Remembering classic games: Lombard RAC Rally (1988) | Top Gear
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Remembering classic games: Lombard RAC Rally (1988)

A game that attempted to recreate Jimmy McRae’s Sierra Cossie Group A car. In 1988.

Published: 02 Jul 2021

Even by the standards of 1980s rallying, the Lombard RAC Rally was utterly hatstand. A five day event that kicked off at the crack of dawn and didn't wrap up until around 11pm, drivers were subjected to the sort of extreme sleep deprivation that's probably explicitly prohibited by the Geneva Convention. What's more, unlike other rallies of the era, pace notes were banned, leaving the co-driver to concentrate on the very important job of squinting at an Ordnance Survey map and occasionally shrieking the word 'brake'.

Lombard RAC Rally for the Amiga and Atari ST was a gloriously earnest attempt to simulate all this on a single floppy disk, a storage medium that has enough space for about half a selfie. In spite of this, Lombard RAC recreated the cockpit of Jimmy McRae's Ford Sierra Cosworth Group A car in what we probably would have described at the time as exquisite detail. You wouldn't even have laughed in our face.

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The authenticity conferred by a proper license for the rally itself and the Sierra Cosworth that adorned the cover went a long way to papering over the game's technical shortcomings. You'd believe you really were sitting at the start line on a special stage between Harrogate and Telford, even though the forest track ahead of you was roughly the width of a three lane motorway and surrounded by only a smattering of actual trees.

Just like the real thing, you’d have to contend with undulating road, forest and mountain routes, battling restricted visibility in foggy weather and night stages. There were even ‘TV interviews’, which played out more like a rally trivia quiz show where you could win a couple of hundred quid to repair your shattered suspension. In fact, the one important thing this rally game doesn’t attempt to replicate is oversteer, though we choose to believe that’s because the technology to simulate it simply didn’t exist yet.

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