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RAC Rally of the Tests 2022 – Leg One

 

05 Nov 2022

Dan Willan and Niall Frost in their Volvo PV544 took a near one minute lead from Paul Dyas and Martyn Taylor’s Volvo Amazon, who had been leading by just a second after the Oulton Park tests. But both crews had been narrowly behind Kurt Vanderspinnen’s Lotus Cortina after the Prologue yesterday until the Belgian snapped a half shaft this morning.

*Willan ahead of Dyas but seeks late night repairs

*Anniversary event ‘difficult’ as promised by Guy Woodcock

*Relentless rally admits many casualties to ‘Sweep Hospital’ evening session in Stoke on Trent

With a relentless pace and punishment aplenty, at least nine cars were in Mechanical Assistance Hospital with the ‘Sweeps’ at their bedside trying to find cures at the end of Day One in Stoke on Trent.

Not even the new leader could escape the blows as his 50’s Volvo sheared a shock absorber mounting off the rear axle, Dan Willan disappearing into the gloom of Stoke on Trent for an assignation with a welder. “I think I’ve found one fifteen minutes away” he said cheerily, thinking positive about keeping the car going on that road towards the victory he is chasing on the ‘big one’ as he calls it, the 20th Anniversary RAC Rally of the Tests.

As Guy Woodcock, HERO-ERA Competition Director promised, the anniversary event for both the 90th year RAC Rally and 20th RAC Rally of the Tests anniversaries, would be appropriately tough. There were quite a few cars seen turning around and some missing controls altogether, in fact as Guy said, “25 cars missed the secret control altogether” which is quite a high proportion. It is proving to be tough on mental agility as well as the ability of some of the cars to take the punishment.

This is even affecting the longer term ambition of Stephen Owens who is chasing valuable HERO Cup points in the 2022 drivers championship, he is nursing a slipping clutch in his Porsche 911.

Swiss pair Dominik Lingg and Kaspar Wittwer turned their Fiat 124 Abarth around as many times as Dutchmen Rene Dwars and Henk Ruijten’s Escort did, but they found the right way in the end as a patient and polite Rikki Proffitt and Andrew Darlington waved the late crews through on the regularity from their Porsche 911.

There was a sharp frost early this morning in Blackpool waiting to greet the rallyists, as most were  looking forward to revisiting Weedon Camp, this time in the light. Slides and mud splashing followed in a regularity that took teams across muddy farm tracks past smoking heaps of soil as the sun started to melt the frost. Drivers particularly enjoyed belting round the Cheshire Show ground over the gravel. Callum Guy and Dan Willan being two drivers who really loved it, although Dan said; “I may have gone a bit over the edge at times but it was tremendous fun!”

There was a great display of car control at Oulton Park in two tests on the low grip inner circuit surface, as cars wagged their tails and tilted their sides. By far the most impressive were Dutch duo Hank Melse and Bart den Hartog power sliding their Porsche 356B through a long greasy right hander!

Regularity 10 was difficult as well in parts, as there was limited grip across a long narrow track through a farm and private estate, lined by tight fencing, there was no margin for error as the CARE! Boards indicated!  It was doubly difficult for many to reach the regularity as a non-rally road accident ended with an overturned car, blocking the road. A quarter of the field was badly delayed and then they had to find an alternative route. Cars were still rolling into the night halt long after 9.30 pm.

The list of repairs and casualties left the HERO-ERA Mechanical Assistance crews, lead by Dave Alcock, working long into the night.

The ‘A Team’ of former HERO Cup and Golden Roamer champions, Paul Bloxidge and Ian Canavan has been forced to retire their Golf GTi with a broken alternator. Paul and Sandra Heaney have broken first gear in their Lancia Fulvia but promise to return for the restart in their TR6! Jonathan Hancox and Richard Lambley started to replace their gearbox support mount in their Triumph TR4, a part luckily that Jonathan was carrying! Jon and Richard said they were determined to finish the three hour job and make the restart on Saturday.

Peter and Kit Moore’s Sprite was receiving more attention as Peter himself was seen pulling the rear left hub off, Dave Alcock said some repairs were a legacy of the bruising the little Austin Healey had suffered on the recent Sahara Challenge.

The youngest ever HERO-ERA winner, Oli Waldock is navigating for American Paul O’Kane in his VW Golf GTi, but they are not having a great time so far! The shock absorbers were changed in Blackpool and today the car stopped at the end of Regularity five with suspected fuel issues as the crew borrowed a can of fuel from Peter Humphrey in his Volvo PV544. The media team ended up towing Paul and Oli to a garage, they later rejoined after ignition issues.

The battle for the win of the RAC Rally of the Tests takes on an even tougher twist as it heads westwards and into Wales where such challenges as Epynt await the top runners on Day Two. Dan Willan and Niall Frost will be hoping any repairs can hold out under the pressure from Paul Dyas and Martyn Taylor behind them, as they look to make up the deficit from today.

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