Welsh dragons take top honour

  • It was a particularly good weekend for Welsh operators in the 68th UK Coach Rally that saw a rescue helicopter hovering overhead, somersaults during the awards, a beach party and some of the windiest weather experienced for the event in many years.

Leading the Welsh charge was D J Thomas of Neath with the first of the new generation Van Hool T series coaches to appear in the UK. This 13.45m, DAF-powered, 53-seat T16 Astron was awarded the UK Coach Rally Coach of the Year title. It is the fifth Van Hool for the 50-strong fleet.

Taking a total of seven awards was described by third generation Director, Hannah Rees, as ‘overwhelming’ and a very happy moment for the family business that celebrates its 70th Anniversary this year. The coach had been delivered on the Thursday before the Rally, having arrived in the UK from the Van Hool factory in North Macedonia less than a week previously.

One award it didn’t win was the Gwynn Williams Trophy for the highest placed coach in all classes from Wales; this went to Adventure Coachlines’ Scania K360IB4 driven by Darren Russell.

The 13 drivers through to the Sunday drive-off for the Coach Driver of the Year were Robert Weston of F.R Willets; Darren Russell of Adventure Coachlines; John Williams of Williams Coaches; Tim Watts of Portsmouth City Coaches; Jacob Marshall of Marshalls; Kevin Walker of York Pullman; Tim Southby of Heathside Travel; Russel Cooper of Coopers Tours; Christopher Firth of Metcalfe Coaches; Matthew Haynes of Banstead Coaches; Chris Bibby of Bibby’s of Ingleton; Nicholas Miller of Miller Brothers; and Nigel Poyner of Parrys International, with Rosemary Williams of Williams Coaches and Louisa Morgan of Portsmouth City Coaches contesting the Midi Coach run-off.

Ultimately victorious, winning the UK Coach Rally Coach Driver of the Year title was Robert Weston of F.R Willetts of Coleford driving a 2021 12.3m Mercedes-Benz Tourismo. The Willetts name has been synonymous with coaching in the Forest of Dean for the last 90 years, but they were entering the Rally for the first time so also carried off the Cyril Kenzie Memorial Trophy for the highest placed first-time coach entrant.

Runner up was Chris Bibby of Bibby’s of Ingleton, winning the West Middlesex Coach Operator’s Trophy in his Van Hool T15 Alicron.

Rosemary Williams, representing the family firm of Williams of Brecon, took the Midi Coach Driver of the Year title in a brand new Temsa MD9 39-seater.

The Director’s Challenge Trophy was won by Nick Marland, a Director of Blakes Coaches of Tiverton in Devon in an Irizar i6s bodied Scania KN410NI6x2.

Top Team on the Road for 2024, with the best performance in Saturday’s road run, was Coachpoint in a Setra 415HD, with possibly the youngest team ever to enter the competition, Aiden Emmitt and Oscar Money being only 19 years old. The pair celebrated their success by executing an impressive synchronised standing somersault on the Comedy Carpet. We’re sure Cyril Kenzie never did that.

In a double success, Carlisle-based Metcalfe Coaches again won the Alan Goodwin Trophy for the Highest Placed Coach Operator in all Classes in their 70-seat Van Hool T915 Alicron, with Christopher Firth winning the Peter Bostock Trophy for the highest placed driver in the Saturday tests.

Aside from the DJ Thomas Van Hool, other winners of Concours D’Elegance Awards were: Repton’s whose Van Hool EX15M was the Top Standard Coach; Acklam’s of Beverley’s DAF-powered Irizar i6 Integral was the Top Executive Coach, also winning the Irizar Trophy; and Connexions Buses who took the Rita Dalziel Trophy for the Top Coach aged 25 years or older with their 1980 Volvo B58-61 Plaxton Supreme IV in the livery of Kenzies Coaches. Exclusive Holidays Ltd’s 2012 Setra 416GT-HD was the Top Coach aged five years or older and also went home with the John Fielder Memorial Trophy for the Top Coach from a fleet with up to five vehicles and The Kassbohrer trophy for the Best Setra.

Click the images top of the page to see all of the entrants and winners.

UK Coach Rally 2024

All the winners

Top Trophies and Awards
Coach of the Year Van Hool T16 Astron, DJ Thomas Coaches
Coach Driver of the Year Robert Weston, Willetts Coaches
Midi Driver of the Year Rosemary Williams, Williams Coaches
Alan Goodwin Trophy – highest placed coach operator in all classes Metcalfe Coaches
Top Team on the Road Coachpoint
West Middlesex Coach Operators Association Trophy – runner-up to Coach Driver of the Year Chris Bibby, Bibbys of Ingleton
Peter Bostock Trophy – highest placed driver in Saturday tests Chris Firth, Metcalfe Coaches
Directors’ Challenge Nick Marland, Blakes Coaches.
Concours D’Élégance
Top Mini/Midi Williams Coaches, Temsa MD9
Top Standard Coach Reptons Coaches, Van Hool EX15M
Top Touring/Express Luxury Coach DJ Thomas Coaches, Van Hool T16 Astron
Top Executive Coach Acklams Coaches, Irizar i6S Efficient integral
Top Coach aged five years or older Exclusive Holidays, Setra S416GT-HD
John Fielder Memorial Trophy – top coach from a small fleet up to five vehicles Exclusive Holidays, Setra S416GT-HD
Rita Dalziel Trophy – top coach aged 25 years or older Connexions Buses, Volvo B58 Plaxton Supreme IV
Kassbohrer Trophy – top Setra Exclusive Holidays, Setra S416GT-HD
Irizar Trophy – best Irizar integral Acklams Coaches, Irizar i6S Efficient integral
Mercedes-Benz Trophy – top Mercedes-Benz Edwards Coaches, Mercedes-Benz Tourismo L
MOBIpeople Trophy – top MOBIpeople supplied by BASE Coach Sales Holmeswood Coaches, MAN RR2 MOBIpeople Premium 360
Plaxton Trophy – top Plaxton Fowler’s Travel, Volvo B8R Plaxton Leopard
Scania Trophy – top Scania Paul S Winson, Scania KN410 Irizar i6S Efficient Treinta
Temsa Trophy – top Temsa Prentice Westwood, Temsa HD13
Van Hool trophy – top Van Hool DJ Thomas Coaches, Van Hool T16 Astron
VDL Trophy – top VDL Marshalls of Sutton-on-Trent, VDL Futura FHD2
Volvo Trophy – top coach supplied by Volvo Lothian Motorcoaches, Volvo 9700.
Special Awards
Bernie Porton Memorial Trophy – coach of the year as voted for by coach drivers DJ Thomas Coaches, Van Hool T16 Astron
Boon’s Award – best co-ordinated décor Heathside Travel Irizar i6S Efficient integral
Cymru Trophy – top coach from Wales DJ Thomas Coaches, Van Hool T16 Astron
Cyril Kenzie Memorial Trophy – highest placed first-time coach entrant Willetts Coaches, Mercedes-Benz Tourismo
Fred Bibby Award – best-loved coach Paul S Winson, Volvo B12B Jonckheere Mistral
Gwynn Williams Trophy – highest placed in all classes from Wales Adventure Coachlines, Scania Touring
Maurice Wrightson Memorial Shield – oldest employed participant David Reid, Prentice Westwood
Peter Rogers Shield – top CPT member DJ Thomas Coaches, Van Hool T16 Astron
Smartest uniformed driver and/or courier Mervyn’s Coaches
Tony Roose Trophy – top coach from Scotland Lothian Motorcoaches, Volvo 9700
UKCOA Martin Cornell Trophy – highest placed UKCOA member DJ Thomas Coaches, Van Hool T16 Astron.
  • Enjoy our photo special with all the top winners PLUS news from the trade section in our 19 April issue

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