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21st Edition of the RAC Rally of the Tests 2-5 November 2023

Preview with new RoTT Joint Clerks of the Course, Andy Pullan and George Mullins

*New territory and old favourites with new ‘Lite’ version running behind the regular rally

*Pullan and Mullins taking over from Guy Woodcock after his 10 years as Clerk of the Course

21st Edition of the RAC Rally of the Tests 2-5 November 2023

The RAC Rally of the Tests is the most competitive rally on the HERO-ERA calendar, a four-day concentrated contest that brings out the best in the cream of the crews taking part and elevates those newbies on the entry to a new level due to the intense competition experience. The attraction of the rally is magnified by the heritage of the event – The RAC Rally was first run in 1932 and follows, as much as possible, in the traditional format. The status of the HERO-ERA resurrected rally is reflected by the very strong entry with a good response from crews to the new ‘Lite’ format version that follows the main event. The 21st RAC Rally of the Tests has a great programme in store for the ‘Testers.’

The Prologue on November 2nd is traditional on the RAC Rally of the Tests, the action starts in the lanes around Lincolnshire for an hour of mild competition so teams can get into the swing before a very full first leg heading South into the heart of Lincolnshire the next day. Competitors will encounter new territory to ‘Testers,’ with an abundance of quality tracks and venues to enjoy. Later on cars will pass over the Humber Bridge for a series of challenging sections in the dark before descending to the outskirts of York for the night.

Day Two and the rally will head East, exploring the rolling countryside of the Yorkshire Wolds and the North Yorkshire Moors as a packed day of competition is sure to catch out the unwary. Forests, circuits and quality gravel tracks are the order of the day as the event once again charges into unfamiliar territory.

A scenic third day heading North through North Yorkshire and Nidderdale will see teams tackling some favourite ‘Tester’ venues new and old, with some stings in the tail to make sure crews are on top form right until the end.

There are new venues and refreshed routes devised by new RoTT Clerks of the Course Andy Pullan and George Mullins to talk through, but before that, do they feel any pressure in filling Guy Woodcock’s boots after his 10 year tenure on such a prestigious rally?

Andy Pullan, championship winning rally navigator turned HERO-ERA Event Manager gave his answer; Andy “The event has a rich history of excellent organisers, Guy certainly didn’t organise it by himself for 10 years, people like Anthony Preston and Fred Bent, really great rally people, helped put together some high-quality events. George and I have really enjoyed following suit to try and put on an event which will certainly challenge crews, to the extent that even the local crews won’t know where they’re going!”

George Mullins agreed with Andy and added that the 21st version of the RAC Rally of the Tests will have some new elements; George; “There will be lots of new things, but first to follow up on what Andy said, it’s actually been a team putting the Rally of the Tests together for years. Last year was the first one that I did not attend because I was away in South America, but I did sort most of the route on the last day including the Glastonbury Festival Regularity. So, I’ve got a pretty rich history with the RoTT.

“We’ve got a fair few of the old favourites, but we’ve got some really cracking new routes and venues as well. We both came into it with an open mind, determined to find some different venues, especially in Lincolnshire where RoTT has never been to in any great length before, although we’ve been through it. We have Cadwell Park for example, which is a first.”

Andy; “There are other elements that are new, based on previous feedback, we are simplifying how we get the information out. We won’t be giving everybody the information right at the last minute, they will receive it with a little bit more time based on feedback from last year that it was a bit too intense. And of course, we’re bringing in the new format the RAC Rally of the Tests ‘Lite’ version, which has been a really popular new addition for 2023, with a great selection of 11 crews entered, people who are really open to the new event. So, it’s going to be brilliant to see them and to find out who goes well and what they think of it afterwards.”

The ‘Lite’ version of RAC Rally of the Tests will follow the back of the regular rally. It is designed to retain a high number of quality, flowing tests but reduce the amount of sections in the dark and the amount of map plotting required by crews. The Lite RoTT will have its own awards and still give those entrants all the thrills of the tests and the regularities.

So those competitors are in for a treat but is it a separate event?

George; “Yes, a separate event with its own awards. So, as we said in the foreword to the rally overall, don’t think that it is going to be easy. The winner of the ‘Lite’ section will have won a tough rally. I mean, it is a rally in its own right and it follows most of the main route, it just dips out of some of the action later on, although they will still be driving in the dark. Furthermore, we’ve simplified the navigation and timing.”

This this is HERO-ERA’s most competitive rally of the year, in that respect, it is one of their flagship events. It’s the peak of competitive action so can you promise competitors the same relentless format?

Andy; “Yes, it is always a testing event, the clue is in the name, so from start to finish crews can expect a challenge. We will provide lots of variety but all three parts of the crew really have to work well together. There are some sections which will challenge the navigator, there are quite a few sections which will test the driver and of course, the third part of that is you will need a really reliable car.

“There’s no point being up there after the Prologue, because I don’t think anybody’s ever won the rally after leading the Prologue, it’s the consistency of staying up there and then being in a position to turn up the heat in the last day without any mistakes!

“The 21st edition has attracted a really high-quality number of competitors so it looks really open for the overall win. You’ve got last year’s winners, Dan Willan and Niall Frost, you’ve got Kurt Vanderspinnen and Bjorn Vanoverschelde coming over from Belgium in their Lotus Cortina, they were leading last year but unfortunately had a mechanical issue early on. Martyn Taylor is always there or thereabouts with Paul Dyas and they really pushed Dan and Niall hard last year. Kevin Haselden and Iain Tullie, who is a very experienced navigator, and there are not many rallies he hasn’t done, and Kevin’s a great driver so they will be in the mix. Paul Crosby and Ali Procter, what doesn’t need to be said about those two? Then you have the Staniforths in their Mini who always go well, I’m sure they will be on for a good result, but there are many more.”

George was asked how aware he was of the history of this event which is based on the RAC Rally.

“Well, I am well aware, absolutely. It goes back to the start of it all in this country in 1932, it is really fascinating looking back. It’s absolutely amazing some of the stuff they used to do, and maybe there are some ideas in there for the future, like Torquay on the seafront, they had a variety of different driving tests, which of course the whole RAC Rally of the Tests is based on anyway.

“In one test they had to reverse along the prom, one even involved a walking test! There was there’s some really bizarre stuff actually, but some real rally history if you choose to look at it.”

The busy HERO-ERA busy year continues as the ground breaking Badawï Trail to the last Oasis has just finished and some of the people involved in that will be dashing over to the Rally of the Tests, George was asked, who, for example?

George; “Well, we’ve got a couple of Marshal crews. We’ve got the Parkinsons and the Pullan Seniors. They’re making tracks home and jumping in their vehicles to come out virtually straightaway. Some of them are in pretty key roles, the amount of organising required at some of the venues is at a very high level so we need top people like them to go in there and boss the situation to make it happen. Bramham Park is a classic example of that, there are so many controls in there it’s like a rabbit warren.  Then at the new venue, we will have the same level of organisational demands.

“Guy Woodcock has dashed back after the success of the Middle East; he will be acting as Sweep with his daughter Claire. Emily Anderson will be navigating for Simon Arscott in a Porsche provided she is OK. Emily had to come home early from the desert with an injured arm, she is entered on the tests and hopefully recovered – she won’t want to miss this one!”

Andy; “And Henry Carr who was out marshalling with my Dad in the Middle East is competing on the tests and it’s on his local patch, so he will be knowledgeable about the area. He used to organise a rally in a lot of the areas around Yorkshire where we will be, so he has no excuses!

“I want to give big thanks to all the marshals who are going to come to the rally and officiate at over 250 controls across the four days, there will be an army of them needed to cover over 30 tests and some 21 regularities in the main event, so we are very grateful to them all.”

Just to finally whet the rally appetite, the joint Clerks of the Course then casually mentioned the abbreviation many rallyists just love – the TC sections, or Time Control sections.

Andy; “We’ve got three really great TC sections on the event, one Friday night and one Saturday night which crews will really enjoy, then another on Sunday afternoon, so the competition will be fierce right until the end. On the final day we will be at the Catterick Ranges for tests, regularities and a pretty long TC section, which will certainly keep crews sweating and more than likely keep the results team sweating right until the finish!”

It sounds like an epic RAC Rally of the Tests, just as the tests should be, a fierce and compelling competition to relish, worthy of the title and heritage.

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