Porsches were again the cars to beat on the RAC Historic Rally. And again it was Jimmy McRae who came out on the top with his second RAC win in a row. David Evans reports
Jimmy McRae paid no attention to the vile conditions on the RAC Historic Rally and won by three minutes from fellow Porsche 911 pilot, Monty Karlan. This was McRae’s second successive win on the event, underlining his mastery of historic rallying. He was co-driven as usual by Beatty Crawford, the owner of the immaculate Tuthill-prepared Porsche.
Using the same stages as the Network Q RAC, albeit at different times, the only difference was in the mammoth Pundershaw test which had been cut in two to ensure the event conformed with the European FIA Historic Rally Trophy, of which it was the final round. McRae took the lead from the first stage at the Croft racing circuit and although Roger Powley levelled the scores on the second run at the stage, the Scotsman never looked like he was going to be headed.
The crews then headed north to Kielder and tales of six inches of snow covering sheet ice. McRae promised he was not going to take any risks. “There’s no point pushing too hard, Pundershaw has got ditches everywhere. If you slide a touch wide you get sucked in and your rally will be over. At the same time with only three main stages you can’t afford to dawdle,” he explained.
Dawdle he didn’t. McRae stopped the clocks almost a minute up on Karlan who had already admitted defeat. “Jimmy is in a different league. He is the best, but if we can be second that will be good,” confessed the Norwegian.
Powley must have been rueing his luck: he had decided to use wide forest tyres instead of narrow snow tyres. And this cost him almost three minutes. The times the Chesterfield man set on the second day indicated what a force he could have been had he bolted on the right rubber. Kielder lived up its reputation, leaving three of the fancied crews on the sidelines by the end of Stage 3. Magnus Wigren put his 911 off the road, while Dave Preece broke a driveshaft on his similar 911 and, despite struggling through the stage with one-wheel drive, his rally was over. Paul Kynaston failed to it more than a few corners before his Sunbeam Tiger was heading into the undergrowth.
The Hamsterly stage did little to inspire those hoping to give chase to McRae. “That was evil, Without doubt the worst stage I’ve ever driven,” grimaced 911 driver Brian Bell. “You just couldn’t stop anywhere, you daren’t use the ditches, as if you go into one of those, you’re not going anywhere.”
One driver who went to bed happy with his day’s work was Mini Cooper driver Adrian Kermode, who lay eighth. “It’s brilliant. Pauline (co-driver) and I were having a ball. All we need is a sledge under the car to stop it bottoming out on the rough stuff.”
McRae showed a chink in his armour on the opening two stages on the second and final day, a brace of icy runs through Clumber Park, as Karlan blasted his canary-yellow 911 to fastest time by 20sec. Not content with that, he took a further six seconds out of his rival on the second run. McRae admitted to a small mistake: “We had a straight-on, we stalled, dropping a bit of time before we could start again,” he ceded. McRae then successfully stemmed the tide at Donington, although he was never really forced to extend himself as the groundwork had been done the day before.
Karlan took second. His only gripe was the road mileage, “Today has been very tiring, driving a long way down just to come back up again. Apart from this the organisation has been good and we have enjoyed the rally.”
Reigning European Champion Jan Trajbold had a quiet rally, holding third for most of the way in his attempt to retain his European crown. Roger Powley attacked the second day’s stages with gusto: “I’m not going to stop trying; all Tajbold needs is a small problem and we’ll be there. Besides, we go much quicker on the asphalt, when we can find some under the ice.” His charge was to no avail, though, and he finished fourth.
First non-Porsche home was the Volvo PV544 of Stein Johnson, whose high point was passing two 911s and one Lotus Cortina on one stage. The second day wasn’t quite as successful for Johnson and co-driver Tom Grace, as the shorter stages and slightly better conditions highlighted their lack of power. Behind them came another PV544, driven by Hans Selberg who promised he had really enjoyed the snow and ice, testatment to which was the wide grin that never left his face throughout the rally. Kemlode was another to enjoy the conditions, finishing seventh in his Cooper. Rounding off the top ten were Brian Bell, Bob Bean (Lotus Cortina) and Luigi Bormolini (911).
Due to the class-based nature of the series, the FIA European Historic Trophy fell to Jindrich lndra in his Skoda S1000MB. Favourite throughout the event had been Pavel Nejedly; indeed by the finish in Leeds he thought he’d bagged the silverware, only to find the block on his Cooper was too recent and he was excluded from the results. A dramatic end to what had been a highly dramatic rally.