Read on to learn all about the eagerly-anticipated event with regular updates and also ways follow it live if you aren't fortunate enough to be attending or participating this year.
What is the Rally of the Tests?
The 2016 RAC Rally of the Tests, in association with the Historic Endurance Rally Organisation (HERO) and the Royal Automobile Club, will see 100 competitors enter an epic three-day drive from Bournemouth to Chester, taking on a number of competitive driving challenges along the way.
Period classic competition cars will be pitched against one another as the RAC returns to the competitive motorsport calendar for the modern running of an event it created back in the 1930s.
What is the history of the Rally of the Tests?
The RAC Rally first ran back in 1932: more than 340 competitors started the inaugural event, driving 1,000 miles across varied routes to converge in Torquay. After the war, the event evolved into the RAC Rally of the Tests, with a focus on driving tests and navigational challenges. It was a hugely popular event and helped place the sport of rallying into the public consciousness.
In 1960, the organisers persuaded the Forestry Commission to open up some of its closed roads for competitors, so they could drive flat-out away from the regulations of the road. It was hugely popular – so much so, the event changed the very next year into the RAC Rally of the Forests. The modern rally format was born; today, the same event is known as the internationally-acclaimed Wales Rally GB.
RELATED CONTENT: Win £1,500 worth of prizes in our Rally of the Tests prize draw
In 2001, reviving the original post-war event, the inaugural ‘modern’ Rally of the Tests was held, organised by the Classic Rally Association which later joined forces with HERO. It was brought back to mark 45 years of the original RAC Rally of the Tests, and was again an instant hit.
More than a dozen have been held since then – and for 2016, thanks to a three-way association between HERO, RAC Motoring Services and the Royal Automobile Club, the world-famous RAC Rally of the Tests name is back on the competitive motorsport events’ calendar.
When is the RAC Rally of the Tests?
The reborn RAC Rally of the Tests 2016 will run from 3-6 November.
It starts in Bournemouth with a prologue event on Thursday 3 November and the 750-mile drive to Chester begins on Friday 4 November.
The rally heads to the West Country, with day one finishing in Bristol.
Day two sees the rally re-start at the RAC’s iconic building on the edge of the M5, with competitors making their way to Stoke-on-Trent before travelling along the Welsh Borders, to the finish in Chester on day three. You can read more about and comment on the event on our Rally of the Tests Facebook event page.
One of the highlights of day two will be a visit to the Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb circuit – the oldest motor sport venue in the world.
One of the locations for the 30 tests that make up the ‘Rally of the Tests’ will be conducted here: Shelsley’s heritage dates back to 1905, making it older even than the reborn RAC classic!
What does this year’s itinerary look like?
Entrants gather for the start of the 2016 RAC Rally of the Tests on Thursday 3 November for the prologue event; from then until 5pm on Sunday 6 November, they will be in competition – it is an endurance event and no mistake!
The event of course tests rally driving and navigational skills, but it also challenges crews’ regularity skills – this is where competitors have to drive a particular section of public road within a specified time.
They are given a start time and finish time ahead of each section and must stick to the stated times: no earlier and no later, or penalties are imposed.
The test is thus one of a driver and navigator’s ability to maintain a strict average speed of 22mph in order to give them the best possible chance of arriving on time.
Special driving tests take place along the way on private land. These may include timed slalom challenges, Autotest-style maneuvering events and timed sprints.
Full details of these, and the exact route of the ‘public road’ regularities and even the various start times, are being kept closely guarded ahead of the event: they’ll only be released to crews as the event progresses.
As the entry consists of such a diverse number of cars, entrants are split into classes by age and sometimes by model to ensure equal competition. And the overall winner? The team – in a car registered before 1965 – that has picked up the least number of penalties along the way!
Who is taking part in the rally?
One hundred classic rally cars have entered the RAC Rally of the Tests, driven by classic car enthusiasts, rallying veterans and historic motorsport regulars. The entry list includes a Bentley Supersports, Jaguar XK120, several Porsche 911s and a selection of three cars synonymous with the RAC Rally: the Mini Cooper S, Volvo 122S and Ford Escort.
More modern cars – registered before 1986 – are also eligible, with a 1985 Volkswagen Golf GTI and 1983 Vauxhall Nova among the entrants. The bulk of cars, however, are from the 1960s though, making this a thoroughly evocative endurance event for spectators to follow.
RAC legend Paddy Hopkirk to star
Rally legend Paddy Hopkirk will add to his long history of being involved with the RAC Rally by joining the 2016 RAC Rally of the Tests team.
After mingling with entrants early on Saturday 5 November, he will wave away competitors from the home of the RAC in Bristol. The rally hero will be signing autographs and helping keep competitors’ spirits high as they set off for more full days of competitive running en route to Chester.
The winner of the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally, in his trademark red Mini, Paddy Hopkirk was the rallying superstar of the 1960s – he even received a telegram of congratulations from Ringo Starr following his 1964 victory (to go with the one from then-Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home). Paddy was actually jetted back straight from the end of the Rally to appear with Bruce Forsyth on the prime-time TV show Saturday Night at the Palladium: Mini mania (and Paddy pandemonium) was here.
Paddy actually won the 1982 RAC Golden 50, an event marking 50 years of the RAC Rally – driving, of course, a Mini Cooper. And the media launch of RAC Rally of the Tests 2016 saw Paddy reunited with his winning red Mini, ’33 EJB’. Well, reunited in spirit: the car is a replica, but one faithful in almost every way to the original. It certainly made for an evocative shot, with the ever-charming Paddy wasting no opportunity to crack a few jokes and recount his 1964 triumph, the first of three for the Mini at Monte.
Where can I get updates?
The RAC is not only helping run the RAC Rally of the Tests, we will also be covering it live: follow our updates on Twitter, from the start in Bournemouth to the grand finale in Chester. Even if you can’t be there in person, we’ll be bringing you the flavour of the event in words and pictures – with a few surprises of our own along the way!
Tune in from Thursday 3 November to our Twitter feed to be kept up-to-date by one of our roving motoring journalist who will be live-tweeting from the event – also look out for our interview Paddy from our home in Bristol which might be broadcasted live over Facebook.