By comparison with what lies in store, the handful of regularities and complex test within Weedon army base were a mere little scratch. But the action suggests that the competitors are having at it right from the start, as driver Paul Dyas, who is navigated by Martyn Talyor, suggested, “You have to go hard at it right away, the competition is too tight to hold back, this will be relentless and we haven’t started the real rally yet!”
Whilst the Prologue eases crews into action and dictates road position for Friday, the gap of just two seconds across the top three indicates the severity of the battle ahead as third place Dan Willan and Niall Frost are just one second off previous winners Paul Dyas and Martyn Taylor. They are then a further second behind current leaders Kurt Vanderspinnen and Bjorn Vanoverschelde in the classic Lotus Cortina. Darren Everitt and Susan Dixon are fourth in the Triumph 2000 which is fresh out of storage.
Whilst it is tight at the front, it is already proving tough for the many newbies who are on their very first RAC Rally of the Tests. Peter Moore and his son Kit Moore missed the Weedon Test and went straight into the Weedon Army base regularity in their Austin Healey Sprite, but Kit has been literally thrown into the deep end. The Sprite has a misfire and no windscreen wipers at the moment, but this is the same car that bravely took on the Sahara Challenge recently with Peter driving.
The spirit of past RAC rallies on this the 90th Anniversary, the 20th for the RAC Rally of the Tests, is embodied in the majority of crews who have made a major effort to dress in the style of the different RAC periods.
Malcolm Dunderdale and Anita Wickens are dressed in identical yellow jackets aka Pontins ‘Yellowcoats’ from the 60’s Holiday Camps, with Anita in her tennis skirt as if ready to give the campers a tennis lesson. Amy Henchoz and Elise Whyte are total 60’s girls with the hats to match, however, they can’t match the hat of Jenny van de Boel of Holland who looks like she is straight out of Ascot and continued to wear the magnificently large piece of millenary, even as it flopped over her eyes as her driver, Dutchman Laurens van de Velde, floored their Escort off the line at the start of the Weedon test!
The action will come thick and much faster on Leg One of the RAC Rally of the Tests, which will also see top HERO Challenge graduate pairing of Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane challenging from their top twenty position in their BMW 323i when they face challenges such as the potentially slippy Oulton Park tests.
Mike Cochrane; “We haven’t been here for quite a while. I think HERO challenge One was the last rally, but this is this a big one, the RAC Rally of the Tests and we didn’t have a great start with our trip failing! So that’s not the way it’s going to be the whole weekend. We’re going to fix that and see what we can do!”
Angus McQueen; We were good on the test actually, I think it’s hard to tell in the dark isn’t it, no wrong test directions, so that’s always good. It was good fun, exciting driving in there, it will be faster tomorrow in daylight, obviously. But yeah, it was a good surface and it was fun. Tomorrow we are just going to just enjoy it, this really is a fantastic event.”
Peter Moore in the Austin Healey Sprite had his share of problems in the Prologue with son Kit, both are new to the event.
“So she’s four weeks back from the desert, new axle, new front suspension. But we’re just trying to kill an electrical gremlin where the fuse keeps going which cuts the windscreen wipers out and the heater, and the heat is very important! Probably more important than the windscreen wipers to be honest, but she’s running fine, everything’s great, but when it rains over the next couple of days, we’re going to need the windscreen wipers we’re just trying to work out whether we can direct wire them!
“Kit my youngest son is in his first proper event, he really has been thrown into the deep end. We had a few issues, but he was good on the first regularity, he was amazing and then we just had a few technical issues on the army camp!
“We missed the test and went straight into the time control for the regularity, the key learning is going on, but we’re here to have fun!”
HERO-ERA Chairman Tomas de Vargas Machuca is here in the Arrive Drive Fiat 124, he is also fresh from the desert and the Sahara Challenge where he was further testing his 1914 LaFrance which he intends to enter into the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge in 2024.
Tomas; “ The prologue can still catch you out and that’s what it’s designed to do. And it didn’t quite catch us out as much as we were thinking, but we had our little moments of adventure! Our trip packed up so the ever so resourceful Martin Pitt was just reading the maps, we were fine with that.
“The Weedon surface was just great, broken up and fun. We are really testing a new car, different braking points and characteristics, you know a new experience in this car, we are just loving it. I mean, in the prologue, it really gets you into the mood, but you still get that pre event kind of nervousness, no matter how many times you do the RAC Rally of the Tests, 90 years or not!”
*The Shires host Round Two as the Challenge Increases