McCormack survives to win star-studded R.A.C. Rally

Thursday 30 November 2023

Much to his own surprise, Irish driver Marty McCormack won the classic Roger Albert Clark Rally which finished in Carlisle on Monday – a record-equalling fourth victory which looked unlikely after he and co-driver Barney Mitchell slid their Escort into a ditch mid-way through the epic five day event.

Speaking at the finish, McCormack voiced his surprise and delight as well as some of the secrets behind his latest victory. “Nothing is ever certain on this rally and when I ended up in a ditch on Saturday, I would not have thought that I would have been standing here today, but that’s what a rally like the R.A.C. is all about,” he revealed.

“It is not about being fast all of the time, it is about being there at the finish and that is what we’ve managed to do. It’s an incredible result to win it a total of four times now. I really can’t believe it.”

Five days earlier, huge crowds had gathered in Carmarthen for the start of the biennial historic rally which would thereafter be won or lost on 350-miles of competitive stages set in the legendary forests of Wales, Scotland and England. And, with an entry list including top international stars such as Kris Meeke, Osian Pryce and Oliver Solberg – all armed with feisty Escorts – the competition would be fiercer than ever before.

Pryce was fastest out of the traps but the 2022 British Rally Champion’s Ford was forced out on the Scottish leg with an oil leak. Meeke, too, topped the leaderboard during the early exchanges but an engine issue put paid to his chances… if not his massive enthusiasm for the stunning throwback event.

Their mechanical demises seemed certain to hand the spoils to young Solberg… however the 22-year-old Scandinavian’s Escort (borrowed from father Petter and running on Carless’ latest generation Hiperflo ECO98 R70 biofuel) suffered a driveshaft failure late on Sunday evening. An issue which forced him out of the running and handed the advantage to McCormack.

Even more cruelly, perhaps, Seb Perez was denied what would have been a thoroughly deserved second place when his stunning Lancia Stratos stopped on the very final stage.

With the crowd-pleasing Ferrari-engined Italian icon parked by the wayside, the Mk2 Escorts of Cathan McCourt/Liam Moynihan and Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke rounded-off an all-Ford podium – the perfect tribute to the late, great Roger Clark who twice won the original RAC Rally in a Ford Escort.

Despite none of the big names making the finish, the Roger Albert Clark is being widely hailed – with the organisers and volunteers receiving huge praise from crews, fans and all involved.

“We had 1,600 marshals out on the rally and I’d like to thank every one of them for supporting the event,” said rally manager Colin Heppenstall. “We’ve had a record entry and record numbers of spectators, so there is clearly still a big appetite for forest rallying in the UK. All the forestry areas we have visited have been very supportive of the event.”

Roll on November 2025 – for many it can’t come soon enough!