RAC rises to the WLTP challenge

Bescot HQ welcomes eco-drive competitors as Patrol of the Year, Ben Aldous, earns ‘smoothest drive’ accolade

The RAC played host to the WLTP Challenge in October, as part of its ongoing support of annual test of engine efficiency formerly known as the MPG Marathon.

The revamped event saw a record number of vehicles enter with 21 in total taking on the challenge of completing a 250-mile round trip using as little fuel as possible.

The field included a range of vehicles with more manufacturers taking part than before, including our own RAC Patrol of the Year Ben Aldous.

In the five years that RAC has supported the event it has become something of a tradition to include the year’s leading patrol in the event, and this year Ben did rather well.

As well as beating the manufacturers official MPG of 45 in his fully loaded Ford Transit with a score of 46.9, according to event organisers his telematics data showed the he had the smoothest driving style of all those with a unit fitted.

Get more like this

Get all our latest motoring news and advice, straight to your inbox.

In addition to Ben’s presence in the event, the RAC’s specialist Fuel Patrol team are a key element of the organisation. Paul Bird and Brian Pearson have the responsibility of topping up all vehicles on the start line and acting as official adjudicators ensuring all tanks are sealed before the off.

Drivers started out from the Bristol office of ALD Automotive after a bacon butty and cup of tea to fuel them on the journey up north, where they checked in at RAC HQ in Bescot.

As they arrived in the visitors’ car park they were greeted with the sight of our newest patrol vehicle, an Isuzu D-Max with all its increased pulling power on show.

An impressive range of vehicles was on show in the petrol/diesel category, from the latest Mercedes-Benz C 220d and Kia Proceed 1.6 CRDi-GT-Line, to the 1.5 diesel turbo Vauxhall Astra and our own RAC patrol Ford Transit Custom. The near iconic Nissan Leaf e+ was among the EV pack competing against the likes of Tesla and the Hyundai hydrogen-powered Nexo Premium SE.

As well as enjoying a welcome lunch, competitors could look around our workshops at some of our latest roadside innovations such as the mobile EV charging unit, and had the chance to speak to members of our technical team to find out more.

After filling up on sausage rolls and tech chat, it was back down south via the Cotswolds to the finish line at Bristol back at ALD Automotive, with a steady foot on the pedal making for several hours behind the wheel.

Reflecting on his day in the WLTP Challenge, patrol Ben said: “It was quite a change in driving style for me as I’m more used to trying to get from one place to the next as quickly as I can. When you know you’ve got a member waiting for you who’s broken down, you’re not normally thinking about fuel efficiency.

“So I was really interested to see how I would do, especially driving a fully loaded RAC patrol van. I was very aware of how my fellow RAC patrols had performed in previous years so I was taking it quite seriously.

RAC Patrol of the Year, Ben Aldous

“I think overall I was pleased with how I did. It did take a bit of concentration to start with as you’ve really got to make sure you have time to ease on the brakes more slowly than normal, and to accelerate more steadily coming out of corners, and things like that.

“The route was an interesting mix of motorway and A roads. On the motorway it was pretty straight forward because you have much more room and can keep to a steady pace and keep going in a straight line.

“It got a bit more difficult when we came off the motorway and had to deal with less consistent speeds and roads with more bends and junctions, forcing you to stop if you didn’t get the green light.

“My main aim was to try to beat the manufacturer’s figures and I’m really pleased I was able to do that, clocking up 46.9mpg compared to the official 45mpg, even with a full load!”

RAC business roadside managing director Phil Ryan added: “This is the fifth year we’ve been involved in this event, which is one-of-a-kind in the UK, and it is always an eye-opener in terms of what our patrols can squeeze out of their patrol vans’ engines in terms of sheer miles on one tank.

“We spend millions of pounds on fuel every year to keep our fleet of patrol vans and recovery vehicles on the road, so it’s vital we stay close to what manufacturers are doing to improve the efficiency of their vehicles.

At the same time, we recognise that the work we do does have an impact on the environment which is why we are constantly refreshing our fleet and looking at how new technologies, hybrid and battery electric included, can increasingly play an important role in the vehicles that make up our fleet.

It’s also why our patrols’ ability to fix four-out-of-five vehicles at the roadside is so important, as more cars fixed in situ means fewer miles spent towing.”

RAC patrol performance in the MPG Marathon/WLTP Challenge


RAC Patrol Driving (fully-laden) Overall MPG
2019 Ben Aldous Ford Transit Custom 46.94
2018 Mark Souster VW Transporter T6 T32 Startline Bluemotion Technology 37.03
2017 Chris Burgess VW Transporter T32 ST-LN TDI Bluemotion Technology 46.90
2016 Charlie Harding Ford Transit Custom 330 SWB 125ps 39.84
2015 Ben Wilson Mercedes-Benz Vito LWB 116CDi Bluetec 7G Auto 47.57