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RAC Rally of the Tests


3rd-6th November 2022

Rally of the Tests 2022
Winners: Dan Willan/Niall Frost (Volvo PV544)
Photograph: HERO-ERA/Blue Passion

Organiser: HERO-ERA

Date: 3rd-6th November 2022

Clerk of the Course: Guy Woodcock

Deputy Clerk of the Course: Andy Pullan & Seren Whyte

Route: 26 Regularities, 28 Tests & 3 Time Control Sections

Route: 750 Miles

Start: Blackpool

Finish: Torquay

Starters: 69

The RAC Rally of the Tests celebrated its 20th Anniversary by starting in Blackpool and, over three and a half days and 750 miles, making its way to Torquay. Twenty-six regularities, 28 tests and three time control section lay before the competitors.

Sixty-nine crews took the start as darkness fell on Thursday evening. One regularity, with three timing points, used the lanes to the east of Kirkham. Unfortunately, a farmer, who had been PRed, took exception to the passing traffic and blocked the road. This caused the cancellation of two controls.

These dramas meant that nine crew headed for Weeton Camp with clean sheets. The camp contained both the first test and the second regularity. Jason Stone/Dan Stone (Ford Escort) and Tomas de Vargas Machuca/Martin Pitt (Fiat 124 Spider) were joint fastest on the test, while 2021 winners, Paul Dyas/Martyn Taylor (Volvo Amazon), put in the best performance on the regularity.

Despite this, Dyas/Taylor found themselves in second place when cars arrived back at the Village Hotel. The lead was held by the Belgian pairing of Kurt Vanderspinnen/Bjorn Vanoverschelde (Ford Lotus Cortina). The two crews were separated by a single second. All 69 starters made it back to the finish of the Prologue.

Leading the Prologue on the Rally of the Tests has long been seen as a jinx and so it proved in 2022. Leg 1 on Friday morning commenced with the three more tests at Weeton, and on Test 1/3 Vanderspinnen/Vanoverschelde clipped a kerb and broke a shaft. They managed to source a replacement, but missed the rest of the Leg.

The same fate befell Ted Gafney/John Youd (Mini Cooper S). They also cut route and re-joined on Saturday morning from the Stoke overnight halt.

With the Cortina's demise, Continental Europe honours were upheld by Harm Lamberigts/Arjan van der Palen (Ford Escort Mexico); the Dutch pairing held a lead of three seconds when crews arrived at the Lymm Coffee halt after Regularity 1/2. Dyas/Taylor were in second, 11 seconds ahead of Dan Willan/Niall Frost (Volvo PV544).

RAC Rally of the Tests 2022
Class 8 Leaders: Jason Stone/Dan Stone (Ford Escort)
Photograph: HERO/ERA/Blue Passion

Lamberigts/van der Palen didn't enjoy long in first place, they were among a large number of crews who missed a secret check at the end of the regularity that followed the break. Only 35 cars took the correct route, the remainder picked up a 2½ minute penalty for missing it. The erstwhile leaders dropped outside the top ten.

The lunch halt was taken at Oulton Park, two regularities and five tests having been tackled since Lymm. The second regularity used the tracks of the Royal Cheshire Showground.

At Oulton Park Dyas/Taylor were in the lead, but by just one second from Willan/Frost. These two crews were over forty seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Rikki Profitt/Andy Darlington (Porsche 911) were fastest on all of the three tests which led up to Lunch, but the driver wouldn't feature in the Test Pilots Award after he collected a wrong test on Thursday night.

As the Rally of the Tests took its break at the Cheshire circuit, other rally competitors were arriving there in preparation for the following day's Neil Howard Stages. This proved to be fortunate for Tomas de Vargas Machuca/Martin Pitt, they gained assistance from one of the service crews to weld up a broken suspension on their Fiat.

RAC Rally of the Tests 2022
Runners Up: Paul Dyas/Martyn Taylor (Volvo Amazon)
Photograph: HERO/ERA/Blue Passion

Three more regularities and two tests at Seighford Airstrip were taken before the next halt, which was at Stone. Willan/Frost dropped 12 seconds fewer than Dyas/Taylor on the regs and were fastest in class on both tests. Dyas/Taylor, running in the same class, were second fastest on each of the tests, this added a total of six seconds to their total. Thus, at Stone Willan/Frost held a 17 second lead. Callum Guy/Amy Henchoz (Volvo 142) were in third, but 1m 45s off the lead.

Reg 1/7 saw the demise of Paul Bloxidge/Ian Canavan; their Golf suffered a failed alternator and they were out. Also on the retirement list at this point were Paul Heaney/Sandra Heaney, a broken clutch stopping their Lancia Fulvia.

The original plan for the rally had been for a time control section in the notorious Swynnerton Army Base, however military activity at the site had precluded this from the event. In its stead, the route headed into the Peak District for three regularities. These led to the overnight halt at Stoke.

Willan/Frost arrived at Stoke with a lead of almost a minute, but they had problems, a broken shock absorber mounting was putting their continued participation in doubt. After appeals on social media, a welder was found and the part fixed.

The top cars were now separated by 59 seconds, with Dyas/Taylor 2½ minutes in front of Guy/Henchoz. In fourth were Richard Broughton/Elise Whyte (BMW 2002Tii); the driver being on his first Rally of the Tests. They were 11 seconds behind Guy/Henchoz and ten second ahead of Machuca/Pitt.

RAC Rally of the Tests 2022
Class 5 Winners: Harm Lamberigts/Arjan van der Palen (Ford Escort Mexico)
Photograph: HERO/ERA/Blue Passion

Paul Crosby/Ali Procter were competing in a Mini Cooper that the driver had spent two years building. They had tackled the HERO Challenge Three and the Dansport in preparation for an assault on the Rally of the Tests. They had started cautiously, but then were one of the crews that missed the Secret Check on Regularity 1/3. This had dropped them to 26th place on the position table. However, by the day end they had recovered to eighth. With only pre-1967 cars being eligible for overall awards, they were classified as fourth overall.

Another recovering crew were Lamberigts/van der Palen; they were up to sixth and were to move further up in the morning.

Leg Two opened with two more tests at Seighford. Thomas Koerner/Rolf Pellini (Porsche 911) were fastest on both of these, but were to retire soon afterwards with broken suspension.

The run down to the Metropole Hotel at Llandrindod Wells, a familiar RAC Rally watering hole, included a regularity and test within the Ditton Priors ex-Army camp. Willan/Frost put in the best performance on that regularity as they extended their lead to over a minute. However, they lost half that advantage as they struggled on the opening of the next regularity, which was on the Welsh Border around Wigmore.

At the lunch halt, 25 seconds separated the leading Volvos, while Lamberigts/van der Palen were third, although three minutes off the lead.

Jason Stone/Dan Stone (Ford Escort) had to cut out most of the morning loop as their car suffered a broken clutch. They had a spare and got it fitted, then continued in the afternoon.

The afternoon sections were largely on the Epynt Ranges, which was at its worse, with heavy rain and mist. This part of the route included the first TC section of the event. Callum Guy/Amy Henchoz, who had been in fourth place, retired here as the engine blew on their Volvo. Gareth Hockridge/Rob Henchoz made it off the Ranges, but had to retire with a lack of brakes on their Volvo Amazon at the Sennybridge halt.

RAC Rally of the Tests 2022
Class 6 Leaders: Callum Guy/Amy Henchoz (Volvo 142)
Photograph: HERO/ERA/Blue Passion

Epynt also claimed the Escort of Clare Groves/Rod Hanson; clutch failure stopping the car from progressing. They returned to the fray later in the event, using their MG Maestro.

Rikki Profitt/Andy Darlington had been setting a good pace over Epynt, but then picked up a puncture, in Halfway Forest, part of Regularity 2/6. They lost time as they had to stop and change it.

Stephen Owens/Nick Bloxham were in ninth position overall at this point, but were struggling with a slipping clutch on their Porsche 911. Owens was desperate to make the Finish as he sought to collect points in the HERO-ERA Cup, which he was currently leading.

Competitors had little time to relax as they then embarked on a long six timing point regularity in the Heads of the Valleys area. Machuca/Pitt put in the best performance here, they were one second ahead of John King/Anthony Davies (Toyota MR2); the latter crew were challenging for the Newcomer Award, the prize being presented to the top placed driver and navigator who were contesting their first Rally of the Tests.

Richard Broughton, who was being navigated by Elise Whyte, held the top Newcomer Driver position at that point, but their BMW 2002Tii was to run out of fuel in Caerwent and they had to cut to the end of the overnight halt at Newport.

The Caerwent MoD base was the sting in the second leg. It contained two TC sections, plus a test. Willan/Frost extended their lead over Dyas/Taylor by 24 seconds on these and arrived at the Day End with a lead of 1m 27s. Lamberigts/van der Palen were still in third, but now 3½ minutes off the lead, while Machuca/Pitt were another 3½ minutes further behind.

RAC Rally of the Tests 2022
Concourse d'Elegance: Jonathan Hancox/Richard Lambley (Triumph TR4)
Photograph: HERO/ERA/Blue Passion

The final day opened with two tests at Chepstow Racecourse, before the route left Wales and headed for the West Country. Here the first regularity ran through Chew Valley, passing the long time home of the much missed Bob Rutherford. It caused problems for the leaders as they wrong slotted and were nine minutes late at the following timing point; fortunately for them timing point penalties being capped at 1m 30s.

This left them on exactly the same penalty as Dyas/Taylor. Willan/Frost were back in front at the following test as they took fastest time in their class, with Dyas/Taylor being second. The lead was back to over a minute after Regularity 3/2, when Dyas/Taylor initially missed a loop into a farm and were 37 seconds late at the final timing point.

Worthy Farm, venue for the Glastonbury Festival, was the next classic venue on the itinerary. The fun opened with a Jacob's Ladder test, where competitors could choose their own route around a grid of ten cones, passing between each one just once. This was followed by an intricate routed regularity around the festival site tracks.

Willan/Frost put in the best performance over the section to further extend their lead. Dyas/Taylor were second best, but were 26 seconds behind the flying PV544.

John Dunning/Henry Carr were in seventh place and it looked like Dunning would secure the Test Pilot Award, but their Escort RS2000 came to a halt near Glastonbury, another victim of a failed clutch.

After a Sunday Lunch break at Dillington Hall, competition concluded with five tests and a final regularity. The tests were a single visit to Dunkeswell Kart Circuit, two at Wiscombe Park, and the last two were at Honiton Showground.

There were no dramas during the afternoon for the leading runners, so Dan Will/Niall Frost arrived at the Torquay finish with a winning margin of over two minutes. The pair also took the Test Pilot and Clockwatcher Awards.

The 2021 winners, Paul Dyas/Martyn Taylor, took the runner up spot, while Harm Lamberigts/Arjan van der Palen were third on the leader board, but, being in a post-1967 car, they weren't eligible for overall awards. Third place overall was therefore taken by Paul Crosby/Ali Procter.

Sixty-one of the 69 starters made it to the final control.

Rally of the Tests 2022
Photograph: HERO-ERA/Blue Passion