The CRA (Classis Rally Association) run Rally of The Tests historic rally, also known as RoTT, was held this year between Thursday 31st October and Sunday 3rd November.
The event, run for the twelfth time this year, is a recreation of the early RAC rallies before it became a purely special stage event. In previous years I have spectated and marshalled/run tests on the event, but the financial costs have always prevented me from taking part, though it was my dream to do it! Over the last few years myself and my friend and regular navigator Bob Hargreaves have done many local modern night rallies and daytime historic road rallies, including a few HRCR championship events which always seem to run with full 80 car entries. Our car is the infamous ‘Orangebox’, a mongrel of a Mini, built from two cars to go rallying back in 1962, the ‘Orangebox’ name given to it because of the Marigold body colour.
Bob also navigates for a couple of other local drivers, and in 2012 was given the chance to navigate on the RoTT for previous winner and star driver, the Irishman Frank Fennell in his Alfa. I was envious of Bob getting the chance to do the event, but I looked forward to hearing all about it. On his return he said ‘bloody hell, never again!!’. It seems they had a fraught time on the first couple of days but recovered to get a decent result inside the top fifteen by the finish
At the end of 2012 myself and Bob were at the awards ceremony for the 2012 ANWCC Historic rally championship, which we won, and over a few beers we decided to see if we could get the funds together to compete on the 2013 RoTT, influenced by the fact that for this year it started and finished in the north of England which would mean less travelling to and from the start and finish venues. The fact that, although later cars were allowed to compete, only pre-1962 cars could figure in the overall classification, and that Bob was forfeiting his annual holiday and so could meet half the cost of the entry fee meant I just had to find the rest and prep the car!
We decided that for 2013 we would do just a handful of events just to ‘keep my hand in’, and to concentrate on getting the car legal for RoTT. A chat with Chris Harper of MINISPORT of Padiham resulted in us getting a lot of help, support and backing through the year culminating in the ‘Tests’. We replaced our Perspex side windows with glass, the fibreglass boot lid with a steel one and the Cooper ‘S’ brakes were changed for Cooper 7” discs. The 997 engine, built by Michael Anderson at MINISPORT needed nothing other than a bit of a service and check.
Our aim for the event was firstly to finish, it would be disastrous to retire early, next, to get in to the top twenty and to finish well in our class, the crew to beat being Frank Lenehan with Cath Woodman, multiple time class winners, in their lovely smoke grey 997 Cooper. The event was to start late Thursday afternoon in Chester with a short night/prologue section to set the running order for the first full day, Friday. We were to start at car 9, the event then running with reverse seeding ie, if you finished the prologue in tenth overall, Friday morning saw you running tenth from last on the road.
The format this year was a roughly 750 mile route, with the previously mentioned prologue on Thursday finishing back on the outskirts of Chester. Friday morning saw the restart going north towards Ellesmere Port before heading south through North Wales before travelling east back into England with the Friday night overnight halt in Stoke on Trent. Saturday would see us going north up to Oulton Park then up into Lancashire then across to Kirby Lonsdale, Appleby, Brough ,then west to the overnight halt in Windermere. The restart on Sunday saw us go south again before travelling east through North Yorkshire and onto the finish in Harrogate on late Sunday afternoon.
Wednesday the 30th October saw Bob arriving from his home in Ulverston, we loaded up the Mini with bags and what seemed like a vanload of paraphernalia and we made our 65 mile journey to Chester and our accommodation for Wednesday and Thursday night. We made the hotel with no problems, checked in and unpacked we then set off in darkness to set up our tripmeter on the 5 mile ‘calibration route. We spent a good hour doing this getting the trip calibrated to our satisfaction, before we returned to our hotel for a meal and a pint while looking over the paperwork, quite a bit of which had been sent out the week before, including the test route book with all 33 of them illustrated.
To be continued…