The town of Buxton has reverberated with the sound of classic vehicles over the last couple of days as preparations for the 2014 Rally of the Tests have come to fruition. An impressive 89 cars made the start from The Pavilion Gardens, the first car crew Jason Duerden/Catriona Rings in a 1927 Frazer Nash left the start line at 17:30 exactly with a large crowd of spectators and well-wishers to send them on their way.
The entry list includes many famous and respected names, one crew in particular was looking to try and make history, Paul Wignall, partnered by Mark Appleton were vying to make this their third win in a row, a feat never achieved on the Rally of the Tests. A mistake by his navigator, Iain Tullie, cost Jan Ebus the win last year, teamed with fellow Dutchman Jan Berkhof, the 2014 winners of the Winter Challenge to Monte Carlo are amongst the fancied runners and riders in this event, with Berkhof being part of the only none GB/Ireland crew to take a win on the event in 2006. The anticipation for the event has been building over the weeks, a testament to the hard work and skill of Clerk of Course, Guy Woodcock and his charge, Anthony Preston.
Taking on board the comments from 2013, the prologue this year was a shorter affair, leaving the Pavilion Gardens and heading out towards Manchester, the run to the very first regularity at Goyt Valley was a short one. Setting off down Goyt’s Lane, crews crossed over the dam separating Errwood and Fernilee Reservoirs and into the first piece of tricky navigation. A cheeky car park with a ‘hole I’th wall’ style entrance set the tone of the coming days, difficult to spot, this caught some of the less wary out taking time from them, a square left turn through the wall and then down the car park on private land to the first timing point which was hidden from cars making the initial turn. Wignall and Appleton dropped 23 seconds here and David Morgan/Martyn Taylor fared worse losing 33, something clearly amiss with this normally very competitive crew. The following run down Goyt was without drama, an easy section that took in the famous rambling moorland roads, a famous local beauty spot led the prologue towards Axe Edge via a timing point situated just after Derbyshire Bridge, however the nip and tuck lane did manage to claim time. The final timing point was at the beginning of Leap Edge before a short non-competitive section taking the now wary crews to Buxton Raceway for a test that took place in the dark, Ryan Pickering/Andy Ballantyne were the fastest here, narrowly pipping Paul Crosby/Andrew Fish for Fastest Time of Day.
As a home to Stock Cars and Banger racing, the surface of the Raceway does come in for some abuse, many thrills and spills depositing oil and fluids on the track, combine this with the damp conditions on the night and you have a recipe for fun, many crews taking the words of caution in the route narrative and opting to stay out of the Armco barriers, unfortunately, ex Rally cross Champion Dermot Carnegie didn’t fare too well here, the Volvo PV 544 receiving a few war wounds prior to exiting the raceway.
Leaving the test and heading south east along High Edge, a no through road sign must have had crews thinking ‘here we go again’ as it led towards two fairly remote farms, the route instructions giving way to a tight hairpin left into a white that looked to go nowhere, Tomas de Vargas Machuca/Sean Toohey fell foul of this, as did Paul Bloxidge/Liz Jordan, it must have been a Porsche thing as both crews were sat in Stuttgart’s finest. As the timing point was on private land, another ace had been played with many of the unwary having time taken from them, turning right out of the white and onto the incredibly slippy and mud encrusted road past Dowall Hall towards the final timing point of the prologue at Glutton Bridge.
This has been a somewhat shorter prologue to previous years, as usual it has not been without twists and turns to keep the crews awake and wondering what will come next. It has been a great start for the in-form Howard Warren partnered by last year’s second placed Iain Tullie. In second lie Paul Crosby/Andrew Fish in another Porsche 911. Third place sees Keith Davis/John Youd in an MGB, followed in fourth by Ryan Pickering/Andy Balantyne. The top five is rounded out by super stylish Peter Naaktgeboren/Bart den Hartog in a big winged Escort RS1600. The event starts in earnest tomorrow, heading through the midlands into Wales. An expectant buzz surrounds the Rally HQ tonight in Buxton as the new shorter style prologue seems to have won many fans. Tomorrow sees the Rally of the Tests head into Wales, as darkness falls we can expect some shifts and changes. Keep checking back for the latest Testing Titbits as the event progresses.
Day1 to Lunch
To Station Inn, Marshbrook. TC 1/5 15:50
car 16 with misfire, unsure if they will make it round tonight.
car 20 McCleans with fuel problems and pushed Over the start
crews now returning from prologue, much more grip than expected.
regularities causing several crews problems, tricky hairpin and a junction into a car park… More to follow.
Day 1, to Llandrindod.
Even though there was promise of letting off the pace a little, competitors had an early start for the first leg on Friday, a day that saw no less than nine tests and six regularities as the event set off from Buxton at 07:45. Reverse seeding was the order of the day, with those who hadn’t fared so well on the prologue leading the crews out of the town centre and heading along the A6 for a short while to Taddington where the first regularity would take place. Named ‘Bakewell View’ this was a short section to ease in the day. It wasn’t all plain sailing as the road had several not as map sections to keep the crews guessing, two timing points measured performance, the second being at the ancient Conksbury Village where the timing point was placed after a steep downhill section after a hairpin.
A visit to ‘Chez Perez’ as it is affectionately known locally was next, as Global Brands chief Steve Perez opened up the grounds of his home to the Rally of the Tests. Aptly named ‘Steve’s Place’ the first test was the shorter of the two, a run up a long drive before twisting in-between the front of the main house before a stop box and further twists brought the test to its end. The second test was the first leg stretcher of the event, a long, winding affair that allowed the more powerful cars a slight advantage, named after one of Perez’ most famous drinks, ‘Tree Amigos’ was a firm favourite in the early part of the event, Unfortunately, we lost Robert Garret/Sharma Day here due to mechanicals, the crew’s Dolly crying no more and leaving them out of the event.
This was the longest regularity of the event so far, passing through Idridgehay and negotiating the ford just outside Millington before the final timing point before the main road at Hulland Ward, the craggy screes of The Peak District now left behind, Rally of the Tests visited its first refreshment break at The Shoulder of Mutton, Osmaston. It had been a great morning for Warren/Tullie and after a shaky start to the event Duerden and Rings in the Frazer Nash were showing some amazing times for a chain driven open car. Darley Moor Motorcycle Race Circuit formed the basis for test three, essentially triangular in shape, this test had a bit of everything proving to the liking of Naaktgeboren/ den Hartog as they wiggled through the chicanes and conquered the two stop boxes, the fast test suiting the Dutch competitors.
Marchington Industrial Estate passed back the baton to the more manoeuvrable vehicles, shorter than the race circuit previous to this test, this was a much simpler test situated on the old army barracks, a loop around part of the estate. A run to the south of Stafford, skirting the famous Cannock Chase took the event to the final regularity of the morning, this was designed to catch the unwary as the route took a not as map loop around some farm buildings, this caught several crews on their way to Weston Park for lunch and two tests that included the infamous Vauxhall stopping ford of RAC’s past. In fact, it wasn’t the best place for Robin Eyre Maunsell/Peter Scott as rthe experienced pair cried no more, Scott devastated by the failure of the Sunbeam.The short run out past Telford led to a straightforward regularity on a twisty section of road north east of Ditton Priors, passing the hamlets of Haughton and Morville before entering the old munitions store at Ditton Priors. The site has a reputation as being tricky, as with all old MOD sites the kerbs and changing surfaces pose the greatest challenges to the drivers, the biggest challenge for the navigator is to keep the driver on the reigns as the red mist descends! Charles Graves /Ron Palmer succumbed to the teast, as did CoC Guy Woodcock declaring that it was the slippiest he had seen the priors even after winning it years ago.
With the sun starting to fall from the sky, the proceedings started to head towards the west, names of places now changing from English to have a more Celtic feel about them, crossing the classic west Shropshire fells, a regularity over and named ‘Long Mynd’ really brought home the character of this event. The section included four timing points, steep, twisting lanes that crossed expanses of unfenced moorland, a real harking back to the days of the original ‘Tests’. After climbing over Long Mynd, a square left at Rattlinghope brought crews into the first timing point, cleverly placed so the start would be on a hill, it means that some crews lost time here, as cars struggled with the steep climb back toward Jack Myrton Way, two junctions separated them from this ancient road and forced those who kept to the correct route via Cwmd House and the wonderful Kinnerton before the final timing point at Linley Hill.
As darkness fell, the first crews ventured into Wales, crossing the River Teme, Clerk of Course Woodcock revealed another of ‘Guy’s Gotchas’! A four timing point regularity that started just outside Duffryn using the lanes on the edge of Black Mountain, the sting in the tail was two timing points situated on private land, a steep climb between the first and last gaining over 380 metres altitude in just less than a kilometre making sure that a press on style of driving was required here. The final timing point was once again there to catch the unwary, a steep descent round a square right leading to a steeper drop to a square left where the timing point was placed. No rest from here as Tester’s were literally plunged into a farmyard test in the dark. Featuring a free turn, where competitors decided the best way for them to negotiate a tight turning circle, the test called for them to navigate a dark farmyard under the shadow of Bryn Mawr before attempting a ford in the middle of the farm.
A short regularity around Red Lion Hill led to the final action of the evening, last used in 2012, the slippery woods above the sleepy village of Abbeycwmhir were deployed as the events first TC section.
The first full day came to an end after just over twelve hours, the town of Llandrindod Wells buzzing with the sight of these stunning vehicles parked in the centre. Carnegie /Bosdet hold the top spot overall, with Morgan/Taylor in second and Abel/Duerden in third.
The adjusted positons read
2: Roger/Leigh Powley +9 seconds
3 Carnegie/Bosdet +34
Tomorrow, the route really gets tough, let’s see what happens tomorrow night…
Thanks to all the marshals and officials, from all of the HERO-CRA Team.
Landslip overnight shortens Reg 3/3,
Overall lead still as same as far as we know
Setting off from The Metropole Hotel in Llandrindod Wells, overnight leaders Howard Warren & Iain Tullie had spent most of the night with the HERO service crew as they changed the gearbox on Warren’s Porsche 911. Even after the change of gear box, selection was still problematic and causing Warren concern.
The event has been received very well up to now with the night section around Abbeycwmhir amongst the most popular parts so far. Turning off in Rhayader the route headed north-west for a short while to the first regularity at Pant-y-dwr. Those that were still asleep were rudely awakened as two timing points and a tricky to read instruction that were positioned at the start of the regularity took time from many crews. A final timing point at Tylwch on a road that wasn’t there again took the unwary by surprise. The leader board was going to be a lot different at Lunchtime.
Two tests in the Sweet Lamb Complex followed, the first taking part on the undulating tarmac testing section, this held the drivers in check with two code boards slowing proceedings slightly. The second test in Sweet Lamb was a looser test, with a hill climb on gravel situated close to the shooting grounds. Morning coffee was served at Devil’s Bridge before two superb tests at The Mid wales Activity centre, for those that have never visited this superb facility, it is a privately owned motor sport centre, built by a local farmer who saw the need for something like this in the area. Situated on the side of a hill, the track snakes up and around, with several blind crests and fast bends to catch the unwary.
Heading out from Tregaron towards Aberystwyth, the second regularity of the day wound round the lanes of Ceredigion, this was a straightforward section, and had three timing points in, the views spectacular as crews headed over Mynydd Bach, or Small Mountain. The much overlooked coastal roads of western Wales formed a none competitive section allowing crews to catch a breath as they head for lunch at Nanteos Mansion, Aberystwyth, this grade one listed building built in the mid-18th century has a beautiful view over Afon (River) Ystwyth. At lunch, Roger & Leigh Powley held top spot, followed by Peter Naaktgeboren/Bart den Hartog with Andrew Buzzard/Robb Lyne in third. In the pre-1962 Class, John Abel/ Andrew Duerden led David Morgan/Martyn Taylor who in turn were followed by Carnegie & Bosdet. It was quite a unique event as Kevin Savage made a very uncharacteristic error, a wrong approach to a control costing him and driver Frank Fennel penalties.
To let the crew’s lunch settle, a 25 minute run north east took them to Cyneiniog regularity, this was held west of Nant-Y-Moch reservoir, the majority on private land in woodland. The twisting forest roads catching many out A good crowd had turned out to watch the following test just down the way at Nant-Y-Moch reservoir, situated on the of the reservoir, a long test with two code boards keeping the crews amused as the route turned to head south.
The afternoon started to close in as Rally of the Tests 2014 made Llanafan regularity, its majority once again based on private land with five timing points situated over the length of the event. Turning back south toward Tregaron again. A regularity over Gamallt, with its narrow lanes and crests took us into darkness, the hairpins and sheer beauty of the area a delight for crews. It took time out of Jayne Wignall/Peter Rushforth, an unfortunate second puncture of the event dropping them out of the top ten in the pre-1962 class for the first time in the event.
A time control in Llandovery preceded what many was one of the best sections of the event so far. Starting in the legendary Halfway Forest, and wending around the lanes and tracks of Epynt, the night TC section would turn the event on its head once again. In the front runners, first to suffer were Naaktgeboren/ den Hartog, dropping the wheels of their RS1600 into some deep ruts, they beached the car and struggled to extract themselves. Carnegie/Bosdet fell foul at a tricky junction close to Tirabad, sending the Volvo crew ‘shopping’ to the tune of several minutes. The Powley’s and Ryan Pickering/Andy Ballantyne were spectacular, Pickering taking the crossroads at Dixies fully committed, leaving them one of the stars on this section. Quietly making their way up the leader board are Tomas de Vargas Machuca/Sean Toohey, some superb navigation from Toohey keeping the 911 pair in the top 5.
Crews are now leaving Llandrindod for the last time and with the tables being well and truly turned on the leader board last night, the Powley’s go into the final day with an almost one and a half minute lead over Andy Buzzard/Robb Lyne. Howard Warren/Iain Tullie hold third just 33 seconds in front of de Vargas Machuca/Toohey. In the pre-62 class, Pickering/Ballantyne hold the lead over Carnegie/Bosdet who in turn narrowly hold off Morgan/Taylor. Who will win it? It is very close in all respects, and with the prospect of several TC sections and tests in Caerwent, the event is still wide open. More updates in Testing Titbits as we progress through the day.
Day 2, Devil’s Bridge 10:05
Lunch, Nanteos Mansion 12:40
Carnegie & Bosdet drop two minutes on the above
Llandrindod Wells 20:10
The final day
of Rally of the Tests got underway in bright sunshine, a total contrast to the previous evening where crews took a real beating from the weather.
Roger and Leigh Powley were nervous at the offset, they knew that even with a 1 minute 31 seconds lead, anything could happen. It was a challenging morning for the organisers too, bad weather causing landslips that were found by the opening car, a re-route was organised and not much route was lost fortunately. Regularity one was a gentle affair that took crews south of Builth Wells and onto a test near Banc y Cwm leading them to another test opposite Llyn Legin. A brief link section brought the event to some stunning roads over Waun Hirwaun, which, as mentioned previously suffered from a landslip and lost a small part of the route. This section included a superb bit of routing by Woodcock/Preston, a not as map loop catching many out and dropping them time as they passed over the famous Erwood Bridge.
Heading south through Talgarth and on a long link section over Y Mynydd, a coffee halt was held at Crickhowell. There were no real problems to report here and a short regularity ensued to the south of Abergaveny. This was the calm before the storm as after leaving here it was south through Usk and into the venue of the day, Caerwent. A twisting maze of lanes that took competitors around one of the premier motor sport venues in Wales, the navigation difficult and the eleven controls in around 24 minutes meant that it was prudent to push on.
Out of Caerwent and down the road to Chepstow took the final day pass it’s halfway mark, two tests, one either side of lunch kept the crews entertained, the first test being a blast on some sandy sections followed by a shorter test on an old car park took crews back to Caerwent for the final time on the event.
At lunch it had become really close as Andrew Buzzard and Robb Lyne pulled time back out of The Powley’s,reducing the deficit to just 40 seconds. Howard Warren/Iain Tullie lay in third just 33 seconds behind Buzzard/Lyne. In the Overall awards, Ryan Pickering/Andy Ballantyne held a slender lead into Caerwent over Dermot Carnegie/Paul Bosdet. The twenty seconds difference could have been so different last night if the Volvo crew hadn’t wrong slotted on Caerwent. The top three was rounded off by David Morgan/Martyn Taylor in another Volvo, just over a minute behind Carnegie/Bosdet.
A short regularity starting out from Mitchel Troy and heading the competitors back to the last action of the event, three long tests in Caerwent brought the action to a close and sent the crews heading back to Bristol, A large gathering of well-wishers and on-lookers applauded crews as they passed under the finish arch. Bob Rutherford wreaked his revenge on Guy Woodcock, after the Clerk of the Course had made Bob carry an old 1980’s style mobile phone around for the entirety of the event. Bob jumping from the car and covering Guy in shaving foam.
We await the final results and will post them as soon as they are final, many competitors have called this the best Rally of the Tests ever, and an announcement will be made tonight at the presentation dinner regarding next years’ event and the locations. Will the night belong to Ryan Pickering & Andy Ballantyne, they had mentioned it was close at around five seconds between Bosdet/Carnegie. Will Roger & Leigh Powley take first in Class for their outstanding efforts, an emotional Leigh shedding a tear as he and his girlfriend embraced on the finish line?
Llandrindod Wells to Crichowell 10:30