1964 Monte Carlo Rally winner Paddy Hopkirk loaned his Morris Mini Cooper S to Steve Entwistle for the RAC Rally of the Tests and then pronounced; “They’d better win!”. Paddy also put pressure on Navigator Mark Appleton by saying; “Steve has a top navigator with him, it’s a great car and a top team so they must be favourites!”
Mini wins on 60th Anniversary
Event described by competitors as the toughest yet
Entwistle has finished third and second in Rally of the Tests previously, now he has taken the top step of the podium, winning his first major and in so doing kept Paddy Hopkirk happy. Steve; “We called to interrupt him on his cruise to tell him, he seemed pretty pleased!”
Mark Appleton won this event last year in an Alfa Romeo navigating five time winner Paul Wignall. Mark has now surpassed his previous driver with a record breaking six wins!
A racing driver, Phil Hindley, bellied has rally inexperience of just one event six years ago, to be propelled to the podium as a novice in second place. With the expert help of top navigator Martyn Taylor who was runner up last year, Phil was very grateful; “This event is all down to the navigator I just do as I am told, but what a navigator Martyn is! Track to rally is all very different though, you get a little stone under the wing of the racing Porsche and you think what was that? Here you just plough though it all and the car takes it. I’ve also learned that the steering wheel does go further than ten to two, I’ve been on the lock stops a few times with this one, but it has been so much fun on the tests I have loved it all and hope to get another go.”
Martyn Taylor; “It’s been one hell of an event, we really have come through some difficulties such as the trip falling yesterday, which meant Swynnerton was guess work, but we only wrong slotted a couple of times which wasn’t so bad. Phil as race driver, well he showed promise on the gravel, with a bit of coaching he could be OK – he’s not so bad!”
The big surprise, mainly to himself and navigator Martin Pitt was that Paul Dyas claimed the final podium position. Having been down in 40th in the early part of the rally, Paul and Martin climbed up the order only to be thwarted yesterday by a gritting truck, having to get towed off an elevated road section which left their front wheels in the air, then later beaching the car! “It just shows” said Paul, ”never give up!” I’m gob smacked, what a fight back, we’re on the podium and I can’t believe it. Fantastic. I’ve been towed out twice, then we towed Howard Warren out. We go again in three weeks time on Le Jog, I’m going to win that!”
RoTT winner Steve Entwistle was still beaming an hour after getting back to rally HQ in Chester. “It’s sunk in now, I’m over the moon. When we arrived initially I was a bit low key as I’d spent all afternoon thinking it’s going to go wrong, it’s going to go wrong, then we got here and I thought no, no its alright, it’s alright!! I’ve spoken to Paddy and told him his car has won three times now, once with Rauno Aaltonen, once with Roger Clark and now me!
“I’ve been rallying for 30 years and this the best thing that has happened to me. It’s also a win on the Mini 60th Anniversary plus 54 years since a Mini won the RAC Rally! I have been an RAC rally lover since I was three.
“Mark Appleton is faultless, I can’t thank him enough. We get on great, he’s brilliant, we have been powered by humbugs and cherry menthol sweets as he’s been losing his voice a bit, it must be the noise inside the car. This is absolutely brilliant, the man is ace.” Mark Appleton in reply felt that Steve’s driving was pretty good too!; “ Steve certainly knows how to pedal a Mini, for example on the second kart track, the Red Dragon, there was no grip for us at all, we were just spinning wheels so Steve literally steered it on the handbrake! Ultimately I think it all went to the plan which we stuck to. Last night was incredibly difficult, the weather, the roads but we just kept going, we probably pulled through better than others which made the difference. I agree with most who have said that this is the toughest RAC Rally of the Tests yet.”
The final day definitely did have a sting, some competitors were caught by navigational challenges, many by the weather as crews coped with the remnants of overnight snow early on in North Wales.
For example, the start of the second regularity was a steep uphill section with some snow, mud and ice mixed. Paul Crosby; “ We really struggled to get up the hill, and we have some power, we just scrabbled up, I don’t know how the others did it.” There were two tests on kart tracks, the first at Rednal Karting lured Mike and Matthew Voke’s Ginetta G15 into the wall. Mike and Matthew were still third in the general classification after they fixed what turned out to be superficial damage. Mike; “ Yes I ran out of talent but we got towed out and went on our way again, we were also lucky that the weather was so good in Wales today. Yesterday in the wet the car was misting up every thirty seconds, we had more paper towels in the car than in the hotel! We have had a solid three and a half days, Matthew has been great, making no mistakes at all. Third is a good reward.”
Another entertaining crew reveling in the conditions were the Dutch pairing of Harm Lamberigts and Arjan van der Palen in their Ford Escort Mexico. Like the Ginetta team they were ineligible for the overall awards as their car is too young! However, they were an amazing second in the general classification and first in Class 7. Harm; “We really enjoyed it, nice tests, good roads, we have so much fun rallying in the UK. We got close a few times but Mark Appleton is a great navigator, this is our third time, we got close but we will try it once more”. Arjan was particularly strong over the most difficult time control section in Swynnerton last night, his plan of keeping his driver under control worked; “I did a lot of preparation in terms of the times and distances and made Harm speed up and slow down when we needed to so we kept catching the Porsche ahead.”
The other entertaining Dutch crew were Alexander Leurs and Bas de Rijk in an Opel Ascona. They finished seventh in the general classification but won Class 8. A mistake today dropped them from second which they held at the lunch break. Alexander takes up the story; “It was a pity as we missed a timing point in the middle of a triangle, a silly mistake but it happens. We had been second up to that point but we have still had a fantastic time. The Ascona was good on bad roads and I like that, but it also goes well over all conditions.”
The second test at a kart track was in Wales at Red Dragon Kart Club, it seemed so slippy for Steve Entwistle that he spun his wheels most of the way round. One of the favourites of the day was test 6 called ‘Hall of Fame’ run by the Rhyl and District Motor Club. It ran up a greasy concrete hill and around tight farm buildings then back across a fast semi concrete track section. John Ruddock and Nick Cooper were most impressive here as the Escort Mexico was thrown around as if they had all the width in Wales.
HERO Challenge and navigation pupils Rob and Julie Clifton were absolutely stoked at being awarded the Spirit of the Rally Award on Sunday night in the Chester prize giving for the 2019 RAC Rally of the Tests driving their Vauxhall Viva called Nigel.
Rob: ‘”We are delighted and so pleased to get this award, we weren’t even meant to jump from HERO Challenge to a major event yet, but Julie suggested we did it and I’m so glad we did! We were a bit gung ho this morning after a good day yesterday, but today was a stinker”
Julie Clifton continued; “I thought we may as well do it, the worst thing that can happen is we finish last, but we weren’t last and we have won an award! We missed two time controls today, then I find it hard to recover. It’s frustrating but I’ll have a study when I’m home and work out where I went wrong. But I am really enjoying the challenge of how to navigate, right from the first HERO classes, it’s hard at first but gets a bit better each time.”
Another team to come through the HERO navigation classes, then HERO Challenges and now premier events, are Anita Wickens and Malcolm Dunderdale in their Mercedes 190e 16v, a rare rally car! Having taken part in the Three Legs of Mann and the Summer Trial they really enjoyed the challenge of the Rally of the Tests. Malcolm; “today was really good after a difficult first couple of days, we started to learn the tricks and tracks, it is amazing feeling just to finish such a tough event.”
Anita; “ We did it! All those lessons, HERO Challenges, it was all worth it but it was tough.”
Seren and Elise Whyte finished a superb 6th overall and second in class with their tiny and underpowered 1957 Standard Ten, despite a few noises from the car in the later stages of the rally.
Elise; “The punishment the car took was unbelievable and there were definitely a few rattles and noises developing, but what an event, we didn’t think we could get top ten but we aimed high!” As Seren said; “We are both very tired now!”
Another driver making his debut at the HERO premier or expert level was The Classic Yachting Experience Managing Director Federico Gottsche Bebert. He stood in at the last moment for HERO Chairman Tomas de Vargas Machuca when work commitments prevented him from competing in his own Porsche 911. Federico was navigated by one of the best young navigators in the sport, Nick Bloxham.
Not only did the crew finish a superb 15th overall on Federico’s debut, but also they won Class 9!
“I have had such a great opportunity but most importantly such a great navigator in Nick, he is the brains behind this! Thank you to Tomas, I hope he misses more rallies so I can use his car again.” Said Federico. Nick; “ We really started to gel, with that we improved all the time ending up with a great result. Federico is a good driver.”
The star attraction and star performers in many ways were Stuart Anderson and Leigh Powley in their 1937 Derby Bentley. They braved the snow, winds and rain in the open top car, staying in the top five for most of the event but winning Class 1. The crew and their Vintage rally car left many moderns in their wake. It is just not possible to get the results this crew achieve with such an old car- but they do. 4th overall was an amazing result.
Thomas and Roger Bricknell overcame many technical issues in their VW Golf Gti to achieve a hard won fifth in the general classification and winning Class 10. Peter Lovett and Matt Fowle won Class 6 in a Porsche 911 and took 5th overall. The glorious looking and sounding Triumph 2000 Mk1 of Team Flamboyant Susan Dixon and driver Darren Everitt won Class 5, the crew were 21st overall. Bill Cleyndert and Tony Brooks won Class 2 in the Morris Mini Cooper S, 15th overall, with John and Peter Dignan’s MGB the victors of Class 3 taking 9th overall.
Dermot Carnegie has been rallying for more years than he cares to mention but he’s still got it! He and Paul Bosdet won Class 4 in their immaculate Volvo PV544 and were 11th overall.
Photos by Blue Passion