As the first cars arrived for scrutineering at the RAC Rally of the Tests HQ, the Imperial Hotel in Torquay on Wednesday, light rain gave way to heavy incessant showers beating hard on the palm trees.
But the assembled cars and crews awaiting their technical checks before the Prologue starts from Exeter Race Course tomorrow (Thursday 7th Nov) afternoon at 5.45pm, were relishing the prospect of a great event.
Dutch regular Bart den Hartog who is navigating Peter Naaktgeboren in their 1962 Porsche 356B is a real fan of the event; “We have done this event around 12 times, it’s great, we were third one year in an Escort 1600, last year we were in a Volvo but this is the second time we have done it in the Porsche”. When asked how to pronounce Peter Naaktgeboren’s surname, Bart explained the origin first. “Naaktgeboren in English means ‘nude born.’ Peter’s sir name comes from a period when the French took over Holland, Napoleon demanded that people all have sir names so everyone made up silly names!
“We are both looking forward to the event, it is so well organised with such great routes and tests on private land. Many Dutch come here because we just couldn’t organise tests like you do on private land, the military just don’t allow it in Holland whereas here you are welcome to go across their property. When the Dutch try to organise tests over there I always say don’t do it, go to the UK. We are going to Swynnerton an incredible test, there are some old airfields and great hill climbs, so many good places. We just don’t have venues like that.”
Roger Powley and Brian Goff have rallied together since the Motor Sport News Championship days in 1972. They have rallied Porsche 911’s amongst others, but this time they are really excited about making their 2019 debut in a 1966 Hillman Imp! Roger; “Basically an Imp is a baby 911. Rear engined but half the weight! I bought it as a bare shell 12 years ago and recently said to Brian we’ve had lots of fun and many rallies in the 911 but do you fancy the Imp? It’s the first event in the car, we’ve not been practicing but it’s going to be fun. Everything is new on the car, we don’t have anything on there that isn’t needed which makes it even lighter. It handles like a go-kart so I’m just really looking forward to chucking it about a bit.”
One of the favourites to win this event is Paul Crosby who will be navigated by the experienced Andy Pullan. A nice touch on the side of their Porsche 356B is the remembrance poppy next to their names on the front wing of the car in full respect for the Remembrance Services this Sunday. Whilst waiting in the queue for scrutineering Paul commented on their chances in the RAC Rally of the Tests; “ I think we have the same as every year, a good a chance. It’s a good entry but for success, you need the right rub of green or roll of the dice, you can hit traffic or make a small mistake and you are in trouble, but I am happy and confident that we will be in the mix . Yes it’s tough jumping from test to regularity but that is the signature of the event, one after the other, it is relentless. But I really like that and so does Andy, you need to be organised, know what’s coming up and try to be at least a couple of steps ahead.”
Paul was asked as it was the 60th Anniversary of the Mini, could this be their year for victory on Rally of the Tests? His answer; “No chance!”
This rally has grown in stature and built its reputation as one of the most demanding on the calendar. So much so it’s drawn Americans, Italians, Germans, Belgians, Dutch and Irish crews.
Running car number 40 is an Irish crew who are celebrating just that, their 40th Anniversary rallying together! Philip Armstrong and Frank Hussey are competing in their yellow 1964 Volvo PV544.
Frank; “ We’ve done this rally 6 or 8 times with a best result of third. The reason we are taking part is it is almost 40 years ago to the day we did our first ever rally in a Hillman Avenger Estate, the Avenger saloon wasn’t ready in time for our first road rally. We’re just going to have fun! Half the problem is I can’t see those Land Ranger maps anymore, even at night with three extra map lights they’re still not bright enough to help!”
When Ed Abbott was told there would be a test at the NEC as part of the RAC Rally of the Tests his reaction was; “Great! I was told it’s a big as a football pitch, I was then worried in case there were any internal stanchions to hit, I’m told it’s totally open. I hope there is a long run up so I can go flat out, boot it sideways and drift the car at 180 degrees then perform a Scandinavian flick to rapturous applause! However, that’s me dreaming. On the dashboard of the Jaguar will be a big sign saying “NO SHOWBOATING!” Watch out for Ed Abbot and Ray Crowther in the 1979 Jaguar XJ-S just the same!
And if you see the entry list and then wonder why Keith Jenkins and Martin Phaff are not in a 1972 Saab 96 V4, let Martin explain; “ We were in Saab Class 7 but it’s not finished yet so we are in Lancia Fulvia Class 3 so we are in the main event. It’s my car but Keith will drive and as usual I will navigate.”
There is one more scrutineering session on Thursday morning from 9.00am to 12.30pm then the Prologue starts from Exeter Race Course later in the day at 5.45pm.
Photos by Will Broadhead