The Roger Albert Clark Rally 2004 was officially launched in the Peace Gardens, Sheffield City Centre, yesterday Thursday [9 October].

The Peace Gardens were transformed by a giant stage and video screen, marking the place where details of the event were revealed between 1pm and 2pm. On show were 11 ex-works rally cars from the 1970s and 1980s. Up to 200 guests from the world of motorsports attended, along with several hundred members of the public.

The team behind the 2004 rally was introduced. John Taylor, ex-Ford works driver heads the team, which includes Geoff Round, Colin Heppenstall, Brian Avery and Graham James of De Lacy Motor Club, and Andrew Thompson and Jim Holmes of Stuttgart and Oval Ltd.

The city of Sheffield is the host venue for the four-day British special stage rally, which takes place from 20th - 24th November 2004. The event will start from the excellent facilities of the Don Valley Stadium.

The rally has been organised from an embryo idea of Paul Adams and attempts to capture the historic challenge which the Lombard RAC Rally offered and to which teams from the UK and Europe, particularly Scandinavia, flocked in the 70s and 80s: no pacenotes or practice, rain, snow, hail, fog and ice - the classic rally challenge.

The Deputy Mayor of Sheffield, Councilor Mike Pye, added: "It is an honour for Sheffield to be chosen as the host city for the 2004 Rally and adds to our growing reputation as a national centre of sporting excellence. Next years event will be one of the highlights of my term in office as Lord Mayor."

The rally will predominately feature cars from the Historic, Post Historic and Classic categories. In addition, modern non-turbo two-wheel-drive cars will be allowed to enter to complete the total of 180 competitors.

News of the rally has already spread overseas and it is anticipated that up to one third of the entries will come from northern Europe and Scandinavia.

Andrew Thompson, a member of the organising committee added: "Getting this far in the organisation of the Rally has been a huge challenge for everyone involved. We are recreating the feel of how it used to be, the spirit of how it ought to be, but safety for competitors and spectators is paramount in all our plans. The overwhelming response from grass roots rally supporters demonstrates that this event has the potential to be a fabulous climax to the British rally season. The addition of overseas competitors will add to the unique atmosphere."

Saturday 20th November 2004 will be a great day for spectators, with the cars going through covered scrutineering with tiered seating for spectators at the Don Valley stadium, where there will also be a Rally Show. Later that day, competitors will tackle a prologue stage to will set the start positions for the Rally itself.

On the Sunday, the rally heads out to some of the traditional 'spectator stages' before heading north to revisit the challenging Lake District and Cumbria stages; the rally will then paused for an overnight halt in Carlisle.

Monday morning will see the rally go even further north, to the classic old Lombard RAC Rally south Scottish stages, before returning to Carlisle for a second night.

Tuesday, the last day of the rally, will be one of the most difficult. After an early start, the cars revisit the historical challenge that the Kielder Forest complex always offered, and then south to the North Yorkshire stages before an eventual finish back in Sheffield in time for a gala dinner and prizegiving.

There has been much excitement about this event among the rallying community, Stig Blomqvist, who won the rally in 1971 and 1983, considers that it is the conditions which make the rally unique.

Blomqvist said: "Because the rally went all over the country, you never knew what was going to be ahead. I also preferred the events that had no practice and no pacenotes. Two-wheel-drive cars are also the best to do the rally, as 4wd cars are just too good for the conditions to be fun."

About Roger Clark, Blomqvist added: "I always had a good time with Roger. The only problem was when he was winning, I kept coming second!"

Per Eklund, who came fourth in the Lombard RAC Rally in 1984, said: "My first RAC Rally was in 1968 and I have done it many times over the years. I love the RAC and I would like to do the event again, it would be a dream."

David Sutton, who ran the only private team ever to win the World Rally Championship, added: "Roger was a great personal friend of mine. I still consider him to be the best British driver, and any event that keeps his memory alive gets my full support."

Summing up the launch, ex-works driver John Taylor said: "This really is the event that the sport has been waiting for. The RAC rallies of old were always the event, because of the distance, weather and night driving.

"It attracted entries from the UK, but also a significant number from overseas. It has also been seven or eight years since a rally of this size moved around the UK, particularly to the north of England and Scotland. This event is about re-vitalising the future of British rallying."

Anyone wanting further information about the rally can visit the website at www.rogeralbertclarkrally.co.uk.

 

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