There is now little more than a week to go before the Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire plays host to one of the world’s premier events for historic rally cars – the superb Roger Albert Clark Rally – on Saturday 3 December.
The R.A.C, named after Seventies British rallying great Roger Clark, recreates the Lombard RAC Rallies of old and a time which many believe were motor rallying’s glory years. For tens of thousands of enthusiasts the charismatic event has become an annual road trip as they follow its route – this year from Friday 2 to Monday 5 December – and competitive timed stages in North Yorkshire, Northumberland, Dumfries & Galloway and Cumbria. Furthermore, it is traditional for many public to stop and wave to the crews as they pass along main roads en route to each stage.
Two of those spectacular stages – along with a major service area that will enable the fans to get a close-up look at the cars as they are worked on – will be held at Croft Circuit, just outside Darlington on the Saturday (3 Dec).
The competing cars will start to arrive at Croft as drivers and their navigators ‘clock in’ to the service area from 3.32pm. The two stages – each a ‘double run’ of the full Croft race track – will commence at 4.10pm and then 4.24pm. It means spectators will see the cars pass four times with the enticing prospect of two or three ‘live on stage’ at the same time.
Tickets will cost just £10 (payable on the gate) with free admission for children aged 15 and under.
The 70-strong entry is full of iconic Sixties, Seventies and Eighties models of car with Lancia Stratos, Lancia Fulvia, Saab 96, Talbot Sunbeam, Hillman Avenger, Porsche 911s, plus Ford Escort MKIs and MKIIs all listed.
Among the top names are 2010’s and 2009’s respective winners, Belgium’s Stefan Stouf and Gwyndaf Evans (also a former British Rally Champion), plus newly-crowned back-to-back British Historic Rally Champion David Stokes. Also watch for Phil Collins – himself another top ex-name from the British Rally Championship and co-driven, notably, by Nicky Grist who navigated Finland’s Juha Kankkunen to the 1993 World Rally Championship title and who then went on to form a six-year partnership with the legendary Colin McRae in the WRC.
More locally, Beverley’s Guy Smith – the winner of the world-famous Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar race in 2003 – is also entered as are Tim Pearcey (Harrogate), Tim Mason (Bradford), Steve Perez (Chesterfield), Charlie Taylor (Northallerton) and Dave Hemingway (South Elmsall). All are among the UK’s top historic rally drivers, while numerous others from the North East region are also on the entry list.
After dazzling regional and national TV, print, radio and on-line media during a preview event at Croft earlier this week, Smith, who these days commutes to America to race sportscars, commented: “Croft will make for a very exciting addition to the R.A.C Rally’s route and it’s great to see it included in such a prestigious event – one thing I really like about this event is the interaction between the drivers and the public. This is also the only stage we face on asphalt as all the other stages are on gravel tracks in the forests so I hope, with my circuit racing background, I can put in some quick times. But it’s something of a star-studded entry list and getting near the top ten times just at Croft will be quite an achievement.”
Another of those to entertain the media this week was Taylor, who has twice previously finished fourth outright on the R.A.C. He said: “It’s very important that Croft, which is home to motor sport in the North East, is part of the R.A.C route. I think it’s going to make for a really spectacular stage for the public, particularly with the views from the spectator banking – they overlook the first few corners and I expect there to be a lot of sideways action through there.”
Reigning Historic Rally Champion Stokes, a Ford team-mate to Roger Clark in the Seventies, was also present for the media preview having set off at 4.00am from his home in Gloucestershire to meet the media! He added: “Croft makes it that bit more accessible and convenient for the public at large to come and see what the fuss is all about with proper viewing and catering facilities.
We’ll be hitting some serious speeds here and with the great noise these cars make and the fact we’ll have the headlights on at dusk it’ll make for a really magical atmosphere.”