Ryan Pickering and Andy Ballantyne took a hard-fought overall victory on the 13th Rally of the Tests after three full days of classic rallying in their 1962 Triumph TR4 (above).
While the TR4 claimed the big prize for the best performance by a Pre-63 car, the top scorer was the Porsche 911 of Roger and Leigh Powley. Results were always in doubt, though, in an event where fortunes constantly ebbed and flowed across the 90-car field.
The route for the 13th edition ran from Buxton to Bristol via two overnight halts in Llandrindod Wells. With 27 special tests on private land, 18 regularity sections and six time control sections all on public roads, it was another tough challenge as the event rekindled the days before forest special stages forever changed the RAC Rally.
The event’s popularity was underlined by an entry that was full months in advance and included all the key players. Clerk of the course Guy Woodcock delivered the rally his customers wanted in a route that took in classic rallying roads and test venues.
The action started with a Thursday evening prologue close to Buxton and included a regularity section through the Goyt Valley.
Pickering and Ballantyne took a slim early lead, while Howard Warren/Iain Tullie (Porsche 911) put in the best overall performance.
Day two took crews from Buxton to Llandrindod Wells via the Welsh borders and it proved to be a difficult day for Warren, as increasing gearbox woes threatened to end his rally. He struggled on, sometimes with only first and reverse gears, and ended the day with a nine-second lead over the Powleys, but an overnight gearbox change was needed.
Among the Pre-63 pack, the Pickering TR4 dropped to fourth after a costly error on a regularity section as former rallycross champion Dermot Carnegie and Paul Bosdet forged ahead in their Volvo PV544.
Friday signalled the end of a hat-trick bid for Paul Wignall and Mark Appleton, when their 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint consumed its gearbox before lunch.
The intensity of the event continued on Saturday with a Welsh loop that took crews back to Llandrindod after a long day of action and some challenging road and weather conditions. Pickering had a fine day to move back into the Pre-63 lead, while the Powleys also delivered an outstanding performance to beat everyone by 40sec and build their overall advantage to 1min 30sec.
Sunday was all about getting to the finish in Bristol, via tests on the maze of military roads at Caerwent. The South Wales venue cost the Powleys time, but they saw off a determined challenge from Alfa Romeo Giulia crew Andrew Buzzard/Rob Lyne to win with a margin that was slashed to just 19sec on the final day. Warren/Tullie survived for third.
In the Pre-63 contest, Pickering and Ballantyne held on through a day of ups and downs, but it was very close as just eight seconds split them from Carnegie.
“It’s been a long ambition to win this rally,” said Ballantyne. Paul Lawrence