Blog: RAC Rally of the Tests 2017 - Day 1

The first full day of the RAC Rally of The Tests lived up to its name, with five tests situated in the picturesque Cheshire countryside to start the day.

Bidding farewell to Carden Park, a similar test that caught several crews out on the Royal Automobile Club 1000 Mile Trial was used once again, and it proved to be just as tricky. Ron Kendall/Nick Cooper and Guy Symons/David Watson were two of the more experienced crews to be penalised here.

Next up were two tests in the grounds of Bolesworth Castle, home to the Barbour Family since 1856. The area around here is ancient with close by Tattenhall being mentioned in the Domesday Book, and the two tests being thoroughly enjoyed by the whole field.

Through the Cheshire Plains, via Beeston and Easton, brought the event to Oulton Park, where the crews took on two tests on the infamously slippery rally circuit; following a previous event, the surface seemed to be as slippery as glass, making forward motion extremely tricky. Paul Bloxidge/John Youd were flying here, as were Crosby/Pullan who were now making a charge up through the ranks. Other crews that shone here were Clive/Anji Martin, Jon Dunning/Henry Carr and the little Mini of Ted Gaffney/Brian Goff. Ted arrived at Redworth tonight a little dejected after a long day in the car – apparently the pair had struggled all day with local traffic costing them time.

The first regularity section took place in another RAC Rally of The Tests favourite, the Cheshire Show Ground, last used in 2013. The section uses the numerous tracks and roads that bisect the fields which host the Show Ground. A frenetic 48 instructions in just 3.01 miles really puts the pressure on the navigator. With some of the tracks being used more than once, this was a dizzying experience and one that suited the rapid Bloxidge/Youd again, posting an outstanding nine seconds lost. Closest to them were Chas Colton/Ryan Pickering on 14 seconds. Several crews really struggled here with the loose surfaces and the intricacies of the farm tracks.

Heading east via a regularity south-west of Macclesfield, the third regularity was named Goldsitch Moss. Starting just outside Allgreave, the section used a descriptive style of navigation that was used in the very first RAC Rallies after the war. The instructions, although clear, have to be read as a whole sometimes, and this is designed to keep crews on their toes. The triangle at Goldsitch Moss was the first feature to cause crews concern – a slot left, uphill to a T-Junction and then turning right, took time from crews, with a timing point just after a left hand bend at Gib Torr. Headiing north, with a steep climb at Dun Cow Grove, the final part of this regularity took in Hollinsclough Moor and Fawside Edge, before the end of regularity at Longnor.

A great lunch at Haddon Hall preceded what was to be a long afternoon and evening. The first cars leaving Haddon Hall were only due in to the final control of the day at Redworth Hall some eight hours later at 20:51 hours. Heading north through the market town of Bakewell, the first regularity of the afternoon was a marked map presentation, which would take in Monsal Head, Litton, Little Hucklow and north-east of Bradwell, before reaching the end of regularity at Brough, close to Hathersage.

Despite what looked like a relatively straightforward section, a speed change after 1.5 miles was a daunting task. The roads on this section being narrow and undulating, a timing point on a long-way-round triangle is designed to penalise those still shaking off their lunch. Using the topography and maps to full advantage, the next timing point came up – it was a section of road on the Roman Road at Smalldale, on approach to the timing point, where there is a fork in the road that isn’t apparent on the map. Following scrutiny and conviction from navigators to achieve a low penalty score here, Alexander Leurs/Bas de Rijk dropped just eight seconds to be the cream of the crop here.

The next two sections headed further north, exiting the Peak District to enter Yorkshire via Holmfirth and Meltham before coffee at Booth Wood, close to Scammonden. This had been handed to crews at signing on, but an allocated start time, which was given at the point they left afternoon coffee, meant little discussion could be had about the complexities and nature of the route. Climbing hard from the start, the route then dipped and twisted around Pike End, the already setting sun unable to penetrate the hills above the route bringing a darker feeling to this early part of the section. opening out towards Baitings Reservoir, the first timing point sat just before the road bridge to cross the water – tucked away after the right-hand bend.

What appeared on the map to be an almost straight on signal at the junction with the A58 was actually a left-right turn with the road climbing Baitings Pasture and crossing the edges of Great Manshead hill. The later runners on the road here were on the edge of dusk making navigation along these narrow lanes extremely challenging. The second timing point came at a junction left, the right turn looking very enticing for the unwary. Dropping down to Sowerby Bridge, via Hubberton Green, an easy-to-miss slot left through a gap in the wall was the next challenge before climbing Longhedge Moor and Travellers Rest before a right turn at the top of Aaron Hill and a timing point partially cloaked by trees and the onset of dusk.

Sunset came and went as crews crossed out of Yorkshire and into Lancashire for a brief stop at Colne Golf Club in the Forest of Trawden. From here and in the shadow of the fabled Pendle Hill, crews made their way to Gisburn Cattle market for a test on the loose surfaces that make up the car park in this incredibly busy rural establishment.

Old rallying classics such as Lythe and Tatham Fells were used as link sections to bring the event to High Bentham and a test in an industrial yard manned by Kirkby Lonsdale Motor Club. The route now was linear and headed across White Scar Caves and Ribblehead Viaduct to Wensleydale Creamery in the town of Hawes for a final rest before taking on a marked map handed out at the Creamery. The night section consisted of a long regularity over Aysgarth, Castle Bolton and Grinton Moor, the final timing point situated after a 45 degree right down Harkerside Moor.

The final action of the day came with a TC section over Catterick Garrison where the outstanding performance of the evening came from Stuart Anderson/Leigh Powley, who recorded just three minutes lost.

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