Rallyday: Impressed By Imprezas

The second important component to Castle Combe’s Rallyday festival in the UK is the involvement of the local car clubs. Each event I’ve gone to this year has been more impressive than the last, and Rallyday was no exception. Naturally the manufacturers with fine rallying heritage were to the fore, with Subaru, Ford and Mitsubishi owners representing their marques in strength. And how about this for the most appropriate, if ironic, driver crew names for a poppin’ and bangin’ turbo Impreza?

Around 50 clubs attended, plus there were individual show cars dotted around the team trucks like this beautiful Datsun S30 ‘Super Samuri’ coupé.

Under the hood was a gleaming Nissan inline six. Auto-correct almost changed ‘six’ to something else, but it would have been equally appropriate.

It’s the badge to have…

There was a never-ending long line of Subarus lined up along the whole length of the rear of the paddock courtesy of the Subaru Impreza Drivers’ Club: there must have been almost every Impreza in this part of the country present!

Even more could be found in the local clubs area along the outside of the Avon Rise straight at Castle Combe: Bath & Bristol, South Wales, Beds & Bucks – many clubs, one focus. Or, one Impreza, maybe that should be. The Fords were round the corner…

Going round a corner, and quickly, was this Rothmans Rallying-liveried Legacy, showing some signs of its hard competitive life. But it’s what it was born to do, after all.

I’m not too sure what to say about this. A Subaru and a half, complete with flat screen TV and entertainment centre in the back…

The third generation Impreza was something that stuck in a lot of people’s throats, at least until the WRX/STI and subsequent facelift versions came out. Seeing this reminded me that there was life past the second gen: if only we could see these back out on the world’s stages where they belong. Global Rallycross and national rallying is at least a start… Perhaps the new WRC promoter that’s due to be announced will bring the manufacturers back on board.

The other road-going rally rocket, Mitsubishi’s Evo, was well represented around the site in both pure road and faux-rally form.

The Mitsubishi Lancer Register occupied a big area in the paddock, showing off a whole range of Lancer variants from across the years.

As with the Subarus, local clubs continued the love in the joint clubs area. There’s something so right about those big night-running light packs…

The GT4OC had rocked up with a trio of authentic WRC Celicas, and were supported by a parade in red by ADL Racing in the club parking.

Fords kept the crowds entertained both on the track and in the club areas: rallying Escorts, Sierras and Fiestas blasted their way round the Feature Stage during the day, showing the racing heritage of the clubs’ massed road-cars.

I don’t want to tread on Paddy’ toes as Speedhunters resident Ford fanboy, but the Escort RS Turbo really was the car of my dreams when I was a kid. I remember being given a ride in one: the whoosh of the turbo, the needle on the gauge that leapt to maximum and the car wheelspun through every gear… It was mind-blowing at the time. The period when almost supercar performance came to otherwise innocuous hatchbacks. Porsche drivers had to think twice at every set of traffic lights.

I’m not afraid to say that I fell out of love with the brand for a very long time. Decades of nondescript, lumpy, unexciting models just didn’t float my boat. Where were the modern equivalents of the 3-litre Capri, Escort RS Turbo, Fiesta XR2 or Sierra XR4i? Well, I’m very happy to be firmly back in the Blue Oval camp in the last couple of years, following the hugely aggressive Focus RS and new-shape hot Fiesta. Just great. Now, where’s that oft-promised Capri replacement?…

My family owned an Escort (a humble MkII that wasn’t a patch on this one), a 2-litre Capri and then a 2-litre Sierra and an XR2 – the latter the car I learned to drive in. Blame it on The Professionals TV series perhaps, but I also always lusted over the angle-fronted RS2000.

Rallyday was a dangerous place to be if you were in the market for a new car – particularly if you were after an old Escort. A number of MkIs were for sale: never cheap, as to be expected for a car this popular but becoming rarer in original spec. This Group 4 Escort was packing an S2000 unit on AT throttle bodies, producing 254bhp, and had a full cage and cockpit. Ready to race for £32,000.

There were plenty of Dark Side transplants going on under the hoods of Escorts.

This RS2000 mounted a Vauxhall SBD 16-valve: a controversial thing for Blue Oval fans, but a cheap and sensible way to up the standard power for rallying Escorts.

This RS2000 was standing on its own amongst the RS Owners Club cars – perhaps because of what was under the hood: another Vauxhall unit. The spotless Escort was the result of a ground-up restoration: photos in an album showed just what a state the car had been in previously.

Not many people get to sit here, in the cockpit of a pristine road-prepped Ford RS200. This was car number 190 of 194 built, one of the last to roll of the production line and a car owned by Brian Betteridge for the last 17 years.

It’s in completely original condition and has just 9,400 miles on the clock. The car was prepared by Aston Martin Tickford at their Newport Pagnell facility, and was bought for £58,000 in 1988. One lady owner later the car came to Brian, who has maintained it in this immaculate condition. Will he ever sell it? You can guess the answer.

Things weren’t all Japanese or British though: there were some select examples of all that was great from the Continent, starting with this Renault 5 GT Turbo – one of the original hot hatches.

The 5 morphed into the ultra-wide, Bertone-designed rear-wheel-drive rally weapon, Renault’s response to the Stratos.

The diminutive engines were pushed up to well over 200hp (or even 350 in the case of the Maxi), producing an awful lot of bang for your buck. This one was maintained by marque specialist John Price, who also takes care of Metro 6R4s – he successfully rallied both cars in period.

Similarly, Fiat took the 131 Mirafiori saloon and gave it to Abarth. They made it into a winner. Three World Rally Championships followed.

It’s strange to think that the 131 followed the Stratos rather than the other way around. Hawk replicas are popular attractions at events, and it’s impossible not to give them their due: the attention to detail for the recreation of this iconic rallycar is remarkable.

Lancia’s other big gift to the world, the Integrale, also had some special-edition representation: I’ll cover this one off in an upcoming spotlight.

Lotus’ relationship with Ford’s Cortina is the one that everyone recognises, but they also had a strong partnership with Sunbeam in rallying, producing this road-going spin-off as part of the homologation procedure.

The Sunbeam Lotus outgunned its period competition, the VW Golf GTi and Ford RS2000, by some margin in both power and speed.

Opel and Vauxhall can’t be overlooked. The Manta 400 was a big rear-wheel drive coupé tricked out into a successful rally car, which as usual spawned road-going variants like the Irmscher i240 Dakar.

The British Dealer Team Vauxhall squad picked up plenty of silverware both in saloon car racing and rallying: the Chevette HSR had a front-end treatment modelled on the droopsnoot Firenza and found great success in national rallying. Fast and with excellent handling, some of the greats took the wheel of Chevettes – including Jimmy McRae (father of Colin, who was also to be soon soaking up the atmosphere at this year’s Rallyday) and the late Pentti Airikkala.

Rallyday also took in 4×4, Dakar and Rally Raid demos, which took place at the far end of the circuit. This bug-like, roaring off-roader kept plenty of people transfixed as it hooked its way over and around impossibly steep slopes.

One of the most confusing was this… Lotus Seven off-roader? Madness. It got more disconcerting the more angles I tried to examine it from. So wrong it worked? Maybe without the Seven’s legendary handling though…

On a smaller scale, there was an R/C demo area, where they could jump their full-size brothers. Yes, it’s made me dig out my box of old R/C cars when I got home…

The 12th edition of Rallyday perfectly demonstrated the link between what you see on the stages and what you can drive on the road – all whilst nudging people gently towards maybe trying their hand at a little competitive rallying themselves. After all, it’s what these cars were made to do.

Jonathan Moore

Speedhunters at Rallyday 2012



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That quote from McRae was my high school quote. Haha.


That legacy is amazing !!!! Thanks for that huge pic also :)

Please if you find more post them


What are the wheels on the Stratos???


Love the names on the side window of the Impreza in the first photo!


So many impreza's, so few pictures!
Can we get some Sti spotlight love


lovin that first Impreza ;o)


god damn that delta is clean,


Really dug the little Italian section in this post Mr Moore, thank you.


I see you that fun with the miniature filter on your camera.Really nice shots, wich you had more of the EVO section. None the less, fantastic work as ever! 


There needs to be a Rallyday in the US. I'd be right there, even before the cars start to roll in


this whole thead is pure porn, but the stratos is uuuunnnngggg!(cleans up mess)


 @DavidMcauliffe It is, isn't it? Even if they're not 'real', the Stratos shape is still a think of beauty


 @Fernando M Ah no – it's just the magic of a 24mm prime lens! Naturally huge DOF. :) We have Trax coming up soon, so there are always more opportunities for some Evo love


 @BlackJacket It was like buses – you wait for ages and then two come along at once! I'd never seen a Martini 6 in the flesh before, but two were on display at Rallyday. There'll be a spotlight coming soon...


want to see more of that Tommi Makinen edition Evo VI !!


 @ylee They're Hawk's replica of the Group 4 Campagnolo wheel, commonly known as the Coffin Spoke wheel. The original was a magnesium wheel but the copies, tooled off originals, are LM25 aluminium and machined rather than cast, made in the UK and available in 98mm or 108mm PCD in 8inch and 12 inch widths. They're the finishing touch to the replica!


 @ylee They're Hawk's replica of the Group 4 Campagnolo wheel, commonly known as the Coffin Spoke wheel. The original was a magnesium wheel but the copies, tooled off originals, are LM25 aluminium and machined rather than cast, made in the UK and available in 98mm or 108mm PCD in 8inch and 12 inch widths. They're the finishing touch to the replica!


Good to see some renualt exposure, instead of the usual (but never boring) VAG, Ford, GM, and japanese manufacturers 


not long had my manta 400 rep going to get her stickered up how long do you think until they become more popular?


Some serious bullshit written here. Check your facts before you write you name dropping ape!