The RAC Rally of The Tests was the birthplace of modern rallying as we know it. The response these wonderful vehicles bring is a joy to behold. We look forward to bringing you all the action from the event as it unfolds.
1. Jonathan Hancox and Richard Lambley – Triumph TR4
2. Tomas de Vargas Machuca and Nick Bloxham – Porsche 911 2.2 (A&D)
3. Steve Entwistle and Ali Procter – Morris Mini Cooper S
RAC Rally Of The Tests 2017 – Event Report
Good evening from the beautiful Carden Park Hotel near to the walled city of Chester.
We have had a large number of crews come through noise check and scrutineering already and there have been some tales of derring-do being bandied around. Bron Burrell has had three incidents on her way to the event, running out of fuel and a puncture being two of the issues, the wheel on her Austin Maxi, Puff, being corroded and not allowing a tyre to seal on the rim. Fortunately for Bron, Peter Banham came to the rescue and managed to fit an inner tube to cure the issue.
The bar here is buzzing tonight with a really cosmopolitan feel as the crews either greet old friends or make new ones before going into battle tomorrow evening – crews from continental Europe are sat with UK crews and discussing the various navigational challenges they face on the event.
This year sees a return to a more challenging format for the RAC Rally of The Tests navigationally, already the pre-event literature is being pored over and discussed between the competitors to see if they have the right angle on things.
Laurens van der Velde, ex-world Hot Rod Champion is desperate to have a better run than last year where after just five corners he had a tangle with some railings in his immaculate Ford Escort MkI RS2000, this year sees him with his partner, Jenny and they are looking for a top 50 finish in what is a quality field. So much so that we have read that the event is being called ‘the Rally equivalent of The Goodwood Revival” and that is an honour indeed.
Overhearing Martyn Taylor speaking with Paul Crosby, we couldn’t help notice a sense of disappointment in Martyn’s voice, asking him why the tone, he replied; ” I was really looking forward to having a tussle with Andy Pullan on this event, after hearing that their Porsche 356 wouldn’t be ready, it means that Andy and Paul aren’t in our class. Andy Pullan is now seen as the benchmark for navigators and to push yourself to be better is always fascinating” Paul Crosby, delighted to still be in the event but a little sad to not be in with a chance for the overall win as his Porsche 911 isn’t eligible said; “I’m gutted to not have the 356 here, there are some mechanical issues that need rectifying and I don’t want the vehicle to be rushed. It’s a frantic event where you are always on the go and it shows the cars up that aren’t prepared well, on this event both driver and navigator have to be clinical or face being punished by penalties.”
Klaus Mueller and Eric Schwab were seen poring over their maps just before dinner and despite them having competed on Le Jog they now realise that this is a stern test. Klaus said; ” The maps are real now, we are having to get used to them and we can see already that there is much more to this event than we thought. It already seems that the pace required will need us to push on, this looks to be a very challenging event.”
That’s all from us tonight, we’ll be back with you tomorrow as we kick off the event from 16:30 local time. We will be streaming live from Rednal Kart Circuit where the first cars are due to start the test from 17:46 onwards.
Starting in the manicured surroundings of Carden Park, near Chester, 93 competitors from all over the globe set off into the darkness on the event prologue, the traditional start to what has become a “must-do” event in the historic rallying world. Spanning three and a half days, crews will travel no less than 780 miles 29 tests, 21 regularity sections and 2 Time Control Sections set in the dark. The battle in the Golden Roamer championship is intensifying with the top three navigators within seven points of each other, all three are competing in this event and the upcoming Le Jog meaning that this event could well be pivotal in sealing or denying the title for one of them. The HERO Cup once again looks to be going to Paul Crosby, however, with Jayne Wignall just 29 points behind, Paul needs to score points on this event to clinch it with Jayne (as yet) not competing on Le Jog.
Getting the event underway were Andy Lane / Tony Brooks in their Volvo 123GT, Lane, last year’s winner, looking pensive as they crossed the start line to head along the Welsh Marches and into the first action of the event, a regularity section starting to the north-west of Burlton, just off the A528 near Wackley Farm. The instructions looked innocuous with just five points to plot of which three had either approach or depart instructions as the clue to the route. Running south-east into the village of Weston Lullingfields, the first timing point came up at the end of a farm track which was easy to miss in the dark. Simon/NIall Frost struggled here dropping 21 seconds whilst Paul Bloxidge/John Youd dropped a maximum one minute here. Turning left and heading south a slot right bypassing the village of Stanwardine in the Fields headed crews to the second timing point at a junction near Blackberry Hill, this was testing some of the crews as Andrew Hamer/Bob Kerry lost a minute along with several others who dropped time here. The last section on this regularity took in Grug Hill and Elbridge before the last plot of the instructions took crews long way round a loop before the final timing point at Tedsmore Hall.
The first test of the event came in the dark at Rednal Karting, a good-sized crowd gathered to watch the first action in the dark as most of the car park was close to filling up by the time the first ten cars had arrived. Paul Wignall/Mark Appleton were lightning quick here as were Jonathon Hancox/Richard Lambley. The Triumph pair of Hancocks/Lambley also having a storming run in the lanes to end the prologue leading the event.
A short link section heading north east brought the event to Spunthill and a semi-marked map with some junctions omitted for the crews to decide the route they would take. Again, a farm played a big part in proceedings with the first timing point set in a farm yard, this caught John Abel/Martyn Taylor out in their Alfa Romeo along with Steve Sly/Nick Green as well as many others. This regularity took in roads around some of the great Meres of the area with no less than five Meres being passed along the way. Out of Colemere and crossing Pikes End Moss brought the second timing point into view, Lyneal gave way to the white road at Clarepool Moss where the “unsuitable for motor vehicles” sign as crews entered the slot put doubt into some minds if the correct route was being followed, those that did go with the route found a timing point 3/4 of the way along the track. Through Welshampton and a longer section over Hill Top and Hampton Wood the fourth timing point came up at Greddington, and then onto the last Timing Point close to The Bryn Before End of Regularity close to Horseman’s Green.
The final action of the prologue came just outside the town of Wrexham where a test at Demon Tweeks with Steve Entwistle/Ali Procter firing on all cylinders to be quickest in their class on this test, the pair putting an earlier electrical scare behind them.
Crossing back into England, Carden Park was a welcome sight as a good night’s rest was in order for the first full day’s competition would total some 280 miles, the prologue was a delightful taster of what was to come for the crews, judging by the appetites displayed at dinner, it was an event that would be relished.
The first full day of the RAC Rally of The Tests live up to its name with five tests situated in the picturesque Cheshire countryside to start the day. Bidding farewell to Carden Park, a similar test was used to the one that caught several crews out on the Royal Automobile Club 1000 Mile Trial and once again it was to prove tricky. Ron Kendall/Nick Cooper and Guy Symons/David Watson were two of the more experienced crews to be penalised here.
Next up were two tests in the grounds of Bolesworth Castle, home to the Barbour Family since 1856, the area around here is ancient with close by Tattenhall being mentioned in the Domesday Book, the two tests there being thoroughly enjoyed by the whole field
Through the Cheshire Plains via Beeston and Easton brought the event to Oulton Park, two tests on the infamously slippery rally circuit where after a previous event the weekend prior to the RAC Rally of The Tests the surface seemed to be almost glass like making forward motion extremely tricky. Paul Bloxidge/John Youd were flying here, as were Crosby/Pullan who were now making a charge up through the ranks. Other crews that were really spectacular were Clive & Anji Martin, Jon Dunning/Henry Carr and the little Mini of Ted Gaffney/Brian Goff. Ted arrived at Redworth tonight a little dejected after a long day in the car, apparently the pair had struggled all day with local traffic costing them time.
The first regularity section took place in another RAC Rally of The Tests favourite, Cheshire Show Ground, last used in 2013, the section uses the numerous tracks and roads that bisect the fields that host the Show Ground. A frenetic 48 instructions in just 3.01 miles really puts the pressure on the navigator with some of the tracks being used mored than once this was a dizzying experience and one that suited the rapid Bloxidge/Youd again, posting an outstanding 9 seconds lost, closest to them were Chas Colton/Ryan Pickering on 14, several crews really struggled here with the loose surfaces and the intricacies of the farm tracks.
Heading east via a regularity south-west of Macclesfield, the third regularity was named Goldsitch Moss, starting just outside Allgreave, the section used a descriptive style of navigation that was used in the very first RAC Rallies after the war. The instructions, although clear, have to be read as a whole sometimes and this is designed to keep crews on their toes. The triangle at Goldsitch Moss was the first feature to cause crews concern, a slot left uphill to a T-Junction and then right taking time off crews with a timing point just after a left hand bend at Gib Torr. Headiing north, a steep climb at Dun Cow Grove. The final part of this regularity took in Hollinsclough Moor and Fawside Edge before the end of regularity at Longnor.
A great lunch at Haddon Hall preceded what was to be a long afternoon and evening, the first cars leaving Haddon Hall were only due in to the final control of the day at Redworth Hall some eight hours later at 20:51 hours.. Heading north through the market town of Bakewell, the first regularity of the afternoon was a marked map presentation which would take in Monsal Head, Litton, Little Hucklow and north-east of Bradwell before the end of regularity at Brough, close to Hathersage. Despite what looked like a relatively straightforward section, a speed change after 1.5 miles was a daunting task, the roads on this section being narrow and undulating, a timing point on a long-way-round triangle designed to penalise those still shaking off their lunch. Using the topography and maps to full advantage, the next timing point came up on a not as map section of road on the Roman Road at Smalldale, on approach to the timing point, there is a fork in the road that isn’t apparent on the map, close scrutiny and conviction from navigators the order of the day to achieve a low penalty score here, Alexander Leurs/Bas de Rijk dropped just eight seconds to be the cream of the crop here, this timing point caught out many ‘local’ crews too.
The next two sections headed further north exiting the Peak District to enter Yorkshire via Holmfirth and Meltham before coffee at Booth Wood, close to Scammonden. This had been handed to crews at signing on, but an allocated start time given at the point they left afternoon coffee meant little discussion could be had about the complexities and nature of the route. Climbing hard from the start, the route then dipped and twisted around Pike End, the already setting sun unable to penetrate the hills above the route bringing a darker feeling to this early part of the section. opening out towards Baitings Reservoir, the first timing point sat just before the road bridge to cross the water – tucked away after e right-hand bend.
What appeared on the map to be almost straight on at the junction with the A58 was actually a left-right turn with the road climbing Baitings Pasture and crossing the edges of Great Manshead hill, the later runners on the road here were on the edge of dusk making navigation along these narrow lanes very challenging. The second timing point came at a junction left, the right turn looking very enticing for the unwary. Dropping down to Sowerby Bridge via Hubberton Green, an easy to miss slot left through a gap in the wall was the next challenge before climbing Longhedge Moor and Travellers Rest before a right turn at the top of Aaron Hill and a timing point partially cloaked by trees and the onset of dusk.(
Sunset came and went as crews crossed out of Yorkshire and into Lancashire for a brief stop at Colne Golf Club in the Forest of Trawden, from here and in the shadow of the fabled Pendle Hill, crews made their way to Gisburn Cattle market for a test on the loose surfaces that make up the car park in this incredibly busy rural establishment
Old rallying classics such as Lythe and Tatham Fells were used as link sections to bring the event to High Bentham and a test in an industrial yard manned by Kirkby Lonsdale Motor Club.The route now was linear and headed across White Scar Caves and Ribblehead Viaduct to Wensleydale Creamery in the town of Hawes for a final rest before taking on a marked map handed out at the Creamery, the night section consisting of a long regularity over Aysgarth, Castle Bolton and Grinton Moor, the final timing point situated after a 45 right down Harkerside Moor.
The final action of the day came with a TC section over Catterick Garrison where the outstanding performance of the evening came from Stuart Anderson/Leigh Powley who recorded just three minutes lost
Day two of the RAC Rally of The Tests dawned with a distinct chill in the air, this would be another long day in the saddle with 280 miles to be covered, the second day would see us take in some new territory for the event as we entered into the North part of the Lake District.
A ten mile or thereabouts run-out brought the event to Raby Castle for two tests sited there. These were open and flowing tests that really were designed for the cars with more power, putting a spanner in the works of this theory were Steve Entwistle/Ali Procter in their diminutive Mini who were flying on these tests. It was to be a nightmare for leaders Paul Crosby/Andy Pullan when a steering component developed a fault, they were fortunate that the HERO Assist crews were close by and effected a repair allowing them to get on their way again without penalty.
A run west over Eggleston Common with the Hamsterley Complex nestling to the east gave way to Bollihope Common and the drop over Catterick Moss down to Eastgate where Hexham Motor Club welcomed crews to possibly the slippiest concrete surface known to historic rallying, Tomas de Vargas Machuca/Nick Bloxham were flamboyant, but their Porsche went a little wayward, clipping a kerb. Fortunately, there was no damage and they were able to continue. Another link section heading north-west over Wolfcleugh Common and Allenheads brought us to a secret check on the climb up to Swinhope Moor, purely for route adherence and to penalise anyone deciding to short cut via a main road. The first regularity of the day was named Garrigill and was relatively straightforward with there just being a reg start and finish reference with the instruction to follow coloured roads only. It wasn’t all plain sailing though as the section had four speed changes and two timing points, the first being north-west of the village and the second was close to Rothershope Tower, just before the steep down and up over a bridge and end of regularity.
A welcome stop at Hartside Café which is an extremely popular place with motorcyclists and walkers alike, the views from here west are stunning and allow you to gaze across the Lakeland fells with some uninterrupted views. A short drive down Twotop Hill took us to the second regularity of the day in the shadow of Fiend’s Fell and Melmerby High Scar, this was going to be a real test for the crews with no less than five timing points and four speed changes to contend with. Called ‘Cumbrian Fells’, this section was presented on a map that instructed competitors to follow the route via three points denoted by arrows, all roads to be considered. Dropping into Haresceugh, the first timing point was inside a farm yard and took time from several crews. Bypassing Glassonby and making use of the long loops of squares that bisect the area crews took in the final two timing points near Longmeg, home to the second largest stone circle in the UK. Here, at Little Salkeld, two of the arrows denoting the route needed close inspection as it crossed the road slightly guiding the more observant crews to a white with a timing point just after its’ junction with a yellow road. Even experienced crews fell foul of this with Dermot Carnegie/Paul Bosdet missing one control along with Tim Lawrence/Tony Davies. End of regularity came up shortly later at Langwathby, leaving a short run to the fourth test of the day, ‘Trucking About’ at Penrith Truck stop.
Regularity three was another longer section that spanned five points yet again and speed changes were defined by cumulative speed tables, a semi-descriptive approach was used to impart the route to crews with ‘out of order’ map symbols being relayed to the crews in word form. The whole regularity was based in the splendour of Skiddaw Forest and skirted Bowscale, Caldbeck and Uldale Fells..
The final action of the morning took place at the Lake District Wildlife Park where a test in a farmyard saw a distinctly muddy feel to the section. This preceded a fine lunch at Armathwaite Hall, one of the Lake District’s and possibly UK’s finest hotels. Fittingly, Armathwaite’s owner, Charles Graves is competing on the event and this was a great way for crews to revel in the views and splendour of the location.
With the days growing shorter, the valleys and fell side roads of Little Mell came next as a regularity, three timing points and four speed changes here to challenge crews with the instruction to follow spot heights on a map presented at lunch to the crews. Little Mell will be known to those of a certain age as it was a ‘selective’ in the old Motoring News days, it climbs Stoddah Bank before plunging into Sparket Mill and Thackthwaite, levelling out there is a mixture of long straights and intricate corners set inside the traditional Cumberland and Westmorland dry stone walls that crisscross the area. Dropping down in sight of Ullswater, the road turns back north via Maiden Castle, a farmstead relic of the Iron Age that sits close to the summit of Soulby Fell. The last timing point was situated in Soulby, a not as map turning into a farmyard that hosted the timing point easy to miss for the unwary and there were many!
Heading over to Appleby Golf Club for coffee via Lowther and Cliburn saw crews get ready for three tests on the Warcop Complex where the Army were live firing making a great spectacle for those on the mixed surface tests here.
Passing through Warcop Village, a link section under the stunning Great Askby Scar and Raisbeck a challenging section of road near Tebay brought up the next regularity called Westmorland. A true classic as it formed the part of many road rallies in years past, this is an undulating and in local terms ‘Nadgery’ piece of road. Nadgery means it twists and winds away and is sometimes difficult for the navigator to call corners, especially in the dusk light where the shadows grow longer. Climbing Loups Fell from Roundthwaite, a steep descent and slot left was followed by a climb up Bretherdale, Midwath Stead is a notorious climb to the summit of North Side where the timing point greeted those who had managed to stay on time. Crossing the Ford at Greenholme on an unfenced road over Scalegill brought the section in a full loop that brought the last timing point on the motorway access road at Tebay Services, this wasn’t the last action of the event however, as a run up the M6 was still part of the regularity with a secret check placed on the yellow road just before Hardendale Quarry and End of Regularity before the entrance to a very famous test at Waters Farm. This took time out of 68 of the 91 crews on the event with too many to mention totally missing the second timing point.
Back to Appleby and to what would be the longest regularity of the event so far, with six timing points, this was presented on a ‘London’ style map with a series of approaches to letters defining the route to be taken. Seven speed changes meant the navigators really had their work cut out here and although the lanes were wider than the previous section they were challenging to say the least. Crews were instructed to consider all roads and a timing point after a bridge and immediately after the hairpin right at Town Wood proved tricky for some, running south through King’s Meaburn a slot right down Relandsgate and then an easy to miss right down Barnskew white hid yet another timing point. The final part of this extensive regularity bypassed Meaburn Mill and turned left to pass Brackenslack Farm, the road here twisting and turning as it climbs at first and then dips towards Seat Hill with the final timing point was just before a descent into Colby.
It was definitely a no rest situation as a TC section and two further regularities in the dark brought us back to Redworth Hall, Steve Entwistle/Ali Procter lead on the least penalties accrued, just 14 seconds in front of Paul Crosby/Ali Procter. However, John Abel/Martyn Taylor are the overall leaders due to the other vehicles being ineligible for awards, they hold a handsome lead over past winners, Howard Warren/Iain Tullie.
The final day of the RAC rally of The Tests dawned with another crisp and clear morning to greet crews as they departed for the final action of the event. Overnight, the lowest penalties lead had gone to the charging Mini Cooper ’S’ of Steve Entwistle and Ali Procter, the pair edging in front of Paul Crosby/Andy Pullan by just 14 seconds. Behind them were Neil Wilson/Matthew Vokes in a Porsche 924 who were a further 35 seconds behind, this may sound a sizeable margin but as with all recent Rally of The Tests events, it isn’t over until the final check sheets are tallied up.
The big news though was John Abel/Martyn Taylor had extended their lead in the eligible for overall awards class to over a minute and a half from nearest rivals, previous Rally of The Tests winners, Howard warren and Iain Tullie in their Porsche 356. The final day, although testing with some seriously tricky terrain to cover, would be a little shorter than the previous two days where crews had covered 560 miles over those days, still, 170 miles would be enough to shake the field up once again as the organising team had some great venues for the crews to explore.
With crews setting off at 08:00 once again there was little traffic on this bright and crisp Sunday morning as the RAC rally of The Tests headed south past Darlington and to a brace of tests near Downholme Moor, Crosby/Pullan heaped the pressure on Entwistle/Procter here, so much so that they were caught by a line fault, costing them an extra 10 seconds in penalties. The morning was to prove pivotal though as Entwistle/Procter lost over a minute on the first two timing points of a regularity in Catterick and handed the lowest points lead back to the Porsche pair. It wouldn’t all be Crosby and Pullan’s way though as a mistake on the third regularity cost them 29 seconds meaning the final sections of the day would now be crucial, particularly the regularity in Bramham Park.
Setting off from Bowcliffe Hall the regularity was held in its entirety on private land, diving into Dawsonfield Plantation the first timing point came up on a roundabout of sorts near Black Fen, this didn’t cause crews too many issues but the next two timing points would seal the event, it had taken almost 750 miles to cement the result, such was the quality and competitive nature of the entry on the event. A rising star could be seen in car 69, the immaculate Ford Escort Mexico of Holland’s Harm Lamberigts and Arjan Van der Palen, Arjan struggled initially in the event but grew into it with every leg. A solid performance from the pair saw them top of the continental crews at the end of the event, again, a great result as some of Europe’s top crews were competing on the event. The second timing point on Bramham Park was situated close to The Temple and it caught out Howard Warren/Iain Tullie to the tune of 28 seconds. It looked like game over but an error from Abel/Taylor on the third timing point on Obelisk Avenue would briefly swing the event back into the hands of Warren/Tullie. It was the briefest of swings though as the normally unflappable Warren/Tullie were forced into a second error on the same timing point and killed any chances of taking the overall win there and then.
Two tests at Harewood Hill Climb couldn’t change the day and all that was left was a tense drive back through Wharfedale to the finish at the Majestic Hotel, Harrogate.
A jubilant John Abel sprayed the celebratory fizz over Howard Warren and third placed Paul Wignall/Mark Appleton who had won the event in 2013 when it last finished in Harrogate, Martyn Taylor was beaming from ear to ear after it had seemed that the event could have been lost on the very final regularity section of the event. This was a classic RAC Rally of The Tests, one that challenged crews and forced errors from those who lost concentration, the consensus being that the balance of the event was just right and heralded a return to the more competitive events of years past.