Blackpool rocked

Holidaymakers in Blackpool at the weekend couldn’t avoid seeing the country’s finest vehicles showcased in the 64th UK Coach Rally. The sun shone on everyone, not least some very surprised and delighted winners

Almost 50 of the country’s top operators fielded their finest drivers and coaches for this year’s UK Coach Rally – a spectacle which even drew the gaze of Blackpool’s party animals.

Now in its 64th year, the rally was the star of the seafront, with the vehicles assembled in the shadow of Blackpool Tower. As always, there were two main strands of competition – the Concours and the driving tests…. and both yielded worthy winners.

Coaches queue for the driving test

Coaches queue for the driving test

This year’s Coach Driver of the Year was William ‘Billy’ Brayford of Blackburn-based Robinsons Holidays, who competed in a 2004 Jonckheere Mistral 50, built on Volvo B12B: “It’s a bit of a shock to me really,” Billy told Bus & Coach Buyer after picking up the trophy.

“The test was both nerve-wracking and exciting, but I managed a clear run.” Billy has been around coaches since the age of 11 and, being born in Blackpool, had a slight advantage over some other drivers: “I had a good run and I was familiar with much of the road route,” he said.

Billy Brayford of Robinsons collects his trophy from Traffic Commissioner Kevin Rooney

Billy Brayford of Robinsons collects his trophy from Traffic Commissioner Kevin Rooney

However, this year he proved equal to the stern test of the manoeuvring course. At last year’s event – his first – it caught him out and left him in 14th place. And surprisingly, coach driving isn’t even his day job!: “I’m actually a coach fitter,” said Billy, who has three vintage coaches including to Bedford OBs.

Clearly, shunting coaches around the yard at Robinsons has honed his low-speed driving skills to perfection.

The driving event was the main focus of entrant Paul Cartwright, of Sleaford-based A&P Travel: “I thought I had a good run yesterday so I was gutted to find myself down the table,” he said. Then, to his surprise, the stewards began hanging ribbons on his Van Hool TX16 Acron…

A&P Travel celebrated a surprise win

A&P Travel celebrated a surprise win

Winning the Coach of the Year was a total surprise: “I’m speechless,” said Paul, the Managing Director of A&P Travel, which runs an extensive tour programme with its five vehicles – all of them Van Hools. The luxurious 13-metre Acron is two years old and was built to order with 49 seats at a cost of £328,000.

“It’s just come back from Spain,” said Paul. “I was bullied into entering by the staff, and it’s the first time we’ve entered, though I’ve been going to the rally for 20 years.” A&P Travel was established 12 years ago by Paul and his father, Alan, who is now 75: “But I’ve been in the industry all of my working life,” said Paul. “I’m the third generation of Cartwright drivers.

“I feel so privileged to have won. It’s just unbelievable.”


Click on the gallery at the top to see ALL of the entrants and winners!

Full results

Trophies and Awards

Coach Driver of the Year: William Brayford, Robinsons Holidays, Volvo B12B Jonckheere Mistral 50

Coach of the Year: A&P Travel, Sleaford, Van Hool TX16 Acron

Midi Driver of the Year: Anthony Head, Decker Bus, King Long XMQ6900

Mini Driver of the Year: Hannah Blake, Blakes Coaches, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 516CDi/EVM X-Clusive

Alan Goodwin Trophy (Highest placed coach operator in all classes): Howard Snaith Coaches, Volvo B9R/Plaxton Panther 2

Peter Bostock Trophy, Highest placed driver, Saturday tests: Chris Bibby, Bibbys of Ingleton, Van Hool TX15 Alicron

Top Team of the Year: Jay and Kay Coach Tours, VDL Futura FHD2-131.440

West Middlesex Coach Operators Assoc Trophy (Runner up Coach Driver of the Year: Russell Cooper, Coopers Tours, Volvo B11R/Plaxton Panther 3


Concours D’Elegance Awards

Top Mini/Midi: Williams Coaches, Yutong TC9

Top Standard Coach: Banstead Coaches Ltd, Temsa Safari HD

Top Touring/Express Luxury Coach: Johnson Bros Tours, Neoplan Tourliner

Top Coach aged five years or older: Brethertons Gold Line Tours, Volvo 9700 (2013)

Trophy for Top Executive Coach: Howard Snaith Coaches, Irizar i8 Integral

Rita Dalziel Trophy, Top coach aged 25 years or older: Johnson Bros Tours, Plaxton Supreme IV/VolvoB58-56

John Fielder Memorial Trophy, Top coach, small fleet up to five vehicles: Gibbons Coach Holidays, Mercedes-Benz Tourismo M/3


Concours d’elegance manufacturer awards

Neoplan (Top Neoplan):  Johnson Bros Tours, Neoplan Tourliner

Plaxton (Top Plaxton): Coopers Tours, Plaxton Panther 3/Volvo B11R

Beulas (Top Moseley Beulas): Bensons Travel, Beulas Aura/MAN RR4 26.500

Van Hool (Top Van Hool): A&P Travel, Van Hool TX16 Acron

Irizar (Best Irizar Integral): Howard Snaith Coaches, Irizar i8

VDL (Top Moseley VDL):  Stanley Travel, VDL Futura FHD2-139.440

Volvo (Top Volvo Buses coach): Brethertons Gold Line Tours, Volvo 9700

Jonckheere : Robinson Holidays, Jonckheere Mistral 50/VolvoB12B

Yutong (Top Yutong): Williams Coaches, Yutong TC9

Mercedes-Benz: Chesters Coaches, Mercedes-Benz Tourismo

MobiPeople: Holmeswood Coaches, MobiPeople Explorer/MAN RR8 19.290

Kassbohrer/Setra Trophy: Classic Coaches, Co. Down, Setra S415GT-HD


Special awards

Boon’s Award (Best Coordinated décor): Howard Snaith Coaches, Irizar i8

Peter Rogers (Top CPT Member): A&P Travel, Van Hool TX16 Acron

Cymru (Top coach from Wales):  Gibbons Coach Holidays, Mercedes-Benz Tourismo M/3

Tony Roose (Top coach from Scotland): MJ Forsyth Travel (Blyth), Van Hool T917 Astron

Fred Bibby Award (Best loved coach): Glen Valley Tours, Jonckheere JHV/Volvo B11R

LTCOA Martin Cornell Trophy (Highest placed LTCOA in all classes): Coopers Tours, Plaxton Panther 3/Volvo B11R

Maurice Wrightson Memorial Shield – sponsored by drivers from Stanley Travel (Oldest employed driver participating): Peter Naylor, Redfern Travel, Irizar i6 (10.8m)

Smartest uniformed driver &/or courier: Yorkshire Rose Holidays, Van Hool TX16 Acron

Directors Challenge: Tom James, York Pullman Bus Company/****

The Bernie Porton Memorial Trophy – sponsored by CDN&S (Coach of the Year as voted by the Coach Drivers): Tyrers Coaches, Van Hool TDX25 Astromega

Arthur J Gallagher Trophy (highest-placed driver under 25):  Hannah Blake, Blakes Coaches, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 516CDi/EVM X-Clusive

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