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