RAC Rally of the Tests 2019 - A Throwback in Rally Time for the Events' 18th Edition
Starting in Torquay where the first RAC Rally finished in 1932 and again in 1936 with tests on the seafront, the 2019 version embraces the principles of rallying formulated back in the seaside mists, with a mixture of 30 tests and 22 regularities over four days covering 750 miles. The finish is in Chester.
“2019 gives many show goers the chance of seeing classic rallying action for the first time, this is definitely a coup. After two years of planning and negotiation alongside organisers Clarion Events, we are bringing the RoTT right into the heart of the show.” Said a triumphant HERO Operations Director Brian Whyte.
The RAC Rally which became known as the ‘Rally of the Tests’ was first run in 1932 finishing with tests on Torquay seafront after 1000 miles of motoring against the clock from nine different starting points. 341 starters had to visit numerous controls but at the final control competitors had to, as the rules stated; ‘check in as near to their finish time as possible, any deviation from this time will result in loss of marks.’ After a special test involving slow running, acceleration and braking, followed by a Concours de Elegance, a winner emerged. Colonel A.H. Loughborough in a Lanchester 15/18 was recorded as having ‘the fewest penalty points in the decisive test at the finish.’
But there were incidents along the way as the Motor Sport magazine archive from the time recorded.
‘Who was the unfortunate driver who could not add? He drove over the finishing line, stopwatch in hand, and as he thought, exact to the minute. He had made, however, an hours error in his reckoning. Kensington Moir when approaching Buxton was persuaded to take a short cut at the bidding of one of his passengers. He finished up at 3000 ft on a by-road miles from anywhere.’
‘Another incident involved a particularly tired driver who, on leaving his car, walked straight into a lamp post. He explained he was not short sighted – just sleepy!’
‘One lady driver deserved a special medal. She drove single handedly throughout, had no rest, no meals and smoked only seven cigarettes. She also had trouble with her lights, but continued, and arrived at Torquay only two hours late.’
For the 77 crews in 2019, it will still be tough. Organisers have said it will be ‘no walk in the park.’ The route is expected to tax the best crews but will also offer the opportunity for less experienced crews to battle against those at the top of their game. Firstly, a short but taxing prologue starting and finishing in Torquay will decide the seeding for the next three days of competition.
Friday takes cars from Torquay to Bristol when they will encounter some new and exciting tests. Saturday will take a route through South Wales to Stoke via the NEC test in front of a big audience of show visitors. The final day will be a mix of regularities and tests in and out of Wales before the finish in Chester.
Just as in 1932, there will be an eclectic mix of rally cars set to take on the challenge by day and night in 2019. With valuable HERO Cup driver and Golden Roamer navigator championship points at stake, it is going to be competitive. There is just one Vintage car entered, Stuart Anderson and Leigh Powley in their 1936 Bentley Derby, Leigh already a winner this year of the ERA Flying Scotsman navigating Bill Cleyndert to a very close victory finish. Stuart was embarrassing many younger classic cars on Le Jog last year when he had to retire on the penultimate day, so he will be trying hard. So will Peking Paris second place Vintage podium man Cleyndert. Bill jumps out of the 1931 Chrysler that he shared with Artur Lukasiewicz, and into his Mini Cooper S in which he was so competitive on the Three Legs of Mann earlier this year. Star navigator Tony Brooks will be on the maps for Bill.
It could be the year of the Mini, the marque celebrating it’s 60th Anniversary. 1964 Monte Carlo Rally winner Paddy Hopkirk is entrusting his 1990 ERA Pirelli Marathon winning Mini Cooper S, registration 6 EMO, to Steve Entwistle who was third on RoTT last year and second before that. Navigating the car is Mark Appleton, recent Adriatic Adventure Clerk of the Course and Rally of the Tests winner with Paul Wignall in his Alfa Romeo last year. This is another strong combination although Paddy was quick to pile pressure on his team; “ They’d better win it! Alec Poole and I won the ERA Pirelli Marathon in 1990 in that Mini, it’s a winning car, but honestly Steve can win anything. He’s been knocking on the door for a few years now, a second then a third, it’s a well prepared car and they are a good team, Mark won last year so we are hoping for a win, however, I’ve told them not to bend it.
“Yes I have followed Rally of the Tests before, the tests part is like Autotests, racing drivers go on about the importance of karting, in rallying you learn car control through Autotests, it’s also a good way of finding young rally talent.”
Steve Entwistle; “There is a bit of pressure but hopefully things go our way, we want to have a good run. I am genuinely honoured to be in Paddy’s car but it is a double edge sword, you have to look after the car but at the same time he wants us to win! After a second and a third on RoTT I just need the top step now. That’s the number one objective.”
Mark Appleton is under no illusion as to the strength of the competition on Rally of the Tests. Both he and Steve Entwistle agree who they think are the potential winners. Paul Crosby and Andy Pullan in their Porsche 356B, Dan Willan and Martyn Taylor who were second last year in the Volvo PV544.
Mark also identified Jonathan Hancox and Richard Lambley in their Triumph TR4 as ‘always putting on a good show’ so they could be a threat. There are some strong entries from Holland who could spring surprises whilst there are established winning crews in the form of Dermot Carnegie and Paul Bosdet in a Volvo PV544, that team having finished a strong second on the Vale of Clwyd, and Howard Warren and Iain Tullie, the ever present regular podium sitters in their Porsche 911.
Which ever way you look at the entry list there is an abundance of talent and a mixture of great rally cars. Paul Dyas enjoyed a great outing on the Summer Trial just missing the podium after a navigational error in the last few hours of the event. Paul will be with new navigator Martin Pitt in their re fettled Volvo Amazon. Rob and Julie Clifton will compete in their Vauxhall Viva with Guy Symons and David Watson in a Riley 1.5, an under rated rally car that could go well on the tests.
It is also good to see a product of the HERO ladder of success on the entry list. Malcolm Dunderdale and navigator Anita Wickens started with HERO rally courses and one day events building up to the Three Legs of Mann and now the Rally of the Tests in their Cosworth Mercedes 190E 16V. Their progress has been impressive but they are now preparing for their sternest test yet.
The big pressure is however on the navigators. This is an intense event, some describe it as relentless. The list of experienced navigators on the event indicates the strength in depth of crew in that role, but each would say this event will really push them. Roger Bricknell, Owen Turner, winner in Iceland, Elise Whyte with her sister Seren who pushed the Iceland winners so hard in an underpowered Standard 10. Nick Bloxham, one of five navigators who helped propel Richard Isherwood to the HRCR Drivers title this year, or Matthew Vokes who just clinched his second HRCR Navigators title, sitting alongside Ian Crammond in a Mercedes. Each would say they have to be on their mettle.
Mark Appleton is well qualified to explain how tough it is for the navigators on this event as winner in 2018 with Paul Wignall.
“It is an event where you just cannot predict what will happen. It’s long and tough, intricate all the way, you can never rest. One minute you are doing well the next minute you think you have blown all your chances. It is all about accuracy, there are always little sections that the organisers slip in designed to catch us out. What is so clever about the organisers is that you never know where it’s going to be, you have to be prepared, the whole time. You come around a corner and things are not quite as you would expect them to be, but it’s what you do in the next ten seconds that could make all the difference.
“On top of that the night sections add a real dimension to the regularities and tests, the roads can be pretty dirty too so you have one tough event. I am happy to sit alongside Steve Entwistle after four years or so, it’s great to be in a Mini too, great to be back in a buzz box”
Some of the cars and crews do have very strong credentials but don’t write off the underdogs. An older less powerful car can still pull off an excellent result as Seren and Elise Whyte have proved through strong driving and clever navigation in the past. Their 1957 1100cc Standard 10 could pull off another giant killing act, after all, Jimmy Ray and Brian Horrocks won the 1955 RAC Rally in a Standard 10. Wouldn’t that be an ironic throw back to the past.
Photography by Blue Passion Photo and Will Broadhead