Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis capped a mighty season of historic rallying by winning the 11th Roger Albert Clark Rally, after 27 special stages in and around the vast Kielder forest complex in Northumberland.
A year after crashing out, Ford Escort driver Robinson showed how his driving has matured by setting a cracking pace and seldom putting a wheel wrong in typically testing conditions.
However, victory only came after the controversial exclusion of Matt Edwards and Paul Morris, who arrived at the finish in Sunderland with a winning margin of 34sec after a tremendous performance. Sadly, Edwards and Morris were found to be in possession of route information during the rally and were excluded for contravening event regulations.
The exclusion, which was for an oversight rather than an attempt to break the rules of this non-route note rally, came as a massive blow for Edwards, who had taken the lead in thick fog on the opening evening and then driven a brilliant rally while under intense pressure from Robinson.
“We’ll have to come back next year and win it properly,” said Robinson after a sporting contest between the two Ford Escorts. Edwards, meanwhile, was devastated, but also vowed to return and challenge for victory in 12 months’ time.
Nick Elliott and Dave Price were thus promoted to second after a solid performance. They lost too much time in thick fog in Hamsterley Forest to challenge the two pace-setters, but ended the rally clear of the Fiat 131 of Julian Reynolds and Patrick Walsh. The first major finish for the Fiat was a mammoth achievement for the team.
With a route that took in classic stages such as Kershope, Shepherdshield and Ogre Hill, the event was a big hit with the fans and maintained the special atmosphere for which the event is revered.
Best of the overseas visitors – in an excellent fourth overall – was the Category 2-winning Porsche 911 of Belgian ace Grégoire de Mevius and Andre Leyh, while Ian Beveridge and Peter Joy headed Category 1 in their Volvo PV544.
A great performance from Vauxhall Astra crew Nigel Barber and Stuart Popplewell netted victory in the Open Rally.