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A truly epic 7th instalment of the Roger Albert Clark Rally saw Stefaan Stouf & Joris Erard (Escort MkI) take a well earned victory, after a superb measured drive all event long. 2nd place was only decided on the 4th day of the event as Gwyndaf Evans & John Millington (Escort MkII)) eased past Andrew Haddon & Mark Crisp (Escort MkII) on the penultimate stage to finish 2nd, just over a minute behind the winners. 4th place was also sorted out on the final day in the favour of Paul Griffiths & Sam Collis (Escort MkII). Lying 5th overnight Griffiths decided to attack on the final two stages and managed to overhaul Phil Collins & Nicky Grist (Ascona 400) to secure 4th place. The main heroes of the event though were not the competitors as the rally even running was a miracle and full credit must go to Colin Heppenstall and his team for making changes on an almost hourly basis to keep the event going.

So how did we get to this result? Well Stouf started well taking a stage on the opening night to lie second overall behind Rob Smith & Shaun O’Gorman (Chevette). After the first stage Leigh & Chris Armstrong (Escort MkII) led the rally before Darren Moon & Malcolm Smithson took the top spot after the 2nd stage and the first run of Dalby but an excursion into a snowbank on the 2nd run of Dalby saw them slip from the lead.

Day 2 saw Stouf pushing Smith and eventually overhauling Smith for the lead on the 3rd run of Olivers Mount. Smith then fell back with two punctures in Hamsterley. Nick Elliott & Dave Price (Escort MkII) closed up to within just a second of Stouf & Erard after the first Hamsterley but Stouf fought back to hold an overnight lead of 11 seconds.

Day 3 was set to be an almighty battle as Ae was first on the schedule and unlike the rest of the stages this one was only icy and for large stretches dry and dusty even. Elliott stormed into what would have been the lead by a third of the way through the stage but a puncture whilst taking an attacking line saw his attempt falter. Elliott then retired on the next stage, after putting the car in a ditch on Twiglees. Smith was still lurking and managed to get the gap down to 13 seconds before the last stage of the day, Newcastleton. This stage was snow bound and shortened and Stouf kept his head with a measured drive whilst Smith got sucked in by a snow bank, losing 3 minutes in the process and ultimately retiring from the rally.

Meanwhile behind Evans had been making rapid progress from 24th overall on the opening night and was now 3rd behind Haddon, after finally getting the right rubber from Pirelli for the conditions. Evans then took 2nd on the final day and it was a rally of what ifs, where all the Dunlop crews had been given the opportunity to run on the right rubber from the start. Credit must also go to the other main pre-event favourite Mark Higgins. Co-driven by Dale Furniss in his Escort MkII, Higgins was running on DMack rubber and they do not yet make a snow tyre. He completed the event on gravel tyres and eventually took 7th overall. Higgins earned a lot of respect from us for persevering where many other drivers would have given up and called it a day.

In the Open event Dave Hemingway & Simon Ashton (Escort MkII) pretty much led from the word go and won by 3 minutes from Marcus Noble & Brian Hodgson (Escort MkII) with Andy Madge & Pat Cooper (Corolla) rewarded with 3rd place, their best finish after competing in all of the RAC rallies run to date.

The Kall Kwik, run on Friday night and through the Saturday Yorkshire stage, saw Stuart Wood & Errol Bairstow take their Opel Astra to victory by almost a minute and a half. Conor Flynn & Mark Mason (306 GTi) showed all their ice and snow training to take a creditable second against far more experienced crews with Tony Jardine & Byron Young (Fiesta ST150) entertaining on their way to 3rd overall.

The Dalby Night Rally saw Amanda & Derek Cornforth (Ka) win against much more fancied opposition with a measured drive in the atrocious conditions. The Clubman Rally, run on the Sunday only, saw modern technology win as James & Claire Roberston took victory in their C2. The the final rally, the Kielder Challenge, sadly did not get the chance to run due to the severe weather conditions in Kielder forest and the ultimate re-routing of the main rally.

Video to follow eventually.

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