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RAC Rally of the Tests Leg Two Report

Dan Willan and Niall Frost extend their lead in Volvo PV544

*Kurt Vanderspinnen and Bjorn Vanoverschelde keep 2nd in Lotus Cortina

*Paul Dyas and Martyn Talyor climb to 3rd as Staniforths drop to 5th

*Robertsons extend their lead in RAC Rally of the Tests ‘Lite’ division

*Sting in the Tail awaits the ‘Testers’ to put results in doubt until final flag

RAC Rally of the Tests Leg Two Report

On a day that started at a bleak airfield in fog, Dan Willan and Niall Frost brought a bit of cheer to spectators and officials alike as they pushed their 1962 Volvo PV544 even harder, but in spectacular style, to extend their lead over Belgians Kurt Vanderspinnen and Bjorn Vanoverschelde in their 1964 Lotus Cortina.

By contrast, Kurt and Bjorn were neat and quick whilst Dan and Niall were flamboyant and just that bit quicker at the same time. The Volvo crew are now over a minute ahead of the Lotus Cortina but as Kurt said, “I don’t think there’s any way to beat them, they were really strong today. But there is still a long way to go, one more day and you never know what can happen!”

Leader Dan Willan was asked if he and Niall had a plan for the final day to try and secure back-to-back RAC Rally of the Tests wins, he said; “No, I will just check the oil, fill her with fuel and then do everything that Niall tells me to do.”

Early on Saturday morning as the 63 surviving rally cars disappeared into the mist over the broken tarmac of the Rufforth Airfield, which used to be used for racing, Paul Dyas and Martyn Talyor were already on a determined path of least resistance as they neatened their style and cut the deficit to those around them. By the time they reached Harewood Hillclimb in the persistent mist, they began to pull clear of the three-way scrap for third which was covered by just 9 seconds at one point. Dyas and Taylor later pulled clear to take third place by 1 min 23 seconds. Paul; “We enjoyed a much better day, the final TC section was just a thrill and there is another in Catterick at the end of the event – who knows what could happen in that rabbit warren of a place – hopefully Catterick will let us move up another couple of places!”

With Paul Crosby and Ali Procter fourth in their Mini Cooper S, there promises to be an epic Mini battle in Leg 3 as Darell and Nicky Staniforth who dropped from third to fifth in their Cooper S, are looking to hit back. They lead after the Prologue, but Nicky wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. Nicky; “Maybe it wasn’t a good thing to win the Prologue after all! We slipped down a bit, but today, for example, we did get caught a bit by traffic, but there’s always tomorrow!”

From the beautiful Bowcliffe Hall for a morning coffee break and Time Control, the rally headed into the worsening rain towards yet more tests and regularities. The Double Vale test was followed by a regularity at Nidd Valley which turned into a skating rink of mud and water.

Christian Brash, with his son Matthew Brash who was navigating in their MGB, jumped out of the sports car at the end of the regularity checking for rear-end damage. “I think we hit a tree but can’t find any damage.” Matthew replied; “We did Dad!” Just as the intrepid Peter Moore and Dan Stellmacher arrived, still with the roof down in pouring rain in the Austin Healey Sprite, Dan shouted across to the MGB crew; “What were you doing in there? You ruined our regularity!” He was joking of course, but minutes later Robert Clifton and Tom Horst did hit a tree in Nidd Valley damaging the front of their Porsche 944 to the extent that the bodywork was catching the steering. Robert said; “It was very slippy, we got caught out on a 90 right!” The crew managed to get the car to the Mechanical Assistance Teams at the lunch halt at Newby Hall. They pulled the front end back into some sort of shape as they reversed their 4 x 4 with a big strap attached to the front of the Porsche, Robert and Tom were soon back in the rally.

After 7 regularities and 9 tests, the cars headed to the TC section at the end of the day, a TC section usually sets the pulses racing, and this was no exception. Although the military complex at Leconfield was not as tough as the previous night in Bramham, it was taxing nonetheless, even if it wasn’t as fast. Most crews loved it and returned to Rally HQ in York with great tales to tell and times to compare. Dan Willan was still top of the tree, whilst Paul Dyas described the TC section as turning “left, right, left right, there wasn’t a straight in there, it was like a bit of Corsica in Yorkshire, fantastic!”

Not all the cars were fast front-running machines. Whilst Kurt’s Lotus Cortina harked back to 1964 and pointed towards 1966 when Jim Clark drove a Lotus Cortina on the RAC Rally, the belt driven 1968 DAF 55 of Dutch father and son Marcel and Geert Kistemaker was at the other end of the field at a rather more sedate pace, but none the less an ex-works rally car.

DAF used to send a three-car team to the RAC Rally in the mid to late sixties and early seventies, achieving team award status with the likes of David Van Lennep (who drove in the London Sydney Marathon) and the Kistemaker’s DAF 55 is based on the works machine with the original wheels. Geert; “I built it as a surprise for my Dad. Although it is a little bit fragile, the front suspension is the weak point, I think we have hit a couple of things, so the lower wishbones are now a little bit bent. And yes, it is belt driven, two belts and no differential!”

Hopefully, that Dutch piece of RAC rally history will finish the 21st version of the RAC Rally of the Tests on Sunday to complete the full journey after the surprise for Kistemaker Senior!

At the front, however, it will be all eyes on the final TC section to end the rally at the Catterick Barracks to see who can hold their nerve and whose cars can hold together.

Robert Clifton, Tom Horst, Porsche 944

Robert; “It was a poor day yesterday so we were trying to make up some places and got a little bit overzealous. We had some really good times but unfortunately a tree got the better of us on the last regularity. It was very slippy, Yeah, we got caught out on a 90 right and just took the ditch.

It seems cosmetic at the moment so yes, we’re going to carry on, there’s no chance we’re not going to continue.

The mechanics took a strap to the front, so they pulled it out a little bit with their 4 x 4, we’ve lost a couple of lights, but the spots are still working. So, we’re going to carry on.”

Geert Kistemaker, 1968 DAF 55

“Yes actually it’s my dad who used to rally in the early 70s with a DAF 55 and I tried to find his car but it didn’t exist anymore. So, I found one and built this one up, white with a matt black bonnet and the lights the same, the same wheels, roll cage, everything. I was able to buy this car and I bought it as a surprise for my Dad and built it entirely from all the photos, we even had the mirror in the right place. He was kind of surprised by it and of course, was very happy. Now we often do a little rally together, but this is a big rally!”

Joint Clerk of the Course George Mullins

“I’m absolutely delighted. Some people think Lincolnshire is boring for rallying, I thought it was epic in Lincolnshire. And today’s just carried on from there and like your reaction from people that are here already, it has been very, very positive.

“I mean, this evening, we’ve been into that kind of venue which has never been used before, we actually got into the Leconfield training areas, which is all gravel. I’ve not spoken to too many people about it yet, but if they didn’t have fun in there, I’d be surprised!

“There’s a huge sting in the tail tomorrow, and I don’t think it’ll be done until it’s done. When they come over the finish line we won’t be sure who will have one until we sort all the bean counting and expect it could be tight!”

Joint Clerk of the Course, Andy Pullan

“Yeah, it’s going very well. Everybody’s really enjoying the challenge. We’ve had some really great venues. The marshals have been doing an absolutely exceptional job, putting up with some tough conditions throughout the day in some classic Yorkshire weather. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite get some of the scenes we were hoping for, it was a bit misty here and there today. But the event has been really well received and started some great new venues like Leconfield, which has been a completely new venue for all these competitors and they seem to have really enjoyed it.

“There’s a lot in store for the third leg and it’s great because the competition is still so tight. The afternoon, especially in Catterick will be good because there’s a lot to catch out the unwary. It will be another great TC section to challenge crews right until the end after some more great tests first thing and some more regularities that will make sure crews are on their toes.”

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