Henri Toivonen was a suprise winner of the 1980 Lombard RAC Rally and his preparations for the 1981 event included an entry on the Pace Petroleum National Rally, as "The Castrol" had now become. Using many of the same mid-Wales stages as the November World Championship round it was an ideal chance for crews to get a feel for the stages. There was no reconnaissance or pace notes in those days and no convoluted rules about competing on the same stages before the World Championship round. The event attracted others with the same idea. Jimmy McRae, Russell Brookes, Malcolm Wilson, Roger Clark and Terry Kaby were some of them.
The rally was the last round of the Castrol/Autosport National Rally Championship. It was a close thing but Bill Dobie and Roger Jones were to clinch the title by one point from George Hill.
This was the first year that a new young Clerk of the Course took over and was to remain in charge for another 25 years!