There was an air of nervous excitement in the air of the Roger Albert Clark paddock on the morning of the second day, and if the previous evening had been a sort of prologue, this, the first full day of action, was very much a hop skip and a jump into the main event. The route would take the crews straight into the heart of the action, on a day of stages in Kielder Forest, one of those magical place markers in rallying, ensconced in the folklore of the sport and a place to both relish and respect in equal measure.
By the end of the day Kielder would have its say in the direction of the rally for many, with another four cars on the retirement list and a further 22 going out across the day, but hoping to restart. As a rate of attrition, it was certainly high, but not unexpected with its reputation as ‘killer Kielder’, the largest man-made forest in England.
The action was spectacular, forest stages at their very best and whilst rain overnight had left the surface slippery in places there was also plenty of grip to be had, which was put to good use by overnight leader Jason Tauber Pritchard, who was drifting and floating his Escort along the stages with poetic precision. Overhead the sun shone, and the forecast of impending weather doom seemed far away, but as the day progressed and the clouds rolled in, the first flaky hints of what the evening would have in store began to float down from the sky.
As it was the bad weather hit with venom, and with the high winds toppling trees the organisers were given no choice but to cancel the evenings remaining stages, despite a valiant attempt to complete the programme. The cancellation left the overall results in some confusion, but there was no doubting of the leading pair as Pritchard and Clarke built upon the lead that they had started the day with.
⚠️ Event Stopped
Due to the extreme weather, high winds and falling frees, event organisers have stopped tonight's event to protect everyone in the rally.
Normal service will be resumed tomorrow as we tackle Leg 3.#RACRally
📹 Car 150 pic.twitter.com/FdSjfLmoPd
— Roger Albert Clark Rally (@RACRMC) November 26, 2021
Whilst the weather had put paid to the day’s competition, further back in the standings the problems had arrived sooner for Tony Jardine and Alan Harryman. The pair’s service team had put an admirable shift in the previous evening, working until 2am to iron out the car’s niggles, but clutch and suspension problems began to strike at the NET-HERO team on the very first stage of the day.
It would be the days second stage, Chirdonhead, that would prove to be the Achilles heel of the carbon neutral pioneers, as the car slid off the road agonisingly close to the stage finish and beached itself in the boggy verges that are so common under the trees of Kielder. Once rescued it was clear that damage to the front suspension would spell the end of the day’s competition for Jardine and co, but it could have been so much worse, a fact that was proven when the Avenger of Rory and Paul McCann went off the road in the same spot as Jardine and Harryman and rolled. Both crew needed to escape through the windscreen, and whilst pilot and navigator are fine the stricken Hillman is less so. Sustaining heavy damage in the incident it is unfortunately out of this year’s event.
Another long night in service awaits the NET-HERO team, but there is optimism within the camp that the car will be ready for action come the morning. They will need to burn the midnight oil once again and will also need to brace themselves against the advancing Storm Arwen, but with so much time invested already there is no chance that they will give up now.