REPORT BY: Keith McGhie 

COUSINS Dave and Jamie Forrest are still celebrating after capping their best ever season by steering an ageing but trusty Ford Escort to third place in its class on arguably the biggest and certainly hardest rally on the UK calendar.

The closest the cousins came to coming to grief was on the final night stage of leg four in the notorious Kielder Forest complex, as Jamie, who lives and works in Skipton, recalls: “All was going well until halfway through when we hit a massive hole, or should I say ‘crater’, on a square left hand bend and the steering wheel was ripped from Dave’s hand as the car was launched into a ditch.

“Thankfully there were enough marshals present to help push us out so we were lucky, as there were two other crews parked up nearby with bits missing from their cars!”

It was Bradford-based Dave’s fourth attempt and third completion of the arduous Roger Albert Clark Rally, now into its 20th year of re-enacting once World Championship round RAC Rallies (initials are purely coincidental) of the sport’s golden era of the seventies and eighties.

The recently crowned Northern Historic Champions' achievement also completed a ‘mission’, as clearing the 33rd and longest stage of the five-day, 350 competitive miles of slippery action enabled Jamie to pay tribute to his late father John.

“After we crossed the ‘flying finish’ on the last stage Jamie went back and scattered the last of his ashes,” explained Dave.

“John had done many RAC rallies himself back in the day as both he and his brother Geoff - my dad - were members of Shipley and District and Airedale and Pennine Motor Clubs, so also both huge enthusiasts.

“This one was a lot harder than the other RAC’s we’ve done - the toughest yet - as it was very icy and slippery and you are up and off at 7am and not back to service until sometimes half past ten at night.

“The lads at service reckoned they got about 16 hours of sleep over the five days and the crew and Chris Dyer, who built the car and works for me at Strasse Porsche in Leeds, are as important as either driver, navigator or car on events like this.”

Friends and fellow local Escort crew Paul Rawson (Bradford) and Mike Curry (Cleckheaton) were less fortunate - forced out after the second day with engine failure.

The time-honoured Fords still managed to fill all of the podium places as Irish star Marty McCormack posted a record-equalling fourth victory in the bi-annual test of speed and endurance which this year covered parts of Wales, Cumbria and Scotland and attracted 160 vehicles and competitors from as far afield as Sweden, Spain, Italy and Belgium.

Almost a third of the crews failed to make the Carlisle finish.

The Forrests are next due back on the gravel tracks in their native Yorkshire for the Riponian Stages in February.