The R.A.C Rally is about to roll back the years

There is something inherently nihilistic about being a spectator of a rally.

From camping out – probably in the back of your car – with early morning alarms set so you can catch a glimpse of motor vehicles hurtling along country roads, through to the generally drab and dreary British weather accompanying your day out, rallying’s faithful fans can be accurately described as a little crazy. But as any motor-sports fan will tell you, ‘nothing beats seeing the cars in front of you.’ That is why people do the strange things they do in the name of motor-racing and more so to view the art of rallying first-hand. Thankfully for rally fans, a great event is about to take place that will surely set the pulses racing.

The Network Q RAC Rally of Cardiff (or whatever it is called) has recently finished with Jari-Matti Latvala and his co-driver Miikka Anttila picking up the victory, but for those up in the north of England and those longing for the glory days of rallying in Great Britain, fear not. Over the weekend of December 2nd-5th, the Roger Albert Clark Rally (R.A.C) takes place. Named after the greatest rally driver of his generation, the R.A.C rally brings together cars of the 70’s and 80’s together for a rip-roaring, adrenaline filled few days of action across the North of England (and a bit of Scotland too).

Starting at Duncombe Park in the North York Moors and taking in two stages at Croft Circuit outside Darlington and extending all the way up to the Borders region of Scotland before ending in Carlisle city centre, a plethora of historic rally cars will compete for first place in Britain’s premier historic rally. As the official website states: “No four-wheel drive, no turbos, just good ‘old-fashioned’ power sliding!” Expect to see classic rally cars such as Ford Escort 1600’s, Porsche 911’s and the famous Lancia Stratos take on some of the toughest roads that the north of England (and a bit of Scotland) has to offer.

The rally started in 2004 was won by the world renowned rallying legend Stig Blomqvist, who was run close by other competitors including ex-BTCC (British Touring Car Championship) driver Ray Bellm and multi-time WRC (World Rally Championship) race-winner Hannu Olavi Mikkola, has grown year on year with the event itself now expecting to bring around £1m to the local economies whilst providing some exciting rallying to it’s dedicated following.

For the first time in it’s history, the R.A.C rally will be holding a handful of stages at Croft Circuit. Croft might be more known for hosting rounds of the BTCC and the BSB (British Superbikes) but on the 3rd December Croft Circuit will be turned into a make-shift rally course. Even though the majority of the cars entered into the R.A.C are upwards of thirty-years old, they are still more than capable at break-neck speeds, and that – I was told – was not at full throttle. The Croft stage is designed to bring the cars to the viewing public, as well as providing a unique test for the drivers and cars alike. With a designated Service Stage where the cars can get the once over by their over-worked road-crews, it also allows the crowds the chance to get up close and personal with cars and drivers alike, before taking in the cars tackle the circuit. As well as providing a stage where you do not have to traipse into the middle of a forest to get a great view of the action, or face a monumental journey to get a much needed cup of tea!

The event has gain considerable press coverage in the North East of England, with the press day being attended by both BBC and ITV film crews who lined up alongside journalists (and myself) for a ride in some of rallying’s legendary cars. Even at half-throttle and on the relatively safe confines of Croft’s main loop, speeds of around 120mph were reached, with the drivers casually mentioning that they’ll be driving at those same speeds through forests and hill roads when possible. A frightening thought.

pic: Chris Boothroyd

The weather might have been damp, foggy and a bit dreary, but that is part of rallying surely? The drivers did not care as they bounded around happily giving interviews and talking about their cars; most of which are financed out of their own pocket. The talk amongst the paddock was that Welton’s Guy Smith could be the man to beat in his Ford Escort MkI, though he’ll be fighting off competition from around Europe as rallyers come from far and wide to take on what the R.A.C has to offer.

It might be cold, it might be rainy. But you won’t see action like this anywhere else in the U.K.

But winning isn’t everything, even within the R.A.C rally. Robin Shuttleworth and his co-driver Ron Roughead decided to forgo all their sponsorship money this year, instead donating every penny they recieved to the Yorkshire Air Abulance.

Sports Updates UK will be at Croft on the 3rd December and you should be too! Entry to Croft costs £10 (free to Children) and are either available on the day, or in advance from

For more information on how to watch the rally when it is away from Croft, and on the Roger Albert Clark rally itself can be found at and you can follow the event live on twitter too; @racrally


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