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  • Writer's pictureDrew Bentham

RAC Rally Round Up - Day 5

Solberg is back!
Solberg is back!

We all know it. We've all said it before. Everyone who attempts it knows its reputation. And yet, Kielder bit again.

A raft of offs, slides, rolls and mechanical failures threw the leaderboard into disarray yesterday in true RAC style. Even Oliver Solberg wasn't immune. Late on during the final stage, Harwood 2, early reports came in that he'd left the road. It later transpired that he was simply parked up at the side of the stage with half shaft failure. A cruel end to what had been an inspiring and blistering run in Petter's own, Viking Motorsport maintained MK2 Escort.

But the story wasn't over. The team got the car back to service and worked hard throughout the night to return the car back to service. First thing this morning. the team announced they would be back to complete the remaining 5 stages of the rally, to everyone's rejoice. Elswhere we are still waiting to find out how many of the 32 competitors who can rejoin, actually will do.

So onto the final day of the RAC rally. 76 stage miles across 5 stages face the crews as they head out of service this morning, including the self billed 'The Big One'. A monster 38 miler to finish the rally.....and potentially some of the cars. All before the ceremonial finish back in Carlise.

The first stage of the morning served up yet more drama and heartache. Knowing he only had one choice to push, Solberg set out into SS29 Shepherdshield on a mission. But it was a push too far as he went off the road, mis-judging the grip levels in the mud, 3 corners before the end of the stage and ending his 2023 effort. His performance had been outstanding and entertaining in equal measure though and I'm sure he'll be back in future events.

McCormack had a good run setting a time of 6:20 through the 6.6 miler. The beloved Stratos developed a starter motor issue in the stage but is expected to be fixed at the final service. Barry McKenna went off in the stage also proving just how tricky these stages can be. Jason Pritchard made it through unscathed after holding a little back but still set the fastest time of 6:18. It seemed as though fortune favoured the cautious through this stage.

In SS30 Pundershaw, more fell on their gearlevers. Rob Barrett, Phil Morton and Alexandre Felsenhart all stopped before the stage. Niel Weaver, clear leader in the open rally, developed a misfire throughout the day but continues. Heartbreak for Ben Friend/Cliff Simmons who slipped off the road in Pundershaw and into deep mud. Jason Pritchard came through ok to match Martin McCormack for fastest time with a 6:15 through SS32 Hopeside. Ieuan Evans are off in Hopehouse, the steering breaking at speed, both crew are ok.

Up to now there had been so much drama , it felt like the world was willing everyone to get to the finish safe. But it was not to be. The rally, ney Kielder has not finished with the crews just yet. On the mammouth 38 mile finale, another 5 crews were to fall foul of the infamous complex and the final hurdle. One crew inparticular, who everyone was willing on, ran agonisingly out of luck. We had seen previously that the Stratos had blown a radiator hose and was plooming steam from its rear quarters. It would transpire that the cooling problems hadn't completely gone away, though. Part way through the final test, the water pump in the Stratos of Seb Perez and Gary McElhinney cried enough and it was this that led to terminal overheating and their inevitable retirement. A very cruel end to what was a great drive and taming of such an infamous car, so close to the end.

Perez out on the last test
Perez out on the last test

That left the remaining crews to get home. Martin McCormack, having driven a measured drive all rally, brought it home in first place to notch up his 4th RAC victory. Following him over the finish line was Cathan McCourt in second and a very surprised Jason Pritchard in third. A well deserved reward for perseverring over adversity given his luck this year.

The final results for this years Roger Albert Clark Rally are:

Final results overall

Congratulations to all the teams and crews, to the 1600 marshals and everyone involved in the media coverage for such agreat event. There will be a post rally analysis report coming in the next day or so so please check back for that. Until 2025...

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