The Roger Albert Clark Rally has boasted star winners and entries so far
The entry for the inaugural Roger Albert in 2004 was modest, but a fine battle developed between Malcolm Wilson and Stig Blomqvist. Wilson’s charge finally came to an end up a Kielder firebreak and Blomqvist won in style. “It is no different to 1983! This is the way the rally is supposed to be,” said Blomqvist. A year later the 2005 edition was a real toughie, as fog and ice covered 29 stages. “It’s just like a proper RAC Rally,” said Mark Higgins after dominating the rally.
Snow and ice was also a feature in 2006, the heartbreak year for Jeremy Easson and Alun Cook. Unbelievably, the rally was decided in the final mile when Easson’s throttle linkage came apart and he lost victory as Jimmy Mcrae swept ahead. Mcrae was in the spotlight a year later after a mighty battle with Steve Bannister, and only a puncture in Kielder settled the matter for Yorkshire ace Bannister.
There was unfinished business for Malcolm Wilson and he returned in 2008 to take a commanding win. “It’s so sweet to win my hero’s rally,” said Wilson. Gwyndaf Evans was another star winner in 2009 and then again in 2011. His second victory marked the third overall win for ace co-driver John Millington.
Deep snow in Yorkshire and Kielder and freezing conditions made the 2010 rally an incredible test and through it all for victory came Belgians Stefaan Stouf and Joris Erard in their Ford Escort Mk1. Heppenstall and his team worked miracles to run an event in such conditions and completely re-routed the final day into Kershope forest when the main Kielder block was deep in snow.
The 2012 rally was an utterly compelling event as an epic lead battle raged between Marty Mccormack and Bannister. Both drove brilliantly and neither deserved to come second as Mccormack clinched it on the final stage.
The 2013 rally provided Bannister and Kevin Rae with a rather more straightforward victory, while the most recent event in 2014 fell to Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis. In each year, an Open Rally has run alongside the historics for all twowheel-drive cars and Bannister, Dave Hemmingway and Martyn Hawkswell have all been multiple winners. In 2014, Nigel Barber drove the doors off his Vauxhall Astra to become the only non-Escort driver on the event’s roll of honour.
Rally legend Stig Blomqvist won the first R.A.C. in 2004 against Wilson Gwyndaf Evans:winner in ’09,’11 Martin Mccormack: tight 2012 win