Rally of legends

Wednesday 22 November 2023

The best ever entry list, the longest and toughest route and big stars joining the field make this year’s Roger Albert Clark Rally (23-27 November) the finest so far.

An incredible line-up of more than 160 legendary rally cars will gather in Carmarthen on Wednesday for the next day’s start of an epic adventure. The Roger Albert Clark Rally is one of the world’s greatest stage rally events and is a throwback to a time when the British round of the World Rally Championship was the original RAC Rally of the 1960s and 1970s.

More than ever before, as the Roger Albert Clark marks its 20th anniversary, the sense of excitement and anticipation has been building for weeks and weeks. The presence of some legendary rally names on the entry list adds another dimension to this fabulous event.

Proudly heading the field away with number one on the door will be three-time winner Martin McCormack and his co-driver Barney Mitchell in their familiar Ford Escort Mk2. They know more about winning this event than anyone, but McCormack also knows that he faces a huge challenge from the cars running close behind. Kris Meeke and Noel O’Sullivan, Oliver Solberg and Elliot Edmondson and Osian Pryce and Rhodri Evans are all outstanding competitors in more Ford Escorts – the icon as rallied by the great Roger Clark himself to famous RAC Rally wins in 1972 and 1976.

The progress and pace of stellar visitors like Meeke and Solberg – the latter’s twin-cam running on Carless’ latest generation of sustainable biofuel – will be surely one of the key talking points. However, just behind them run Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke, who have every reason to be confident going into the event. They have based their whole season around this rally and winning it is unfinished business for Prichard who has led twice but is yet to score the result that his paced deserves.

Richard Tuthill and Stephane Prevot take over the Porsche 911 that Ryan Champion used to win overall last time and is determined to take on the Ford Escorts. Meanwhile the sensational David Appleby Engineering Triumph TR7 V8 of Chris Ingram and Alex Kihurani is another fabulous entry from a world class driver.

The quality in depth just goes on and on, with crews like Roger Chilman and Patrick Walsh, Paul Barrett and Gordon Noble and Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis all at the lower end of the top 10. Belgian driver Ghislain de Mevius and co-driver Johan Jalet will be up there and more strong Escorts come from Ben Friend/Cliff Simmons, Cathan McCourt/Liam Moynihan, Richard Jordan/James Gratton-Smith and the veteran Steve Bannister and co-driver Callum Atkinson.

Peppered into the top 20 is the iconic Lancia Stratos of Seb Perez and Gary McElhinney which, with its magical Dino V6 engine on song, will surely be one of the most popular cars with the fans. While close behind is another Porsche 911 for asphalt ace James Ford and Neil Shanks. Former WRC driver Gregoire de Mevius and Andre Leyh bring their wonderful Nissan 240RS whilst 2010 winner Stefaan Stouf has ace Welsh co-driver Dai Roberts alongside in his Ford Escort Mk1.

Of course, this rally is not just about the star names at the head of the field. All the way down the order are people having a rallying experience of a lifetime. For many, simply getting to the finish will be their own personal triumph while others will be aiming for class success.

Rally manager Colin Heppenstall said: “We are delighted to unveil the biggest and most competitive entry so far in the 20 year history of the Roger Albert Clark Rally. We thank everyone who has supported the event to give us such an incredible entry and the level of competition, both overall and across the classes, is going to be immense.”

The action kicks off early on Thursday morning with battle joined over 33 stages totalling no fewer than 350 competitive miles taking crews through the legendary forests of England, Scotland and Wales. Classic tests including Crychan, Hafren Sweet Lamb, Myherin, Ae, Kershope and Pundershaw are all on the itinerary – the spectacle not only wowing thousands of new and old spectators but also injecting and an estimated £2.5m into the regions that the event visits.

Hotels, guest houses, pubs, restaurants, shops and garages along the route will benefit from the spending by competitors, spectators and event officials. Indeed many hotels in and around Carmarthen and Carlisle have been fully booked out of season for many months. The nostalgic event also generates at least a further £2.5 million for the UK rallying industry.

Saving the best to last, the incredible revival will conclude with a mammoth 39-mile final stage, the longest gravel special stage in UK rallying for 40 years.

The grand finale – being called ‘The Big One’ – will run in the Pundershaw region of Kielder Forest in the wilds of Northumberland and will cover 39.22 miles and could take some of the less powerful cars close to an hour to complete!

Please follow the event web site for up to date information www.racrmc.org or Facebook @RogerAlbertClark.