Paul Dyas and Martyn Taylor took their dream win on the 2021 RAC Rally of the Tests in their Volvo Aamzon. Paul Dyas has now won a Gold Medal on Le Jog and won another major HERO-ERA event in the RoTT, the rally that he always dreamt of winning as a boy. Having won the Vintage section of the Three Castles recently, Paul and Martyn are on a role.
With 29 tests and 22 regularities over three and a half days, a good percentage of them in the dark, the 2021 RAC Rally of the Tests lived up to its reputation as the most competitive classic car rally on the calendar, and certainly the best yet.
With a variety of terrain and challenges from forest to narrow lanes, concrete and loose surfaces, supplemented by demanding military complexes of roads, this is the most prestigious event in the competitive classic rally world to win. Add a major dose of heritage that encourages most of the crews to dress and compete in fifties and sixties clothing, mix in the cars of the era plus some old RAC routes and you have an event that replicates rallying as it was, including the camaraderie.
It is of course a major undertaking for HERO-ERA from the Competition Department lead by Guy Woodcock to Director of Hospitality Eleonora Piccolo, but without the goodwill and expertise of the hundreds of volunteers who turned out in record numbers this year, it wouldn’t happen, let alone be the outstanding success it was.
It is therefore understandable that rally enthusiasts and winners, Nicky and Darell Staniforth were overjoyed at finishing second in their Morris Mini Cooper S at their first attempt, indeed father and daughter were seen in an emotional embrace just after shaking the champagne on the podium.
Another great performance, defying his natural experience as a racing driver was by Phil Hindley who returned for his second ever regularity rally and finished on the podium for the second time – some record! Phil would admit that he had one of the best navigators in the business sitting along side him in the form of Iain Tullie, which is why he was coached and guided to the podium, but the result is also due to Phil’s enormous talent behind the wheel.
Finishing first unofficially in runaway style were the Anglo-Dutch duo of Ryan Pickering and Alexander Leurs in their 1975 Opel Ascona. Their car was too young to qualify for the overall awards although they did still win their class. As Ryan said, “we were too young to win!” It was a great performance with some spirited driving by Dutchman Alexander and great navigation by Ryan, all of which didn’t go unnoticed by the doyen of navigators, Iain Tullie. “They were quick and controlled, very impressive.” Alexander was one of many Dutch crews who made it over for the event along with seven other team nationals, including Germans, Swiss and Scandinavians.
A snap shot of the exciting final day reveals a great variety of competition for the 59 remaining crews. At least 20 cars didn’t make it this far, including favourites Paul Crosby and Andy Pullan who were locked in battle with Paul Wignall and Mark Appleton until both retired on Leg Two.
Right from the start at Slaley Hall in Hexham, the cars went directly to the first tests around the narrow golf course tracks, dodging golf balls as they flew past! Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane were unphased having just adjusted their shades and cuffs on their ‘Blues Brothers’ outfits before going into battle in their BMW 323i on their first ever RAC Rally of the Tests!
With nine tests and four regularities, the day was full on and relentless as ever, including some stings with hidden controls and challenging routes. But the day also included some magical tests in the heart of Keilder forest, Kershope. If ever there was a hark back to the RAC days, this was it with classical forest tracks to drive on, following in the wheel tracks of many a famous rally driver.
Crews even stopped for a quick break and time control in the famous rally town Newcastleton. Kevin Haselden didn’t have time to contemplate the past as their sticking throttle caused Kevin to run for help in the form of WD40 to try and ease the cable whilst Gary Evans waited for his time inside.
The sensational roads of the Scottish borders, particularly leading to Hawick, were a perfect platform for some lovely regularities with an edge to them. Just when teams thought it was getting too tight and twisty, they were confronted by a wide open and fast test at Stobs Camp. After a late break for food at Selkirk, famous for the Robbie Burns Grace, it was off for the final regularity at Bowhill followed by a finish under the welcoming green HERO-ERA arch, and if you were enough of a winner, it was champagne shaking time for the podium finishers. For Andy Ballantyne and David Watson it was one of the most welcoming sights in nearly four days as the crew fixed, repaired and cajoled the old Riley 1.5 across the finish line – finally!
Another gritty and determined performance as they managed to run most of the distance with their hood down, not missing one control and visiting all timing points, were Peter Moore and Dan Stellmacher in their Austin Healey Sprite. For this they won the ‘Spirit of the Rally Award.’
Quotes from the final day of the 2021 RAC Rally of the Tests.
Paul Dyas, 1st overall. “It has been a dream to win this one since watching the RAC Rally come through Sutton Park in Birmingham, that’s what got me going in motorsport and to win this now is the pinnacle. Martyn has done a brilliant job in the navigators seat, it’s two big ones on the bounce as we won the last Le Jog and the next RAC!”
Martyn Tayler, 1st overall. “ The Rally of the Tests will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the first ever historic rally I did and it is the ultimate rally in the country. It is absolutely my favourite!”
Iain Tullie, 3rd overall. “ Phil has driven really well, he’s a racing driver but likes his rallying although I’m not sure we have converted him fully yet!
“I let the team down on Thursday night with a wrong approach which dropped us to 20th so we had to try and pull that back. To get back to third was fantastic, we were giving Darell and Nicky a real chase this morning but then we had a bit of a fuel pump issue in one of the regularities and dropped a minute so that was that. Given that we thought it was game over at that point we were happy to fix it and continue!”
Phil Hindley, 3rd overall.” I love it, every time I go on a test or a regularity it is something different so I really enjoyed it. I was with Martyn Taylor for a podium two years ago on my first event, hopefully top spot for us next time if I get another chance.”
Alexander Leurs, 1st in Class and unofficial winner overall (1975 car does not qualify for overall awards). “I am really proud that we did it, we didn’t overall win but we won our class and held our position at the front. This is the second time I have had Ryan navigating for me, the first time we won the Winter Trial and now we have won again!”
Ryan Pickering, 1st in class and unofficial winner overall. “I really enjoyed it, it was the second time we have sat together and we couldn’t have done any more because we are too young to win, sorry the car I meant, not the crew!
Nicky Staniforth, 2nd overall. “It was a good day, much better than yesterday! I think it helped that a few people had a few problems, that’s probably why we are on the podium. A lot is down to Dad and his car preparation too, there were quite a few cars that broke down, our car was faultless so as he is the engineer and mechanic on the car, it helps a lot.”
Darell Staniforth, 2nd overall. “ Nicky has done a fabulous job and actually we have genuinely been up there in the top five, I don’t think we have missed one turn and there must be one heck of a lot in the Rally of the Tests, it’s a fantastic result. When we first came to the event we thought if we could get in the top six it would be really good considering the opposition, so to finish second is absolutely unbelievable!”
Hank Meise, 4th overall and 1st in class. “It was fantastic, a great rally. The best thing for me is the crazy English people and what you are able to do, in Holland it is not possible. Here we go through the gardens and the woods, it is unbelievable, really good fun, we will be back.”