Brecon-based rally driver Craig Jones says he is ready to tackle the biggest challenge of his career when he contests the Roger Albert Clark Rally on Thursday, November 23 to Monday, November 27, just eight months after a crash nearly left him wheelchair bound, writes Ian Harden.

And he states, it is all thanks to help from his many friends.

Jones made the decision to contest the marathon five-day event while he recovered from the heavy crash at the North Wales Stages in March. The accident happened when Jones and co-driver Ian Taylor got off-line over a crest and hit a water-filled rut that pitched them at high speed into a ditch.

“My back was in agony straightaway and I knew something was seriously wrong” said Jones. “I’m so grateful to (fellow competitors) James Lepley and Simon Jones for stopping to check on us, and to the marshals and Rescue units for getting me out safely.” Jones spent several days in hospital, where X-rays showed three badly cracked vertebrae.

“It was a miracle that my spinal cord wasn’t damaged. Although it was a close call, I wanted to return to rallying. We decided to enter the Roger Albert Clark Rally because it is the most challenging event on the calendar.”

Temporarily confined to a wheelchair, Jones continued running his garage business, CMJ Motors, helped by family and friends. Melvyn Evans Motorsport repaired his historic Ford Escort Mk1’s bodyshell, while his rallying associates fitted new suspension and other major components.

Jones said he is incredibly grateful for their assistance: “Everyone has been great; (my sponsors) RHL Steel Erection and Cladding have helped pay for the repairs, while Jez Macwhirter, Ashley Morris and Jay Perola have put in some real shifts; Ashley has been at the garage sometimes until 2am fitting new parts.”

His highest praise, however, is for his wife, Kristina: “She has been my rock throughout all of this. She really doesn’t want me to rally again, but she knows it’s in my blood and she will support me whatever.” 

Jones and Taylor shook the rebuilt Escort down at the recent Carlisle Stages Rally. Driving steadily, they were rewarded with 14th overall and fourth in class. Jones later said he was pleased to be on a decent pace all day and that the car just needed a spanner check in service.

With a good result now under his belt, Jones says his confidence has been boosted ahead of the five days and 325 stage miles that the ‘Roger Albert’ offers competitors. He said: “It’s a big deal for me, both returning to rallying and going almost straight into a major event like the Roger Albert. But I’ve had so much help from so many people that I’m confident we can get a good finish. A lot of very good friends have got my back, in every sense.”

Jones would like to thank all his backers and sponsors: RHL Steel Erection and Cladding; CMJ Motors; ABX Roofing Supplies; JayJays Brecon; Glanusk Services, Sennybridge; Bysiau Windy Corner Coaches and Nesta Taxis; Adams Autos, Llandovery; Evans and Son Rally Spares; Macwhirter Motorsport; Connaught Competition Engines; Lively Race Graphics; Black Mountains Media.