An action packed day of seven regularities and nine tests ended in a major ‘mind blowing’ cocktail of TC section and Tests as the Catterick Army complex created a firework effect for adrenalin junky crews on the RAC Rally of the Tests. The maze of mixed surfaces and myriad tracks demanded decisions in a flash, creating a rally buzz that kept the crews crackling for over forty minutes.
As a result of a tank trap edge catching and damaging the rear of their leading Porsche 356 B, Paul Crosby and Andy Pullan were caught by two cars including Paul Dyas and Martyn Talyor in their Volvo Amazon. Even six time RAC Rally of the Tests winner Mark Appleton navigating five time winner Paul Wignall, admitted making mistakes in the explosive atmosphere, yet despite the errors they are the overnight leaders.
The competitive day began back in the superb Bramham Park forest complex, this time in daylight after a rude introduction to night rallying for some in Thursday’s Prologue. There were three visits to the famous Harwood Hillclimb track which literally did as the title suggested, go ‘Uphill and Downdale’ in dramatic fashion.
Mist and rain high up on Lindley Moor reduced visibility and temporarily screened out what was a clear bright day which highlighted the magnificence of the Yorkshire Moors and then the Dales. The majesty of Duncombe Park with its classical architectural proportions was matched only by some of the splendid classic cars parked up under the towering structure. Cars were fettled and crews took a well earned lunch there, but the sheer imposing nature of the 17th Century building and surrounding parkland was not lost on German Volvo driver Marc-Philip Zimmermann; “ This is absolutely so beautiful, so typically a classic part of England – I love it!”
Also smiling at the halt, surveying the ancient elegant parkland from high on the balconies of Duncombe Park, were the unlucky duo of Dan Willan and Niall Frost who retired on the first night with a hole in their engine block. Undeterred, they had set about finding a replacement car overnight, just managing to fix the insurance on Niall’s girlriends Volvo minutes before the start.
Also smiling after his Jaguar XK150 spluttered to a halt last night was Charles Graves with navigator Andrew Fish. They had a new alternator and battery which meant the car was going well again, but it had just lost the trip meter! “We will just hard wire it” said a determined Charles.
The most impressive part of the day was the turn out of volunteer marshals and officials who manned posts, provided safety cover and ran timing points and controls from early in the morning until late at night. They really did form a large army of enthusiastic personnel who helped ensure that the first leg of RoTT ran so well.
Quotes from crews immediately after the final control out of Catterick.
Paul Wignall and Mark Appleton, 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint, Mark; “It was tough, we got a few wrong slots on the last section on the tulips and we dropped time, but I think people are going to be all over the place in there, it was explosive, but fire cracking fun! The map bits were fine but when we got on the tulips and we couldn’t see what was around the next corner, that’s when it got a bit tricky. But you can’t beat a good thrash at night around the military ranges can you, just the thing to do on your birthday!” Happy Birthday Mark.
Alexander Leurs and Ryan Pickering,1975 Opel Ascona, Ryan; ”It was rough, it was tough as we expected, but absolutely brilliant fun as always. Alexander; “We went a little bit wrong on the first section but it was really good fun, we really enjoyed it, my heart I think, is still just about beating OK!” Alexander and Ryan lead their class and unofficially lead the rally as their car is too young to count for the official overall results.
Bas van Kamperdijk and Erwin Berkhof, 1971 Porsche 911T, Bas; “This was the first time for us, we are from Holland, but we really, really enjoyed it. For us it was the perfect stage.” Erwin; “This was perfect, such a rush, this is why we wanted to come here for this rally.”
Darren Everitt and Susan Dixon, 1965 Triumph 2000, Darren; “It was absolutely fantastic, Susan knew exactly where to go, it’s amazed me, she’s a stage rally navigator! Susan; “It was just an explosive adrenalin rush from start to finish, I’m amazed I can still speak having shouted for the last forty minutes!
Roger Tushingham and Amy Henchoz, 1966 MGB GT, Amy; “It was definitely tough but so worth it, it is always worth it in there, absolutely amazing! Roger; “It was great, very nice sliding around on gravel it was like being on a proper rally!”
Anji and Colin Martin, 1971 Ford Escort 1600 Sport, Colin; “It was great fun in there but we kept losing the spot lights due to a dodgy switch. Then on that last test we got baulked by a car about half way through and we couldn’t get past. Yes, it was just like fireworks going off in there, a real spark of adrenalin made by our lights flashing on and off, all very exciting!”
With eight regularities and no less than nine tests for Leg Two, there will be no let up for the Rally of the Tests crews, and for the adrenalin junkies amongst them there is the Warcop military complex to enjoy in both the light and the dark of Saturday.
*The Shires host Round Two as the Challenge Increases