Rallyday rewinds to 1983

Hawaiian shirts and shoulder pads at the ready (leg warmers not compulsory), mix tape – complete with Spandau Ballet and Kajagoogoo – sorted and, most importantly, all eyes on Stig and Hannu as they make their Castle Combe debut. That was 1983. And that’s where Rallyday’s headed in September.
Why is Europe’s premier one-day rally show rewinding 36 years?
It’s simple: the 1983 season started the Group B era and was the first time the Castle Combe circuit featured on the itinerary for Britain’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Lombard RAC Rally. 
Audi Quattro A2 driver Hannu was fastest through the two-mile Combe stage, the third on the 59 stages on the 1983 route, with a time of 1m48s. He led the event away from the Wiltshire track. But Stig took the win.
In September, rally cars will be back at full speed on those same roads around the Castle Combe circuit for the first time since 1983.
Rallyday organiser Tom Davis explains: “It’s the 20th anniversary of Rallyday next year and one of the things we’re looking at in the build-up to 2020 is potential changes to the form and format of the day itself.
“One thing I wanted to do was to make the Feature Stage feel even more special. This is a key part of the day, it’s the lunchtime focus when we wheel out some of the finest cars in the sport’s history, which are regularly driven by former world champions – like last year, when we had two-time title winner Miki Biasion driving a plethora of Lancias. 
“As we all know, the Group B era is right at the heart of what we do here at Rallyday, so when we had the chance to recreate as much of the RAC Rally stage as possible from that year, we jumped at it. We looked back through the archives and found some footage of the cars in the stage 36 years ago and we’ve put as much of that in place as we can.”
The cars will start the Feature Stage outside The Strawford Centre and head past race control, through and around the noise test and scrutineering buildings, under the Avon bridge before heading the wrong way up the pit lane. At the end of the pit lane, it’s a hairpin left onto the track and back off the circuit, back under the bridge and immediately right back into the pit lane. 
Once into the main pit area – usually used for the start of the Feature Stage – the cars complete a hairpin left and hairpin right before heading back out to the track, through Quarry corner and onto the finish shortly after The Esses.
After the finish, the cars will drive the rest of the lap at road speed before turning off the track on Dean Straight. They will then be routed back to the start of the stage along the perimeter road and into the back of the display area.
National rallying star Ryan Champion and BGMSport owner Ian Gwynne joined Tom at the track earlier this month to work on the revised stage layout.
“I’m so pleased with what we’ve come up with,” said Tom. “Ian brought his late father Bill’s ex-works Vauxhall Chevette HSR along to get a feel for how things would work once we’d decided on the new lay-out. It was just sensational.
“Standing watching Ian drifting that beautiful car through the first corner with the noise just bouncing off the walls made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Even on a chilly February morning with nobody around, the atmosphere was incredible; I can’t wait to see some of the best cars in world rallying line up to do the same in September.
“This new stage layout – using the pit lane – means fans will see more than ever on the day. And when the cars are coming back to the start through the display area, we’ll have the real feel, the sight, sound and smell, of stunning Group B cars coming off a stage. It will be just like 1983 again. Hopefully without the leg warmers.”
Ian Gwynne is excited to see his BGMsport firm working as a partner to Rallyday.
Ian added: “I’ve heard so much about what Rallyday’s about, but I’d never managed to get down for the event. I have to say, from my first meeting with Tom and working with Ryan, I’m absolutely delighted to be involved with what’s clearly a really exciting event. 
“I think we’ve come up with a nice, challenging and interesting – both for fans and drivers – stage for September. The next job is to put the right drivers in the right cars. We’re working on that.”
The 1983 theme is just the beginning for this year’s Rallyday. Davis is confident there will be plenty to see this season.
“The themes are really coming on now,” said Tom. “We’ve got a string of announcements planned for the next few months. Trust me, this year’s going to be a classic as we warm up for the big 20 in 2020.”
Go to rallyday.com for advance tickets priced at £16 per adult (Prices go up on 31st March to £18, and it's £25 on the gate). Under-17s, accompanied by an adult, get in for free.