home of the original RAC Rally
The very first RAC Rally started in Blackpool in 1932, becoming the forerunner to the 89 years of regularity and special stage rallying that was to follow. It is 90 years since the first one ran along the Blackpool promenade and the 20th Anniversary of the HERO-ERA RAC Rally of the Tests.
71 teams from 7 countries, including ten from Holland alone, will be attempting to finish this milestone event, knowing that to do so, they will be part of a special anniversary rally that will be recorded in motor sport history.
Paul Crosby, one of the favourites, navigated by Ali Procter in his Mini Cooper S, stood on the promenade in Blackpool as the dark clouds and rain descended over the harsh looking Irish sea in Blackpool, where it all started in 1932.
He grimaced as he looked up and said; “And the bad weather has come just at the right time, to make it a typical RAC Rally of the Tests.
“Despite the weather, this is really the event you want to do every year and it becomes even more special when you get anniversaries like this. So we are really looking forward to it.
“Looking along the prom here, this is a place along the seafront down the bottom here, where they conducted tests all those years ago. It must have been quite black and white, it is amazing to look at the old pictures.
“However, I also think because it is an anniversary event, it’s going be one of the toughest with hard competition out there for three and a half days of hard driving.
“This is the big competitive rally everyone wants to win, but we are up against some really stiff opposition. Given that the conditions could be pretty wet and windy though, we are hoping the Mini will be competitive. It was going well on a test event last week, which was absolutely essential, as we were driving through lots of water and mud, it didn’t miss a beat.
“This is also a battle of the navigators. I have top navigator, Ali Procter alongside me, but he is up against the likes of Niall Frost, who has done incredibly well. He’s only recently come into regularity rallying in the last few years, and of course you have Martyn Taylor has won this event before a couple of times. Now he’s well used to winning it, there’s probably three or four others who could really help their driver win it too.
“I can’t wait. I really can’t wait to get underway. I’m always really nervous, but once we get under way we will have a good crack at it.”
Navigator James Ewing said the event was relentless and compared it to being like ‘banging your head against a brick wall’. He was driving the Golf GTI to scrutineering for driver Michael Moss.
Noel Kelly and Pete Johnson have already been in Blackpool savouring the sights and sampling an extra night in the hotel, 24 hours ahead of everyone else! Due to 60 mph winds and high seas across from their Isle of Man home, the Seacat could not sail so they had to take an earlier ferry.
Susan Dixon and Darren Everitt are pretty all at sea themselves at the moment having only moved house on Monday, then their Triumph 2000 broke down last night! Susan; “Am I ready? No, not at all, but we will be by tomorrow. Well, we’ve been about to move house for the last three months but it didn’t want to happen, then it all happened on Monday!
“For goodness sake, everything’s been in storage. The car, the poti, the maps, the lights, everything, but we’ll go for it and we’ll be fine. We’ll be ready for tomorrow.”
There was relief on the face of Darren, as although the car broke down, he managed to fix it!. ”After all the rush moving in, last night the car broke down, it was just getting terribly close, the anniversary rally is going to be easy after all that!”
Henry Carr who is navigating for Jon Dunning in a Ford RS2000 said he felt “this event is the best, we are really look forward to this one, it is a special one. Last year we were in the top ten, so we want to be up there again, but forecast wise, it’s going to be very wet in Wales and windy. But that’s what we expect for the RAC Rally of the Tests!”
Ian Canavan, championship winning navigator is back with his championship winning driver Paul Bloxidge in their Golf Gti, the A team is back together!
Ian; “We’re looking forward to this event so much. You know, we don’t sit with each other all that much now, but this is our fifth RAC Rally of the Tests together, we’ve got the experience but we need a bit of luck on our side.
“Last year, we were fourth overall, given that we’re in a more modern car, I’ve also done five RAC rallies without breaking down or going off the road. So it’s quite a significant, number is five!
“It is significant that we’ve got this big anniversary event, 90 years, all the way back to 1932, and all those back and white photos to remind us.
“You know, this time of year when you’ve been following rallies like I have since I was a kid, when the leaves start falling at this time of year, you think about the RAC Rally. You know, it’s coming. It’s just so special. We can’t get those days back unfortunately, but this is the way we get some of the days back on the RAC Rally of the Tests.
“So that’s also quite special, 20 years. We’ve all watched the old footage, but we don’t have the 20 hour days anymore. That’s a good thing probably, but on this event you’ve got to be on it. You’ve got to be sharp. We’ve got to prepare for the event so we try and sleep and eat well. You also make sure all your paperwork is in order because it’s still a long day in these old cars.”
I’m looking forward to seeing what Guy Woodcock has got in store for us. I’ve been lucky enough to compete in both the Rally of the Tests and RAC rallies but I think each event has got its own flavour. So let’s see what happens!”
As one of ten Dutch crews on the RAC Rally of the Tests, Hank Melse and Bart den Hartog have made the pilgrimage over for the 90th Anniversary rally.
Hank; “It’s one of the favourite rallies we do, we didn’t want to miss the anniversary rally!
This is Bart’s 14th RAC Rally of the Tests. Bart; “That’s something isn’t it? An historic event, that’s a super long time already.
“The people in Holland know it’s there. They all love it and they come back every year, but I mean, it’s a long road journey to come here from the Netherlands, maybe that scares some people off a bit. It’s different, to how we do the navigation rallies on the continent, but I love it, all the tests and the banquet hall sessions, it is wonderful.
Hank, learned that the HERO-ERA Competition Director, Guy Woodcock, has Hank and Bart down as one of the favourites.
Bart; “That’s a funny guy. He’s funny”.
Three other crews ventured down to the historic Blackpool seafront to cruise the illuminated ‘Golden Mile’ along from the famous Blackpool Tower resplendent in it’s morphing colours by night.
Simon Malins and Suzanne Barker lead the way in their Hillman Hunter followed by Nigel Woof in his Volvo PV544, who with navigator and wife Sally are recently returned from the adventurous Sahara Challenge. Nigel; “This is something quite special, you see the place where the tests originally took place along the sea front, you see the history and then we have these great lights, so it will certainly be a good anniversary!
Sandra and Paul Heaney were at the tail of the trio in their Lancia Fulvia. Sandra; “ The last time I was here was 25 years ago, it’s changed a bit since then but it’s Paul’s first time, he has been really enjoying it. Lets hope the same happens when the anniversary rally starts tomorrow.”