Wessex Motor Club A History of the Wessex Motor Club

Pre 1970

Dennis Purser and the T-Series MG he competed in.
Olly's Mini - 2003
Following the advent of motor cars around 1885, it didn't take long for competitions to start. First with challenges from city to city, then country to country and soon trans-continental races. It seems France was at the forefront of this pioneering sport but the UK soon took up the challenge. Some UK motor clubs trace their history back as far as this but many started in the 1950's as the motor car became increasing popular. It was soon after Southampton College gained University status in 1952 that its students started to join in this craze.

The university newspaper The Wessex News/Scene (who recently celebrated 70 years of publishing) ran reports documenting the first rally in 1958 and an interesting incident in 1963 when a mini was driven into the union and the ever practical nature of the clubs members shone through when problems arose.

"Whacky Racers
Wessex Motor Club held their first night navigational rally in February. 25 cars left the university late afternoon and attempted to find their way "via the narrowest roads in the district" to a control point at St Mary Bourne, collecting various pieces of useless information on the way. This was followed by a 3 mile circuit to be covered at exactly 15 mph average, with points lost for arriving seconds late or early. After a supper halt, the drivers made their way back to the university between 10.30 and midnight. The best performances came from:
D.P. Vincent, a guest from Kingston Technical College Motor Club, driving an Austin A35
M. Thurner in a Morgan TR2
D. Exell in a Citroen"

"Top Gear
Wessex News reported that "attractive 19-year-old Mrs Penelope Wagstaff", the wife of a 3rd Year Engineer, made history at the Freshers' Reception by becoming the first woman to drive into the West building.
Although it appeared at first that she was looking for a place to park, it was later discovered that the car was to be an attraction to lure Freshers into joining Wessex Motor Club.
She reportedly drove her Mini up a couple of planks of wood through the entrance to the West building then along the corridor but came to a temporary halt when the car became wedged in the doorway leading to the Refectory. WMC mechanics soon solved the problem by removing the door handles!"

The club logo of the 'old car' as seen on sweatshirts dates back to the 1970s. Other designs have amused many students since then but it is nice that this has remained.

Championships and Trophies

Apart from these newspaper reports we know very little about how the club was run prior to 1976. At this time the Plotters Cup was introduced. The PC championship still runs today with 10 rounds including a mix of 12-cars and scatters. The cup has survived, with additional levels for more names and a battered nature giving it distinctive character. I think having been 'run over' seems somewhat appropriate for a motor club trophy. Prior to this there was a trophy that was made of bits of motor car welded together. (A fact remembered after a chance meeting in a pub a few years back with a previous member Dennis Purser who competed in the T-series MG - above).

The RUC championship has run alongside the PC competition since 1987, rewarding promising newcomers to the sport. This was presented to the club by Adam Kodish, Rob Nugent and Doug Robinson who competed together, entering events as 'the Really Useless Company'. It became apparent in that there were some very good 'new' crews around, who stood no chance of winning anything, because there were also some very good 'old' crews about. So, at the time Adam graduated, they got together, bought and presented to the club the Really Useless Company Newcomer's Shield, to be presented each year to the 'best' complete newcomer crew over the PC season.

Both championships are well grounded in tradition and fought for with intense competition often seeing winners go on to other rallying accolades. An example of this is Roger Davidson who won the PC trophy with team mate Clive Dopson in 1976 and 1977 came back to to win the clubs own Funky Elephant Rally navigating Mike East in 2005.

Joe Barber and Steve Barnard on the Summer Scatter
Dave Irwin was a club president and PC trophy winner around 1980, who started the Summer Scatter an annual daytime event run on the Sunday of the first May bank holiday weekend starting at the university and finishing at the Milburys. This is open to all and adherence to tradition allows past members to come back and get together while providing an opportunity to invite interested new potential members and give current students a fun day of lighthearted competition. In recent years this has often started with a water fight with the 'weapons' becoming increasingly engineered (think integrated screen washer jets...) or crews in fancy dress.

Other trophies are awarded in a variety of related disciplines. Presented to the club and named by Andy Coshan, the Cosh trophy has been awarded to students for representing the club in external events since 2001. After the popularity of social karting trips, the last 2 years has seen the interclub karting championship become very popular and competitive. While not annual trophies there are awards for novel repairs 'bodges' that overcome event threatening breakdowns or for incidents 'beyond' the call of service to rallying. There is also an autotest trophy in memory of a former member but the lack of a serious venue has meant this has not been presented in recent years.

Between 1985 and 1995 the season ended with a "Summer Silly" an opportunity to try a completely new format. Each 'silly' had its own name: PC Plod in 1985, there were also Summer Splatter (87) and Summer Spratter (88), the PratScat (set by Prar, Anthony and Trevor, you see) (89), an Irritation Scatter (1990), the Ron Obvious Memorial Scatter (about 91) and a nameless one (94) as recruiting drive. After the 93-94 season almost all active members graduated, but a lot of work from a hardy few saw the club rapidly re-establish a large & keen membership.

Inter University Challenge

Wessex Motor Club is a strong and well respected opponent. We started competing in the university karting championships in the 1990's. This last season saw Southampton shine on some events with some event wins but taking 10th and 19th overall of the 56 competing teams. Inter university club 12 cars run intermittently with wessex always represented and competitive. We remain the current National Student Motor Sport Champions. This competition is hosted around the country as far afield as Edinburgh with a triad of autotest, table top and road rally. It was last run in 2004 in Leeds, prior to that we hosted and won the event in 2003.

Outside and Beyond

Competing, organising and marshalling does not stop after each WMC event. Many current and past members join other motor clubs and karting championships to continue the passion outside university. In the late 80s, WMC were keen competitors in the 'Five Maps Scatter Championship' (165, 174, 175, 185, 186) run by a collective of Thames Valley motor clubs - and doing well. In 1990 the 'Invitation Scatter' was born to invite members of other clubs. It ran 5 times, with Wessex winning 3 of the 5.

In October 2005 a chap called Fred Twist contacted the club, trying to drum up interest in a trophy he was selling on ebay. It was awarded to a Mr Edwards for 2nd place on the WMC Downlands Rally in 1958 but we have found no other record of this. Wessex was involved in organising the Three Counties rally and is now it is the main organiser of the Funky Elephant Rally, an all night navigational road rally, which started around 2000. This is a popular round of the ACSMC championship. Other the years WMC members and ex members have had good results in this championship. Others have moved onto the likes of Enduro rallying, the 205 challenge or historic rallying. Marshalling teams go to the Wales Rally GB, the Sunseeker rally and other national single venue stage rallies as line marshals and time keepers.

Can you help?

We don't know where many of the old members go or what they do. Are you still involved in motorsport? Did WMC spur a passion to moving into a related work field? We'd love to add more info to this page so please let us know more stories and correct me if I'm wrong.

Who suggested the Plotters Cup? Was the Downlands Rally related to WMC?

Interesting links

http://www.wessexscene.co.uk/sport/711 - November 2003
http://www.wessexscene.co.uk/sport/871 - October 2004
http://www.wessexscene.co.uk/sport/564 - May 2003
http://www.wessexscene.co.uk/sport/415 - January 2003
http://www.wessexscene.co.uk/sport/344 - November 2002