Edinburgh to Torquay: just 1060 miles to go
The inaugural RAC Rally in 1932 challenged competitors to reach Torquay from any one of nine starting points around Britain. Sounds easy? We find out
The 11 March 1932 issue of Autocar – perhaps you remember it, in which case, well done you – allowed itself more than a little self-congratulation.
“We, of The Autocar,” it began, grandly, “can look back on the Torquay Rally with justifiable satisfaction.” Can you, indeed? “From the moment we suggested to the Royal Automobile Club” (oh, I see where this is going) “that it should organise the event” (I getcha) “we felt certain that the Rally would be not only a great and successful competition in itself” (righto) “but also a far-flung advertisement for British motoring and English resorts.”
I suppose one should admire the chutzpah: suggest something, let somebody else do the work and congratulate yourself on a job well done when it all happens to plan.
Apropos of absolutely nothing whatsoever, somebody in the Autocar office suggested it would be a smashing idea if a photographer and yours truly recreated the original 1932 RAC Rally route, which totalled 1000 miles over two days. There may be somebody congratulating themselves in the office as we speak. I’m not sure. I haven’t been back in yet.
Anyway, depending on your whim, in 1932 you could actually start this new-fangled thing called the RAC Rally – which continues to this very week in different form as the Wales Rally GB – from a number of locations across Britain, then pass through a load of other checkpoints, which would constitute a total route of 1000 miles, or thereabouts.
You could begin from, among other places, London, Liverpool, Harrogate, Leamington and Newcastle, and travel via specific checkpoints – usually at posh hotels, because Mrs Cicely C Grove (2249cc Austin) and the Earl of Brecknock (2810cc Hillman) wouldn’t have wanted their cards stamped at any old hovel – on the way to a single finishing post in Torquay (host, apparently, to “scenes of riotous living” at the end).
The day after the finish of the 1000-mile rally, there were a series of regularity trials along the seafront road. But of all the starting points, the North British Hotel in Edinburgh – now The Balmoral – was the northernmost. You can guess where the office suggested I should start.
From Edinburgh, then, to Buxton, Norwich, Llandrindod Wells, London and then Torquay, pinging across country like a pinball in a machine on the seafront at the English Riviera.
Perhaps; I suppose we’ll see. The timings were a little flexible in 1932 but, if you started in Edinburgh at 12.30pm on Tuesday 1 March, they’d expect you any time after 9.55am on Thursday in Torquay. Which would, officially – given that’s about 45 hours for 1000 miles, probably driving alone, in the days before motorways – be going some. You can also guess how much time the office have allocated yours truly. Yes, quite a lot less than that.
So here we are, Luc Lacey and I, getting a few pictures in the bag once the sun and the tourists have disappeared on a Tuesday evening in Edinburgh. Only, this being Edinburgh, they don’t go home very early, so we wait to picture the Hyundai i30 N, which is the vehicle we’ve chosen for the job.
This is good. I like a road trip as much as the next man, but 1000 miles, via very specific checkpoints, which mean we’ll be driving mostly on very straightforward roads (not exactly your North Coast 500 dream trail), for 37 hours over two days is slightly daunting. It’s not hard, obviously: it’s only holding a steering wheel nearly straight and a right foot largely unmoved. It’s not like a real job. But, in 1932, I’d have been braced for adventure. Here, I’m prepped for traffic queues – the worst of the British motorway network – and the greyness of a British autumn, all mixed into a schedule that won’t allow time for a cup of tea to brew. The prospect of getting to know an i30 N, then, makes it rather more palatable.
The i30 N is, as you’ll know, Hyundai’s first ‘proper’ hot hatchback. You’ll find Albert Biermann, in charge of creating Hyundai and Kia’s fast cars, here, talking about his other new creation, the Kia Stinger.
The N sub-brand and Stinger are meant to change the way you think about the group’s cars. I’ve heard from colleagues that the N is very capable.
The other reason it’s here is that Hyundai has a full works entry in the World Rally Championship. So hey presto: an RAC Rally recreation, a Wales Rally GB preview, and a brand new Hyundai that’s interesting, engaging and relevant to the story. One thousand miles in 37 hours, including photographic stop-starts in… ooh, about five hours’ time. Do excuse me. I’m off to bed.
Where do you start of a morning like this, when you plumb the route into the nav and it says you’ve got 1060 miles to drive? Maths is the answer. Because I’m approaching middle age and my waist is exceeding the edge of my jeans, sometimes I use a rowing machine, in a gym. It can be quite boring, and counting the strokes you have to pull, or the number of metres left, makes it no better. I find that if I do maths, try to keep the noodle occupied by calculating how many per cent I’ve covered, these little achievable chunks of journey pass by more easily. I’m hoping the same will apply here.
Basically, I’ll just head south and consider that each 10 miles is just under 1% of the journey covered. Already it sounds quicker, doesn’t it? It feels it. We’re taking the A1 along the east coast because, although nominally it’s longer, of a morning it’s pretty marginal and the A1 runs next …read more