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Group B in the spotlight

Classic era to be celebrated during Wales Rally GB | By Paul Lawrence

Three decades after the Lombard RAC Rally marked the final European WRC event for Group B cars, the monsters of rallying will be celebrated during this year’s Wales Rally GB (October 27-30).

To mark the 30th anniversary of the end of the hugely powerful Group B era, cars and drivers from the period will gather at Cholmondeley Castle RallyFest on Saturday October 29 before a spectator stage on Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship.

As WRGB visits the Cheshire parkland venue for the first time for a special stage on asphalt roads, Group B cars will take part in demonstration runs before the first modern WRC
cars arrive at 3pm.

Group B owners are being invited to take their cars for static display or to perform demonstration runs on the 1.8-mile special stage, which will be an extended version of the course used at the annual Cholmondeley Power and Speed event.

The entry list for the 1986 RAC Rally included more than 50 Group B cars, including Lancia Delta S4s, Peugeot 205 Turbo 16s, Ford RS200s, MG Metro 6R4s and several privately run Audi Quattros. The works Audi team had withdrawn from rallying following the accident that claimed the lives of Lancia crew Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresta in May, a tragedy that led to the category being banned.

“We are inviting a number of drivers to join us and we are encouraging as many Group B cars as possible to get involved in what’s going to be an unforgettable occasion,” said Ben Taylor of Wales Rally GB.

Night action at Shelsley

Special tests running into the dark at Shelsley Walsh will be a key element of the 2016 Rally of the Tests (November 3-6), which recreates the RAC Rallies of the 1950s and 1960s before the event became a speed test on forest stages.

The backing of the RAC has encouraged the organisers to make the Bournemouth to Chester event more accessible to spectators, as a capacity field of 100 cars from the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s competes over 31 special tests and 20 regularity sections. 

Several venues will be open to the public, notably Shelsley Walsh (where the cars will arrive from 15.00 on Saturday). It is believed to be the first time that motor sport has run into darkness at the hillclimb venue.

Other spectator venues include the kart tracks at Clay Pigeon in Dorset (08.45, Friday), Rednal in Shropshire (11.15, Sunday) and the RAC headquarters in Bristol (08.00, Saturday).

Jardine lands Chevron seat 

Journalist and presenter Tony Jardine had his first race in a Chevron at the Oulton Park Gold Cup, sharing the ex-Digby Martland B6 (below) that he watched make its debut at the Cheshire track in 1967.

“I was 15 at the time and Oulton was my local track,” said Jardine, who was born in Liverpool. Assistant team manager at McLaren in 1980, the year of Alain Prost and John Watson, Jardine was given the chance to race the Chevron by his friend Kevin Kivlochan, the car’s current owner. 

“It was amazing to drive this car on this track,” said Jardine. “It was my first event in a proper racing car since 1971, as everything I’ve driven since has been production-based. In 1971 I did some Formula Ford… until I destroyed the car against the barriers here at Oulton, at Knickerbrook.”

All roads lead to Tibet…

A new event in the Himalayas is a key feature of the 2018 calendar from the Endurance Rally Association.

With many of its rallies selling out months in advance, the ERA has revealed four major events for 2018, topped by the new Himalayan Challenge in September and October. Entries will be offered only to experienced rally crews, as the event will feature a demanding high-altitude route.

The 2018 schedule starts in February with The Road to Saigon, and in April the 10th anniversary Flying Scotsman for pre-war cars will run from London to Edinburgh. The third Trans-America Challenge will take place in the southern states of the USA in May and June.

McLaren demo run foiled

A major attraction in the recent ‘Return to Power’ celebration at Goodwood, marking the 3-litre F1 cars from 1966, was the first McLaren Grand Prix car to race, M2B chassis number 2. The car was due to take part in the track demonstration sessions, but technical issues consigned it to static display.

Rob Hall was due to drive the car that he and his father Rick originally restored for Tom Wheatcroft. After many years in the Donington Collection, the M2B is now with a private collector.

Bruce McLaren tested chassis 2 at Goodwood in 1966, ahead of its first race in the Monaco Grand Prix with a 3-litre Ford V8.

Another racing Lanfranchi

A second generation of racing Lanfranchis started competing at the Oulton Park Gold Cup, when David (49) shared the Jaguar E-type of his father Peter in the final round of this season’s Jaguar Classic Challenge. 

David’s late uncle Tony was the best known racing member of the racing dynasty and rose through the ranks to race at national and international level over several decades. 

David finally made his debut after spending some time taking part in track days. Peter, younger brother of Tony, has raced for many years and campaigned his relatively unmodified E-type across Europe.