Blog: RAC Rally of the Tests 2017 - Day 2

Day two of the RAC Rally of The Tests dawned with a distinct chill in the air; this would be another long day in the saddle with 280 miles to be covered. The second day would also see us take in some new territory for the event as we entered the North part of the Lake District.

A 10-mile, or thereabouts, run-out brought the event to Raby Castle for two tests sited there. These were open and flowing tests that were really designed for the cars with more power. Putting a spanner in the works of this theory were Steve Entwistle/Ali Procter in their diminutive Mini who were flying on these tests. It was to be a nightmare for leaders Paul Crosby/Andy Pullan when a steering component developed a fault. They were fortunate that the HERO Assist crews were close by and carried out a repair, allowing them to get on their way again without penalty.

A run west over Eggleston Common with the Hamsterley Complex nestling to the east gave way to Bollihope Common and the drop over Catterick Moss down to Eastgate, where Hexham Motor Club welcomed crews to possibly the slipperiest concrete surface known to historic rallying. Tomas de Vargas Machuca/Nick Bloxham were flamboyant, but their Porsche went a little wayward, clipping a kerb. Fortunately, there was no damage and they were able to continue.

Another link section heading north-west over Wolfcleugh Common and Allenheads brought us to a secret check on the climb up to Swinhope Moor, purely for route adherence and to penalise anyone deciding to shortcut via a main road. The first regularity of the day was named Garrigill and was relatively straightforward with there just being a regular start and finish reference with the instruction to follow coloured roads only. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, as the section had four speed changes and two timing points – the first being north-west of the village and the second close to Rothershope Tower, just before the steep down and up over a bridge to the end of regularity.

A welcome stop at Hartside Café, which is an extremely popular place for motorcyclists and walkers alike, the views from here west are stunning and allow you to gaze across the Lakeland fells with some uninterrupted views. A short drive down Twotop Hill took us to the second regularity of the day in the shadow of Fiend’s Fell and Melmerby High Scar. This was going to be a real test for the crews with no less than five timing points and four speed changes to contend with.

Called ‘Cumbrian Fells’, this section was presented on a map that instructed competitors to follow the route via three points denoted by arrows, all roads to be considered. Dropping into Haresceugh, the first timing point was inside a farm yard and took time from several crews. Bypassing Glassonby and making use of the long loops of squares that bisect the area, crews took in the final two timing points near Longmeg, home to the second largest stone circle in the UK. Here, at Little Salkeld, two of the arrows denoting the route needed close inspection as it crossed the road slightly guiding the more observant crews to a timing point just after the junction with a yellow road. Even experienced crews fell afoul of this with Dermot Carnegie/Paul Bosdet missing one control, along with Tim Lawrence/Tony Davies. End of regularity came up shortly later at Langwathby, leaving a short run to the fourth test of the day, ‘Trucking About’ at Penrith Truck stop.

Regularity three was another longer section that spanned five points yet again. Speed changes were defined by cumulative speed tables, and a semi-descriptive approach was used to impart the route to crews with ‘out of order’ map symbols being relayed to the crews in word form. The whole regularity was based in the splendour of Skiddaw Forest and skirted Bowscale, Caldbeck and Uldale Fells.

The final action of the morning took place at the Lake District Wildlife Park, where a test in a farmyard brought a distinctly muddy feel to the section. This preceded a fine lunch at Armathwaite Hall, one of the Lake District’s and possibly UK’s finest hotels. Fittingly, Armathwaite’s owner, Charles Graves, is competing on the event and this was a great way for crews to revel in the views and splendour of the location.

With the days growing shorter, the valleys and side roads of Little Mell came next as a regularity. There were three timing points and four speed changes to challenge the crews, with the instruction to follow spot heights on a map. Little Mell will be known to those of a certain age as it was a ‘selective’ in the old Motoring News days. It climbs Stoddah Bank before plunging into Sparket Mill and Thackthwaite, levelling out there is a mixture of long straights and intricate corners set inside the traditional Cumberland and Westmorland dry stone walls that crisscross the area. Dropping down in sight of Ullswater, the road turns back north via Maiden Castle, a farmstead relic of the Iron Age that sits close to the summit of Soulby Fell. The last timing point was situated in Soulby, a turning into a farmyard, which hosted the timing point in an easy to miss spot for the unwary – and there were many!

Heading over to Appleby Golf Club for coffee via Lowther and Cliburn, saw crews get ready for three tests on the Warcop Complex where the Army were live firing, making a great spectacle for those on the mixed surface tests here.

Passing through Warcop Village, a link section under the stunning Great Askby Scar and Raisbeck, a challenging section of road near Tebay brought up the next regularity called Westmorland. A true classic, as it formed part of many road rallies in years past, is an undulating and, in local terms, ‘Nadgery’ piece of road. Nadgery means it twists and winds away and is sometimes difficult for the navigator to call corners, especially in the dusk light where the shadows grow longer.

Climbing Loups Fell from Roundthwaite, a steep descent and slot left was followed by a climb up Bretherdale. Midwath Stead is a notorious climb to the summit of North Side where the timing point greeted those who had managed to stay on time. Crossing the Ford at Greenholme on an unfenced road over Scalegill brought the section in a full loop, arriving at the last timing point on the motorway access road at Tebay Services. This wasn’t the last action of the event, however, as a run up the M6 was still part of the regularity with a secret check placed on the yellow road just before Hardendale Quarry and end of regularity before the entrance to a very famous test at Waters Farm. This took time out of 68 of the 91 crews on the event, with too many to mention totally missing the second timing point.

Back to Appleby, and to what would be the longest regularity of the event so far with six timing points, this was presented on a ‘London style’ map with a series of approaches to letters defining the route to be taken. Seven speed changes meant the navigators really had their work cut out here and, although the lanes were wider than the previous section, they were challenging to say the least.

Crews were instructed to consider all roads and a timing point after a bridge and, immediately after the hairpin right at Town Wood, proved tricky for some. Running south through King’s Meaburn, a slot right down Relandsgate and then an easy-to-miss right down Barnskew white hid yet another timing point. The final part of this extensive regularity bypassed Meaburn Mill and turned left to pass Brackenslack Farm, the road here twisting and turning as it climbs at first and then dips towards Seat Hill, with the final timing point just before a descent into Colby.

It was a no-rest situation as a TC section and two further regularities in the dark brought us back to Redworth Hall. Steve Entwistle/Ali Procter lead on the least penalties accrued, just 14 seconds in front of Paul Crosby/Andy Pullan. However, John Abel/Martyn Taylor are the overall leaders due to the other vehicles being ineligible for awards. They hold a handsome lead over past winners, Howard Warren/Iain Tullie.

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