There are few more experienced competitors than The Rutherfords. Bob Rutherford has been rallying since the late sixties and was instrumental in the rise of popularity historic rallying saw through the eighties.
Following on from his fathers’ footsteps, Will Rutherford-Child has taken the baton as such from Bob and is progressing through the sport to build up his experience as a future Clerk of The Course. Several English stage rally championships alongside the flamboyant Julian Wilkes and numerous excursions on road rallies means that Will is probably one of the most experienced competitors in the UK.
After spending nine days in France on an extensive recce for the 2018 Winter Challenge to Monte-Carlo, we caught up with both Bob and Will and asked them about the route and their ideas for the upcoming event.
The Winter Challenge 2018, the 21st edition of the event is to be held once again as a map based event. Competitors will be sent the route two weeks before the event for them to plot and familiarize themselves with. Every day there will be route handouts given to competitors of the regularity sections which are kept secret until the day. We have worked hard to ensure there are no tricks with the detail on the maps. Any tricky junctions/sections of the route will be blown-up in scale to aid navigation. We want this event to be tough, but tough for the right reasons – weather, classic cars, and an exciting route; not tricks. We want to say to competitors, come and have a go, see how well you can perform as a team, against the great roads that we’re throwing at you.
For the 21st celebration, we are mixing the old with new and aiming to fully bring the challenge back to this winter classic.
Leg One, Concentration Run: Le Touquet – Beaune – 580km. Historically designed as a long run where crews are given a test of endurance and reliability rather than outright speed.On the original Monte Carlo Rallye prior to 1965, the Concentration Run maintained a scoring element, testing the navigational skills – not to mention the boredom threshold – of each competing crew. Scoring was then dropped… until now. We have re-introduced a scoring element with 3 regularity sections and a test to the concentration run to ‘whet the appetite’ and also provide a running order as we head into the mountains on Leg 2. The test will be held on a tricky and exciting handling circuit near to Paris as we pass to the east of the Capital. The infamous wines of the Beaune region will certainly be a welcome taste at the end of a long day as we arrive at the Mercure Hotel, with the final Regularity ending only 6 kilometers from the end of the day.
Leg Two: Beaune – Aix-Les-Bains – 334km, including 133km over 7 Regularities.
A traditional run out of Beaune towards the Jura Mountains along the D970 and a brilliant traditional Winter Challenge style Time Control in a great French Cafe/Bar before we venture into some new regularity roads as we climb up towards our stunning lunch halt overlooking the Lac de Vouglans before we venture into a tricky and testing Go-Kart Track test.The afternoon sends crews on a twisty adventure into some new forestry areas never used before they climb extremely high towards the infamous ‘Barriere Canadienne’ – a well-known feature on one of the most historical and notorious climbs of the Winter Challenge events. The Col de Biche has hugely affected the results of many previous events and as we descend from the Ain Department towards the Lac de Bourget, Aix-Les-Bains will be a very welcome sight, although another challenging section may lay between the crews and the Golden Tulip Hotel!
Leg Three: Aix-Les-Bains – Valance – 450km, including 172 km over 10 regularities & 60km TC Section.
‘The long one’ as it’s designed to be remembered will take us deep into historic Winter Challenge & Monte Carlo Rallye territory on both sides of the Rhone Valley and will see crews tackle a challenging Time Control section in the dark in the Ardeche. The morning will see crews depart Aix with a short run out alongside the beautiful lake and splendid views before they blast into the first tough regularity of the day high above the lake, but which climb will be used…? All we can reveal for now is that by the time crews reach a well-deserved coffee break in the beautiful Chalet on the Col de Granier, they’ll have already tackled 43 kilometer’s over 3 regularities.
A thoroughly enjoyable trip across the top of the Chartreuse will be a delight in any classic rally car on route to a new and exciting venture for the Winter Challenge as the crews are welcomed onto the Ice Racing Circuit for a very special test in front of their peers in the Vercors Region. Situated at 1380 meters, we hope this will be a true ‘winter challenge’ in all aspects.
The afternoon’s action kicks off as we delve into the Gorges de la Bourne with a new regularity section and also a trip along one of the ‘French balcony roads’ to the terrific Col de la Machine and the coffee halt in the Hotel. A quick google of the phrase ‘French balcony road’ brings up the following “A balcony road is a hair-raising lane cut into the sides of sheer cliffs. It’s a kind of road not for those who fear heights. There is little room for error on these roads. Drive with care as this is a mountain road with hairpin curves and narrow unlit tunnels.”
As crews drop out of the Vercors in the direction of Valance, they will have already tackled 8 regularities and 2 tests but will be in the knowledge that the ‘secret’ night section still looms large before any rest can be had. We’ve designed a night section into the event to be as enjoyable as possible for crews. We want crews to come back with a smile, there are no tricks, just beautiful roads which will be a challenge for both crew members.
Leg Four: Valance – Mallemort, 414km, including 170km over 8 regularities.
The Ardeche has been described as ‘the place that used to strike terror in the hearts of rally drivers of decades ago’. A short transit section back into the beautiful region will feel ultimately different to the previous evening but the regularities could still be a deciding factor for the event and accurate navigation will be necessary for a minimal time drop this morning. Five regularities before lunch will all have very different elements to them, none more so than the final regularity around the world famous rocky vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. A truly special lunch will welcome crews at Ogier Wine’s Grounds in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Sampling Ogier’s fine wines will have to wait, however, as a tough afternoon still lays ahead, including a fantastic trip along the D942 in the Gorges de la Nesque and a scintillating trip over the surrounding mountains on our way to the historical town of Gordes for afternoon coffee ‘with a view’. The setting for the film ‘A Good Year’ certainly won’t disappoint with the late afternoon sun falling low over the Luberon Region as we drop into the lanes between the hilltop towns for a very tough regularity before our run into the evening hotel and a welcome rest at the Spa Hotel, Mouline de Vernegues.
Leg 5: Mallemort – Col de Turini, 314km including 85km over 6 Regularities.
The final crescendo begins…. An early final morning will see crews traverse East through the cold morning mist as we climb high into the Southern Alps for the final time. The grand finale of the Col de Turini will steal the anticipation of most drivers but not before a gorgeous trip along the infamous Monte-Carlo Rallye stage from Col de Bleine to Sigale but most notably the famous feature of the Clues d’Aiglun. Images of the Group B Stage Rally machines blasting through the icy gorge will excite any rally enthusiast.
And then comes the final blast to the Col de Turini where the Winter Challenge will welcome all its finishers but crucially it will identify who are the 21st winners of this special event. The awards presentation will be set in the sumptuous surroundings of The Hermitage, one of the finest hotels in Monte-Carlo and our last hotel of the event.
In a nutshell, the event looks like this:
A 2,110km route, including 34 regularities with a totaling 604km, five driving tests.
We’re still taking entries for the event, you can read more about it here
*The Shires host Round Two as the Challenge Increases