The Roger Albert Clark Rally – McCormack makes it four as the stars falter

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The 2023 edition of the Roger Albert Clark Rally, run on 23-27 November, was the best yet with a huge entry, massively increased spectator numbers and fierce competition across 350 miles in the forests of England, Scotland and Wales. 

The star names came and made their mark but, ultimately, it was three-time winner Martin McCormack who added a fourth victory to his tally, while his co-driver Barney Mitchell took his third win from three starts with their Ford Escort Mk2.  They took over the lead when young WRC contender Oliver Solberg and co-driver Elliot Edmondson broke a halfshaft late on Sunday.

Sadly, Perez and the wonderful Stratos, that had thrilled the fans for five days, suffered water pump failure in the final stage and was out

Paul Lawrence reports….

A huge buzz developed in the run up to the 15th running of the event that recreates the original RAC Rally of the 1970s and 1980s.  Star names Solberg, Kris Meeke, Chris Ingram, and Osian Price all committed to competing in historic specification cars and added to an incredibly strong entry from regular historic contenders, as well as a gaggle of two wheel drive cars running in the concurrent Open Rally.  It all added up to the biggest and best yet as the starters assembled in Carmarthen on Wednesday. 

The first big indication of just how popular the event has become came on Wednesday evening during the ceremonial start in Carmarthen town centre.  The quiet Welsh town had rarely seen the like of it, as thousands of people packed into the town square to wave the 155 starters away.  Estimates suggested at least 5000 people were on hand and for many of the competitors it was a scene they had never experienced before. 

Solberg’s five and a half minute lead was converted into a four and a half minute deficit

The meat of the competition started on Thursday in the forest of South Wales, notably Crychan and Cefn and it was local ace Price with co-driver Rhodri Evans who cut the early pace.  They ended the day with just a one second lead over Solberg and Edmondson while McCormack and Mitchell slotted into third, despite a scare when an electrical short threatened to put them out of the rally very near the start.  In far greater trouble were Meeke and Noel O’Sullivan, who hit engine timing issues with their Ford Escort Mk2 that would sideline them before the end of the day.

For a full report see the January/February 2024 issue of Historic Motor Racing News.

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