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New name takes top honour at UK Coach Rally

By The Whisperer

With many years in the coach and bus industry, The Whisperer keeps his ear to the ground for all the latest tit-bits and gossip. Tell him what’s going on in your part of the world: e-mail him via

The industry put on another good show over the weekend of 6-7 April when the 65th UK Coach Rally was held in Blackpool. Some old names triumphed; so did some newcomers to the annual event, too

Go G VIP’s Van Hool TDX21 Altano claimed the Coach of the Year honour

The 52 entries into last weekend’s 65th UK Coach Rally in Blackpool were rewarded with fine weather as the cream of the industry was once again recognised on the Fylde coast.

But it wasn’t only the weather that delivered. The industry did too. Some fine-looking coaches were treated to manic cleaning, polishing and tyre-blacking before both Saturday’s road run and driving heats and Sunday’s judging session.

Among them were many 19-plates, some of which had only been delivered last week. They included a Volvo 9900 for DJ Thomas Coaches, Irizar integrals for Blakes Coaches, Heathside Travel and Prospect Coaches, two VDL Futura FHD2s and several others.

This year, North Western Traffic Commissioner Simon Evans made his Rally debut. He took part as a judge before presenting the silverware during the Sunday afternoon.

Top of the tree

In the headline category, Go G VIP took home the big trophy at the first time of asking. Its superb Van Hool TDX21 Altano interdecker with just 42 seats was recognised as Coach of the Year, triumphing in a very tough field.

That wasn’t all for the Manchester operator. Its Altano also claimed silverware for Top Executive Coach, the John Fielder Memorial Trophy for top coach from a small fleet, the Van Hool Trophy and the Peter Rogers Trophy for top CPT member.

Coach Driver of the Year 2019 is Russell Cooper of Killamarsh-based Coopers Tours. Repeating his victory of 2017, Russell took the award while piloting a recently-delivered Volvo B8R with Plaxton Panther bodywork.

Award-winning metalwork

Coopers’ Panther also won recognition as Top Touring/Express Luxury Coach, and it claimed both the Plaxton Trophy and the London Tourist Coach Operators Association (LTCOA) Martin Cornell Trophy for highest-placed LTCOA member.

Russell Cooper of Coopers Tours named Coach Driver of the Year 2019

Top Coach from Scotland was awarded to Lothian Motorcoaches for its brand-new Panther-bodied Volvo B11R. Top Coach from Wales went to Williams Coaches of Brecon. Its Mercedes-Benz Tourismo M/2 won many favourable comments and it thus also came away with the Mercedes-Benz Trophy.

Reptons Coaches took home the award for top coach aged five year or over with its striking Van Hool T916 Astron dating from 2008. Reptons’ Astron also claimed the Fred Bibby Trophy for best-loved coach.

Hotly-contested was the Rita Dalzell Trophy for top coach aged 25 years or older. No fewer than three Volvo B58s with Plaxton Supreme IV bodywork were present, along with a Seddon Pennine VII with a Supreme III body and a Mercedes-Benz O303.

Although all five are fine examples of coaches of their period, Sharpes of Nottingham came out on top with its B58, which dates from 1981. Comprehensively restored, the coach seats 45 with tables and it even comes with a full set of teacups branded with an authentic Plaxton logo.

Inglebys Luxury Coaches triumphed in the Top Mini/Midi class for its new Plaxton Cheetah XL-bodied Mercedes-Benz Atego, while Rally newcomer Manchester Bee’s Neoplan Tourliner P22 won recognition as Top Standard Coach. It also took home the Neoplan Trophy.

Other winners of vehicle trophies were Blakes Coaches, Brethertons Gold Line Tours, Coachpoint, Haines Minicoaches, Marshalls of Sutton-on-Trent, Redline Travel and Yorkshire Rose Holidays.

The Gwyn Williams Trophy went to Gibbons Coach Holidays for its Mercedes-Benz Tourismo and Glen Valley Tours’ Van Hool T9 Acron of 2011 was recognised as Coach of the Year as voted by attending drivers.

Other categories

Howard Snaith Coaches once again received the Alan Goodwin Trophy for highest-placed coach operator in all classes, and newcomer Coachpoint was recognised as Top Team of the Year.

Among five classic coaches was this Plaxton-bodied Seddon Pennine VII

Runner-up to Coach Driver of the Year was Darryn Hughes of Classic Coaches Co Down, and the Directors Challenge was won by Martijn Gilbert of East Yorkshire Coaches.

Midi Driver of the Year was awarded to Adam Mills of Yorkshire Rose Holidays, while the Peter Bostock Trophy for highest-placed driver in the Saturday tests went to Kevin Walker of Inglebys Luxury Coaches.

Karl Brazier of Jay and Kay tours was adjudged to be the smartest uniformed driver or courier, while last but not least, Geoffrey Cochrane of stalwart participant Kenzies Coaches received the Maurice Wrightson Memorial Shield as oldest employed participant in the Rally.

Strong trading

Trade exhibitors at this year’s Rally reported strong interest, with several coaches making their Blackpool debuts.

Among them were Yutong’s GT12, with one of a number of those now in the country on Pelican Bus and Coach’s stand. Volvo, meanwhile, showed an MCV-bodied B11R for Golden Tours alongside its 9900 demonstrator.

Plaxton exhibited ed both the Leopard Interurban and the 13.2m Elite on Volvo B8R chassis for the first time, and MAN showed a TGE converted by Minibus Options. Other suppliers backing the Rally were Arriva Bus and Coach, BASE Coach Sales, EvoBus (UK) and Irizar UK.

The date for next year’s Rally is awaited. For 2019, operators journeyed from as far away as Peterhead, Tiverton and Northern Ireland, indicating that interest in the event remains as strong as ever. routeone congratulates this year’s winners.

2019's Rally winners

Coach of the Year Go G VIP, Van Hool TDX21 Altano
Coach Driver of the Year Russell Cooper, Coopers Tours
Midi Driver of the Year Adam Mills, Yorkshire Rose Holidays
Highest placed operator in all classes Howard Snaith Coaches
Top Team of the Year Coachpoint
Coach Driver of the Year runner-up Darryn Hughes, Classic Coaches Co Down
Highest placed driver in Saturday tests Kevin Walker, Inglebys Luxury Coaches
Directors Challenge Trophy Martijn Gilbert, East Yorkshire Coaches
Top Mini/Midi Inglebys Luxury Coaches, Mercedes-Benz Atego Plaxton Cheetah XL
Top Standard Coach Manchester Bee, Neoplan Tourliner P22
Top Touring/Express Luxury Coach Coopers Tours, Volvo B8R Plaxton Panther
Top Executive Coach Go G VIP, Van Hool TDX21 Altano
Top Coach aged five years or older Reptons Coaches, Van Hool T916 Astron
Top Coach aged 25 years or older Sharpes of Nottingham, Volvo B58 Plaxton Supreme IV
Top Coach from a small fleet Go G VIP, Van Hool TDX21 Altano
Top Neoplan Manchester Bee, Neoplan Tourliner P22
Top Jonckheere Redline Travel, Volvo B11R Jonckheere JHV2
Top Setra Coachpoint, Setra S250
Top Plaxton Coopers Tours, Volvo B8R Plaxton Panther
Top Beulas supplied by Moseley Blakes Coaches, MAN RR4 Beulas Mythos
Top Mercedes-Benz Williams Coaches, Mercedes-Benz Tourismo M/2
Top Van Hool Go G VIP, Van Hool TDX21 Altano
Top VDL supplied by Moseley Marshalls of Sutton-on-Trent, VDL Futura FHD2-106
Top Bova supplied by Moseley Marshalls of Sutton-on-Trent, VDL Futura FHD2-106
Top Coach supplied by Volvo Brethertons Gold Line Tours, Volvo 9700
Best Irizar integral Blakes Coaches, irizar i6S integral
Top Sitcar supplied by Moseley Haines Minicoaches, Iveco Daily Sitcar Voyager
Top Yutong supplied by Pelican Yorkshire Rose Holidays, Yutong TC9
Top CPT member Go G VIP, Van Hool TDX21 Altano
Top Coach from Scotland Lothian Motorcoaches, Volvo B11R Plaxton Panther
Top Coach from Wales Williams Coaches, Mercedes-Benz Tourismo M/2
Best-loved coach Reptons Coaches, Van Hool T916 Astron
Highest-placed LTCOA member Coopers Tours
Gwyn Williams Trophy Gibbons Coach Holidays
Oldest employed participant Geoffrey Cochrane, Kenzies Coaches
Coach of the Year voted by drivers Glen Valley Tours, Van Hool T915 Acron
Best co-ordinated decor Marshalls of Sutton-on-Trent, VDL Futura FHD2-106
Smartest uniformed driver or courier Karl Brazier, Jay and Kay Tours

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