Nobody can ever accuse Marty McCormack of taking the easy way out. After a challenging 2012 which had seen Marty only make 2 competitive appearances, it has really been a year of quality not quantity for the former BRC Junior Champion. As the season rounded up to a close another competitive outing was called for and there is no better way to do it than how Marty cut his teeth in his historic specification MK2 Escort BDA. Set over 160 special stage miles across some of the toughest stages in Northern England – dipping into Scotland over 3 gruelling days. In the face of stiff opposition and in a car with absolutely no mechanical aids like power assisted steering or power brakes it would be a test of man and machine.
The crews tackled the high speed tests with only maps and experience to guide them. For a job this specialised it takes a precise navigator and Marty would be joined on this occasion by Phil Clarke a highly regarded and vastly experienced navigator with just the right skill set to help Marty achieve his goal of outright victory. After the two opening tests Steve Bannister had managed to gain a 10 second lead from Marty despite suffering a puncture on the opening stage. Marty came to the Dalby management service in buoyant form saying, “An escort is a better workout than any gym!” He was enjoying the experience and feeling confident but admitted he was taking time to get back onto the driving style needed to get the most from car.
Day two of the rally dawned very foggy, the miserable weather plaguing the North of England would not space the crews on the Roger Albert Clark Rally and the benefit of local knowledge would be hard to overcome in conditions which proved very hard to judge. Duncombe Park proved very tricky for Marty and Phil to get a good rhythm leaving Steve to extend his lead out to 40 seconds. Over the second pass of the stages Marty was able to show his true form, setting an equal fastest time over SS8 showing he began to get his confidence up. On the final leg of day two, ending SS15 Marty responded taking 8 seconds from Steve to leave the overnight gap standing at 24 seconds, with the biggest day of the rally remaining it really was too close to call.
The final day dawned cool and clear with 85 miles of stages remaining to be run including a 17 mile stage to finish and the atmosphere was electric right from the off. Marty showed his intentions clearly by taking 9 seconds on the opening stage, but Steve responded through the next test drawing level fastest. The afternoon continued in this vein with each one gaining an advantage only to have it snatched back. On leaving the final service, of the day, Marty was determined and it showed as he took the gap back by another 7 seconds with only 3 stages remaining. On SS22 Marty took another 6 seconds and the penultimate stage saw the talented Irish lad take the event lead by a slender 2 seconds. It really was any ones guess – 3 days, over 100 stage miles completed and it came down to the last stage.
Steve pulled into the final stage time control with a look that said he had gave it all, nervously watching his mirror and counting the seconds to see when the young Draperstown driver would arrive on his tail. The seconds ticked by – and then he appeared, well within the minute gap and all assembled knew that the spoils had gone to Marty – despite Phil Clarke’s disbelief. A rumoured last stage spin for Steve Bannister put paid to his challenge and the victory went to Marty and Co Driver Phil. Among the first to congratulate the victors was Greg McCormack – this victory for him meaning more than most after weeks of preparation and having been on the sidelines for all of Marty’s rallying career it was a sweet reward to be put into such illustrious company as the past winners of this event, an event where just finishing is achievement enough.