Events of the Month

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Roger Albert Clark Rally: Dalby to Kershope, GB

For two and a half days, Martin McCormack and Steve Bannister enacted a ferocious baffle for the 2012 Roger Albert Clark Rally and McCormack won by just 17 seconds after 160 flat-out stage miles across Yorkshire and the Scottish Borders.

For thousands of enthusiasts, it was definitely the rally of the year. The ninth edition of the event that recreates the RAC Rallies of the 1970s delivered on all fronts. The biggest entry yet was headed by most of the current star names in historic rallying, but ultimately it came down to a pair of Ford Escort Mklls as two drivers went head to head through the forests.

At 27, Irish ace McCormack had 34 years in hand over Bannister, a man simply known as ‘God’ in his native Yorkshire, where he has rallied for 35 years. From the outside, you could never have known the age difference, for both drove at the limit from the start in a baffle that was as sporting as it was competitive.

It all began in Dalby Forest on Friday evening. Bannister did not really expect to match McCormack, but knew his best chance was to build a margin in his own back yard. But on the very opening stage, Bannister and Kevin Rae were dealt an early blow with a late puncture. It could have cost as much as 15 seconds, which was critical.

After the opening leg, Bannister led by 28sec, and remarkably the gap was exactly the same when they arrived in Carlisle 24 hours later. But it was the daunting Sunday leg that McCormack and Phil Clarke awaited with relish. A whopping 85 stage miles, with a 17-miler in Kershope to finish, delivered more than half of the rally in eight hours.

McCormack went on the attack and was soon closing the gap, but it was a pair of runs through Craik Forest that shaped the outcome. In 12 miles, McCormack slashed 15sec from Bannister’s lead and then dived ahead by just two seconds going into Kershope. Bannister arrived at the stop line knowing that a late spin had been a costly mistake. When McCormack arrived 45sec later victory was his for the sake of 17sec.

“The baffle with Steve has been absolutely fantastic,” said McCormack. “I’ve lost my heart to this rally,” he added, having returned to it both faster and more controlled after a two-year climb up the international rallying ladder. Bannister readily congratulated his rival. “There was no leffing up, but he pushed that bit harder,” he said.

Somewhat over-shadowed by the contest for the lead, Will Onions and John Millington

claimed third despite a last-stage gearbox scare, though Matthew Robinson and Mick Gilby had run a strong third until fuel problems struck on Sunday morning.

Jeremy Easson and Alun Cook finished fourth overall and won Category 2 in their Ford Escort Mkl, while 74-year-old Bob Bean and co-driver Malcolm Smithson dominated Category 1 in their Lotus Cortina. Paul Lawrence

*

Bahamas Speed Week Revival: Nassau, Bahamas

The second edition of the Bahamas Speed Week Revival in Nassau affracted a group of more than 40 classic sports and racing cars in early December. The group, embracing machinery from the 1950s to the ’90s, included several from the original event. A 1959 Bocar (spare car in the Scarab team of 1960, below) returned for the second time, while a very original 1953 Ferrari 375 Pinin Farina Spider (above) continued the red roadster theme. A welcome and striking sight was the 1959 Cooper Monaco in blue and white John Coombs colours that Jack Brabham carried in the Nassau Trophy race before going on to take his first World Championship at Sebring. Sir Stirling Moss, himself a Speed Week veteran, returned as patron of the event for the second year, bringing with him his own 1956 OSCA FS 372D5.

The racing was relaxed but animated, with a hillclimb up from the seafront to Fort Charloffe on the Saturday, and a sprint time-trial (the course extended this year) around the colourful Arawak Cay area on Sunday.

The event can’t yet boast the hoped-for dedicated circuit, but Speed Week President Jimmie Lowe said that next year he wants to see “some actual side-by-side racing”. Let’s hope so. Rob Scorch

*

Silver Fern Rally: North Island, New Zealand

British crew Grant Shand and Chris Parsons came within three special stages of scoring a remarkable second place overall on the week-long Silver Fern Rally in New Zealand. However, their dreams were shaffered on the final day when they put their Ford Escort Mk11 off the road and dropped to sixth place.

Widely regarded as the finest gravel rally in the world, the Silver Fern covered more than 600 miles of special stages on the North Island. Unfortunately, heavy rain on day three forced the cancellation of three stages as river crossings were simply too deep to be safe.

Having finished third overall and first historic car back in 2008, Shand and Parsons turned in a well-measured drive to move up the order in the later stages as fancied local crews hit problems. They held a secure second place going into the final day, but less than two miles into the 26-mile Ngapaenga stage they slid off. They had to miss the final two stages and the time penalties incurred put them down to sixth among the 26 finishers. Local crew Deane Buist and Andrew Bulman won the event in their Escort MkII.

Fellow British crew Vince Bristow and Jane Edgington led the rally on day one but suffered gearbox problems towards the end and fell from firth to seventh in their locally entered Ford Escort MkII. British crews Peter Egerton/Alun Cook and Peter Smith/Ryland James both made it to the finish, in two more Ford Escorts from Shand’s Rally Xtreme squad. Paul Lawrence

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