Cel­e­bra­tion of 1976 and 1986 stars as M-sport brings the cur­rent flavour. By Jack Benyon

Motor Sport News - - Review: Rallyday -

When peo­ple from abroad come to Rallyday, there’s al­ways one com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor. They will al­ways say: “We don’t have any­thing like this in our coun­try”.

The UK is lucky to boast an event as big as Rallyday. Each year at Cas­tle Combe, some of the sport’s best cars, drivers, teams and fans gather at the Chip­pen­ham cir­cuit to revel in the sights and sounds of ral­ly­ing.

This year the head­liner was Juha Kankkunen. The only driver to win in a WRC, Group A and Group B car, the 57-year-old was on top form un­der in­ter­ro­ga­tion from Bri­tish co-driv­ing cham­pion-turned pre­sen­ter Howard Davies. He wasn’t driv­ing but ad­mit­ted to en­joy­ing a rest af­ter some Pirelli tyre test­ing in Italy. Plus it was a chance to cre­ate mis­chief with old co-driver Nicky Grist.

The Finn was in at­ten­dance with a host of drivers to cel­e­brate the 1976 and 1986 RAC ral­lies, which both vis­ited nearby Bath and pro­vided the theme for this year’s event ( see side­bar be­low).

While the RAC pro­vided a new theme, there was a wel­come re­cur­ring one in the M-sport team. But the Cum­bri­an­based World Rally Cham­pi­onship out­fit know how to shake things up, too. In­stead of just bring­ing home favourite and newly crowned Bri­tish Rally cham­pion El­fyn Evans, French­man Eric Camilli was also in at­ten­dance with the duo shar­ing a Ford Fi­esta R5. The French­man has crashed a lot in the WRC this year, but who wouldn’t in their first ap­pear­ance in a World Rally Car, eight years into their ral­ly­ing ca­reer? He’s had a tough press this year but there’s no doubt­ing his pace. MN was treated to a ride in the pas­sen­ger seat and the 27-year-old’s car con­trol is sec­ond to none. He was just as im­pres­sive in the pad­dock, sign­ing au­to­graphs and mak­ing time for ev­ery fan who ap­proached.

MN asked the driver from Nice to pick a favourite car: “A Toy­ota Cel­ica, Rep­sol. Car­los Sainz. Maybe 1992/1993. He’s my hero. I liked ral­ly­ing since I was young so in 1992, I was maybe four and he was prob­a­bly the best.”

When this MN re­porter ad­mit­ted an affin­ity for Di­dier Au­riol, one of Sainz’s clos­est ri­vals, he replied in jest: “Well I like Sainz. We fight?”

Evans was also on good form, de­spite a busy cou­ple of weeks. While he at­tempts to con­clude his fu­ture plans for Wales Rally GB and for next year, he had the Manx the week­end be­fore last, Rally GB me­dia day last Thurs­day and now Rallyday be­fore fly­ing out to Cor­sica on the Sun­day af­ter the event. He was still com­mit­ted to his fans.

Per­haps as bril­liant as the ad­di­tion of Kankkunen and stars past and present in­volved with Wales Rally GB and the WRC, was the pres­ence of the Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship at the event. The cham­pi­onship didn’t run in 2015 and one of the first for­ma­tive meet­ings de­cid­ing what the 2016 cham­pi­onship would look like was held at the same venue, the day be­fore Rallyday. Since then the se­ries has at­tracted a host of star names, with many in at­ten­dance. Jamie An­der­son – one of the se­ries’ most im­proved drivers this year – was out for a spin in his Ford Fi­esta R5, and Neil Simp­son gave his Simp­son’s Skoda guests a drive they wouldn’t for­get around the cir­cuit.

Bri­tish Ju­nior Rally cham­pion Vaux­hall Mo­tor­sport was also there af­ter win­ning the cham­pi­onship with Rob Dug­gan this year, at the venue it an­nounced its in­ten­tion to com­pete in the cham­pi­onship one-year pre­vi­ously. Ral­lyprep joined the club with its BRC 3-class R3 Toy­ota GT86. It was steered by Will Corry.

An­other driver who has ap­peared in the Bri­tish cham­pi­onship this year is Osian Pryce, who won his class on the sea­son opener in Mid Wales. He’s com­peted in the Drive DMACK Tro­phy this year in the WRC, which con­cludes with Rally Spain on Oc­to­ber 13. Pryce is hop­ing to se­cure a deal for a Ford Fi­esta R5 for Wales Rally GB, but there’s more needed for that deal to come off. He drove a Spencer Sport Fi­esta R5 on this event in­stead.

A new ad­di­tion to the event for 2016, which hap­pily stayed dry, was of ti­tle spon­sor Cooper and the Ral­ly­cross cars it brought along too. As well as Bri­tish cham­pi­onship cars, an Audi A1 Su­per­car was also on dis­play. Bri­tish Tour­ing Car driver An­drew Jor­dan was in at­ten­dance af­ter driv­ing the Audi at Good­wood ear­lier this year.

All in all it was an­other bril­liant and unique event at Rallyday. Af­ter beg­ging the ques­tion ‘where have all the spec­ta­tors gone?’ in my col­umn last week, it seems all we need to do is per­suade a quar­ter of the Cas­tle Combe at­ten­dees to some na­tional ral­lies and the sport would be on for a bright fu­ture.

But in the mean­time, it’s right to cel­e­brate an­other great show.

The only ques­tion left is to won­der what can the or­gan­siers pos­si­bly do to im­prove the event next year?

Camilli did donuts for the crowds Cur­rent cars to Group B favourites were en­joyed by fans

Many cars used on the 1976 and ’86 RACS (and oth­ers) gath­ered for Rallyday’s ‘Fea­ture’ stage

M-sport: Evans and Camilli starred

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