As rain plus extra leaves from the recent high winds made the going difficult at times, Steve Entwistle and Mark Appleton in their Mini Cooper S made a good start leading after the Prologue from the flying Opel Ascona of Dutch crew Alexander Leurs and Bas de Rijk. Steve said even the first test around the Exeter Race Course was ready to catch crews out; “It was green, it didn’t help that we were first car in but I had one big moment in there!”
Navigator Martyn Taylor was pleased and a little bit surprised as his rookie driver Phil Hindley who normally races Porsches, performed brilliantly, combining well with Martyn to take third overall.
“We managed to change the entry after Dan Willan had to pull his Volvo out of the event and get Phil to take it over in the Porsche 911. Phil drove in a one-day classic car rally about six years ago, apart from that he normally turns right all the time racing Porsches. A good start I would say.”
Another notable result was fourth overall for the1937 Derby Bentley of Stuart Anderson and Flying Scotsman 2019 winning navigator, Leigh Powley. Said Leigh; “Not bad for the old boy, a great start.”
Stuart was equally happy to be up there even though it is early days after the Prologue. “ It just shows that an older car can still be competitive, and yes we still have no hood! Considering how slippy it was the Bentley took it all really well, it was just the hairpins that were really hard work.”
Minis are first, fifth and sixth. Kevin Haselden and Gary Evans just ahead of Bill Cleyndert and Tony Brook’s sixth place Cooper S. Paul Crosby and Andy Pullan are tenth in their Porsche 356B, one place in front of one of the most exciting cars on the RAC Rally of the Tests, the little Ginetta G15. Mike Vokes was expertly navigated today by 2019 HRCR Championship winning navigator Matthew Vokes.
This is one of the toughest events on the HERO Rally calendar for navigators as 24th and fifth place Prologue finishing navigators Martin Phaff and Gary Evans explained, Martin; “It really is relentless, there is so much to do, everything is in a whirl. The time control sections on private land with one, two or three minute controls, then on the second lot like Swinerton you have passage checks as well. Stopping to get signatures probably takes 15 to 20 seconds, then the information from code boards, sometimes stopping if they are hard to read, then putting the information down in ink takes time. Add all those together and it is valuable seconds, you are trying to do it quickly.
“This is the toughest classic rally in the UK, if you can do this one well, you can do any rally”.
Gary Evans who has already won four night rallies this year and enjoys the dark, still believes it is easy to go wrong.
“At night on such a difficult event as this, you tend to get overloaded, from test to regularity, the clock and trip have to be synced or you can start the regularity badly, this event piles on the pressure. You have to deal with speed changes and integrate your information from your test diagrammes and so it goes on. It is really a question of keeping cool.
“For example, we only got instructions for first test half an hour before, then we plotted two regularities, certainly time for head scratching.”
Both navigators believe the seeding is very important. Martin; “The Prologue is important, you need to be in the earlier part of the rally with crews who tend to know what they are doing, that way you to get fewer cars coming back towards you when they have gone wrong as an example.”
Gary; “ You need to get a decent seeding otherwise you can catch stragglers, it becomes difficult to pass when it’s narrow or you can get stuck behind them at a control and you can’t do anything about it. We wanted to do our best today for the seeding, fifth place is good.”
Just as there is a major battle for honours at the front and throughout the classes, there are still many crews out to learn and just enjoy the experience. One such team are the husband and wife crew of Rob and Julie Clifton in their very different rally car, a 1972 Vauxhall Viva X14. They are quite new to the sport having just started to climb the HERO ladder this year. Rob; We’ve recently come off two wheels, touring and endurance events to convert to four wheels. We started at the first HERO Challenge with the navigational classes then the event, but we think we have found our hobby of choice, it stretches us and I have to be honest and say, we are addicted! We weren’t going to do The Rally of the Tests but I got a nudge at 4.30 in the morning from my wife Julie saying we should do it!
“We are enjoying the Vauxhall, we started with a Saab but felt we wanted a bit more power. We have made some changes to the car since we bought it but it’s been going well.
“Our attitude in this rally is, let’s get to the end. We can enjoy a beer in the evening, chat to friends and go from there.”
Another different car on the 2019 RAC Rally of the Tests is Guy Symons and David Watson’s Riley One Point Five. Guy; “ Back in its day the Riley was a regular rally car. This is a 1960 car, a similar model finished the RAC Rally quite near the top in the late fifties but we have used it for many years on this event. We finished third in class last year, it only took us 14 years to get a decent result! People just don’t perceive them as a rally car, when we started there were three out rallying, now it’s just us, I don’t know why.”
Guy and David were 76th after the Prologue but at least they managed to dodge any major mechanical issues unlike the 1965 Peugeot 404 from Holland of Sybren van der Goot and Maiko Wellink. The engine was knocking badly on the first test at Exeter Race Course and sadly retried in a cloud of smoke at the finish line.
Another Dutch crew, Ad Smelt and Dick Roesink managed to turn up at near the start line on the race course on the wrong side of the rails! Once they had a re route they carried on to a 72nd overall in their Volvo PV544. Darren Everitt and Susan Dixon were flying around the first test, their 1965 Triumph 2000 Mk1 sounding as glorious as ever. They finished 19th overall.
Andy Simpson and Mick Briggs recovered from a quick stall in their Mini Clubman at the start of regularity two to finish the day 42nd overall but behind them there was confusion on the same perplexing regularity. Some small turns proved difficult to spot as did a road into a farm where a time control was lurking.
Further back Peter Engel and Jim Bowie had got their VW Golf firmly stuck after over a wrong turn. They were relieved to get a tow out by the Dutch crew of Marinus Middelweerd and Jaap van den Bent’s Porsche 928 which then promptly drove off in the wrong direction!
Photos by Blue Passion Photo