FOUNDING FATHER AUTOCAR JOINS 75th CELEBRATIONS AT OULTON PARK
As the world’s oldest car magazine, Autocar has been performing instrumental roles in the automotive sphere ever since the dawn of motoring. Indeed, it is believed that there were only a handful of horseless carriages in the UK when the first issue was published in November 1895.
The Autocar – as it was then known – invented the road test when it put an Austin 7 through its paces in 1928. A few years later in 1932, the magazine was also the inspiration and driving force behind the very first RAC Rally – the 75th running of which takes place this autumn as Wales Rally GB (3-6 October).
To mark that important 75th milestone, Autocar is partnering a very special showcase of RAC Rally cars through the ages. Covering the event’s full history, these will range from standard road cars such as the Lanchester 15/18 which won back in 1932, right up to the latest generation of high-tech Citroën, Ford, Hyundai and Toyota WRC trail-blazers.
Providing maximum accessibility, this special Autocar 75th RAC Rally display will be at the Oulton Park venue, close to Chester, where the opening competitive special stage of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship event takes place on Thursday evening, 3 October.
Back in the thirties it was one of the directors of The Autocar, a previous participant on the Monte Carlo Rally, who put the suggestion of a British Rally to those at The Royal Automobile Club. They, by all accounts, needed little persuasion to undertake the organisation of a rally ‘similar to, but in no way competitive with, the Monte Carlo affair’.
The magazine itself reported: ‘The Autocar desires no particular credit for the idea, and has not made extravagant claims in that direction. It was felt that there were sufficient enthusiasts who would support such as event’. And it was indeed correct…
The inaugural event was Britain’s biggest motoring event to date. It attracted a record entry of 367 cars all setting out from nine different starting points around the country: London, Bath, Norwich, Leamington, Buxton, Harrogate, Liverpool, Newcastle upon Tyne and Edinburgh. Wherever their point of departure, all entrants were faced with a 1,000 mile route to Torquay on the English Riviera. The driver with the fewest penalty points in various tests would be awarded with ‘The Autocar Trophy’ and a £25 first prize.
‘There is no one who can say it has not been as great success from every point of view. It is a foregone conclusion that there will be a Rally next year,’ reported The Autocar in its 11 March, 1932 issue. Indeed, there have now been a total of 73 further rallies with breaks only for WW2, the Suez Crisis and Foot and Mouth disease.
“Autocar was very much a founding force in the creation of what today is one of the most revered fixtures on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar,” confirmed Hugh Chambers, CEO of Motorsport UK, organiser of Wales Rally GB. “Now we are delighted to be teaming up once again, this time to celebrate the 75th edition of the remarkable event the magazine helped to inspire all those years ago.”
Autocar’s current editor, Mark Tisshaw, is equally excited to be putting the spotlight on the magazine’s notable heritage. “While always looking ahead, today’s editorial team is immensely proud of the incredible history Autocar has shining in its mirrors. So we are thrilled to be acclaiming the achievements of our journalist predecessors with this special display highlighting the 75th running of the first RAC Rally they helped to originate back in 1932,” said Tisshaw.
“Right from the outset, the RAC Rally proved a massive success with both participants and spectators, and remains so today. Rallying, of course, has changed massively over the years however, unlike most other forms of premier league motor sport, it has always retained a close link to the cars the public can buy, and thus remains especially relevant to Autocar and its readership.”
Indeed, while the competition side has evolved from simple driving tests on the seafront to ferociously fought timed stages run against the clock through the forests, all the competing cars remain road legal and still drive hundreds of miles on public roads between the dramatic and decisive speed tests.
Tickets for all this year’s special stages are available with adult admission starting at just £15. For those wanting to savour the Autocar 75th RAC Rally display, 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 to all 22 stages.