The Roger Albert Clark Rally will conclude with a mammoth 39-mile final stage, the longest gravel special stage in UK rallying for 40 years.
The stage, being called ‘The Big One’, will run in the early afternoon of Monday November 27 and will be the deciding stage in the marathon event. The 2023 Roger Albert Clark Rally will run from 23 to 27 November covering 350 stage miles in the forests of England, Scotland and Wales.
‘The Big One’ will run in the Pundershaw region of Kielder forest in Northumberland and will cover 39.22 miles. Earlier in the day, much of the stage route will be used in three stages which will then be joined up to give the rally its longest ever special stage. It will take the leading crews around 40 minutes to complete the stage.
Rally manager Colin Heppenstall said: “No one has run a stage of this length for a very long time and it will be a real sting in the tail. A lot of people remember the long stages run on the original RAC Rally and we thought it would be good to re-create that era. The stage could have a dramatic impact on the final results!”
A similar, but shorter, Pundershaw stage was run on the 1995 Network Q RAC Rally, covering 36.59 miles. The stage was won by Carlos Sainz (Subaru Impreza 555) in 31m36s from Richard Burns (Impreza 555) and Alister McRae (Ford Escort RS Cosworth), though the rally was won by Colin McRae in his Subaru Impreza 555.
However, it is 40 years since a longer stage was run and that was in Yorkshire on the 1983 Lombard RAC Rally when SS16 in Dalby was a mammoth 40.50 miles. The stage and the rally was won by Stig Blomqvist (Audi Quattro A2) and he completed the stage, which crossed the forest drive to link other forests to Dalby, in 36m30s.
Leading contenders in this year’s Roger Albert Clark Rally say that it will be a massive challenge and that tyre choice will be critical to make sure the rear tyres on the more powerful rear-wheel-drive cars can last the distance.