RAC Rally of the Tests 2019

Torquay to Chester

 

THE 18TH EDITION

7th - 10th November 2019

Congratulations to everyone who took part in and completed The RAC Rally of the Tests 2019

RESULTS ARE NOW FINAL

The overall winners of The RAC Rally of the Tests 2019 are:

1. Steve Entwistle and Mark Appleton – Morris Mini Cooper S

2. Phil Hindley and Martyn Taylor – Porsche 911

3. Paul Dyas and Martin Pitt – Volvo Amazon

FULL LIST OF COMPREHENSIVE RESULTS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE

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Rally Report

Slippy Prologue Sorts the Seeding Out

As rain plus extra leaves from the recent high winds made the going difficult at times, Steve Entwistle and Mark Appleton in their Mini Cooper S made a good start leading after the Prologue from the flying Opel Ascona of Dutch crew Alexander Leurs and Bas de Rijk. Steve said even the first test around the Exeter Race Course was ready to catch crews out; “It was green, it didn’t help that we were first car in but I had one big moment in there!”

Navigator Martyn Taylor was pleased and a little bit surprised as his rookie driver Phil Hindley who normally races Porsches, performed brilliantly, combining well with Martyn to take third overall.

“We managed to change the entry after Dan Willan had to pull his Volvo out of the event and get Phil to take it over in the Porsche 911.  Phil drove in a one-day classic car rally about six years ago, apart from that he normally turns right all the time racing Porsches. A good start I would say.”

Another notable result was fourth overall for the1937 Derby Bentley of Stuart Anderson and Flying Scotsman 2019 winning navigator, Leigh Powley. Said Leigh; “Not bad for the old boy, a great start.”

Stuart was equally happy to be up there even though it is early days after the Prologue. “ It just shows that an older car can still be competitive, and yes we still have no hood! Considering how slippy it was the Bentley took it all really well, it was just the hairpins that were really hard work.”

Minis are first, fifth and sixth. Kevin Haselden and Gary Evans just ahead of Bill Cleyndert and Tony Brook’s sixth place Cooper S. Paul Crosby and Andy Pullan are tenth in their Porsche 356B, one place in front of one of the most exciting cars on the RAC Rally of the Tests, the little Ginetta G15. Mike Vokes was expertly navigated today by 2019 HRCR Championship winning navigator Matthew Vokes.

This is one of the toughest events on the HERO Rally calendar for navigators as 24th and fifth place Prologue finishing navigators Martin Phaff and Gary Evans explained, Martin; “It really is relentless, there is so much to do, everything is in a whirl. The time control sections on private land with one, two or three minute controls, then on the second lot like Swinerton you have passage checks as well. Stopping to get signatures probably takes 15 to 20 seconds, then the information from code boards, sometimes stopping if they are hard to read, then putting the information down in ink takes time. Add all those together and it is valuable seconds, you are trying to do it quickly.

“This is the toughest classic rally in the UK, if you can do this one well, you can do any rally”.

Gary Evans who has already won four night rallies this year and enjoys the dark, still believes it is easy to go wrong.

“At night on such a difficult event as this, you tend to get overloaded, from test to regularity, the clock and trip have to be synced or you can start the regularity badly, this event piles on the pressure. You have to deal with speed changes and integrate your information from your test diagrammes and so it goes on. It is really a question of keeping cool.

“For example, we only got instructions for first test half an hour before, then we plotted two regularities, certainly time for head scratching.”

Both navigators believe the seeding is very important. Martin; “The Prologue is important, you need to be in the earlier part of the rally with crews who tend to know what they are doing, that way you to get fewer cars coming back towards you when they have gone wrong as an example.”

Gary; “ You need to get a decent seeding otherwise you can catch stragglers, it becomes difficult to pass when it’s narrow or you can get stuck behind them at a control and you can’t do anything about it. We wanted to do our best today for the seeding, fifth place is good.”

Just as there is a major battle for honours at the front and throughout the classes, there are still many crews out to learn and just enjoy the experience. One such team are the husband and wife crew of Rob and Julie Clifton in their very different rally car, a 1972 Vauxhall Viva X14. They are quite new to the sport having just started to climb the HERO ladder this year. Rob; We’ve recently come off two wheels, touring and endurance events to convert to four wheels. We started at the first HERO Challenge with the navigational classes then the event, but we think we have found our hobby of choice, it stretches us and I have to be honest and say, we are addicted! We weren’t going to do The Rally of the Tests but I got a nudge at 4.30 in the morning from my wife Julie saying we should do it!

“We are enjoying the Vauxhall, we started with a Saab but felt we wanted a bit more power. We have made some changes to the car since we bought it but it’s been going well.

“Our attitude in this rally is, let’s get to the end. We can enjoy a beer in the evening, chat to friends  and go from there.”

Another different car on the 2019 RAC Rally of the Tests is Guy Symons and David Watson’s Riley One Point Five. Guy; “ Back in its day the Riley was a regular rally car. This is a 1960 car, a similar model finished the RAC Rally quite near the top in the late fifties but we have used it for many years on this event. We finished third in class last year, it only took us 14 years to get a decent result!  People just don’t perceive them as a rally car, when we started there were three out rallying, now it’s just us, I don’t know why.”

Guy and David were 76th after the Prologue but at least they managed to dodge any major mechanical issues unlike the 1965 Peugeot 404 from Holland of Sybren van der Goot and Maiko Wellink. The engine was knocking badly on the first test at Exeter Race Course and sadly retried in a cloud of smoke at the finish line.

Another Dutch crew, Ad Smelt and Dick Roesink managed to turn up at near the start line on the race course on the wrong side of the rails! Once they had a re route they carried on to a 72nd overall in their Volvo PV544. Darren Everitt and Susan Dixon were flying around the first test, their 1965 Triumph 2000 Mk1 sounding as glorious as ever. They finished 19th overall.

Andy Simpson and Mick Briggs recovered from a quick stall in their Mini Clubman at the start of regularity two to finish the day 42nd overall but behind them there was confusion on the same perplexing regularity. Some small turns proved difficult to spot as did a road into a farm where a time control was lurking.

Further back Peter Engel and Jim Bowie had got their VW Golf firmly stuck after over a wrong turn. They were relieved to get a tow out by the Dutch crew of Marinus Middelweerd and Jaap van den Bent’s Porsche 928 which then promptly drove off in the wrong direction!

Day One

Following the relatively gentle Prologue on Thursday, The RAC Rally of the Tests hit it’s full stride on Friday with a hammering ten tests and seven long regularities. From the slick surface of Porlock Hill to the tricky regularities that caught out even the best navigators in the business, the navigator of car 17 the Porsche 911, Martyn Taylor summed the difficult day many had experienced by saying: ”most of us had quite a scrappy day”.

As the challenge has increased so has the level of competition, Steve Entwistle and Mark Appleton are still leading in Paddy Hopkirk’s Morris Cooper S by 20 seconds from a new second-place crew, Mike and Matthew Vokes in a Ginetta G15. Alexander Leurs and Bas de Rijk’s green Opel Ascona holds third despite missing a junction and having to backtrack quite a way on Friday morning. A fine performance for fourth, a mere two seconds behind the Dutch Ascona, is racing driver Phil Hindley navigated by one of the best in the business, Martyn Taylor. Phil “We tried to be the same, as consistent as possible. The tests went well, I’m enjoying it just trying to take it all on board, I’ve got the best man next to me though”.

Mark Appleton, navigator of the leading Mini Cooper S was a bit happier on Saturday morning before the teams set off for another hard day; “We are just pleased to hold on after a tough day but it’s still very tight, we only have a 20 second lead and that could go in a blink of an eye. We have the NEC showcase test which should suit the Mini, short, tight grippy but Swynnerton is to come later, that’s a big one.”

Moving up to second place is the remarkable little Ginetta G15 of father and son crew Mike and Matthew Vokes. The Ginetta performing well as it slid across the first part of the treacherous Porlock Hill test but as Mike said; “They told us it was going to be slippy in there, but we found a bit more grip than expected under the trees. The car is going very well, no issues, its been singing on the rev limiter many times. Tests like Porlock Hill really suit our car it’s a little race and hill climb car anyway, it just doesn’t like the rough stuff!”

Matthew Vokes is clearly doing a great job on the maps but even the 2019 HRCR Champion navigator is not finding it easy.

“This event is known to be tough, Guy and his team have lots of little tricks to catch you out, you have to be on your toes. The car is small and I’m tall but the seat is low enough on the floor and with a contorted effort to get into the car, then I’m comfortable. We have Swynnerton tonight but I think if we get through there we will be alright.”

Thomas Bricknell with father Roger navigating in his VW Golf has had all sorts of problems and yet the crew have hauled themselves up to seventh overall.

Thomas; “We had the clock reset itself as there was some kind of power surge with bad connections meant lots of quick thinking. Then the trip which has been great for two years failed going through a ford, we had no idea why. Then we dropped a whole minute on the first regularity. I’m mindful we are also working to support Roger in his quest to win Golden Roamer Award for navigators.”

Amazingly the 1937 Derby Bentley is still there in fifth place after a severe hairpin damaged one of the manifolds which the mechanical assistance crews immediately set to work on at the lunch halt, managing a temporary fix that put Stuart Anderson and Leigh Powley back into the hunt.

Another team on the rise are the Whyte sisters, Seren and navigator Elise, up to 12th place in the little 1957 Standard Ten, looking to perform another giant-killing act as they did recently on The Icelandic Saga. Elise“ The navigation is tough, roads on the map look like normal roads but when you get there it’s just a farm track. You think that can’t be or would a car go up there? You have to trust yourself.”  Seren; “Driving conditions are really difficult, there has been so much rain and so many leaves down it is so slippy. You have to prepare yourself to make moves much earlier than under normal conditions, it’s crazy out there.”

Elise Whyte currently leads the Golden Roamer Award battle for navigators but thinks this may be the end of the challenge. “You really have to compete on the Rally of the Tests and Le Jog to have a chance, I have no money and no driver for Le Jog so sadly I think Roger Bricknell will take it.”

It is also sad to report that the event lost one of their top competitors as Jonathan Hancox had to withdraw the light blue Triumph TR4 leaving navigator Richard Lambley to reflect on what might have been; “ It is a great shame that we are out. Yesterday we made just one mistake when we overshot a junction but otherwise, we would have been in with a good chance, although I must say this year has been one of the toughest RAC Rally of the Tests that I can remember! One great feature is the No boards which are placed on the ‘wrong route’ roads. They are really appreciated as it stops you going for miles down the wrong way and also makes it safer”.

Jonathan Money the driver of car 45, a Porsche 911S had discovered the No boards. “We visited all the controls, got all the stamps and then found a No board.” His navigator Phil Feast described how he felt due to the demands of this rally; “ I feel just like a rabbit in the headlights!”

The first two tests were back at Exeter Racecourse early on Friday morning, this time in the daylight, they were quite a wake-up call. The first test was a real high-speed blast that required commitment in the long sweeping turns, then total car control in test two, a high-speed slalom on gravel and broken tarmac. One section contained a quite disturbing dip that pitched the cars into buckaroo style yaw but most kept the throttle pushed down hard to ensure the car pulled through.

The regularities caused consternation right through the long day as tricky sections over narrow, slippy roads tested the best. A hidden timing point on a triangular road on regularity three caught out even the top navigators as they went the wrong way. Howard Warren and Iain Tullie had to reverse their Porsche 911 in front of a batch of photographers and a camera crew. Sixth place man Harm Lamberigts and Arjan van der Palen in their Escort Mexico went flying a long way past and had to spin turn around to come back to the control. The majority were caught out.

Ed Abbott and Ray Crowther’s long Jaguar XJ-S didn’t go far past, but trying to turn the big Jaguar around the severe hairpin to the control was almost impossible and Ed brushed the bank with the left front headlight. Most crews suffered with tricky instructions designed to catch out every level of the team during the day.

Luck also played its part. Dermot Carnegie and Paul Bosdet just managed to turn their Volvo out of a narrow T junction in the beautiful little village of Rottreaux Mill as a huge tractor turned in. The locals sitting on benches outside their cottages had all received their letters from the organisers advising them the rally was coming through, they were all thoroughly enjoying the experience.

The slippery slopes of Porlock hill were tackled after a wonderful lunch served by the ladies of Porlock Village in the Village Hall. The surface was treacherous, especially after the start in the damp section under the trees where the leaves had been compressed into slime. Bill Cleyndert was spinning the wheels of his Mini Cooper S in every gear, Ed Abbott was struggling to use all the power of the Jaguar as he fought for grip, but it was a great spectacle.

HERO Chairman Tomas de Vargas Machuca was unable to start the event in his Porsche 911 due to work commitments but has happily handed his car over to colleague Federico Gottsche Bebert. Tomas, “ I guess my calendar got really crossed but at least I was able to come to Torquay and see everyone on the Prologue, I will also be working on our stand at the NEC Classic Car Show on Saturday, I hope Federico enjoys this great heritage event.”

Federico said; “Wow, to be able to compete on the RAC Rally of the Tests, it’s just a wonderful experience. There was a bit of scare mongering going on between Tomas and navigator Nick Bloxham and it is tough, but not that tough. I’m getting used to the car now after one or two problems and working well with Nick who is such a great navigator.” The duo are now 20th.

Noel Kelly and Pete Johnson had been very competitive as ever, in their Volvo, but slipped off the road in very difficult conditions on Friday night. On a very narrow downhill road with a slick surface, the Volvo skated straight on wedging Itself on a soft bank with it’s right front wheel dangling over a stream.

Noel explained; “ We knew there was a control at the top of the hill but we were just a bit too fast. An Escort kindly tried to pull us out, they moved us a bit but the tow rope snapped. The technical assistance crews got us out, we finished the regularity and the last one of the day, so we are back in the rally.”

One of the pre-event favourites Paul Crosby and Andy Pullan suffered gearbox failure on their Porsche 356B and had to arrange for the car to be transported home. Paul and Andy have returned now with their green 911. Paul; “We have brought the trusty green 911 to compete instead so now we’re  just going to have a lot of fun over the last two days.”

Once crews have enjoyed the test at the NEC, a great opportunity to demonstrate classic rallying live to a show audience, crews will head to the dreaded Swynnerton test. Howard Warren explained why it has such a reputation; “ It’s a bad place, 40% of the field will be in there at any one time in the dark. They are fast military concrete roads but because of the nature of the tracks, you will see headlights everywhere as if they are coming towards you. Next minute you dive off into the bushes and onto gravel tracks. There are passage controls and time controls as well so it really is complex, in fact, I don’t know how they manage to set it all up. The rally can be won or lost in there, you could go in lying 30th and come out first. It really gets the adrenalin going.”

Day Two

The first ever live classic rallying competition to happen at the NEC as part of the Lancaster Insurance Classic Car Show was deemed a great success by the NEC, Clarion Events and HERO Events who run the heritage RAC titled rally.

Steve Entwistle and Mark Appleton increase their lead in Hopkirk Mini

Tales from the ‘bad’ place, Swynnerton

The original brain child of HERO Operations Director Brian Whyte, the live test has been two years in the making; Brain commented; “ It was been a long two years with a lot of meetings and work by all the partners to make it happen, but for it to be such a success is gratifying for all concerned. There was a considerable queue over 45 minutes before the first car even arrived so the Clarion Events team let the show goers in early to prevent any safety issues. We had given out 2000 entry lists, one to each couple or group. By the time the tenth car had arrived we had run out. The NEC estimate between four to five thousand people watched the test and then the re-start over a two hour period.

“Everybody is delighted, I think this has been a brilliant showcase for classic car rallying. We had a great reaction from people visiting the HERO stand afterwards. One gentleman and his two sons watched for the whole two hours and by the time they left our stand afterwards they had entered the HERO Challenge next year, they were that excited by what they witnessed.”

Five time RAC Rally of the Tests winner Paul Wignall was the expert commentator as the cars screeched their tyres and slid their way around the test course entertaining as they went. Then they  parked up in show formation for the spectators to look at wonderful array of classic rally machinery. Interviews with crews proved popular as did some of the ‘crowd favourites’ when certain cars took to the floor. Spontaneous applause broke out for Stuart Anderson and Leigh Powley’s 1937 Derby open top Bentley as well as Paddy Hopkirk’s Mini Cooper S in works colours, the first car through.

Results of the NEC test counted towards the results of this very competitive rally which is why Paul Wignall said to the crowd; “ The crews haven’t just put on a great show, they have really been going for it as there s a lot at stake.” Paul remained impressed with the standard of driving whilst also remarking as cars departed for further tests and regularities into the cold wet night; “ Much as I enjoyed commentating  and watching the test, I am so glad I am not going out there into the awful conditions, it’s going to be a hard night ahead.”

Hard but fast for crews as they headed into torrential rain and biting winds over the top of Leek and into two airfield tests with visibility an issue for some in the inky black night. The Roaches was a spectacular regularity, the sixth and last of the day with a blast across a muddy and rocky farm yard with a fast right though a gate which revealed a timing point which literally threw Harm Lamberigts and Arjan van der Palen’s Dutch Escort Mexico into a full blooded slide on sight of the control. The leading Mini Cooper S of Entwistle and Appleton came through first chased by the Opel Ascona of another Dutch crew, Alexander Leurs and Bas de Rijk. The Ginetta G15 of Mike and Matthew Vokes arrived at the timing point just a bit ahead of the Porsche 911 of Phil Hindley and Martyn Taylor whilst Bill Cleyndert and Tony Brooks momentarily turned up towards the forty cows feeding in the sheds above the yard. It was that sort of exciting night, except that the blockbuster Time Control Section was last on the day two menu.

10 tests, 6 regularities then the daddy of them all the Time Control Section at Swynnerton military ground. The facility has gained it’s reputation as a foreboding venue that can shatter a team’s results through it’s complex and devious routes. So much so that champion driver Howard Warren calls it a ‘bad place.’

After some 35 to 50 minutes in there depending if you managed stay on track, crews emerged either with big smiles, big frowns or utter dejection on their faces. Rallies have been won and lost in Swynnerton. The following are some of the team tales from the ‘bad place’.

Steve Entwistle and Mark Apppleton who have increased their lead today to nearly two minutes after a great performance in the Mini. Steve; “Frantic in there, good fun though, I’ve worked up a thirst.” Mark; “I thought though we had one or two where we lost a minute or so that we shouldn’t have done. The Opel got close on the last regularity as we were taking it steady over some very rough road, they were around ten seconds behind us.”

Harm Lamberigts and Arjan van der Palen, have moved up to second place after a great performance in Swynnerton. Harm; “I loved it, he (Arjan) did an amazing job on this section, but not the whole night, some was very difficult.”

Phil Hindley and Martyn Taylor are into third 17 seconds behind the Dutch crew. Phil; “It was just mental in there, all going on but what a lot of fun. The visibility wasn’t too good we kept steaming up. We lost the trip for most of the day, a bit of a nightmare but we keep pushing.” Martyn;” Its been a long afternoon since the NEC with little or no trip.”

Matthew Abrey and OwenTurner who are in a Mini; “Matthew; “Absolutely fantastic completely nuts but brilliant.” The best bit?  Owen shouted, “Overtaking Bill Cleyndert”.  Matthew; “We’re getting there, we had a breakdown this this morning but we’re OK.”

An amazing performance by Stuart Anderson and Leigh Powley as they really shouldn’t be that high up the leader board in a 1937 Bentley. Stuart; “Brilliant but very slippy, it is very difficult in this car, a bit too slow. The battery is flat too! Leigh; “some marshals push started us in the middle, we turned off the lights and got going again with that push. All the pages of my notes are pretty wet but muddling through didn’t work this time!” The Bentley Boys are eighth.

Mike and Matthew Vokes, Ginetta G15; Mike, “We survived, it was rough in places, but we got though and thoroughly enjoyed it. Matt; “We overshot a code board and nearly got stuck in a bog but just got out again, it was so slippy” The Vokes are in fourth place.

John Ruddock and Nick Cooper, Ford Escort Mexico who are now 13th. John; ‘”We did alright, dropped a bit on one then another but I’ve not been in there before, Nick has. It wasn’t as rough as the last reg over the top of the moors, it was very rough especially travelling at the speeds we had to.”

Peter Lovett and Matt Fowle who are twelfth but should have ended up higher; Matt, “Two time controls from the end I missed a junction, tried to reverse the trip but it zeroed, from there on in it was just guess work, so unfortunately we lost about five minutes.” Peter Lovett; “ We’re going to go and have a beer.”

Seren and Elise Whyte have reached the top ten in the Standard Ten!; Elise; “We didn’t go wrong, there was a lot of standing water which made it even more challenging! Seren; “ I’m still wired, the adrenalin is just coursing through my body so fast. I don’t think I’ve ever driven like that before!”

Paul Crosby’s sump guard was dragging on his Porsche and nearly falling off, we got a lot of traffic in there and we couldn’t get past. It was wet and rugged in there. “

Despite getting stuck on an elevated piece of road with their front wheels in the air and getting towed off, then stuck behind a gritter before finally beaching their Volvo in soft stuff, Paul Dyas and Martin Pitt are 11th overall, Paul; “a terrible night, the others must have had it much worse!”

It could be worse on the last day as snow has already fallen in North Wales and who knows what HERO Competition Director Guy Woodcock may have in store. Expect a sting in the tail, especially if there are white out conditions

Day Three

1964 Monte Carlo Rally winner Paddy Hopkirk loaned his Morris Mini Cooper S to Steve Entwistle for the RAC Rally of the Tests and then pronounced; “They’d better win!”. Paddy also put pressure on Navigator Mark Appleton by saying; “Steve has a top navigator with him, it’s a great car and a top team so they must be favourites!”

Mini wins on 60th Anniversary

Event described by competitors as the toughest yet

Entwistle has finished third and second in Rally of the Tests previously, now he has taken the top step of the podium, winning his first major and in so doing kept Paddy Hopkirk happy. Steve; “We called to interrupt him on his cruise to tell him, he seemed pretty pleased!”

Mark Appleton won this event last year in an Alfa Romeo navigating five time winner Paul Wignall. Mark has now surpassed his previous driver with a record breaking six wins!

A racing driver, Phil Hindley, bellied has rally inexperience of just one event six years ago, to be propelled to the podium as a novice in second place. With the expert help of top navigator Martyn Taylor who was runner up last year, Phil was very grateful; “This event is all down to the navigator I just do as I am told, but what a navigator Martyn is! Track to rally is all very different though, you get a little stone under the wing of the racing Porsche and you think what was that? Here you just plough though it all and the car takes it. I’ve also learned that the steering wheel does go further than ten to two, I’ve been on the lock stops a few times with this one, but it has been so much fun on the tests I have loved it all and hope to get another go.”

Martyn Taylor; “It’s been one hell of an event, we really have come through some difficulties such as the trip falling yesterday, which meant Swynnerton was guess work, but we only wrong slotted a couple of times which wasn’t so bad.  Phil as race driver, well he showed promise on the gravel, with a bit of coaching he could be OK – he’s not so bad!”

The big surprise, mainly to himself and navigator Martin Pitt was that Paul Dyas claimed the final podium position. Having been down in 40th in the early part of the rally, Paul and Martin climbed up the order only to be thwarted yesterday by a gritting truck, having to get towed off an elevated road section which left their front wheels in the air, then later beaching the car! “It just shows” said Paul, ”never give up!” I’m gob smacked, what a fight back, we’re on the podium and I can’t believe it. Fantastic. I’ve been towed out twice, then we towed Howard Warren out. We go again in three weeks time on Le Jog, I’m going to win that!”

RoTT winner Steve Entwistle was still beaming an hour after getting back to rally HQ in Chester. “It’s sunk in now, I’m over the moon. When we arrived initially I was a bit low key as I’d spent all afternoon thinking it’s going to go wrong, it’s going to go wrong, then we got here and I thought no, no its alright, it’s alright!! I’ve spoken to Paddy and told him his car has won three times now, once with Rauno Aaltonen, once with Roger Clark and now me!

“I’ve been rallying  for 30 years and this the best thing that has happened to me. It’s also a win on the Mini 60th Anniversary plus 54 years since a Mini won the RAC Rally! I have been an RAC rally lover since I was three.

“Mark Appleton is faultless, I can’t thank him enough. We get on great, he’s brilliant, we have been powered by humbugs and cherry menthol sweets as he’s been losing his voice a bit, it must be the noise inside the car. This is absolutely brilliant, the man is ace.” Mark Appleton in reply felt that Steve’s driving was pretty good too!; “ Steve certainly knows how to pedal a Mini, for example on the second kart track, the Red Dragon, there was no grip for us at all, we were just spinning wheels so Steve literally steered it on the handbrake! Ultimately I think it all went to the plan which we stuck to. Last night was incredibly difficult, the weather, the roads but we just kept going, we probably pulled through better than others which made the difference. I agree with most who have said that this is the toughest RAC Rally of the Tests yet.”

The final day definitely did have a sting, some competitors were caught by navigational challenges, many by the weather as crews coped with the remnants of overnight snow early on in North Wales.

For example, the start of the second regularity was a steep uphill section with some snow, mud and ice mixed. Paul Crosby; “ We really struggled to get up the hill, and we have some power, we just scrabbled up, I don’t know how the others did it.” There were two tests on kart tracks, the first at Rednal Karting lured Mike and Matthew Voke’s Ginetta G15 into the wall. Mike and Matthew were still third in the general classification after they fixed what turned out to be superficial damage. Mike; “ Yes I ran out of talent but we got towed out and went on our way again, we were also lucky that the weather was so good in Wales today. Yesterday in the wet the car was misting up every thirty seconds, we had more paper towels in the car than in the hotel! We have had a solid three and a half days, Matthew has been great, making no mistakes at all. Third is a good reward.”

Another entertaining crew reveling in the conditions were the Dutch pairing of Harm Lamberigts and Arjan van der Palen in their Ford Escort Mexico. Like the Ginetta team they were ineligible for the overall awards as their car is too young! However, they were an amazing second in the general classification and first in Class 7. Harm; “We really enjoyed it, nice tests, good roads, we have so much fun rallying in the UK. We got close a few times but Mark Appleton is a great navigator, this is our third time, we got close but we will try it once more”. Arjan was particularly strong over the most difficult time control section in Swynnerton last night, his plan of keeping his driver under control worked; “I did a lot of preparation in terms of the times and distances and made Harm speed up and slow down when we needed to so we kept catching the Porsche ahead.”

The other entertaining Dutch crew were Alexander Leurs and Bas de Rijk in an Opel Ascona. They finished seventh in the general classification but won Class 8. A mistake today dropped them from second which they held at the lunch break. Alexander takes up the story; “It was a pity as we missed a timing point in the middle of a triangle, a silly mistake but it happens. We had been second up to that point but we have still had a fantastic time. The Ascona was good on bad roads and I like that, but it also goes well over all conditions.”

The second test at a kart track was in Wales at Red Dragon Kart Club, it seemed so slippy for Steve Entwistle that he spun his wheels most of the way round. One of the favourites of the day was test 6 called ‘Hall of Fame’ run by the Rhyl and District Motor Club. It ran up a greasy concrete hill and around tight farm buildings then back across a fast semi concrete track section. John Ruddock and Nick Cooper were most impressive here as the Escort Mexico was thrown around as if they had all the width in Wales.

HERO Challenge and navigation pupils Rob and Julie Clifton were absolutely stoked at being awarded the Spirit of the Rally Award on Sunday night in the Chester prize giving for the 2019 RAC Rally of the Tests driving their Vauxhall Viva called Nigel.

Rob: ‘”We are delighted and so pleased to get this award, we weren’t even meant to jump from HERO Challenge to a major event yet, but Julie suggested we did it and I’m so glad we did! We were a bit gung ho this morning after a good day yesterday, but today was a stinker”

Julie Clifton continued; “I thought we may as well do it, the worst thing that can happen is we finish last, but we weren’t last and we have won an award!  We missed two time controls today, then I find it hard to recover. It’s frustrating but I’ll have a study when I’m home and work out where I went wrong. But I am really enjoying the challenge of how to navigate, right from the first HERO classes,  it’s hard at first but gets a bit better each time.”

Another team to come through the HERO navigation classes, then HERO Challenges and now premier events, are Anita Wickens and Malcolm Dunderdale in their Mercedes 190e 16v, a rare rally car! Having taken part in the Three Legs of Mann and the Summer Trial they really enjoyed the challenge of the Rally of the Tests. Malcolm; “today was really good after a difficult first couple of days, we started to learn the tricks and tracks, it is amazing feeling just to finish such a tough event.”

Anita; “ We did it! All those lessons, HERO Challenges, it was all worth it but it was tough.”

Seren and Elise Whyte finished a superb 6th overall and second in class with their tiny and underpowered 1957 Standard Ten, despite a few noises from the car in the later stages of the rally.

Elise; “The punishment the car took was unbelievable and there were definitely a few rattles and noises developing, but what an event, we didn’t think we could get top ten but we aimed high!” As Seren said; “We are both very tired now!”

Another driver making his debut at the HERO premier or expert level was The Classic Yachting Experience Managing Director Federico Gottsche Bebert. He stood in at the last moment for HERO Chairman Tomas de Vargas Machuca when work commitments prevented him from competing in his own Porsche 911. Federico was navigated by one of the best young navigators in the sport, Nick Bloxham.

Not only did the crew finish a superb 15th overall on Federico’s debut, but also they won Class 9!

“I have had such a great opportunity but most importantly such a great navigator in Nick, he is the brains behind this! Thank you to Tomas, I hope he misses more rallies so I can use his car again.” Said Federico. Nick; “ We really started to gel, with that we improved all the time ending up with a great result. Federico is a good driver.”

The star attraction and star performers in many ways were Stuart Anderson and Leigh Powley in their 1937 Derby Bentley. They braved the snow, winds and rain in the open top car, staying in the top five for most of the event but winning Class 1. The crew and their Vintage rally car left many moderns in their wake. It is just not possible to get the results this crew achieve with such an old car- but they do. 4th overall was an amazing result.

Thomas and Roger Bricknell overcame many technical issues in their VW Golf Gti to achieve a hard won fifth in the general classification and winning Class 10. Peter Lovett and Matt Fowle won Class 6 in a Porsche 911 and took 5th overall. The glorious looking and sounding Triumph 2000 Mk1 of Team Flamboyant Susan Dixon and driver Darren Everitt won Class 5, the crew were 21st overall. Bill Cleyndert and Tony Brooks won Class 2 in the Morris Mini Cooper S, 15th overall, with John and Peter Dignan’s MGB the victors of Class 3 taking 9th overall.

Dermot Carnegie has been rallying for more years than he cares to mention but he’s still got it! He and Paul Bosdet won Class 4 in their immaculate Volvo PV544 and were 11th overall.



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