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Rally of the Tests


2nd-5th November 2023

Rally of the Tests 2023
Winners: Dan Willan/Niall Frost (Volvo PV544)
Photograph: HERO-ERA/Will Broadhead

Rally of the Tests 2023
Lite Winners: Steve Robertson/Julia Robertson (MG B GT V8)
Photograph: HERO-ERA/Will Broadhead

Organiser: HERO-ERA

Date: 2nd-5th November 2023

Clerk of the Course: George Mullins & Andy Pullan

Route: 750 Miles, 21 Regularities, 5 TC Sections & 31 Tests

Start: Scunthorpe

Finish: Darlington

Starters: 65

The 2023 Rally of the Tests was based in the north and east of England, starting at Scunthorpe and finishing near Darlington. The event had an innovation in that it included a Lite Rally with, for its competitors, no plotting and a reduced amount of night time sections. This format attracted eleven entries.

The main field faced an intense competition that included 21 Regularities, five TC Sections and 31 tests.

As usual, the Rally of the Tests opened with a Prologue, this consisted of a regularity on the public road, which was followed by a second reg and a test; both these were at the Blyton Circuit near Gainsborough.

There was drama before the start for 2022 HERO Cup Champion Paul Bloxidge as his Golf developed a fuel pump problem. Intense work by the sweeps finally solved the issue, although the VW now had a smaller, but working, pump.

The father and daughter pairing of Daryll Staniforth/Nicky Staniforth (Mini Cooper S) put in the best performance on the first reg, dropping just two seconds over the three timing points.

Blyton proved to be a demanding venue in the dark. One timing point on the regularity was difficult to locate, with both Jon Dunning/Henry Carr (Ford Escort RS2000) and Paul Bloxidge/Ian Canavan (VW Golf GTi) being amongst those that missed it, adding 2m 30s to their totals.

Dunning/Carr made up for their error by being fastest on the test at Blyton; they shared best time with Steve Head/Oli Waldock (Ford Escort RS2000). Klaus Mueller/Rolf Pellini (Lancia Fulvia Coupe), who were chasing HERO Cup points, blotted their copy book by picking up a wrong test.

When crews arrived back at the Forest Pine Spa, the event's start venue, Staniforth/Staniforth and Head/Waldock were tied for the lead on 24 seconds, six seconds ahead of 2022 Rally of the Tests winners, Dan Willan/Niall Frost (Volvo PV544).

The Peugeot 309 of Peter Fletcher/Phillip Haslam, running in the Lite Rally, stopped in Blyton with overheating problems. They missed both the reg and test at the circuit, but rejoined on Friday morning.

Rally of the Tests 2023
Class 2 Winners: Kurt Vandespinnen/Bjorn Vanoverschelde (Ford Lotus Cortina)
Photograph: HERO-ERA/Will Broadbent

The second day, or Leg One, began with a run down into Lincolnshire, including several tests at Cadwell Park. The route then moved further north to finish with two TC sections at Bramham Park.

Friday morning started with another visit to Blyton for two tests. Dunning/Carr were fastest on the first, while Head/Waldock took honours on the second. Fifteen crews were penalised for wrong tests on Test 1/2, these included Rikki Proffitt/Graham Wild (Porsche 911RS), who had had hopes of challenging for the Test Pilot Award.

Two regularities were tackled before the morning coffee halt at Donington on Bain. Ted Gaffney/Paul Bosdet (Morris Mini), Kurt Vandespinnen/Bjorn Vanoverschelde (Ford Lotus Cortina) and Dunning/Carr all cleaned the first reg, which had two timing points and was defined by a herring bone.

Vandespinnen/Vanoverschelde were best again on Reg 1/2, sharing the glory with Staniforth/Staniforth, both crews dropping four seconds. This allowed the Mini pair to hold a 20 second lead over the Belgian crew at Donington on Bain. Willan/Frost and Paul Crosby/Ali Procter (Mini Cooper S) were tied for third, one second behind the Lotus Cortina.

In the Lite Rally, which had included the Prologue, Steve Robertson/Julia Robertson (MG B GT V8) had already established a lead of almost two minutes over the rest of the field.

Reg 1/3 was a Jogularity with three timing points and took the rally to Cadwell Park for a series of tests on the circuit. Willan/Frost were best on the reg, three seconds ahead of Vandespinnen/Vanoverschelde.

Four tests were followed by another regularity, with one further Cadwell test taking the rally to the lunch halt. Head/Waldock were fastest on Tests 1/3 and 1/6, while Dunning/Carr were quickest on Tests 1/4 and 1/5. Proffitt/Wild interrupted the sequence by taking ten seconds off everyone else on Test 1/7.

These tests saw the first retirement of the event; Jayne Wignall/Kevin Savage hit a tyre barrier and the impact broke part of the chassis on their Alfa Giulia Sprint.

At the Cadwell Paark lunch halt Staniforth/Staniforth still led, but their lead was reduced to four seconds, with Willan/Frost closing the gap. Vandespinnen/Vanoverschelde were still in the hunt, being only seven seconds off first place.

Four of the Cadwell tests were repeated after the break. Head/Waldock were quickest on three of the tests, while Proffitt/Wild and Thomas Koerner/Udo Schauss (Porsche 911) shared fastest time on the other.

The route now headed back to the north, with three regularities before a halt at Bowcliffe Hall near York. This would be the end of Leg 1 for the Lite Rally competitors.

Willan/Frost put in the best performance on two of the regs and took the lead, arriving at Bowcliffe with a two second advantage over Vandespinnen/Vanoverschelde; Staniforth/Staniforth dropped to third place 15 seconds behind the leaders.

Alternator issues struck the Porsche 924 of Philip Wood/Kelvin Phipps and they had to cut the rest of the day as they sort and fitted a replacement unit. They rejoined during Leg 2. For their perseverance they received the Spirit of the Rally Award.

The leg ended with two TC Sections in the grounds of Bramham Park, before which there was the twelfth test of the day. Once again, Head/Waldock were fastest.

On the TC sections there were eight time controls, six passage controls and five route checks to locate. All but the two TCs at the end of each section were timed to the minute, with a penalty of 15 seconds for each minute late. The final TCs were timed to the second, with a one second penalty for each four seconds late.

In total Willan/Frost picked up penalties of 27 seconds, while Vandespinnen/Vanoverschelde added 1m 06s to their total.

When crews arrived at the York overnight halt Willan/Frost held a lead of 41 seconds over Vandespinnen/Vanoverschelde. There was then a gap of 54 seconds to Staniforth/Staniforth, but things were close here with Paul Crosby/Ali Procter (Mini Cooper S) nine seconds behind in fourth; they, in turn, were two seconds ahead of Paul Dyas/Martyn Taylor (Volvo Amazon) in fifth and seven seconds ahead of Head/Waldock in sixth.

Bramham claimed a victim, with the Austin Healey Sprite of Peter Moore/Dan Stellmacher breaking a wishbone on the tracks. The sweeps fitted a spare and the crew rejoined the contest the following morning.

Rally of the Tests 2023
Third Overall: Paul Crosby/Ali Procter (Mini Cooper S)
Photograph: HERO-ERA/Will Broadbent

Leg 2 opened with four tests, two at Rufforth Airfield and then two at Harewood Hillclimb. Head/Waldock were fastest on all four, sharing the honours on the second Rufforth test with Proffitt/Wild.

The hill climb claimed three scalps; the Lotus Cortina of Piet Cassimon/Joost de Jong broke an anti-roll bar, while Noel Kelly/Andrew Holmes were stopped by a failed gearbox on their Volvo 122S. Meanwhile a broken propshaft on their Volvo PV544 forced Phillip Armstrong/Annabel Jones out of the event.

Crews then returned to Bramham Park for a single regularity which had seven timing points. Vandespinnen/Vanoverschelde were best over the section, but Willan/Frost were only one second behind them. Dyas/Taylor, who had been suffering from a troublesome tripmeter, matched the leaders' performance through the park.

The top two crews were pulling away from the rest of the field with the Volvo 37 seconds ahead of the Cortina, but it was then over a minute back to third. However, only nine seconds separated Staniforth/Staniforth, in third, from Crosby/Procter in sixth.

Two further tests, one more at Harewood, and two regs brought the event to the lunch halt at Newby Hall. The second reg and Test 2/6 were both on the tracks of Ellington Bank.

Head/Waldock were quickest on Test 2/5 and shared fastest time with three others at Ellington; the others included Willan/Frost, who were best on both regularities.

Toby Strauss/Ken Comrie had to miss the latter part of Reg 2/2 after an oil pipe split on their Saab 96 v4. They got the problem fixed and rejoined at the next test.

With rain falling heavily, a rest halt was taken at Newby Hall. Willan/Frost were now 57 seconds ahead of the Belgian Cortina. Dyas/Taylor had moved up to third, Staniforth/Staniforth having fallen to sixth, with Head/Waldock and Crosby/Procter in between.

The Escort RS2000 of Head/Waldock wasn't eligible for overall places; only pre-1968 cars were to be classified in the overall standings.

Four regularities took the route back eastwards across Yorkshire to the next halt at Beverley. Once again, as on Leg 1, it was here that the Lite Rally ended its competition for the day.

The first regularity after the lunch halt was in Wass Forest, it contained seven timing points. Staniforth/Staniforth were best through the section, just ahead of Dunning/Carr.

Crosby/Procter, who been unhappy with their performance for most of the event, got their act together and took best times on the next two regularities. Meanwhile, Koerner/Schauss were fastest on both tests at RAF Driffield.

At the end of their day's competition Robertson/Robertson had extended their lead in the Lite Rally to five minutes.

At the Supper Halt, which was taken at Bishop Burton, Willan/Frost had extended their advantage over Vandespinnen/Vanoverschelde to just over a minute. Dyas/Taylor were in third, with Crosby/Procter 17 seconds behind them in fourth. Head/Waldock fell down to ninth on the leader board after they missed a timing point in Wass.

The Allegro of David Hemstock/Colin Readwin split a suspension pipe during the afternoon and they had to miss the rest of the leg while they effected a repair, this involved a piece of wood sourced from B&Q. They returned to the competition on Leg 3 and were the recipients of the Against All Odds Award.

The Leg 2 competition ended with a single TC section in the Leaconfield military training area. Willan/Frost were fastest through the base, dropping 38 seconds, while Head/Waldock were on 39 seconds.

At the end of the Leg, back in York, the gaps between the leading crews had extended from the close battles seen so far in the event. Willan/Frost were 1m 24s in front of Vandespinnen/Vanoverschelde, while Dyas/Taylor were a further 1m 10s behind in third place.

Rally of the Tests 2023
Class 5 Winners: John King/Michael Cochrane (Toyota MR2)
Photograph: HERO-ERA/Will Broadbent

The final day was a run north to finish near Darlington, with a sting in the tail in the form of a TC section over the Catterick Ranges.

Four tests opened the day's competition; two at Elvington Airfield and two more at Acaster. It was the first test at Acaster that caused most difficulty; only 18 car beat the test maximum and 27 were penalised for wrong tests.

Vandespinnen/Vanoverschelde were one of the crews who went over the test maximum and incurred a 30 second penalty, while Willan/Frost were fastest in their class on all four tests and added zero to their penalty total. Crosby/Procter were one of the crews who were given a Wrong Test.

Regularity 3/1 had to be curtailed after a farmer blocked the intended route, even though the track was a public right of way and had been used many times previously on events. Just one timing point survived.

Willan/Frost now led by almost two minutes, while Dyas/Taylor has closed to within 50 seconds of Vandespinnen/Vanoverschelde. Crosby/Procter had dropped behind Staniforth/Staniforth, who were now back up to fourth.

The hectic schedule continued with two more tests and two more regularities before the lunch halt at Leyburn. Staniforth/Staniforth were best on Reg 3/2, while Dyas/Taylor dropped least time on Reg 3/3. Koerner/Schauss were fastest on Test 3/5 at Coldstones Quarry, while Head/Waldock were quickest at the Pateley Bridge Showground.

Vandespinnen/Vanoverschelde had managed to eek out an extra three seconds from Dyas/Taylor over these sections, but disaster was about to strike for the Belgians. The two final regularities of the event were on the Catterick Ranges and it was near the start of the first of these that the Lotus Cortina landed in a ditch. They were pulled out by a fellow competitor after almost half an hour.

They completed the section, so only incurred the maximum one minute penalty at the timing point following their mishap. However, after the two regs there was a TC section, at the start of which there was no penalty free lateness. They were almost 30 minutes late here and received the maximum 2m 30s penalty. They fell to seventh on the leader board and fifth in the overall standings.

Steve Head took fastest time on the two final tests at Barnard Castle and took the Test Pilot Award by almost a minute over Jon Dunning.

All this drama saw Dan Willan/Niall Frost came home just under three minutes ahead of the field, with Paul Dyas/Martyn Taylor taking the runner up spot. Paul Crosby/Ali Procter managed to pull back ahead of Darell Staniforth/Nicky Staniforth on the Catterick TC Sections, which meant that the 2023 podium places were exactly the same as those of 2022.

Niall Frost won the Clockwatchers Award, having dropped a minute less than Martyn Taylor, who was second, over the 21 regularities.

The Lite Rally proved to be a great success with its contenders. Despite missing a control on Sunday morning, Steve Robertson/Julia Robertson came home five minutes ahead of David Roberts/Melanie Roberts to claim the victory.