RAC Rally of the Tests Preview

First published October 2016.

RAC RALLY OF THE TESTS – by Nigel Raeburn.

The 15th running of the Rally of the Tests is coming up in early November (2016), now with title support from the Royal Automobile Club.  This year it starts in Bournemouth on Thursday 3rd November, with overnight stops at Bristol and Stoke to end at Chester on Sunday 6th November.  Shon Gosling is Test Commander of a special test at an iconic venue in our area and is looking for a large contingent of marshals for the Saturday 5th November late afternoon / evening – contact Shon if you can help – [email protected] .

I competed in 11 of the 14 events to date, but old friend Ron Palmer (once co-driver to Malcolm Wilson in his early days) has just let me know he is missing this year having done all 14 to date – I don’t think anyone will have done all 15.  My 11 times were with Geoff Breakell (3 times in Jaguar Mk2 and 3 times in Alfa Giulia saloon), 2 times with Paul Wignall (Alfa Giulia coupe) and 3 times with Colin Evans (MGB GT).  Best results – 2nd (Paul), 3rd (Paul) and 3rd (Geoff in the Jaguar).  Only one retirement after cracking the sump of Geoff’s Alfa on the Warcop army ranges.

A few people have excelled in this event – Paul Wignall / Mark Appleton have won it 4 times in Paul’s Alfa Giulia coupe and Frank Fennell / Kevin Savage have won it 3 times in Frank’s Mercedes saloon.  Iain Tullie has won it twice with different drivers (Dermot Carnegie and Howard Warren) but no-one else has won more than once.

Uniquely this rally moves to different parts of the country each year (including Ireland one year) – generally all with connections to the original RAC Rallies of the 50s and 60s.  The competitive parts of the event come in three disciplines – special tests on private land, regularity sections on public and private land and time control (TC) sections sometimes on public roads in the evenings but especially in recent years on private land like army camps.  With the short daylight hours at that time of year a lot of the event is in the dark – all in all making for a good all-round test for the crews.

In my memory it is often the army camp venues which have provided the most excitement – I recall Ashchurch near Tewkesbury with a multi-lap test running through lots of buildings, Swynnerton near Stoke with its complex road network and varied surfaces, Warcop near Appleby which can be hard to navigate because of the lack of landmarks (one passage control I have now twice failed to approach correctly despite lots of study of Google!) and Catterick where I can remember coming over a brow at night on a map-reading TC section to see competing cars’ headlights heading in every direction you could imagine!

Clerk of the Course for the first 10 events was Fred Bent, and then Guy Woodcock took over, and both gentlemen (ably supported by Anthony Preston) are experts at finding tricky navigational challenges such as not-as-map or deceptive junctions, cleverly placed controls or demanding plotting and route definition methods like Deeliarity – certainly navigators are kept on their toes.  Everyone makes mistakes – the winners are usually those who make the fewest and least critical!

There is a full entry and you can keep up with the event at www.heroevents.eu .  Best of all, come out and marshal – contact Shon!

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