Image: Roger Clark won the RAC Rally twice in the seventies
RAC Rally history dates back to Torquay in 1932
Special anniversary rally car showcase at Oulton Park opener
One of only two rounds to have featured on every WRC calendar
Oulton Park tickets priced from just £25 and must be purchased in advance
This year’s Wales Rally GB (3-6 October) will be the 75th running of the globally renowned event – a significant milestone that will be celebrated in style when the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) arrives in the UK this autumn.
A special showcase featuring many of the stand-out cars from past generations will be one of the highlights at Thursday evening’s spectacular opening competitive stage at the popular Oulton Park circuit near Chester.
The celebratory display will include many icons from previous eras including significant Ford Escorts, Group B machines and victorious cars rallied by British heroes Colin McRae and Richard Burns.
Illustrating the rally’s remarkable history, the collection will provide visitors with an engaging insight into the sport’s evolution over time, whetting appetites for the arrival of the latest generation of WRC stars and cars – the fastest and most impressive machines ever to set wheels in the forests.
Back in 1932, the inaugural Royal Automobile Club Rally took its lead from the Monte Carlo Rally with crews driving standard road cars setting off from nine different towns and cities all bound for Torquay on the English Riviera via a variety of 1000-mile routes, each one with four control points. No fewer than 342 competitors entered and the £25 prize for having recorded the lowest number of penalty points was awarded to Colonel A. H. Loughborough driving a Lanchester 15/18.
Motor Sport magazine reported: “People with the knowledge and experience of the Monte Carlo Rally may, perhaps, have regarded the R.A.C event as a meek and mediocre counterpart of the former, but as a preliminary effort there can be no denying the fact that it was a great success. It showed that British motorists are really keen to indulge in motoring fixtures when the opportunity occurs provided they are organised by a competent body.”
Though there was a break in the action following the outbreak of the Second World War and again in 1957 for the Suez Crisis, the RAC Rally followed a similar format, albeit with the introduction of more competitive tests, until the start of the sixties when Scandinavian style off-road forest stages were first introduced – a move which cemented the rally’s reputation as one of the most challenging and respected on the calendar.
In 1973, the event’s international repute earned it a founding position in the newly created FIA World Rally Championship and, together with Finland, remains one of only two rounds that have featured on every year’s WRC roster ever since.
The switch to gravel tracks in the forests and a wintry, end-of-season slot on the schedule resulted in 30 years of Nordic success only interrupted by Roger Clark’s two home wins in 1972 and 1976.
In more recent times, though, the victories have been shared more widely with further home-grown winners Colin McRae (1994, 1995 and 1997), Richard Burns (1998, 1999 and 2000) and most recently Elfyn Evans in 2017. Coming 25 years ago, the first of McRae’s victories was in the 50th running of the event.
The UK’s premier rally has also seen several title changes over its long history with the advent of title sponsorship from commercial partners such as Lombard, Network Q and Dayinsure. The UK’s round of the WRC has been titled Wales Rally GB for the past 17 years since the Welsh Government became principal funding partner in 2003.
“Only the Monte Carlo Rally can boast a longer or richer pedigree than Rally GB and only Finland has also retained a place on every World Rally Championship calendar – it’s this incredible esteem and heritage which make this historic event, in all its guises, so special,” remarked Hugh Chambers, CEO of Motorsport UK, organiser of Wales Rally GB. “While continuing to innovate and keeping the event fresh for both competitors and visitors, we are proud of the rally’s unique place in the sport’s history and will be celebrating that with this special 75th anniversary showcase at Oulton Park in October.”
Adult tickets to the opening Oulton Park Special Stage on Thursday are priced at just £25 and must be purchased in advance – grandstand seats are also available as well as a hospitality upgrade for those seeking the ultimate entertainment experience. Children aged 15 and under enjoy free admittance.
Full details of these – as well as a wide choice of tickets for the 21 Special Stages that follow on Friday, Saturday and Sunday – can be found on the walesrallygb.com website.
RALLY GB MILESTONES
1932 Inaugural Royal Automobile Club Rally finishing in Torquay
1933 First female RAC Rally winner: Miss Kitty Brunell
1940-50 RAC Rally not staged following outbreak of World War 2
1951 RAC Rally re-introduced based in Bournemouth
1953 Ian Appleyard wins his second RAC Rally in Jaguar XK120
1957 RAC Rally cancelled due to the Suez Crisis
1960 First forest competitive section successfully introduced in Scotland
1961 Multiple forest stages introduced around the country
1962 Erik Carlsson completes a hat-trick of wins in Saab 96
1965 Rauno Aaltonen gives the Mini its only RAC Rally triumph
1966 Entries from two F1 World Champions Graham Hill (Mini) and Jim Clark (Lotus Cortina)
1967 Rally cancelled due to foot-and-mouth disease
1970-73 Title sponsorship from the Daily Mirror
1971 Fan-friendly Spectator Stages first introduced at Harewood House
1972 Roger Clark becomes the first British driver to win since switch to forest event
1973 Rally GB included in the first FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers
1974-92 Title sponsorship from Lombard
1975 Timo Mäkinen completes a hat-trick of wins in dominant Ford Escort era
1976 Second victory for Roger Clark who becomes first British winner of a WRC round
1979 RAC Rally included in first FIA Drivers’ World Championship
1980 Henri Toivonen becomes final driver to win in 2wd car (Talbot Sunbeam Lotus)
1982 Hannu Mikkola becomes the first four-time Rally GB winner
1986 RAC Rally was final European round for Group B cars
1993-2002 Title sponsorship from Network Q
1994 50th running of RAC Rally; Colin McRae becomes first British winner for 18 years
1995 Colin McRae wins and is crowned as Britain’s first World Rally Champion
1997 Colin McRae wins his third Rally GB
2000 Richard Burns completes a hat-trick of Rally GB victories
2000 Rally GB moves to Cardiff with all 17 stages in Wales
2001 Richard Burns finishes third and is crowned as England’s first World Rally Champion
2003 Welsh Government becomes principal funding partner
2005 Petter Solberg/Phill Mills win for a fourth consecutive
2013 Rally moves to new home in Deeside, north Wales
2016-18 Title sponsorship from Dayinsure
2017 Elfyn Evans becomes first Welsh driver to win a WRC round
2018 Llandudno stages first world championship motor sport on closed public roads in the UK
2018 Sébastien Ogier becomes first fifth-time winner
2019 Milestone 75th running of Rally GB
RALLY GB MULTIPLE WINNERS: DRIVERS
5 Sébastien Ogier
4 Hannu Mikkola/Petter Solberg
3 Erik Carlsson/Richard Burns/Juha Kankkunen/Sébastien Loeb/Timo Mäkinen/Colin McRae
2. Ian Appleyard/Stig Blomqvist/Roger Clark/Marcus Gronholm/Jack Harrop/Harry Källström/Jari-Matti Latvala/Carlos Sainz/Henri Toivonen/Tom Trana
RALLY GB MULTIPLE WINNERS: MANUFACTURERS
3 Audi/Citroën/ Peugeot