Skip to content

RAC Rally of the Tests 2023 Leg One Report

2022 winners Dan Willan and Niall Frost take slender 2023 lead

*Belgian crew of Kurt Vanderspinnen and Bjorn Vanoverschelde in Lotus Cortina second, just two seconds behind

*Charge of the ‘Lite Brigade’ as the Robertson’s lead in MGB GT V8

*Fabulous day’s rallying ends with adrenalin packed Bramham Park TC section

RAC Rally of the Tests 2023 Leg One Report

Despite a long reverse on the very first test of the day at the Lincolnshire Ginetta test track, 2022 RAC Rally of the Tests winners Dan Willan and Niall Frost grabbed the lead with some storming driving in their venerable but quick 1962 Volvo PV544 during the rest of the day.

Also making errors in the sunshine on the Ginetta test track that the rally visited in the dark on the Prologue the night before, were Belgians Kurt Vanderspinnen and Bjorn Vanoverschelde. Just like the new leaders, after mistakes they too powered through the day in their 1964 Lotus Cortina in hot pursuit of the Volvo, ending the day just two seconds adrift.

Darell and Nicky Staniforth held onto their Prologue lead for part of the day until the PV544 and the Cortina pushed them down to third place in their Mini, but the Mini top ten and class battle resumed in anger. Paul Cosby and Ali Procter are fourth in their Cooper S whilst Kevin Haselden and Iain Tullie are seventh.

It was a day of hard but wonderful rallying deep into Lincolnshire, finishing in Yorkshire in the Bramham Forest complex, a labyrinth of tracks to navigate in the dark at speed on the adrenalin filled Time Control section. What a way to finish the day which threw 12 tests, 7 regularities and the final TC section at the 65 competition cars left in the battle.

Paul Dyas, sixth in his Volvo Amazon with Martyn Taylor said; “What an incredible day’s rallying, Cadwell Park was brilliant, far better than I thought it was going to be, but Bramham Park was beyond my dreams, it was sensational in there tonight!

“I have to say Dan Willan is on fire out front, we are not going to catch him!”

Behind the main rally, but having their own fight for honours in the new RAC Rally of the Tests ‘Lite’ division, were 11 crews, loving the new concept which essentially leaves out the gruelling long night sections but does all the rest. Leading the charge of the ‘Lite Brigade’ at the moment are Julia and Steve Robertson in the MGB GT V8 and as Julia said; “We were back at the HQ for 6.45 pm in time for a civilised dinner and not to have the charge through the forest late at night hoping not to get lost was a great relief. But actually, we have done exactly the same as the rest bar the night section, and we have loved it!”

There were some taxing regularities too, a junction that befuddled so many that they enjoyed a heated debate about the instruction at morning coffee halt as they waited to get their timecard stamped out. Emily Anderson was vociferous in her criticism to the point that the group gave her a cheer!

There was much more to come, small slippy tracks off tarmac lanes, turns through farmyards with hidden Timing Points, and at one farmyard, confusion between the cowsheds as Michael Pedley and Paul Griffin threw their Escort RS2000 sideways ways heading down the wrong track. ‘Where are they headed?’ the enthusiastic farmer who had allowed the rally to pass through his farm had been asked; ‘Towards the duck pond’ came the reply!

They were not alone, others actually stopped as they pondered the right route whilst many overshot the hidden turns.

Bramham Park aside, the absolute gem of the day was Cadwell Park race track in Lincolnshire. It used parts of the sweeping valley of the race track, such as the Goosneck and Charlies, combined with the testing perimeter roads. There were four tests in the morning and four after lunch, but it was a perfect venue for the Rally of the Tests, providing fast but tricky speed tests which took nearly twenty minutes of flat-out driving and fast calls from the hot seat.

Diverting left before the famous ’Mountain’ section, a steep narrow ribbon of road behind the paddock area led to an acute hairpin with a wide apron of tarmac, but a very narrow exit through an unyielding heavy metal gate.

Rikki Proffitt was the first to attack it in his ‘special stage’ style pirouetting the Porsche 911 around with a big jab of throttle and a pull of the handbrake, beautifully executed and great to watch.

What followed just took the observers’ collective breaths away. Dan Willan and Niall Frost threw their ageing Volvo around in one huge wide high-speed sweep, brushing the barriers on the outside before missing the metal exit gate by millimetres to speed away out of sight. Total commitment, which is why this crew are in the lead of HERO-ERA’s most competitive rally of the year.

Dan Willan; “Yeah, I made a right Horlicks of the first test this morning having to reverse for a long way and then touching a cone, well not really as it was on top of a bale! But since then, we’ve had a really really good day. Niall has been fantastic as always, and yeah, we put a big effort into the tests. So a really good day.

“I had to take a very, very wide swoop at the severe hairpin. It’s the only way to get a Volvo PV544 around a tight bit, but you know that of course!”

Steve Head is having a ball in his Ford Escort RS2000 with the youngest competitor Oli Waldock alongside him navigating. Steve; “He is just brilliant, we climbed back up today, but that TC section, oh man it was absolutely brilliant!”

Ali Procter, 4th with Paul Crosby, Mini Cooper S.

Ali; “Yeah, pretty challenging. There were a few tricks in there from the organisers keeping us on our toes. We’ve lost a little bit of time we maybe shouldn’t have done in places, but other than that some really good regularities.

“The tests at Cadwell? I think they suited Paul and the car, so I’d say they were the highlight for us. They’re really good and it’s nice to go back there again,

The TC section largely went well for us. It was tricky, really slippy but nothing major.

“We are fourth overall and in touch, we are at the right end of the field but a lot can happen!”

Rolf Pellini, 9th with Klaus Mueller in their Lancia Fulvia.

The crew are fighting Paul Bloxidge for HERO Cup Championship points for driver Klaus, so they are hoping for a good finish.

Rolf; “Ups and downs for us. In England you say no dramas up to a point, a brilliant place, but no luck for us in Bramham Park, a few dramas. It is not the first time that we were there, but we never managed to get a clean sheet on that. It’s so frustrating, stupid errors. That’s it.

“We improved a little bit since yesterday and we are in the mood, but it’s still a long run to the North. So, it’s a question of keeping it going. Definitely, there is no alternative. We won’t go home now!”

We use cookies to give you the best experience of using this website. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies. Please read our Cookie Policy for more information.