It’s been a few years since I last visited this event and the 2015 Castle Combe Rally Day did not disappoint with attractions stretching from Bobbies Chicane right through to Quarry Corner, even Ari Vatanen was there for goodness sake.
Ari apparently had said he wasn’t particularly interested in driving at the 2015 Castle Combe Rally Day but when given the keys to one of his past MK2 Escort RS1800’s, a car recently restored having been recovered from Africa, he joyfully dough-nutted his way around the 1.83 mile circuit like a youth in an empty Tesco car park. It was truly great to see.
The 2015 Castle Combe Rally Day combined plenty of on-track action, paddock interviews by amongst others Tony Mason, trade stands and car club displays. The displays themselves were incredible with one manufacturer standing out, Subaru. Mitsubishi had their display as well but with their Japanese counterpart there were even displays of individual editions including for many the best all round Impreza ever produced, the RB5.
Not the most powerful or purposeful looking, missing for instance a roof vent often found on Subaru’s quickest cars, but just right in every other respect. You might say understated and modest like the great man himself, although still easily able to deliver decent pace and performance when required, quite fitting really.
In a continued show of strength out on-track was one of Colin McRae’s 22B rally cars being propelled around with great gusto representing another masterpiece from this giant of a rally car manufacturer whose cars were displayed all the way from Folly to Quarry Corner. There were dozens and dozens of Impreza’s from all eras. Some clearly show queens although many their owners pride and joy. The support for these cars was very clear for all to see and it didn’t matter whether you had the newest or the oldest, all had their place.
In and amongst all the Subarus were some hidden gems like for instance the Fiat 131, a real rarity these days and Autobianchi Abarth, proving that there is more than one super Mini out there in the world. Elsewhere were Integrales positioned directly opposite and therefore facing their arch rival and nemesis; Toyota’s Celica GT4. You sensed the tension as you walked between the two camps. Whilst next door Lancia’s golden child the Stratos faced up to a pair of full on looking Audi Quattro’s. An example of the latter could also be seen out and about on the temporary rally stage set up between Camp and Tower Corners.
On the same rally stage was also a surprisingly quick and agile VW Beetle and very tidy mid-engine Renault 5 Turbo. The Audi and R5 in particular making appropriate pops whistles and bangs as they shot up and down the makeshift stage on the other side of the large hay bales strategically positioned to protect the madding crowd. The best rally car to watch on the stage was a six cylinder BMW compact that seemed to ebb and flow just right around the tighter sections of the course.
Whilst laid out on the infield all the way from Camp to Quarry was a stage for Dakar rally specials that roared up and down making use of the jumps added in for good measure. Their V8s being very pleasing on the ear and lurid four wheel drifts almost poetic to watch. Their role was to entertain the crowd whilst the circuit was transformed into a single venue rally stage for Ari, Elfin Evans and others to whizz around in cars from the 70s right through to the latest Ford Fiesta World Rally offering.
The later clearly tricky to unstick on dry tarmac being clearly designed to get the job done without any messing about. A world away therefore from say Escorts, 131s and Stratos whose rear ends were rarely where they should be and behind. On the topic of Escorts there was one red car with a sequential box that was incredibly quick and when you think Ari’s RS sported 265bhp from it’s BDG unit lord only knows what this machine was putting out. Sideways in this car was only ever a short press of the right foot away at anytime.
The 2015 Castle Combe Rally Day was clearly popular and had a nice relaxed atmosphere helped by the dry conditions with sun breaking through in the afternoon. All of which meant you could mosey your way around with most things viewable from Camp to Quarry with displays and the paddock in between. The rally stage ran all day and so could be visited at any-time meaning you never needed to be in two places at once and anything involving Ari Vatanen was announced well in advance giving you plenty of opportunity to pick your spot and wait in eager anticipation of his next sideways moment.
How does this event make you feel?
In one word: Subaru’d.
As a favourite meal: OK choice was a little limited and chips a bit dry, but when viewed between a conventional rally stage behind and Dakar in front, what more can you say.
Anything else: We recommend you make the effort as this event has matured very nicely indeed.
Key ingredients: Rally cars galore with some displays even focusing on one single edition, on-track and rally stage action, hearing Tony Mason interview Ari Vatanen before he propelled his RS1800 around the 1.83 mile loop and that red Escort with its sequential box, I’d have paid £20.00 just to watch that.
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