Three Anniversaries and a Swan Song to be Celebrated During the 2022 Edition of this Modern Classic
The RAC Rally of the Tests is a very special event, but the 2022 edition will be an extra special affair, as it celebrates some very important anniversaries. The event needs little by way of introduction, it is one for the drivers, the one that everyone wants to win and is always hotly anticipated and fiercely contested. This year it will celebrate its Emerald Anniversary, a tremendous milestone for a rally that was first devised as a tribute to the original RAC Rally, but now the HERO-ERA RAC Rally of the Tests has 20 years of history all its own.
From those beginnings it is now firmly ensconced in the classic rallying calendar, a permanent fixture, and its own entity with fans from both inside and outside the regularity rallying world. This year also happens to mark 90 years since the inaugural RAC Rally, the event which it pays homage to and the original Royal Automobile Club rally. That rally did of course morph into one of the greatest, and original, stage rallies in the world and whilst the forests may currently be in a fallow period, the event that was born in its honour will still celebrate the anniversary of those first RAC pioneers, by finishing this year’s regularity rally in Torquay, the terminus for the 350 or so competitors that departed from nine different starting points way back in 1932.
Just as for those first crews 90 years ago, making the finish is not guaranteed, with a route of approximately 750 miles filled with challenging regularities and turbulent tests that will push crew and car, before the flag falls under the finishers arch. Of course, mimicking the different start locations would be nigh impossible, but in a further doff of the cap to events past, the 20th edition of the RAC Rally of the Tests will begin under the fluorescent lights of Blackpool, the seaside town which was the point of departure for the first RoTT in 2001.
In between the two coastal favourites there will be plenty of other nods to rally history, with tests hosted in locations that have become firm favourites over the years and that have been the home to regularity rallies and stage rallies. Most are still subject to the official secrets act, but names such as Epynt and Caerwent ought to be enough to quicken pulses for those in the know.
This rally was always designed to honour the very best traditions of the past, but that doesn’t mean that route planner and Clerk of the Course Guy Woodcock isn’t constantly looking for ways to push the event forward and keep it fresh as well. As such in amongst the old favourites there will be new test venues as well, although Guy acknowledges that finding new venues that are up to snuff is becoming increasingly hard, particularly as this rally seems to constantly push its own high standards. “We’ve got some exciting new venues to enjoy, as well as many that our competitors will recognise” said Guy, “There’s a brilliant TC section to look forward to, under cover of darkness, and this year we have more private land test venues than ever before to really allow the guys to let loose.”
A salivating prospect indeed, and one for Guy to savour for himself as there is one final anniversary being celebrated this year, this will be Guy’s tenth as route planner and, as such, his final one at the helm. “I took over from Fred Bent, who had concocted the first ten. In tribute to him I always said that I would hand the baton over after my tenth, so this one is my swan song, although I’ll still be involved in some capacity of course! There are some brilliant people in the HERO-ERA team though, and I am looking forward to seeing this brilliant rally through fresh eyes.”
As ever entries are filling fast, but there are many more ways to get involved with this tremendous event than driving or navigating and it wouldn’t be possible to run it without the efforts of the travelling marshals and the local motor clubs and marshal’s associations throughout the route. For those wanting to get closer to the action this is always a brilliant way to get into the thick of it and enjoy some fabulous competition in classic cars being driven hard, just as they ought to be!
However people choose to be involved though, whether crew, organisation or spectator, this modern classic, celebrating multiple anniversaries, will certainly be exciting. The one they all want to win, the ultimate test of endurance and skill, it is one not to be missed and perhaps in another twenty years people might ask you where you were for the 20th anniversary of the HERO-ERA RAC Rally of the Tests.