Classic Car Rallying: The Reward For a Labour of Love
Until a decade or so ago, vintage hobbyists were very restricted as to what they could do with their treasured vehicles. Once the restoration was over, there were few places to show off the hard-won results of their labour of love. A Sunday drive was all well and good but it seemed a mediocre showground for these historical treasures.
For those who tired of standard driving activities, there were two options open to them: exhibiting their vehicle in a concours d’elegance or taking it vintage auto racing. Neither were ideal long-term activities. There were only so many hours which could be spent standing around looking at old cars, parked in neat rows on a perfectly manicured lawn, before it began to seem dull.
Vintage auto-racing had its short falls too. Oh, it was thrilling to watch – but only if you weren’t the owner. For those with a stake in the precious, often irreplaceable motors which tore around the track, it would be fair to say that vintage racing was a little too exciting. Racing also proved to be a whole lot more enjoyable for the driver than for the partner who were dragged along to bear witness, forced to endure long hours spent watching another dusty, noisy track as their spouse acted out their Fangio race car driving fantasies.
What was needed was an activity that allowed couples to experience and enjoy the beauty and excitement of their beloved vintage with a minimal amount of risk to the car. Vintage rallies and tours were the perfect solution.
What is Classic Rallying?
Classic car rallies are open to cars manufactured before the end of 1967 (historic) and 1974 (post-historic). They allow the owners of vintage motors to gather with other enthusiasts as they do at concours d’elegance, but also to get behind the wheel of their classic without the risks inherent in wheel-to-wheel racing.
Success in rallies and tours is dependent upon a driver and navigator working together, making rallying a perfect activity for couples. Most rallies include a mixture of special tests, navigational exercises (often at night), and regularity sections, the latter being a throwback to the 50s. The true architect of success is the navigator, although teamwork is an important element.
Most of these events have evolved into multi-day tours. Organisers plot a scenic route, which participants must follow, either to lunch, dinner or the next hotel. The beauty of these rallies is that they’re equivalent to taking the Grand Tour, but with someone else having chosen the best roads, the nicest hotels and the most exquisite wine to sip on at night, and even having gone to the trouble of arranging for a mechanic to follow behind in case you run into any technical issues.
Some events in the calendar are true rallies rather than luxury driving holidays. They present a serious test of the driver’s and navigator’s skills. Enthusiasts refer to these as TSD, which stands for Time-Speed-Distance. These rallies usually take several days to complete, and each day involves at least one stage. The organisers will provide route instructions to get your two-person team from one point to the next.
If the stage distance is 60 miles, the rallymeister will set an allotted time to complete this portion of the route. If this time period was one hour, for example, it would be necessary to average precisely 60 miles-per-hour. Arriving too early would mean you lost points. Arriving too late would have the same effect. Timing is calculated to the nearest second.
Some vintage rallies will also include a timed stage. Cars will do individual speed tests at a race track or on a private road, with participants racing as fast as they can. The winner is simply the car which travels the fastest.
A Team Sport
Vintage rallying is a true team sport, making it a perfect activity for couples. The navigator is required to handle the timing and route instructions, making it impossible for the driver to compete without them. The navigator is the captain, the driver the helmsman. The driver’s role is to drive smoothly and quickly and follow the navigator’s instructions to the letter. The navigator’s job is to accurately interpret the route book and convey the information to the driver as clearly as possible. If the two elements do not work cohesively, the team lacks the necessary precision and accuracy to win.
Despite the necessary team cohesiveness and loyalty, the sport is not exclusionary. Rather, it encourages socialisation. Mornings and afternoons are spent on the road, but lunchtime and dinner tend to be social occasions.
There are lots of interesting people on the rallying circuit. Many historic rally competitors were involved in road rallying when they were younger, and see historic rallying as an opportunity to meet old friends and relive old times.
Although there is a strong sense of competition, the social side of these events is held sacrosanct. It is not surprising, then, that historic rallying is actually the fastest growing motor sport. If you’re contemplating motor sport for the first time, it is the most perfect introduction you could hope for.
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