Many thanks to Sam for the report on the R.A.C Rally and the pictures.
The R.A.C.Rally is based on the original event of the 60’s and 70’s, and is restricted to cars from that era. We have followed the event now for 4 years, and in 2010 battled with 2 ft. of snow, sheet ice on the roads, and temperatures of -8 degrees. This year was somewhat more temperate, but the entry was rather disappointing in terms of numbers, quality, and variety. Over 60% of the cars were Escorts, which may accurately reflect the position in the 60’s and 70’s but which makes for rather monotonous spectating. Still, there were the Saabs, Porsches, Sunbeams, and that glorious Lancia Stratos to provide some change, and even a Subaru driven by the man I did my first rally with some 40 years ago – ouch! But not a single Triumph …….
This year the event had its initial base at
, a stately home at Helmsley in Duncombe Park North Yorkshire, and it was here that we headed. We watched the cars being scrutineered, a detailed examination which is always a nervous time for competitors as without the scrutineer’s signature you can’t start the rally. There were some fabulous pieces of engineering on view, including a couple of V-reg Escorts which looked as though they were built yesterday – and quite possibly were! The first car started the first stage at 5.30, so in darkness, although with all that candlepower on the front you don’t need much daylight. There were 2 stages though the woods at and a further pair in Duncombe Park to complete the day’s action, and what action it was. The official car which runs ahead of the field was a rather battered, but fully prepared, Land Rover Discovery, which was all noise and fire-spitting exhausts. Then to the first competitors, driving at seemingly impossible speeds as the cars slid on the slippery concrete track. Dalby Forest
Many of us would follow this event if only to see again the Stratos, a futuristic machine of the 70’s built specifically to win the World Rally Championship, and Steve Perez brings his example each year to delight us all, not only with its striking appearance but also the sound of its V6 Ferrari engine, which could be heard echoing through the woods long after the beast had disappeared from sight – awesome!
The cars visited the service area at
between stages, and here you can watch the crews work their magic in record time – but don’t stand too close or you’ll be hit with a flying spanner! Suddenly Car1, the Escort last year’s winners, the Belgian crew of Stouf/Erard, appeared on the end of a towrope and looking rather worse for wear. It had rolled in Dalby and now had damage to the front valance, wings, doors, and the roof at the rear was down. As the mechanics descended on the car, we watched in amazement as a trolley jack was put inside, the roof jacked back into shape, and a new rear screen and seal installed, all in less that 5 mins! At the other end things were looking more serious and the car was eventually retired with engine damage. Duncombe Park
At the end of Day1 the Pirelli Escort of former winners Evans/Millington held a lead of just under 2 mins, from a whole host of other Escorts.
the crews tackled another pair of stages in the Duncombe Park Yorkshire forests followed by 2 more goes at the woods, although in daylight this time, before heading back into the forests and then to Croft Circuit, which is where we went. This was yet another opportunity to get up-close in the service area, and the 2 stages on the circuit were run in darkness, quite a challenge for a lot of crews who are more used to having trees either side instead of blackness and wide open spaces. The Saabs were really struggling here, their puny 2-stroke motors not having nearly enough power to set decent times. In contrast the Porsches were putting on a decent show, although ultimately outclassed by the 250 hp Escorts. One car in trouble was the pretty Lancia Fulvia which ran with no lights at all, and could subsequently be seen with its service crew feverishly working under the bonnet. It also disappeared from the scene, only to reappear the following day after having its radiator, alternator, and gearbox replaced – now that’s what I call enthusiasm! Duncombe Park
After Croft the field tacked stages in Hamsterley and Shepherdshield, the first of which accounted for the Opel Ascona of Collins/Grist which had been setting some decent times. Rally HQ also moved, to
Carlisle racecourse where it would stay for the remainder of the event.
The third day’s action was all in
, with anxious eyes turned skywards as it got noticeably colder. Indeed, the forest stages of Ae, Twiglees, and Newcasleton all had a light covering of snow, and this helped produce some surprising times, one of which was from the Lotus Cortina of former Ford works driver Bob Bean, a mere youth of 73! We again went to the service area, this time at Heathall, an industrial estate at Scotland Dumfries, which also hosted a couple of stages in a nearby wood. By this time in the event some crews are driving for a finish, but not all as could clearly be seen in the stage, which features a watersplash taken very enthusiastically by some, one of whom was Northallerton garage owner Charlie Taylor who would eventually finish an excellent fourth in the rally. Again the Stratos was a treat, not the fastest car but certainly the loudest and the most tuneful.
For the final day, 2 stages were planned in
, to the north of Kielder, but early-morning snow caused problems. The Kershope Forest Forest was badly affected, as were the approach roads, and when one became blocked by a jacknifed lorry, so delaying the event’s time schedule, the day’s competition was reduced to a single stage. Even so, leaders Evans/Millington had to change a gearbox at the side of the road after being left with only 5th to do the stage. But their lead was enough anyway, and they finally won the rally by over 7 mins, with Escorts filling all but 1 of the top 10 places.
The R.A.C.Rally is named in honour of Roger Clark, one of
’s best-known drivers, and its return to the values of that era is extremely popular. It is as far removed from today’s World Rally Championship as could possibly be imagined. Add to that atmosphere the classic cars, and the ability to get close to them and their crews, and you have a truly enjoyable motor sport event. It’s not a rally in the sense of the CT or TSSC events, which are just glorified autotests, but a true examination of the skill and tenacity of both man and machine. For four old codgers like us it made for a fabulously-enjoyable weekend. Britain