Freezing conditions test classic crews to the limit
As 61 cars lined up for the start of the UK’s self-styled toughest car rally, a gruelling four-day itinerary lay ahead, that would take them from the south-westernmost corner of mainland Britain to the northeasternmost tip 1400 miles away-all driven on minor roads. Snow, rain, fog, ice, high winds and occasionally some sunshine were all encountered en route from Lands End, Cornwall, to John O’Groats in Scotland.
The first overnight stop was in Telford, Shropshire, after the longest night navigation section in the event’s 17-year history. As promised by new route coordinator John Kiff, that section and regularities through Wales were unrelenting; the test at the Llangorse Activity Centre was conducted in the dark with lit cones.
Crews were under pressure all -night, but the grins on tired faces at Telford proved the majority were ‘enjoying’ the challenge. There were seven casualties, with 54 cars leaving Telford after six hours’ respite to head for Gosforth, on the outskirts of Newcastle, via Cheshire and the Yorkshire Dales. In the Dales, the crews tackled their first snow of the event, which blocked one regularity, and the ford at Frosterley was too deep for the test to take place.
Cars hit the road again on the Monday morning, leaving Gosforth for John o’Groats via the most difficult section of the event: driving for 26 hours with only short breaks. The final test took place at the Raceways Kart Circuit in Livingstone, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, while television cameras filmed the event for the Scottish evening news.
Into the Highlands-the weather became increasingly severe, with police opening one road near Aberfoyle only minutes before the cars arrived. The Rannoch regularity stage was cancelled and two other sections were closed near Dalwhinnie. During the night, the leading 1966 MercedesBenz 300SE of Andy Lane and lain Tullie retired, throwing the leader board wide open.
‘We wanted to make this year’s one of the toughest ever,’ said organiser Peter Nedin. ‘We attracted more cars than for the past eight years, with a huge number from Europe.’
The winning car was the 1965 Volvo 131 Amazon of Roger Bricknell and Ryan Pickering. It pipped the 1966 Triumph 2000 of Charles Harrison and Jonathan Hancox, which ran with a leaking head gasket and no radiator cap, and even ‘steamed’ across the finish line at John o’Groats.
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