Great racing cars: 1978 Ford Escort Mk2



A series taken from the 164-page Motor Sport special Great Racing Carswhich is available to buy here

To buy the lead image click here.

From the editor Damien Smith

How would you define a ‘great’ racing car? Race wins and championship titles are an obvious place to start – and admittedly, when we began the process of rounding up the ‘voices’ to fill this special magazine, published by the team behind Motor Sport, we had in mind the likes of the Lotus 72, Ferrari F2004, Porsche 917, Audi R10 and so on.

But as the interviews of familiar racing figures began, we realised greatness is often a very personal thing. Naturally, most – but not all – would pick cars they had experienced first-hand, as a driver, designer, engineer or team boss. And on occasion the cars that stood out in their minds as ‘great’ weren’t necessarily so in the grand scheme of history. That’s why you’ll find a Minardi here among Formula 1 cars from Lotus, Williams and McLaren.

Unexpected? Certainly. Wrong? Not to the man who chose it.

As the interviews accumulated, our magazine took on a life of its own, full of personal anecdotes about the myriad cars that made careers. Some of those we spoke to, such as Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney, couldn’t be tied to a single choice from multi-faceted lives at the wheel. Such heroes have earned the right to choose an F1, sports and Indycar, so we allowed them more than one bite.

Others refused to be confined by category. Hence the short ‘Odd ’n Sods’ chapter on cars that, by and large, are mere footnotes in lower divisions of racing lore.

Thus there is nothing definitive about the selection listed herein. Then again, there’s no claim that this compilation offers the ‘Greatest Racing Cars’ of history. It’s much more personal than that, much more quirky – and all the better for it.

Malcolm Wilson
1994 British rally champion, ex-works WRC driver, boss of M-Sport team

It was versatile, so easy to maintain and run but, most importantly, it was just an absolute pleasure to drive. The sensation and the feeling that you got through the steering wheel was something else and then there was the noise from that two-litre engine. I’m still passionate about that car today and I don’t think in 30 years there’s been a rally car that sounds as good when being driven properly: there was no better music.

I think I’m the only person in the world to have driven every single model of World Rally Championship Escort, from the 1300 right up until the last World Rally Car.

The first ex-factory car that I got from Boreham was a Billy Coleman car, with which I won the national championship, so that obviously meant a great deal to me. And then we built up a car at M-Sport to win the Roger Albert Clark Rally in 2008.

We finished it on the morning of the start and did the rally with no shakedown or anything like that, which you could never do with a modern car. There was just the knowledge from my guys and me in terms of what needed to be done to the car – it helps that it’s such an easy car to drive. In fact, I still don’t know why I had so many accidents in Mk2 Escorts. Maybe I was more on the limit in those days.

From the Archive: “The Welsh International rally” by Gerry Phillips (June 1978)

We have already written in this issue of Motor Sport (page 811) of the exciting, well-matched duel in Portugal between Hannu Mikkola (Ford Escort RS) and Markku Alen (Fiat 131 Abarth), resolved on the very last special stage when Mikkola lost his slender lead by collecting a puncture. Just three weeks later in Wales, Mikkola set the balance level again by comfortably winning the International Welsh Rally with his regular partner Arne Hertz. Alen was in second place for a while, but in the second half Roger Clark and Jim Porter got their Escort ahead of him and pushed the Fiat driver down to third place.

Two young drivers deserve to be singled out, Graham Elsmore and Malcolm Wilson, both driving Ford Escorts. Their performances, coupled with their past achievements, indicate that more success could be in store for them. Unfortunately, neither appeared in the finishers’ list of the Welsh Rally, Wilson having his clutch disintegrate with considerable force and Elsmore being disqualified (he would have been fourth) by the stewards for indulging in servicing at a place other than one of the specified areas. He suffered a broken gearbox shaft on the startline of a special stage, pushed his car back out of the way and later had the gearbox changed when his service car arrived.

To read the rest of this article click here.

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