February 25th / 26th 1961

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The '61 'Star', again organised by a team headed up by Clerk of the Course Harry Morgan, attracted another first class entry list of 171 crews. For the first time it was possible that the winning driver might be a woman team, since both Pat Moss (Stirling's sister) and Anne Hall were entered. Pat Moss navigated by Stuart Turner in their Saab and Anne Hall navigated by Val Domleo in their Ford were past and present holders of the European women's rally championship titles. Val had also just won the Coupe des Dames on this year's Monte Carlo rally.
Amongst the men, Bill Bengry was the current holder of the RAC rally championship title and Brian Harper was the BTRDA rally star holder.
Again, there were several starting points, the Staffordshire Motor Tyre Co in Chapel Ash was the most popular point but some cars also started from Liverpool, Oxford, Nottingham and Hereford. From the starts the cars travelled along separate routes to a common control at Heatherbrae Garage at Leebotwood. From there they were restarted after being handed a marked map which showed the position of the 31 time controls over the 200 mile route. The route followed a rough circle around the Long Mynd then down to Herefordshire, back through the Clees and Wenlock Edge then back to the finish and driving tests at the T.A. Centre in Bushbury.

The event was famed for the closeness of the result, and for a major protest which led to rule changes in the blue book. Pat Moss, Brian Harper and Bill Bengry were all clean on the road except for lateness penalties awarded to Brian Harper and others as a result of a delay caused by avoiding a blocked road. The problem was due to recent heavy rains around Wenlock Edge which had caused the Byne Brook to flood. The local council had erected a sign before the ford in 4788 (now culverted! - CJK) saying 'Road Blocked'. Some competitors, including Harper and Moss, heeded the warning, went the long way round and incurred penalties for lateness at the next control 19. Bengry, and others, drove to the ford and found that it was actually passable and arrived at the control on time.
At the finish Bengry was initially declared winner but then the stewards upheld a protest by Harper that all time penalties on that section should be scrapped owing to the presence of the 'official' council notice. Harper was then judged winner, but the judgement was submitted to the RAC competitions committee tribunal for a final adjudication. The tribunal gave its result on 15th March: chairman John Gott, an experienced international rally driver (Works Healey 3000) as well as being the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire ( !! ) declared that "Irrespective of whether a sign is mandatory, we think it is most important especially in these days of criticism against rallies, that competitors should obey road signs. The principle that seems to us so important is that no competitor should gain advantage by disregarding a sign even if that sign was put up for information only." So Bengry lost his place and Harper was awarded the top spot.

Chris Knights writing in WSSCC magazine Dashboard in 2005