A couple of months ago I introduced myself and my Mk2 Escort rally car to the mag, shortly after making an appearance at Ford Fair at Silverstone in the summer. The car was well liked by the crowds, and the drifts and donuts we demonstrated seemed to go down well with showgoers. But, that’s not what this car was built for. First and foremost it’s a rally car. And this month I’ve been up in the Scottish borders for the Jim Clark Rally.
This was actually my first closed-roads stage rally since I competed in the Jim Clark Rally way back in 2013, having concentrated mainly on the circuit rally championship events over the past few seasons.
For this event I was joined by local co-driver, Richard Simmonds, for the first time. We arrived in town of Duns in the Scottish border roads on the Thursday before the event and used our time to recce the stages and make the necessary pacenotes.
2019 saw a welcome return of the Jim Clark Rally after a five-year absence from the calendar, but unfortunately two of the stages were cancelled on the Friday night due to poor weather conditions. That meant only the Abbey St Bathan stage ran, so we took it really steady to make sure we had a chance of tackling the Saturday stages.
With all the recent rain, the conditions were very tricky and inconsistent. There was a lot of water running off the fields and across the roads, and with many of the front-runners cutting the corners it also dragged a lot of muck on to the tarmac too. It was a real effort just to keep the car in a straight line, with literally too much power available from the Millington engine than the conditions could take.
On Saturday morning there was ice on the early stages, but once the sun came up there was a bit more grip and we made our way up the leader board with some great times in the Blackadder and Langton stages.
However, as temperatures started to drop in the afternoon the roads became very slippy. Sadly, I was caught out by a sharp left hairpin in the Fogo stage – we arrived with way too much pace, slid off the road and continued through a gate post into the field. There were plenty of spectators around to get us out of the field and back in the rally, but unfortunately we had ripped off a brake line and broken a track rod end, so sadly that was the end of the event for us.
One hundred cars started the rally on the Friday afternoon, but only 65 reached the finish. Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes won the event, driving the latest-spec Ford Fiesta R5.
Despite not ending the way I would have wanted, it was fantastic to be a part of the Jim Clark Rally, it’s amazing to see the huge support from all the local people, and rally fans lining the streets to welcome all the cars. And I have to say a huge thanks to my service crew, Luke Saddington and Jim Bean, because without them I certainly wouldn’t be able to go rallying.
For us now though, it’s back to the workshop to fully assess the damage and start preparation and repairs for the next rally. We’re hoping to have the Escort back together and fighting fit again in time for the Christmas Stages rally at Croft on the 15th December.