Chichester’s Stuart and Simon Larbey took part in the Rallye Sunseeker in the New Forest in their iconic Comptervision MG Metro 6r4 – and gave the vehicle a fitting send-off into retiremenmt.
The famous car was run in the 1986 Rally of Portugal by two rallying legends Tony Pond and Rob Arthur, both sadly no longer with us. It has been part of the Larbey household for more than 15 years, with Stuart’s best result a victory at the South of England Rally in 2001.
The car, run by Historic Motorsport (South West) Ltd, was in pristine condition for the Sunseeker. The rally started in Poole Quay on Friday when fans had the opportunity to meet the top UK teams in the sport for the floodlit ceremonial start.
Simon, who along with Stuart was taking part in support of the Children’s Trust, said: “It always feels embarrassing signing autographs and having your picture taken. The car’s the real attraction – the rest of the year no-one knows who we are!”
The real action started on a damp Saturday morning in Wareham Forest, with Bognor Motor Club running the first stage. Simon said: “It’s nice to see familiar faces before being hurled around the stages – it settles the nerves a bit.”
The crew tackled three stages in the morning, lying seventh overall before retuning to service, with one minor incident seeing them hit a tree exiting a corner, causing minor damage.
The second set of special stages were run through the Ringwood forests, with one through the Somerley estate. That one undulates through the trees before a water splash and tarmac section. After these stages Stuart and Simon were beginning to find a good rhythm with the car moving fifth behind four World Rally cars.
With three stages left, anxiety ruled the Larbeys. A decision was made by Stuart and Dave Boucher, Historic Motorsport’s chief mechanic, to use the lampod to aid the team in the gathering darkness with only 17 stage miles to go.
Two stages passed without incident and the final ten-mile stage, run in the dark, was all the Larbeys needed to complete before returning to Bouremouth town centre for the finish. The team used the lampod for the night stage to aid driving at more than 100mph in pitch black.
Stuart said: “For the 12 miles on the road section to Bournemouth and the finish ramp, we were elated, laughing all the way.
“We both struggled to find the words, but to finish fifth overall and first in class was the icing on the cake for us.”
The event was special for another reason for the local rally team. Stuart said: “As an expectant grandfather of Simon’s first child, I felt it apt to be carrying the Children’s Trust logo to raise awareness.
“We’d also like to thank the Rallye Sunseeker team for their friendship and many years of memories and glad we were persuaded for one last outing.”
After three retirements on the event, the Larbeys put their past demons behind them in completing the rally, and retired the iconic car from competition on a high.
You can see the team at Goodwood Festival of Speed this summer.