Roger Albert Clark Rally November 19-22
Fresh from winning the 2005 British Rally Championship in a Ford Focus, Mark Higgins stepped back 30 years in technology to win the second Roger Albert Clark Rally in a BDA-powered Escort Mkl.
Higgins and Peter Martin dominated the event, which celebrates the RAC Rallies of the 1960s and ’70s, to beat ’04 winners Stig Blomqvist/Ana Goni by more than four minutes after three full days of rallying in ice and fog.
“It’s just fantastic,” said Higgins at the event’s Sheffield start. “I’ve not been as excited about a rally for a long time!” Ahead of him lay 29 special stages in the best tradition of the classic RAC Rallies, with the real meat of the event in the forests of the Scottish borders. The final day included a big challenge with 70 stage miles in the Kielder forest.
Despite minimal time in the car before the start, Higgins quickly took control and stretched clear of Blomqvist’s Mk2 Escort. Only a trip up a firebreak on the final morning threatened to stop him, but a willing gang of spectators hauled the Escort back onto the track with only a minute lost.
Jimmy McRae and Campbell Roy challenged the two leading Escorts on the early sections, but a time-consuming off on ice during Monday morning preceded terminal engine dramas for their Porsche 911 the following day. Also out with engine maladies was the Lancia Stratos of Steve Perez/Steve Harris, but not before the mid-engined supercar had thrilled the fans.
“The weather was a bit worse than last year,” reported Blomqvist after finishing a clear second. “The ice was not too bad, but it was tricky in a few places. It’s been good fun,” he added before heading to Africa for the start of the Safari Rally.
Leading the British Historic Rally Championship crews were Jeremy Easson/Alun Cook and David Stokes/Ian Oakey in their Escorts. Easson had a strong run to third, while Stokes had to change a damaged axle at Carlisle on Monday night. Martin Freestone and Joanne Lockwood ran their Mk2 example to fifth overall, Freestone competing in Kielder for the first time in more than 20 years. Sixth went to the 1.6-litre class winning Escort of Vince Bristow and Dean Mitchell.