To celebrate the 10th Anniversary running of the event, this year’s Rally of the Tests will be a bit longer than normal and will feature a start and a few days of competition on the Emerald Isle...
From a mid morning start close to Dublin on Monday 15th November, crews will spend the next three days exploring classic rallying terrain in Counties Wicklow, Kilkenny, Carlow and Kildare. With the help of their many Irish motorsport friends and associates, Fred Bent and Anthony Preston have been busy putting together a route that includes the best that the Emerald Isle has to offer.
After enjoying a traditional Irish Hooley Night on Wednesday evening, crews will return to the UK by ferry on Thursday morning for a lunchtime restart from Anglesey Race Circuit. This will also see the start of the UK-only “home run” event for crews who don’t have the time to complete the full event.
Leaving Anglesey, the event heads south into the Cambrian Mountains to trace a new route through Mid Wales en-route to an overnight halt in the Potteries area. The next day’s route takes in traditional sections in the Derbyshire Dales before crews head north and east into Yorkshire to sample some new tests and enjoy some old favourites.
After a night’s rest in the popular Rally of the Tests watering hole of Scarborough, a final day’s coast to coast run through classic rallying territory in the Yorkshire Dales and the Lancashire Fells will bring this Anniversary event to Blackpool - from where it all started 10 years ago - for the final tests and the prizegiving gala dinner.
Day One – Dublin to Gorey
In true Rally of the Tests spirit some crews arrived in Dublin a day or so early while others left it to the last minute.
First to arrive at our HQ in Dublin’s Citywest resort were the Mini Cooper S crew of David Keniston and Carl Davies. It’s Carl’s first event and I think it’s likely to be a baptism of fire. From the discussions so far it seems that perhaps the full detail of what is involved had been glossed over…. the intrepid crew arrived without any of the required maps! Some late night shopping and internet purchases have resolved this problem and the duo were looking quite organised when they crossed the start line on Monday morning.
The sad news on Saturday was that Frank Fennell had been taken into hospital and would therefore not be joining us for at least the Irish section of the event. Frank has been trying to persuade us to bring the event to his homeland for many years and it was felt that this, the 10th Anniversary was an ideal time to run an extended event. (Frank is reported as doing fine and threatening to join us later in the week.)
As usual many crews had experienced problems even before the event had begun, Guy Symons and David Watson had already replaced two sets of points on their Riley 1.5 and were hoping to find some better quality items that would last the week.
On a more serious note Olaf Pothoven and Rob Van den Berg had a problem with the overdrive in their PV544, but if you are going to have a problem with your car Ireland is probably the best place as the locals are so passionate about their rallying they will find, via their extensive contacts, any part that you may need so a new overdrive was soon on its way and the sweep crews set to work. With seconds to spare Olaf and Rob crossed the start line and went on to record a fastest time on the first test, resourcefulness has also sourced a new gearbox for the Sandiland’s Standard 10 – The only crew to have started all 10 Rally of the Tests events in the same car!
To get the event off to a truly Irish start the welcome dinner on Sunday night was held at a traditional Irish pub – the Merry Ploughboy where we were treated to an evening of Irish music and dance. This was great fun and will be fondly remembered by all.
Thankfully it was a relaxed 10am start time on Monday and we awoke to a clear sky and the promise of a good day ahead. There were two tests before crews had even left the Citywest Hotel complex and these were completed without and major incidents.
Fred Bent and Anthony Preston have worked very hard with assistance from their many Irish friends, notably Michael Jackson and Mickey Gabbett to use venues and routes that reflect the spirit of rallying in Ireland – where else can you rally through somebody’s garden and at the end you have to stop because the landowner is providing tea and cake! Lunch was at Powerscourt House and Sinead and her colleagues from Avoca provided a fine spread.
Over an early dinner at Amber Springs in Gorey there were many tails of very slippery roads but in most cases it just served to slow progress, James O’Mahony and Paddy McDonnell were not so lucky and although Volvos may be strong, Irish walls are stronger! So, a wingless car appeared in Gorey and miraculously, a new wing also appeared about the same time and the car was in a far better state when it restarted for the evening loop.
The evening section was secret until an hour before the start but was provided on a marked map so not a lot of work was required by the navigators. This section was well received by competitors and there are many smiling faces in the bar this evening, it’s noticeable though that they are mostly drivers, with the co-drivers more likely to be seen huddled over their maps in deep discussion about what Fred has got planned for tomorrow.
Andrew Mallagh is giving his new co driver Paul Harley a taste of the fast life with a quickest time on the test at the Holfeld site, not only is he debuting a new navigator but also a new car, a very nice Porsche 911, which Andrew claims belongs to his wife Sarah. It’s good to see the International spirit of the event and we have crews from Belgium, England, Holland, Ireland, Norway, and Scotland all contesting the Nations Cup.
Susan McClean was looking very worried when she checked into the Gorey control on Monday afternoon, Bob had been left in the car park trying to find out why he’d lost reverse gear in the Ford Anglia, thankfully this had happened on the last test so not too much time had been lost and luckily he was able to make a repair from within the car.
Now the first sets of results have been published there have been a couple of queries submitted and, aside from the serious nature of some questions, there are certain others that always raise a smile in the results room from the extent of their imagination…. it strikes us that perhaps it is a similar situation to that which must occur in insurance company claims offices.
Tuesday sees us heading south for a lunch halt at Fethard before returning to spend the night at Mount Wolseley in Tullow, that might sound quite easy but by the time crews have tackled 8 Tests, 6 Regularities and a multitude of passage and time controls there are sure to be many more tales at the dinner table.
Day Two – Gorey to Tullow
The sweep crews worked long into the night changing the gear box in the Sandiland’s Standard 10, hopefully this new Irish sourced box will last the remainder of the event but with so many tests gearboxes and axles can be put to test. Another with transmission problems overnight were Gary and Jane Edgington, whilst Gary toiled in the car park changing the clutch master cylinder Jane entertained the local marshals but in fairness she did keep Gary supplied with refreshments. Hopefully a day of use will have expelled all the air from the system. Gary did say that he regretted having changed it because at least before it was working, albeit with a small leak. It doesn’t seem that the clutch problem is slowing Gary and Jane down much as they were still in a midfield position by the end of the leg.
Following the overnight halt in Gorey all cars bar the Jaguar XK150 of Charles Graves and Ron Palmer restarted, the Jaguar having had alternator failure on the evening leg. It was another busy day with 8 tests and 6 regularities, thankfully for most of the day the weather stayed fine but as the last cars arrived at the Mount Wolseley hotel in Tullow the wind built up and the rain came, it was a brave soul who ventured out but for some running repairs meant there was no choice but to don the waterproofs.
The slippery tests were beginning to take their toll and a number of cars are sporting slightly different bodywork to that which their manufacturers originally planned but there have been no further retirements.
The final section of the day had been a sting in the tail with varying route instructions, as always at the end of a long day the atmosphere in the car can become quite tense and perhaps instructions between crew members are not quite as fluent as they could be leading to wrong slots and a subsequent loss of time. With reverse seeding you would expect the first cars back to be those who had struggled the most but tonight it seemed that it was the midfield runners who had the most to say about why they had incurred penalty points.
After some refreshment and another good meal most of the earlier problems seemed to be forgotten and as crews studied the results and saw that their fellow competitors had also incurred penalties, the atmosphere eased and crews remembered that we are only two days into a six day event so there is still plenty of time for places to be gained… or lost!.
The lunch halt for the day had been at McCarthys Bar in Fethard – where else would you find a bar that also serves as the undertakers! Most of the afternoon was spent on venues that belong to friends of Michael Jackson and Mickey Gabbett and we were delighted to have the company of some of the landowners at our evening meal.
Bernard Bradley and Vincent Fagan are debuting an Austin-Healey 3000 on this event, Bernard is finding that the handling of the big Healey is nothing like the Porsche 911 he is used to, no doubt he’ll be on a body building course prior to the next event in order to build up his strength. The handling is perhaps not helped by the broken shock absorber!
Tests newcomers Mike Thompson and Roger Osborne are finding that their Chrysler 75 is perhaps not the best car for this event, unlike the recent Peking to Paris where Mike finished in a very high position. The lighting is poor which makes any test in the dark a challenge and many turns on the tests need careful manoeuvring rather than a quick tug of the handbrake.
Hopefully the winds will have dropped by tomorrow morning and the rain eased off enough for crews to enjoy the final day in Ireland visiting not only the usual range of country estates but also the opportunity of a test on the fabulous Mondello Park Race Circuit.
Our roving reporter from the Yellow Peril – Simon Parson is not competing on this year’s event which is why you are receiving shorter reports than normal so readers persuade your friends and relatives who are competing to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard and provide a driver or co-driver perspective on the day’s activities.
Day Three – Tullow to Dublin
Thankfully by the time we left the fabulous Mount Wolseley Hotel the nights bad weather had gone and it turned out to be a good day, it was to be our final day in Ireland and the day was based around the use of the Punchestown Horse Racing Complex and the nearby Mondello Motor Racing Circuit with a lunch and tests at the nearby Palmerstown Estate.
The day started off with a test on a private estate before a regularity section took crews through to their first quarry test of the event, this was a new challenge for many crews but all proved up to the mark and there were no major problems.
The tests at Mondello and Punchestown were very popular and the opportunity to drive on well surfaced roads was a welcome change.
Tim Lawrence and Tony Davies had a failed electric fan in their MGB GT but as usual the resourcefulness of the Irish led to a new fan being delivered to the overnight halt before the end of the day. Further packages also arrived for Warren Kennedy – a new spring to replace a broken one, and a mysterious brown box for the Edgington’s – is this yet another clutch master cylinder!
The McClean’s are still struggling to get gears in their Ford Anglia, Bob now thinks that it may be the clutch fluid boiling as the slave cylinder is very close to the exhaust, last time he was seen with two rolls of bacofoil, the plan being to try and provide some heat insulation.
The Volvo 142 of Pat Neville and Eamonn Waldron have problems with their radiator which you may think would be quite an easy fix, however once seen in the cold light of day it would appear that perhaps there is a little more to the story, perhaps Pat will care to elaborate, all we would say is that he now has a new way of mounting his spotlights!
Karen Gaffney is continuing to impress all with a new period outfit each day including hats, husband Ted takes equal care with his own appearance and that of his Mini but as an Autoglym distributor I suppose he does have good access to cleaning products.
After Mondello Park we had another test at the home of Joe Reynolds, for obvious reasons we’d not liaised with Joe on the exact route, thankfully Fred has used the venue before and knows Joe well so had a good idea what would be allowed and which areas are off limit. Joe was still talking to us when he arrived at the Finnstown Hotel for the night halt so all must be well. The final test of the day was in the grounds of the Finnstown Hotel and meant that we were able to complete the Irish section of the event with tests at both start and finish hotels.
Our Dutch competitors are having a great time and they quickly gained a good understanding of the varied ways for the presentation of the route information. Different rules apply in The Netherlands so sometimes it can be hard for them but they are also generous enough to help others, including Willy Bjoerke from Norway who is another co driver on his first rally.
Former winners Paul Wignall and John Bateson seem to be having good runs in their Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Mercedes-Benz 300SE respectively, Paul’s wife Jayne has not been quite so lucky and suffered a puncture, but the sweeps soon sorted that out.
It’s an early start on Thursday as we have to catch the ferry back to Wales for the remaining three legs of the event. At Anglesey Circuit we’ll also be joined by the Home Runners who are just competing on the UK legs of the event.
Day Four – Dublin to Stoke on Trent
It was an early start with crews needing to leave the overnight halt by 06:30 in order to get to Dublin Port for the Stena sailing back to Holyhead and the start of the UK section of the event.
Joining us at Anglesey were 11 crews who had entered the Home Run. First car away was the Volvo Amazon of Wesley Massam and Willy Cave. Willy is one of the handful of competitors who are celebrating having taken part in all 10 editions of the Rally of the Tests. Also on the Home Run and debuting a Fiat 2300S that has been in the preparation stages for what seems like many years are Michael and Richard Moss.
While we were on the ferry there were tales that Anglesey Circuit was rather wet but thankfully by the time we had docked and driven up to circuit the rain had blown away and the tests were run in relative comfort.
The first test was in the Pit Lane and then crews completed a regularity consistency test on the main circuit, they really do seem to be getting the hang of these now and several crews had a zero penalty. Guy Symons and David Watson never got as far as the circuit consistency test – they broke a halfshaft on their Riley 1.5. After establishing that there wasn’t an Anglesey branch of the Riley Owners Club, Guy managed to locate the necessary parts in London and arrange for a courier to bring them up to the Stoke on Trent night halt. The car was then recovered back to Stoke and Guy and the sweep crews set to it, and a couple of hours later they were ready to go again.
The trip across Wales seemed to be quite uneventful, but now having written that we’re sure somebody will tell us that for them, it was far from that. The highlight of the day was to be the traditional Swynnerton Training Camp TC section. This has been a firm favourite on the event for a couple of years and as with all things it has evolved. Shon Gosling and his team built up on the previous good work done by Richard Lugg and we understand that there were over 50 marshals present manning the various PC and TC controls.
Although greatly enjoyed by crews and sometimes described as the most fun you can have with your trousers on, it can also be a punishing place if you get it wrong. Although there are run off areas they do tend to be very muddy and if you get stuck you are likely to be there for some time, several crews came into the hotel looking like they had arrived from a very wet Glastonbury Festival. Others had mechanical problems and a few more made contact with each other!
Day Five – Stoke on Trent to Scarborough
It was straight back into Swynnerton on Friday morning for another three Tests, these generally passed without incident. However, the final test had to be stopped for a short while to allow a tank transporter to be turned around, shortly after this Pat Neville broke the gearbox on his Volvo 142, shame the tank transporter had left by this point!
It was then a cross country run with a couple of regularities to the lunch halt at Wortley Hall, here a splendid carvery lunch had been laid on. Wortley Hall is run by the Co-Operative Society and for every lunch we had some divi!
Robert and Susan McClean finally threw in the towel with the Anglia and decided to head home in order to collect a modern car and return to the event to assist with the sweep crew duties. They got to within 5 miles of home before the clutch finally said enough is enough. They managed to rejoin by the end of the afternoon and have assisted Peter, Betty, Andy and Rob to keep everybody else in the event.
At each overnight halt the parts deliveries still seem to be arriving. Peter Naaktgeboren and Bart den Hartog had started the event on tyres that were perhaps more suitable for a summer tarmac event and had done well to last as far as Stoke on Trent, but they could go no further and after many many phone calls 4 new tyres were located and fitted early in the morning so that they were able to continue in the event.
The final section of the day was on Olivers Mount, just outside Scarborough, more commonly used for motor cycle racing and stage rallies it still presents a challenge when run as a TC section for historic cars due to the creative input of our Clerk of the Course Fred Bent.
Heavy Friday night traffic in some areas caused some delays, but an additional time allowance meant crews were relaxed when they checked into the Scarborough Crown Spa hotel after a very long and enjoyable day. Over a well deserved meal tales were swapped of if onlys… and what ifs?
Just one day remains of this 10th Anniversary event, it was a shame today to lose not only the McCleans Anglia but also the Volvos of Neville/Waldron and O’Mahony/McDonnell. Let’s hope that all the remaining crews make it across to Blackpool for the finale in St John’s Square of the 10th Anniversary Rally of the Tests.
Day Six – Scarborough to Blackpool
It was an early start on Saturday as there was a lot of ground to be covered before our arrival in Blackpool. The last of the daily handouts were issued at the Crown Spa Hotel in Scarborough before crews drove off to the start of the leg at Eden Camp, near Malton. First opened to the public in 1987 it has grown into one of the largest and most comprehensive museums covering British military and social history from 1914 onwards.
Crews didn’t have much time to look around, but after a cup of Naafi tea they did a test around the huts that house the museum’s exhibits.
Another test and a regularity in the white horse valley followed before a coffee halt and test around the Lightwater Valley Theme Park, thankfully the theme park is closed to visitors in November, so it was just the rides that needed to be avoided. It’s a good job the tracks on the roller coasters are so narrow, otherwise I am sure Fred would have designed a test that included doing a loop the loop!
Lunch for the day was at Browsholme, the oldest private house in Lancashire, our refreshments served in the recently refurbished Tythe Barn.
Just to keep crews on their toes after lunch, Fred had devised a regularity that was virtually impossible to plot, BUT if you took care was easy to follow from the instructions provided, it’s just some of the old school navigators don’t feel comfortable if they are not able to have their trusty OS map on their lap…
All that was left now was two tests, the first of these was held at Myerscough College which, as well as agricultural courses, also has a thriving motorsport section which has enabled some of it’s students to obtain employment with the top racing and rallying teams.
Unfortunately, the test we usually run as the final test in Blackpool, was not available due to major engineering works on the Promenade. So the finale was a popular one at a waste water treatment works near Preston, thankfully nobody ended up in the water.
All that remained on this 10th Anniversary event was a short run into Blackpool and the finish at St John’s Square in the shadows of the Blackpool Tower. It was here crews were greeted by the local Jazz Nights band, and the Saturday shoppers admired the mud splattered cars as they parked up after the finish arch.
Dermot Carnegie and Iain Tullie were very popular winners in their Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint, second was last years winner Paul Wignall accompanied by Nigel Raeburn in a similar car and third on the road were Howard Warren and Guy Woodcock but as they were in a post 62 car they don’t qualify for overall awards, so third place went to former winners John Bateson and Mark I’Anson in the big Mercedes-Benz 300SE.
Richard and Jo McAllister took the mixed crew award, Concours d’Elegance went to the Morris Minor of Brian and Janette Dwelly – how many other rally cars do you see with sheepskin seat covers? It’s a remarkably standard car and of a type that we will be seeking to attract to future events of this type. Spirit of the Rally went to Gary and Jane Edgington, always prepared to help others whatever the time and never without a smile on their faces. Mike Thompson and Roger Osborne took the Against All Odds awards for peddling the big Chrysler 75 Roadster with such gusto, this car had competed on the recent Peking Paris event and with just some minor repairs undertook ‘The Tests’.
The event was a fitting tribute to Fred Bent and his team. It was the longest and probably hardest Rally of the Tests to date, and the number of finishers is testimony to the efforts put in both by the CRA sweep crews and also by the CES team who sourced parts throughout the event to keep competitors on the move.
At the prize giving dinner Fred was thanked for all his efforts over the past 10 years and presented with a caricature featuring himself and the competitors who had done all 10 events – Willy Cave, Ron Palmer, Phil Swain and the only crew who have done all 10 as a crew and in the same car – Richard and Jon Sandilands.
Following the formal awards Fred presented a series of awards to his support team thanking them for their efforts over the past 10 years, these ranging from a set of colouring pens and a year planner for Anthony Preston, a box of Anadin for Chief Marshal Bob Redhead and for the closing car an Italian meal to make up for all the meals that they have missed over the years, the only trouble was that Fred’s definition of an Italian meal was two tins of spaghetti.
Competitors and Officials alike had got together to sign some control boards trying to persuade Fred to continue but he is adamant that this will be his last Rally of the Tests as an organiser. He’s not relinquishing all his organising responsibilities and will be utilising his expertise on the Three Legs of Mann in 2012 and we hope to see him as a competitor later that year on the 2012 Rally of the Tests.
1- Dermot Carnegie / Iain Tullie – Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint (Car 5)
2- Paul Wignall / Nigel Raeburn – Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint (Car 1)
3- John Bateson / Mark I’Anson – Mercedes Benz 300SE (Car 2)
4- Jan Ebus / Jan Berkhof – Porsche 356B (Car 15)
5- Richard McAllister / Jo McAllister – Volvo 122S (Car 14)
Class 9 winners – Howard Warren / Guy Woodcock – Porsche 911 (Car 4)
Class 7 Winners – Peter Naaktgeboren / Bart den Hartog – Ford Escort RS2000 (Car18)
Class 5 Winners and 6th O/A – Tony Sheach / Rob Kiff – Triumph TR4 (Car 24)
Class 8 Winners – Andrew Buzzard / Robb Lyne – Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint (Car 28)
Class 2 Winners – Joe Reynolds / Paul Bosdet – MG Magnette ZA (Car 11)
Class 6 Winners – Gary Edgington / Jane Edgington – Hillman Imp (Car 35)
Class 1 Winners – Richard Sandilands / Jon Sandilands – Standard 10 (Car 10)
Photos by Tony Large