Over the last decade, Howard Warren has become one of the most successful drivers in UK classic rallying and at the weekend he added another major event to his list of victories.
When the three-day Rally of the Tests finished in Blackpool on Sunday afternoon, Warren’s Porsche 356 was just under a minute clear of the MGB of John and Peter Dignan. Co-driven by the equally experienced Iain Tullie, Warren switched from his favoured Porsche 911 to an older 356 for the event in a bid to claim the overall award that is limited to pre-1965 cars. Under the expert direction of Guy Woodcock, the Tests just gets better and better as it re-creates the RAC Rally of the 1950s before it moved to being a special stage-based forest rally in the early 1960s.
The competitive action comprised a typical mix of special tests on private ground, regularity sections on public roads and time control sections, run in the evenings to give crews a taste of road rallying with testing navigation. The route for the 2015 edition focused on the Scottish borders. The action began with a short Thursday evening prologue section from the start at Slaley Hall in Northumberland. Friday’s route featured a full day in the Scottish borders, including the notorious Kielder forest, to an overnight halt in Dumfries but not before a tricky time control section in the Dundrennan military area.
On Saturday the route headed east and took in another tough section on the Catterick ranges on the way to an overnight halt in Darlington, before a shorter final day to run south and west to the finish in Blackpool on Sunday afternoon. Warren and Tullie put down a marker on Thursday evening to take the lead after the short prologue, which included some slippery gravel roads in Slaley Forest. During Friday, Andy Lane and Matt Fowle put their Volvo 131 into the lead but electrical dramas on Saturday spoilt their chances of winning.
Up to challenge Warren/Tullie went MGB crew John and Peter Dignan but by the end of Saturday the Porsche had a small but significant lead. Warren and Tullie then held their nerve over the shorter Sunday section to arrive at the Blackpool finish as overall winners. The Dignans pulled off a great result to be second ahead of father and son Roger and Leigh Powley (Porsche 911) in the final classification, although the award for second overall among the earlier cars went to Neil Wilson and Matthew Vokes in another Porsche 356.