RAC Rally of the Tests: 2017 preview

RAC Rally of the Tests: 2017 preview
In 2016, the RAC marked its return to the thriving British motorsport scene with the revival of the famous RAC Rally of the Tests.

First held in the 1930s, the event is the forerunner to the Wales Rally GB, which itself was held recently (and dramatically won by Welshman Elfyn Evans).

Like its modern successor, the RAC Rally of the Tests, which starts in Chester on 9 November, is a fantastic event for competitors and spectators alike.

As with last year’s strongly-supported event, the 2017 RAC Rally of the Tests has got a bit of everything: navigation, map work, technical challenges and night driving. For some motorsport enthusiasts, its intensity makes it one of the best historic rallying events in the UK.

Read on to discover more about the event in 2017, and where you can go to follow the cars as they make their way along the route.

What is the Rally of the Tests?

The 2017 RAC Rally of the Tests, in association with the Royal Automobile Club and the Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation (HERO), will see 100 historic rally cars line up in Chester for the gruelling three-day endurance event.

Period classic cars, from a 1938 Bentley Derby 4.5 to a 1985 Porsche 924 will compete in a series of challenges over a 750-mile route, before finishing in the Yorkshire spa town of Harrogate.

History of the Rally of the Tests

Rally of the Tests 2017

The RAC Rally has had numerous names throughout its history, with the first event taking place in 1932. Back then it was known as the RAC Rally and Coachwork Competition.

After the war, the event was renamed the RAC Rally of the Tests, with a greater emphasis on driving tests and navigational challenges making it an even more demanding and gruelling contest.

In 1960, the event organisers persuaded the Forestry Commission to open some closed roads for competitors, enabling them to drive flat-out away from the regulations of the road. Such was the success of the event, the next year it became the RAC Rally of the Forests: a prelude to the Wales Rally GB we know today.

The inaugural 'modern' Rally of the Tests was held in 2001, 50 years since the event returned to the motorsport calendar, and 40 years after the event became the Rally of the Forests.

As is traditional, the Rally of the Tests shifts locations every year. Last year it ran from Bournemouth to Chester, while in 2017 the event starts in Chester and heads to Harrogate.

When is the RAC Rally of the Tests 2017?

Rally of the Tests 2017

The 2017 event gets underway on the 9 November, with a 'prologue' designed to give drivers a taste of the upcoming three days, including a couple of hours of driving in the dark.

Entrants will then leave Chester's Carden Park Hotel on Friday 10 November, taking part in a series of tests across Cheshire, before heading to the Derbyshire Dales for some challenging drives. Having completed a series of regularities and special tests, the drivers finish the day at Redworth Hall, near Darlington.

Day two takes in Cumbria and the Pennines, with drivers completing further challenges and a tough time control section to round off the evening. Once again, the entrants will finish at Redworth Hall.

Sunday 12 November is the final day, with drivers leaving Redworth Hall at 8am, visiting Lightwater Valley, Bowcliffe Hall and Harewood Hill Climb, before the finish in Harrogate.

How does the RAC Rally of the Tests work?

The route will be divided into legs, usually one per day, and within each leg there will be time controls, with penalties given for early or late arrivals.

Cars will depart at one-minute intervals, and within each leg there will be one or more special driving tests, such as slalom challenges, Autotest-style manoeuvres and timed sprints.

These are timed independently of the main time control, and competitors may start on them at any time but in a strict order. Full details and the precise route will be revealed to the crews as the event progresses.

In short, this is a test of time-keeping, endurance and reliability.

Who is taking part in this year's rally?

The event is open to all cars built before 1 January 1986, but only vehicles of a type produced pre-1962 are eligible for awards. The cars themselves are split into classes, based on age and engine size.

Last year's winner Andy Lane and his co-driver Tony Brooks will lead the way in their 1967 Volvo 123GT, ahead of the oldest vehicle in the event: a 1938 Bentley crewed by Stuart Anderson and Leigh Powley.

Other vehicles of note include car number 33: a Mini Cooper S loaned to driver Steve Entwistle by rally legend, Paddy Hopkirk. Entwistle is partnered by Ali Procter, who is said to be one of the UK's leading road-rally navigators.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Turner and Ben Cussons will be custodians of a 1964 Mini Cooper S. 'DJB 92B' is an ex-works Mini with international rally-winning history, with Timo Makinen, Paddy Hopkirk and Tony Fall listed as previous drivers.

The all-female crew of sisters Seren and Elise Whyte will be competing in a 1957 Standard Ten, while former rallycross legend, Dermot Carnegie, will take the wheel of a 1959 Volvo PV544.

It's an eclectic list of entries, with the more commonplace historic rally cars joined by the likes of a Nissan Stanza, Saab 900 Turbo and a Mercedes-Benz 230SL Pagoda. Check the full entry list here.

Where can I watch the Rally of the Tests?

RotT 2017

Full details of spectator spots can be found on the HERO website. The first car is set to leave Carden Park Hotel on the prologue event at 16:30, with special tests taking place at Rednal Karting and Demon Tweeks, Wrexham.

Friday 10 November

Day one gets underway at 08:15, with tests and time controls taking place at various locations, including Oulton Park, Ladybower Reservoir, Widdop Moor and Wensleydale Creamery. The first car is due back at Redworth Hall at 20:45.

Saturday 11 November

Day two starts at 08:00, with events taking place at six different locations, including Hartside Cafe, Penrith Truckstop and Appleby Golf Club.

Sunday 12 November

The final day kicks off at 08:00, with three events taking place at Lightwater Valley, Bowcliffe Hall and Harewood Hill Climb, before the first car is due at the Majestic Hotel in Harrogate at 15:10.

Spectators are invited to check the website for more specific details, including postcodes, GPS coordinates and times.

Where can I get event updates?

We will be live-tweeting from the event, so keep an eye on our Twitter feed for the latest updates from the Rally of the Tests.

We will also be reviewing the outcome, so come back to find out who emerged victorious in the 2017 Rally of the Tests.

Where can I see some photos of the action?

Right here! 

RAC Rally of the Tests 2017

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