The average motorist driving the one hundred or so miles from York to Blackpool would probably complete the journey in less than three hours. So why did it take competitors on the 2006 Lombard Revival Rally four days?
One hundred and twenty rally crews left York around Thursday tea-time in good time for a trip through that evening’s illuminations, or so you would have thought. To be fair though they didn’t take the most direct route and before anyone asks that wasn’t down to them getting lost!
The rally was designed to be a tough test of man and machine taking competitors on a 1200 mile route over some of the toughest roads in England and Scotland. The cars competing on the event were very much the same as those you’ll find in any car showroom. Endurance Rally regulations permit hardly any modifications with almost everything kept standard. There were no tyre advantages to be gained either as all cars had to run on the same Colway remoulds. Power outputs were restricted to 1400cc for petrol driven cars and 2000cc for diesels but turbos were strictly forbidden. The rules made it a level playing field giving everyone who entered the chance of success.
Leaving York, crews headed not west but east to Scarborough, completing a number of timed to the second selectifs on route before sprinting down the Marine Drive in the dark. It was still dark when they left the seaside town early on Friday but there was Oliver’s Mount to contend with. Flat out over the five mile motor cycle racing circuit in the wet was more than enough to concentrate the mind before heading into Dalby Forest for a seven mile section on loose gravel. Respite came with a twenty minute break at the Goathland Arms Hotel, better known to television viewers as Heartbeat’s Aidensfield Arms. Sadly Gina wasn’t on hand to pull the pints but there was an endless supply of tea and coffee for those not utilising the services of Scripps’ Garage, across the road, to keep them in the rally!
More forays into the North Yorkshire Forests followed before the rally headed off to Carlisle, via Catterick Race Course and ‘Killer’ Kielder Forest, for another overnight halt. There were now less than a hundred cars left running as the event lived up to it’s tough reputation.
Saturday’s route took crews through the forests of south-west Scotland but this was no leisurely drive as a night section meant most crews didn’t arrive back in Carlisle until just before midnight. With another ten crews retiring only eighty-nine cars would start Sunday’s final leg of the rally as it headed south to Blackpool.
Greystoke Forest, Lowther Safari Park and Warcop Military Ranges all had to be tackled before crews reached the Fylde Coast where a run through Clifton Water Treatment Works preceeded a short dash through Lytham Hall.
It was then onto Blackpool for the event’s final test where the rally survivors treated the packed crowds to a high speed finale along the lower Promenade. Waiting to greet them at the finishing ramp by North Pier was former Top Gear Rally presenter Tony Mason microphone in hand and ever ready banter for the television cameras. Leading the way were Kings Lynn’s Dale Glover and Sean Ward in the Vauxhall Nova who finished forty seconds ahead of the Vauxhall Corsa of Chesterfield’s Carl Hawkins and York’s Iain Tullie. Last year’s winners Dunstable’s Jamie Turner and Swansea’s Graham Dance finished third in the Rover 200.
During the eighties John Haugland took a string of top ten Lombard RAC Rally results driving for the official Skoda factory team. Nowadays he’s best known for teaching the world’s top drivers the art of driving on ice at his rally school in his native Norway. Competing behind the wheel of a Skoda Fabia he kept his proud record in tact finishing in tenth place.
The rally certainly lived up to its’ reputation with only eighty-five crews making Sunday’s finish. Seven-times American Rally Champion John Buffum wasn’t one of them having retired his Ford Focus in Scotland the day before. For those that did make it though the sight of Blackpool Tower came as a huge relief. They’d just completed one of the toughest rallies imaginable and boy did they know it!