Rally fever descended on Mid Wales last week when the prestigious Roger Albert Clark Rally rolled into town, writes Mark Griffin.

Organised by the The Roger Albert Clark Motor Club, this bi-annual event captured the enthusiasm of rally fans of all ages, no more so than Carmarthen town centre, which hosted the ceremonial start.

Thousands of people lining the streets to witness the crews setting off for this five-day rally bonanza. The popularity was further cemented when all allocated forestry car parks around Tirabad and Llanidloes sold out weeks in advance. Not since the halcyon days of Colin McRae and Roger Clark has the sport witnessed such a level of popularity.

Travelling through Wales, Scotland and England, 165 crews from all corners of the world took to the challenge. WRC rally stars; Oliver Solberg and Kris Meeke added spice to the entry, pitting themselves against the best national rally crews of the UK and beyond.

Solberg and the Monster Energy Team have a massive social media presence, with thousands following his progress on the event. Solberg was the star performer for much of the time, leading the rally by a handsome margin until the final stages, where transmission problems intervened. Finally an off road excursion spelled the end of the event for the young Norwegian star.

Also in difficulty earlier in the event was WRC driver Kris Meeke, who despite setting fast times fell foul of mechanical problems in Cefn Llewdlo near Tirabad. Having stopped mid-stage to investigate (loosing valuable seconds), it fell to a local Mk 2 Escort enthusiast; Wayne Arrowsmith to intervene and diagnose the problem as a broken component within the distributor. Unfortunately the engine had suffered terminal damage and the Northern Ireland star retired.

Within the opening stages, Jason Pritchard was hoping to profit on his local knowledge, however brake problems hampered progress, causing the car to spin off into a ditch. Unfortunately the following two days also proved equally frustrating with another off road excursion, alternator problems and two punctures slipping Pritchard out of contention. However with nothing to lose, the local driver was on a charge on the final day, taking a succession of fastest stage times - including the final mammoth 39-mile stage known as The Big One, gaining 51 seconds on his nearest rival. Given the highs and lows the rally presented, Jason, Phil and the North Road Garage team were pleased with a podium finish - hoping to return in two years for another go!

Part and parcel of this type of endurance event is overcoming adversity; Craig Jones and co-driver Ian Taylor suffered more than most; punctures, brake problems and alternator issues, but bitter disappointment on the final stage when another puncture contributed to the car going off the road into a roadside ditch. Eight minutes were lost as spectators manhandled the car back onto the road, dropping the crew from 22nd position to finally finish 31st (5th category 2 car).

Craig Jones and Ian Taylor
Finishing fifth in category, it was character-building event for Craig Jones and Ian Taylor (Mark Griffin)

Also suffering heartbreak was Seb Perez driving the wonderful Lancia Stratos. The sound of the Ferrari V6 lit the hearts of spectators and sent a chorus of music through the pine forests. However within 10 miles of the finish line the car ground to a halt with a suspected blown engine.

Seb Perez and the Lancia Stratos
Seb Perez and the Lancia Stratos light up Crychan Forest near Tirabad (Mark Griffin)

After keeping below the radar for much of the event, it was top seed and three times previous winner Martin McCormack that took the victory laurels, five minutes ahead of fellow Irishman Cathan McCourt while Pritchard and Clark third – all driving Mk2 Escorts.

It was a wonderful event with both Brecon and Epynt Motor Clubs contributing to the success of running the stages – roll on 2025.