Europe’s premier rally show more than lived up to its well-deserved reputation, when Rallyday celebrated its 15th anniversary event at Castle Combe racing circuit on Saturday 19th September. More than 10,000 spectators flocked through the gates to see the cars and stars from the sport of rallying, making this year’s event the most successful ever.
This year’s Rallyday featured more cars and stars from the world of rallying than ever before and included a series of innovative additions, such as an exclusive pre-event dinner on the eve of the show and a grid walk for fans amongst the sport’s most iconic cars to draw the event to a spectacular conclusion.
Expectations for this year’s Rallyday were rightfully high, with this much-loved annual event enjoying increased popularity over recent years. With perfect weather, an exceptionally high caliber of cars on display and a line-up of star drivers from past and present signing autographs and answering questions, all the ingredients were there for a fitting celebration for the last decade and-a-half of Rallyday.
Special guest for this year’s show was rally legend Ari Vatanen. The 1981 World Rally Champion was a huge hit and consequently, was seldom seen without a long queue of fans patiently awaiting their chance for an autograph. As well as making his presence felt in the paddock, he also wooed spectators on the track driving the same Ford Escort he used to win the 1976 British Rally Championship.
Celebrations kicked off on Friday evening, with the REIS Motorsport Insurance Services sponsored pre-event dinner. Held in Bath, the occasion hosted a special gathering of Rallyday supporters, sponsors and guests, who were treated to an interview with Ari Vatanen, accompanied by M-Sport WRC driver Elfyn Evans, together with former co-drivers – and personalities from the sport – Tony Mason and Howard Davies. Vatanen’s wit and ability to tell stories from days gone by was in evidence from the start and everyone left feeling they had been part of a very special evening.
Rallyday itself has always provided a unique opportunity for fans to get up close and personal with the stars of the sport – and this year was no exception. Together with those who had appeared on Friday evening, they were joined during the day by former British Rally Champions Russell Brooks and David Higgins, plus glamorous Ukrainian rally driver Inessa Tushkanova.
The array of star drivers then took to the track for the Castrol Edge Feature Stage, some in the same cars they had used in their heyday. This highlight of the day’s action hosted some of the most iconic rally machinery of all time, the sight of a stunning array of Group B machines powering round the Castle Combe track reminding everyone just why the mid-‘80s was such a high point for world rallying.
During the afternoon, David Higgins got behind the wheel of Colin McRae’s 1997 Subaru Impreza WRC to entertain the massed crowds of spectators. The space in the co driver’s seat for this run was auctioned off on Saturday morning, with the lucky winner experiencing a decidedly sideways lap of Castle Combe circuit. All proceeds from the auction will be donated to the Richard Burns Foundation charity.
The SuperPro-sponsored Clubmans’ Stage was bigger than ever before. Taking place on some of the venue’s challenging perimeter roads that had been converted to an authentic special stage for the day. It gave rally teams from all over the UK the chance to do what they do best and, at the same time, entertain their sponsors – all in front of the gaze of eager spectators.
Add to all this the Cooper Tires 4×4 Rally Raid zone that provided an ideal accompaniment to the rallying action, the REIS Motorsport Insurance Services Feature Car display that offered fans the chance to see rally machinery spanning over 50-years in the sport, plus a huge trade area and 100s of car clubs – there had never been so much to keep the 1000s of fans entertained during the day.
But the organisers were not finished yet and, later in the afternoon, many of the rally cars on display made their way to the track and lined-up for the grand finale: the Feature Car Grid Walk. The gates to the circuit were opened and the crowd responded by pouring onto the grid to inspect the massed ranks of the sport’s iconic hardware. Once the fans had returned to the paddock, all of the assembled cars took off for a lap of Castle Combe circuit as one. It was a truly spectacular sight and a perfect way to celebrate Rallyday’s 15th anniversary.
Following the show, event manager Tom Davis said: “It was the first Rallyday to be run by a brand new organising team at Castle Combe and we are delighted with the outcome; the quality of the cars and exhibits, the profile of the stars that attended and the number of people who visited the show. We have already received some great feedback and look forward to planning next year’s show!”