Harrogate - Bristol
Results Are Now Final
1. Paul Wignall & Mark Appleton
2. Dan Willan & Martyn Taylor
3. Steve Entwistle & Ali Procter
It was a relatively early 07:45 start from the Crowne Plaza Hotel this morning for the long 280-mile drive south through the Eastern Counties to the overnight stop at the famous Belfry Hotel. On the cards for this first proper day of the event were eleven Tests and six Regularities.
As crews gathered at the Time Control in the Hotel Foyer it became apparent, we had lost one of the pre-event favourites in Paul Crosby and Andy Pullan who unfortunately had a terminal problem with their brakes and could not continue with the event. They were also joined by Daniel Gresley & Sean Toohey who had spent half the night in the underground car park trying to repair their alternator on the stricken Porsche, but to no avail.
Having escaped the morning rush hour traffic in and around Harrogate, the day’s action started at the fabulous Harewood Hillclimb, run by the BARC Yorkshire Centre. As usual, crews were given two “goes” at this famous venue, but with a difference this year as the tests ran DOWN the hill! The flowing nature of the tests, proved to be a Porsches benefit and it was no surprise to see Tomas de Vargas Machuca and Nick Bloxham taking the fastest time on both of the opening two tests in the Arrive & Drive 911.
Unfortunately here we would see the loss of crew number 42, Dave Maryon and Bob Rutherford, both regular competitors, who made a slight rearrangement with the navigators door against some Armco and were forced to retire.
Then it was quickly on to Bramham Park – an RAC rally stage of old and now home to the Leeds Music Festival. Having tackled a quick test around the farm buildings, it was on to a ‘busy’ marked map Regularity around the estate’s private gravel tracks. Eight Timing Points in seven miles meant that crews did not get much chance for a breather with Paul Wignall & Mark Appleton proving most adept on a total penalty of 28 seconds.
Crawling out of the final timing point with a rough sounding Triumph 2000 were Tony Sheach & Rachel Wakefield with a suspected Differential failure. When will this crew regain some good fortune? Turning east along the A64, the route made for Acaster Malbis airfield, a former RAF Bomber Command training base, for two tests along the old runways, organised by York Motor Club. Mastering the slippery conditions here, once again on the first test was Tomas de Vargas Machuca who took the honours, although springing into the top spot on the second test were Patrick and Hubert Lynch in their Morris Mini Cooper S.
After that flurry of action, we rejoined the A64 to skirt the historic city of York en route to the morning coffee stop at the Balloon Tree Café, Gate Helmsley. This preceded the next ‘allocated start’ Regularity that wended its way across the gently rolling Yorkshire Wolds. Three map references defined an intricate route that ran along the edge of two maps for 20 miles. Over the five Timing Points, the best performance was posted by Jon Dunning & Henry Carr in the Alfa Romeo Giulia GTV, claiming a penalty of just five seconds.
Another former RAF airfield quickly followed at Driffield for three more tests, run by North Humberside and Beverley and District Motor Clubs, to round off the morning action. The Crew of Paul Bloxidge and Ian Canavan in their Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 proved fastest on average over the three tests.
With eight tests already completed by midday, crews were ready for some sustenance and that was provided at Papa’s Fish and Chips in Willerby. This award-winning restaurant also houses a ‘Fish and Chips’ Museum. However, most navigators were more interested in getting their hands on the next set of route instructions, which were issued as they left for the afternoon section.
The leaderboard had been shaken up by the mornings adventures and it now showed Paul Wignall and Mark Appleton taking control at the top and impressively taking 21 seconds less penalties than any other crew over the morning route.
Having crossed the mighty Humber Bridge, the afternoon action started with an innocuous looking map Regularity through the Saxby Wolds. However this is the Rally of the Tests and crews always need to be on their toes… So it proved here with very careful map reading being needed to spot the shortest route to the End of Regularity by way of a difficult ’slot’ onto an old airfield and then a run down the A15 Dual Carriageway! The final Timing Point was located on the airfield and saw many crews pick up high penalties. Proving to be the exception, the top two crews of Paul Wignall/Mark Appleton and Howard Warren/Iain Tullie posted a score of just four seconds across the three Timing Points.
A long run then followed across country to Blyton Park Driving Centre for two long tests laid out on the main circuit and well marshalled by local motor club members. The nature of these tests were always likely to suit the bigger engined cars and so it was no surprise to see the Volvo of Mike and Lorna Harrison and the Porsche of Thomas Koemer and Manuel Maeker topping the timesheets.
Regularity 1/3 and that final Timing Point was a hot topic of conversation among the navigators as crews stopped for afternoon tea at the Giant Bike Shop Café on the Doddington Estate. Results here showed that Paul Wignall/Mark Appleton lead from Howard Warren/Iain Tullie by 49 seconds.
Heading back into the lanes, a short Regularity around Bassingham was next and, as expected, was easy for most with many crews getting low scores. For the later runners, it was already getting murky by the time they tackled this section and for most, darkness was upon them for the final test – a two-lapper around the enjoyable Fulbeck Kart Circuit.
The next Regularity started just south of the fabulous Belvoir Castle and traversed the Leicestershire Wolds. Two pages of Jogularity instructions defined an 11-mile route with four Timing Points to find. In a twist to the normal Jogularity style, the Timing Points were not located at the given landmarks.
With it now being close to the evening rush hour time and with the roads around Loughborough not being suitable rallying terrain, a long drive followed to the evening ‘supper’ Time Control in the fine surroundings of the Tithe Barn Café at Bosworth Battlefield. The Battle of Bosworth was the last significant battle of the War of the Roses. Battles of a different kind were the main talking point here as crews enjoyed ‘soup and a roll’ refreshments before setting off into the darkness once more.
Leaving the Time Control, navigators collected the navigation instructions for the final Regularity of the day around the Warwickshire Lanes, west of Nuneaton. With a decent run to the start of the section, navigators had chance to plot the route from the list of Spot Heights provided. This unveiled an intricate 15-miler on some surprisingly challenging roads and private tracks. Along the way, there were no less than seven Timing Points manned by a band of enthusiastic travelling marshals.
All that then remained was a short run to the luxurious Belfry Hotel for a welcome meal and drink or two in the bar. This had been a relatively tame first day by Rally of the Tests standards but had still been a stern enough challenge for most. Results posted on the Official Noticeboard showed that Steve Entwistle and Ali Procter are currently leading by 14 seconds.
That is all for now. Tomorrow promises to be a tougher day as the event heads into the classic rally terrain of mid-Wales. We will be reporting all the news throughout the day on the HERO Facebook page and this webpage.
At 07:46, Paul Wignall and Mark Appleton, as first car on the road, lead the field away from the Belfry Hotel for second day of the RAC Rally of the Tests 2018. Although shorter than Day One at around 250 miles, the action would be more intense with ten Tests, seven regularities and two Time Control Sections to be completed before arriving at the Celtic Manor Resort, near Newport.
The action started today at Curborough Sprint Course – one of the finest sprinting venues in the country. A long test here, run by Owen Motor Club, used both the circuit itself and the service roads and saw Thomas Koerner and Manuel Maeker quickest out of the blocks in their Porsche 911. Then the route circumnavigated the northern fringes of Birmingham to the day’s first Regularity. This 8-mile Jogularity including some private estate roads at Chillington but provided no great problems with Neil Wilson and Matthew Vokes topping the time sheets with just 5 seconds of penalty.
After this warm up, we continued west to Bridgnorth and morning coffee at Ye Olde Punchbowl Inn, which was first licenced as a pub in 1740. This refreshments stop preceded two challenging tests, marshalled by Telford Automobile Club, on the notoriously slippery and narrow tarmac roads of Ditton Priors (a former armaments depot). Fastest times here were posted by Tomas de Vargas Machuca and Nick Bloxham on both tests.
A long run then followed, across the border into Wales, to the next Regularities held on classic roads from rallies of the past and present. First up was a 15-mile section along the Clun Valley, navigated by map references. A couple of tricky junctions cost crews time here and there, but once again Steve Entwistle and Ali Procter were the best over the five Timing Points. This was quickly followed by a second section around Felindre, which included some private farm roads and a hard to find ‘slot’ to the final Timing Point. The laurels on this section went to Andy Lane and Richard Crozier.
After these enjoyable Regularities, we turned south to Llandrindod Wells for a welcome break at the iconic Metropole Hotel, which has probably hosted more rallies than any other so it is well used to feeding weary rally crews with suitable nourishment. This year’s ‘Testers’ tucked into the fine spread on offer with gusto after a challenging morning on the road.
The top three crews at lunch were Steve Entwistle/ Ali Procter, Paul Wignall/ Mark Appleton and Dan Willan/ Martyn Taylor with just under a minute separating them from each other.
Having ‘fuelled up’, the ‘meat of the event’ then got underway with an action packed afternoon starting with three tests in and around Builth Wells (run by Epynt Motor Club) where honours were shared by Koerner / Maeker in the Porsche 911 taking the first two tests and Van der Goot / Wellink in the Datsun 24oZ taking the third test victory. This was the prelude to no less than five sections on the infamous Epynt Military Ranges. First up was the Gwibedog Time Control Section, which started on Mabion Way and took crews over six miles of prime forestry gravel with some tricky map reading close to the finish. 14 crews impressively only ‘dropped a minute.’
This was quickly followed by two tests around the unique German Village (manned by members of Brecon Motor Club) where the quickest times went to Koerner and Maeker in the 911. Then it was up Fourways Hill to the start of the Burma Road for the first afternoon Regularity. Navigated by Tulips, the route took in most of the roads on the western edges of the Ranges before a gravel loop through the top of Halfway Forest. With six Timing Points in quick succession on these private tracks, the time penalties soon added up and Steve Entwistle and Ali Procter emerged with the best performance taking a five second penalty.
With scarcely time to take breath, it was straight into the next Regularity titled ‘Route 60’. The navigation for this section was by the notorious ‘Deeliarity’ instructions, designed to be navigated ‘as you see it’. Initially heading east towards Llandeilo’ r-Fan, the section then joined Route 60 itself to head south via the tricky farm complex at Carnau and a surprising finale with the last Timing Point located on a little used track after some intricate navigation. It was no surprise that some crews racked up high scores here but it proved no hassles for Daniel Willan and Martyn Taylor who topped the leaderboard.
It was no doubt a relief for some to drop down off the Ranges so that they could enjoy a breather on the run to Brecon for the afternoon tea stop at the Cattle Market, where the next ‘autotest’ took place and again gave the fastest time to the number 31 crew of Koerner and Maeker.
Darkness had fallen by the time we left here and began a long run along the Wye Valley to bypass Abergavenny and get down to the more interesting lanes of Monmouthshire. The first ‘evening’ Regularity was a simple affair in the lanes around Llanover. One slight complication was the need to add an additional minute to the average speed calculations to account for traffic lights. This proved no problem for Paul Wignall and Mark Appleton, who accumulated just two seconds penalty.
Moving on, the final regularity was slightly trickier with some involved driving needed and a very overgrown ‘yellow’ road used to approach the second Timing Point. Steve Entwistle and Ali Procter fell foul of the navigational challenges claiming 45 seconds of penalties which has brought the overall tussle for the lead ever closer. However, the other leading crews took all this in their stride with Daniel Willan and Martyn Taylor heading the field.
These two sections got crews into the groove for the Caerwent Time Control Section, arranged with the help of Forresters Car Club. Caerwent is a notorious venue among regular rallyists, some crews love it and others, well… Before starting the section itself, the final Test of the day took place along the East Gate access roads and saw fastest time going to Thomas de Vargas Machuca and Nick Bloxham in the Arrive and Drive 911. From the end of the test, it was straight into the Time Control Section. Navigating from an enlarged venue map, crews had to find eight Passage Controls and be on time at six Time Controls, as well as avoiding Caerwent’s notorious kerbs along the way. No clean sheets were expected here and so it proved with Steve Entwistle and Ali Procter emerging with least time dropped on three minutes after a stunning performance.
And that was it… Another day’s action was over and it was but a short drive to the luxurious Celtic Manor Resort. Supper was waiting and the bar was open, soon to be abuzz with tales of derring-do from the day. Official results have now been posted and show that Paul Wignall and Mark Appleton have taken the lead over Steve Entwistle and Ali Procter by four seconds.
Join us tomorrow for the final day of the RAC Rally of the Tests 2018. It is only a short distance from Newport to Bristol but the rally route will be somewhat longer and there will be plenty of opportunities for the leaderboard to change before the crews reach the chequered flag.
Day Three Crews were afforded a 15 minute lie-in this morning as it was a 08:00 start time for the 175-mile final day of the event, comprising ten Tests and five Regularities. Getting things underway, there was an easy run along the motorway to Chepstow Racecourse for the two opening tests, familiar to regular ‘Testers’. Best times here were shared by the crews of Koerner/Maeker and Bloxidge/Canavan.
We then crossed the old Severn Bridge for a quick ‘round the cones’ autotest at the Aust Services (run by Bristol Pegasus Motor Club), well known to Le Jog stalwarts. The tight nature of this test suited Willan/Taylor who were fastest. Another short motorway hop followed to bypass Bristol and cross the River Avon, before cutting across country to West Harptree for an early morning coffee halt at The Wellsway. This pub is owned by the Gibbons family who also kindly let us play in their yard on the next test, where Entwistle and Procter took the honours.
To add to the pressure on the navigators, the instructions for the first Regularity of the day were only issued at the Test Start and then it was straight into the section across the Mendip Hills. This was another ‘Deeliarity’ so no plotting was required. Navigation was largely straightforward apart from picking up a Timing Point in a small gravel layby near the end of the Regularity. Proving that they were most awake, Bill Cleyndert and Dan Harrison posted the lowest score of nine seconds.
The route descended from the hills for the second Regularity, which was a complete contrast to the first as it traversed the low-lying peatlands of the Somerset Levels. Defined by Jogularity instructions, this short 5-mile section included a concrete farm road and the incongruously twisty ‘Lake Village’ road. As predicted by the organisers, the penalties were generally low here.
We then turned east, bypassing Glastonbury, to head for Worthy Farm – home to the Glastonbury Festival where the Eavis family had once again kindly let us loose on their maze of tracks and roads. Arriving here, the time was approaching 11:00 and being Remembrance Sunday, all competitive motoring was stopped to allow crews to observe the two minute silence and reflect on the sacrifices made over the years that allow us to enjoy the freedom we all have today.
Once the action was underway, it was straight into a quick ‘autotest’ on a large gravel area, where the crew of Leurs/de Rijk topped the time sheets in their Opel Ascona. This was immediately followed by a frenetic Regularity around the festival site (run by Salisbury & Shaftesbury Car Club). Six pages of tulip diagrams defined the intricate route and there were seven Timing Points dotted around the site. Having ‘escaped Worthy’, the challenges were not yet over as accurate Tripmeter work was needed to find the final Timing Point located in a tricky farmyard. With all that going on, it was no surprise that the penalties were soon adding up and the best performance went to Dan Willan and Martyn Taylor on 52 seconds.
Next up was the ever slippery farm lane test at Wyke Farm, which suited Koerner/Maeker who powered their Porsche 911 to the best time. This was quickly followed by a short but sharp Regularity in the lanes over ‘Seat Hill’. The navigation by ‘map features’ needed careful plotting to take in two farm roads – the first was a slippery concrete lane at Henley Grove and the second, a more stately ‘up and back’ driveway at Colinshays. Again scores were generally high apart from the leading crews, headed by Neil Wilson and Matthew Vokes.
Keeping the pressure on, it was straight into the event’s final Regularity (manned by Bath Motor Club members) for what was expected to be the ‘Sting in the Tail’. This section had a bit of everything; more slippery farm lanes, a tricky section around Frome Showground and then some slightly devious navigation needed to find the final two Timing Points. The marked map provided used the ‘Dutch Arrows’ system and had a few ‘modifications’ to keep crews on their toes and to ensure they concentrated till the end. Rising to this challenge, the best performance went to Dermot Carnegie and Paul Bosdet who dropped just 19 seconds over the six Timing Points. Other crews further down the field were just relieved to have found all the controls…
After nearly three hours of concentrated action, crews were ready for lunch and this was held in the fine surroundings of the Orchardleigh Estate. Boasting a history dating back over 800 years, the current custodians – the Vincent family – have restored the estate’s Orangery to its former glory and it was here that the by-now weary crews tucked in to the hearty fare on offer.
Lunchtime results showed Paul Wignall and Mark Appleton had extended their lead to 22 seconds and jumping up into second place were Dan Willan and Martyn Taylor. A tough morning of competition had seen large penalties for all.
The navigators could now relax as the afternoon section was an easy run north to Bristol by way of three tests at Castle Combe, using the main circuit itself and a number of the service roads, all overseen by Tavern Motor Club and the event’s travelling marshal team. Each test had a slightly different style comprising a mixture of flowing slaloms combined with tighter and more intricate manoeuvres. Honours were shared by the crews of Koerner/Maeker, Cleyndert/Harrison and Lynch/Lynch.
From Castle Combe, the route joined the motorway to bypass the northern suburbs of Bristol to reach the final test of the event, fittingly held at the RAC Regional Control Centre at Bradley Stoke. With space at a premium, a short blast around the car park had been setup to entertain the spectators before the first photo opportunity of the afternoon as the cars passed under the Ceremonial Arch.
Having completed activities here, it was a short run up the M5 Motorway to Tortworth Court Hotel for the final Main Time Control. The Finish Arch was located in front of the hotel, where more photos were taken and crews received a well-deserved round of applause from their colleagues as they took the chequered flag.
While crews began the post event partying in the bar, the results crew were busy adding up the final scores and when posted they showed that the well-deserved winners of the RAC Rally of the Tests 2018 are Paul Wignall and Mark Appleton in their Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint. In runner-up spot we have Dan Willan and Martyn Taylor and the final podium place goes to Steve Entwistle and Ali Procter.
During the evening black tie awards ceremony, the organisers were thanked for a spectacular route, the trophies were gratefully received by all the winners and the night is sure to continue into the early hours as the competitors enjoy themselves after a challenging but enjoyable event.