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rac12 (8)Wow, is all we can really say about the 2012 Roger Albert Clark Rally. Martin McCormack & Phil Clarke (Escort MkII) started out as car 1 and took their first victory on this endurance event, but the story was not as simple as that as they spent most of the event behind Steve Bannister & Kevin Rae (Escort MkII). Bannister made his mark on the opening night opening up a 28 second lead on the Dalby stages he knows so well, but Saturday saw him gain no more time as McCormack set two stunning times through Pundershaw to leave the gap unchanged. With half the rally left on Sunday McCormack attacked and the battle was on. Craik proved critical setting up McCormack who went into the penultimate stage 5 seconds back and came out 2 seconds up. The last stage was the sting in the tail, Kershope at just over 17 miles and the longest of the event. Bannister was first on the road and pushed hard but a spin near the end cost him dear as McCormack set fastest time by 15 seconds to take an emotional victory.

It really was the stuff of fiction as a script writer would have struggled to come up with a better ending. Both crews had given it there all and one spin and a puncture on Friday night for Bannister proved to be the difference. With such a close battle up front it was easy to overlook how close the rest of the top ten was. Matthew Robinson and Mick Gilby (Escort MkII) held 3rd place early on and kept it until they retired after the first stage of Sunday, then it was a hard fought battle between the Escort MkII trio of Paul Griffiths & Jon Madoc-Jones, Will Onions & John Millington and finally Darren Moon & Andrew Roughead. Moon hit trouble in Riccarton and fell back first before the re-run albeit in reverse Wauchope saw Griffiths drop 3 minutes. Onions held on took 3rd overall by just 15 seconds as returnee Jeremy Easson & Alun Cook (Escort MkI) set 3rd fastest time through the final test to win category 2.

It is hard just to highlight the top runners as there were great battles throughout but the rest of the top ten ended as follows; Moon recovered to 5th behind Easson after beating Seamus O’Connell & Andrew Sankey by just 2 seconds through the final stage. 2010 RAC winners Stefaan Stouf & Joris Erard (Escort MkI) were 10 seconds behind O’Connell to take 7th overall and 2nd in category 2. Just over a minute further back in 8th were Charlie Taylor & Steve Bielby (Escort MkII) ahead of Griffiths in ninth. Completing the top ten were top pinto engine finishers Guy Woodcock & Graham Dance (Escort MkII) with a giant killing performance.

The open rally had its dramas too as Allan McDowall & Gavin Heseltine (Kadett) had been leading almost all event to then end up off the road and in a river on stage 22 of 24. This handed victory to 2011 RAC open rally winners Martyn Hawkswell & Nick Welch (Escort MkII) who had been keeping the pressure on McDowall all event. Nigel Barber & Stuart Popplewell (Astra) were just under two minutes back in 2nd place with open rally regulars Dave Hemingway & Simon Ashton (Escort MkII) completing the podium.

Then there were the other smaller rallies which supported various sections of the overall rally. The De Lacy Night Rally was won by Mathew Smith & Giles Dykes (Ka), the Peregrine Print Stages Rally was won by the sole entry of Michael Kent & Miles Cartwright (Sunbeam), the RAC Clubman Rally was won by Chris White & Chris Dewsnap (Escort MkII) with the Return Challenge going the way of Alan Hughes & Ken Bills (Escort MkII).

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