” Wilson won the January Daffodil Rally in their Sunbeam Stiletto – a mighty 6.5 miles of closed roads! The May 1977 Spring Festival Rally increased the mileage 3-fold to 19.5 miles. Whilst stage rallying continued on unsealed surfaces – farm tracks, private lanes,  it was to be 6 years before another closed road rally event.

During 1982 a band of enthusiastic rally folk met to launch a new initiative to return to closed road rallying. When they approached the authorities, the initial reaction was negative as there was a view that the 1947 legislation should not be used for scavenger hunts! Once it was clarified that closed road rallying was a timed competition, the authorities were supportive.  

So the team of experienced rally folk, Denis Jean, John Woolley, Ken Thomson, Brian Wilson and British Leyland works driver Pat Ryan set to work. October was agreed with the authorities as the most appropriate time for the Jersey Rally for truly island reasons. The roads could not be closed during May and June as the digging season for the famous Jersey Royal potatoes had to be protected. As Tourism was still a significant industry, it also made sense to avoid the peak of the summer season. 

After much hard work and organisation, many “PR” meetings and visits to householders, very close liaison with both the Honorary Police force and the Connetables of all the parishes, and the States of Jersey Police, the rally was approved and the official road closure legislation passed by the States of Jersey. October 1983 saw 32 entries leave the start line, including 11 visitors from the “mainland”, with 35 miles of competitive stages. (Fast forward to 2022 and we now have a 2 day event with… Competition miles on closed roads and an entry of 80 cars).  The winners’ laurels went to Wales that year with John Morgan and Roger Evans winning in their fabulous Vauxhall Chevette from the Jersey team of Dave Carrel and Peter Collinson (Escort). It was a close fight at the top with the Carrel’s being fastest on 6 of the 10 stages. However, time penalties for two (disputed) jump starts led to Morgan and Evans taking the win.

The 1982 event was based at the Pomme d’Or Hotel with several service areas spread around the Island where cars were checked over between the competitive closed road sections. The original management team all played significant official roles that year, foregoing driving themselves to ensure the success of the event.

In 1983 Dave Carrel with international co-driver Peter Collinson restored the honours to Jersey, and Dave went on to win  in the next 4 years with wife Julie in 1984 and then experienced Jersey co-driver Peter Mallet.  This was also the beginning of the run for the Ford Escort – which has dominated the top step of the podium through the Jersey Rally’s history with 27 wins.  Ford Escort winners have included the Escort Mk I, the Mk II, Escort Cosworth WRC, Escort RS turbo.

Exciting cars to win the Jersey Rally include the MG Metro 6R4, the amazing Group B world championship car developed in the 1980’s – David Appleby won in 1989 in a conventional model, and then returned to similar success in  1995 with the DAM 4100 – the longer wheelbase development from the 6R4. For Mitsubishi enthusiasts, the Lancer of Steve Hill visited Jersey for wins in 1997 and 1998 and then Anthony Wilmington brought the Evo model home first in 2008.  The 4 wheel drive theme continued with wins for Subaru in 2004 – Steve Fleck and Tony Ettlinger finally winning after 11 attempts with the Subaru S5 world rally car.  Welshman Peter Lloyd with international co-driver Nicky Grist made the event his own in 2009 with a S12 WRC model. 

Perhaps one of the best stories was that of 2005 when forecasts were for mixed weather and therefore a likely 4 wheel drive winner, or a powerful Escort. As the rallying started and the stage results came in, the leading Escort of Chris Le Bonniec and Sue Allen went off the stage and other top runners fell away.  Amongst them the 1600 cc Talbot Sunbeam of Stuart and Theresa Fossey was claiming many fast stage times. On Saturday afternoon, it was clear that the win was in sight for this smaller engine car and the win was rightly claimed by the Fossey Team. A real “David and Goliath” story!

This history would not be complete without mentioning the first win by a front wheel car – the electrifying Peugeot 306 Maxi of Chris West, co-driven by Jerseyman Rob Hannah. Chris had travelled to the Jersey rally for many years, watching and supporting his father in the Peugeot. When it was eventually his turn to drive he laid down his ambition from the first stage and was rightly rewarded with the win.

From 2010 Simon Mauger and Brian Cammack made a habit of visiting Jersey to win!  Five wins to their credit saw them matching Dave Carrel’s record from the early days. However, they did not have it all their own way. A multiple winner of the Under 25 Award, Stevie Leonard then claimed outright victory with Sion Humphreys “on the notes” in 2013, 2015 and 2017.  In more recent years, we have watched the skill and determination of Jerseymen Ross Le Noa and Domonic Volante (Escort Mk II) take honours – in fact they have also reigned supreme on the Guernsey Rally since its launch and achieved the hat trick of Guernsey, L’Etacq and Jersey in several years.

Over the years, many Jerseymen and one Jerseywoman have led the event as Clerk of the Course – and the JMC&LCC is grateful to them for their dedication and also to the experience brought to the event by Clerks from the UK.  Steve Salmon holds the all time record as Clerk for the 10 years from 1989 to 1999. He also introduced several innovative features. In 1994 Richard Twinham won the JEP supported Novice Co-driver competition to sit in with Formula One driver Derek Warwick in a Honda CRV. Novice Rally Driver competitions were also organised with Steve Cartwright the first winner – lent a Toyota Corolla rally car and the services of experienced co-driver Sue Taylor to achieve a good finish in his first ever rally. The following year Tim Renault won the fiercely contested competition and a drive in an MG kindly loaned by A&C Computer principals.

Ron Allen returns again as the Clerk of the Course for the 40th Anniversary Roberts Garages Jersey Rally.  He has significant experience as Clerk of the Course – including the hat trick of Clerk for all the Channel Island rallies through 2022 and 2023. He was instrumental in the move to reduce carbon emissions in 2011 when the event moved to a central service and HQ location. Previous events had seen the “convoy” of service vans and officials moving across the Island to different service areas throughout the event. This was a real logistics challenge and life became simpler and carbon reduced with centralising at the Rally “Village” at RJA&HS.  Many folk will have memories of working on rally cars between the competitive stages in such areas as Longbeach car park, Le Braye, Haute Tombette, L’Auberge, La Collette, Living Legend, the War Tunnels, Greve de Lecq. It is only with grateful thanks to the landowners and the authorities that this was possible and the Rally always worked to leave no sign of its activity when it left. Other Jersey based Clerks of note have been Terry Gorvel, Ken Thomson, Kevin Gell, Peter Collinson, Nigel Pallot and in 2013 Claire Simon.

A fair number of  “celebrity” competitors have also made the journey to the island with success. We have been delighted to welcome Jimmy McRae, father of world champion Colin McRae, who competed in a fabulous Porsche 911 in 1997 and claimed 2nd overall. Similarly a Porsche 911 was the car of choice of Le Mans winner, Derek Bell in 1995 with Jerseyman Richard Hollick guiding him to 7th overall. Tony Pond also competed in 1991 in the “star” car running in the MG Metro rally championship – Jersey was a round of this championship and this attracted a healthy number of visitors to the event based at the Jersey Holiday Village.

Amongst the lady competitors, we have welcomed TV presenter Louise Goodman (Ford Fiesta) and also Barbara Armstrong (Seat Ibiza), one of the few ladies to feature strongly at word rally championship level. Jersey talent has also shone through with Sue Allen (Vauxhall Astra and latterly a Subaru Impreza) campaigning for many years – principally with Christine Birch in the co-driver seat. Julie Carrel also enjoyed success in the early days of the Jersey Rally in her Escort. For the 2022 Roberts Garages Jersey Rally we are delighted to welcome at least 2 all lady crews.

The Jersey Rally has always sought to contribute to the Island and, for many years, sponsorship was raised by the competitors to support Family Nursing & Homecare. Both cash contributions and also equipment were donated. Individual teams continue to raise both funds and awareness of their preferred charities whilst competing.


(Note: Thank you to JMC&LCC historian Ken Thomson for assistance.