Sideways to Victory!

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“Sideways to Victory!” by Roger Clark, in collaboration with Graham Robson. 256 pp. 8 3/4 in. 5 3/4 in. (Motor Racing Publications Ltd., 56 Fitzjames Avenue, Croydon, Surrey CRO 5DD. £4.50.)

Sometimes taciturn, sometimes downright mischievous, with an earthy humour, Roger Clark is probably without question Britain’s greatest-ever rally driver. Above all his is the skill and the success to which all young British rally drivers aspire.

Now, at last, we are told the background to the career of this supreme master of car control, who rose from the Obscurity of Leicestershire club rallying in Ford Thames vans in 1960 to being the only Briton to win the RAC Rally since it moved into the forests at the beginning of the sixties. Flow prophetic Roger Albert Clark’s initials proved! Clark is not one to boast nor even talk much about his background and achievements, so this long-overdue autobiography owes much to the arm-twisting of his collaborator, that prodigious motoring writer, erstwhile top codriver, Graham Robson who dropped Clark from the Triumph team whilst he was competitions manager in 1964.

We hear of Clark’s first works drive, in ‘a Reliant Sabre (“a big Ford engine at one end and a petrol tank at the other, tied together with steel members . . . I didn’t enjoy the drive at all”) in the 1963 Alpine Rally, of Spen King criticising Roger’s sideways technique and demonstrating the “correct” racing method (he demolished a row of marker poles—”there wasn’t a lot said after that”) during Clark’s “whale of a time” in two years with the Rover team and of how his class win with a Rover 2000 in the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally was a watershed in his Career, the end of “the Roger Clark—driving hooligan” image. There’s much praise for his co-driver since those early days in 1960, Jim Porter, for Norman Masters, who always prepares Clark’s Escorts, and for the Escort itself.

Disappointingly, this autobiography from this “man who has a reputation for idleness” is skimpy in discussion of his driving techniques; he admits to not being very analytical in a car; driving on instinct. There’s a discussion of how to start rallying (“autocross and driving tests are good training”), of sponsorship, of the Marathon events and a look at rallying’s future.

Of his tactics, he says,”I rely on Jim’s calculations and my own native cunning to go as slowly as I dare . . I can’t see any point in thrashing the car to win by a distance when the odd minute or so is quite enough”. Appendices give the specification of a works Escort and list Clark’s successes from 1961 to November 1975, including 44 national and international rally wins and six Scottish Rally victories.

Some of the early chapters are chronologically jumbled, while later chapters are a Ford benefit—understandably, for Clark has driven for Boreham for 10 years. But this wellillustrated book is good reading, Offering instruction and encouragement to youngsters with rallying ambitions.—C.R.