Classic Ford - Graham Robson: Fiesta Group 2 Rally Cars
"Closing Time - Clark's Fiestas"
July 2006



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Graham Robson: Fiesta Group 2 Rally Cars

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.....On the Welsh International, however, there were signs of encouragement, for the little Fiesta (Roger's 'other' car, on this occasion, PNO 613R, which had originally been used in practice for Monte Carlo) finished strongly - all 35 stages in 48 hours, most of them loose and somewhat rutted - with Roger and co-driver Jim Porter winning their capacity class. Even so, Roger's times never featured on the leaderboard, and the fact that in the end he took 20th overall was little consolation: traction, especially out of slow corners, was still a problem, and there seemed to be no immediate solution. But, a finish was a finish, and with silverware on the sideboard this was a great advance.

Now there were four weeks to get the car back to Boreham, to rebuild it, develop some more if time permitted, and get it ready for the four-day Scottish Rally. For this event the trouble would not all be one of traction in the loose, but of keeping dust out of the engine, and keeping up with the GRP4 machinery on the ultra-fast stages in the Highlands.

All well and good as plans go, but the problem was that in May Boreham was concentrating hard on getting three Escorts ready for the Acropolis (which Bjorn Waldegard eventually won), an event for which Roger was drafted in as a substitute for an injured Ari Vatanen.

No time for innovation in Scotland, then, but that didn't matter, as Roger's hard-working Fiesta broke down on the third stage, with blocked fuel lines. He spent 50 minutes waiting to be recovered, took most of his road lateness having the car fettled, and then spent the rest of the event running at the tail among the Army Land Rovers! "I believe we've set some kind of a record," co-driver Jim Porter quipped, "for the longest-ever stage time on a Scottish rally."

Roger kept plugging on, and finished absolutely nowhere in the results, but was in such good humour throughout, and seemed so determined to get the Fiesta to the end that the organisers presented him with the 'White Horse Spirit of the Rally Award'. Since the prize included £150 and a very large bottle of White Horse whisky, Roger was not heard to complain...

In fact he said that down at the back of the field, his fellow competitors were the finest bunch he had ever met, while Jim Porter stated that: "At least they can speak English at this end of the field..."

For Roger and Ford, however, the season had well and truly gone off the boil. Experience with this car, and with the BDA-engined machine run by Haynes of Maidstone, had already shown that the Fiesta was never likely to match the pace of the Escorts. Behind the scenes, in fact, Boreham was already building a 'Fiescort', which looked rather like an Escort, but had a front-engine/rear-drive layout, including the use of a Hewland transaxle in the tail. Nothing much would come out of that project either.

After a summer lay-off (where Boreham was, in any case, heavily involved in getting works Escorts ready to go to Finland, and to Quebec) Roger's Fiesta started the all-tarmac Manx International, where it was flattered by starting in fifth slot, behind four ultra-powerful works GRP4 cars - Escorts, Saab 99, and Vauxhall Chevette HS. Once again driving DHJ 500T, a car which Boreham had optimised for tarmac events,.....

Captions -

Top-Middle - Pre-Monte Fiesta preparation, at Boreham, January 1979.
Top-Right - Roger Clark's Fiesta started the 1979 Monet Carlo Rally from London with a startling red-and-white colour scheme.
Middle-Left - Initial Monte Carlo rally preparation of DHJ 500T, with the car still on slave wheels.
Middle-Right - Although Roger gave it everything on the Manx International Rally, an engine oil leak, and eventual clutch failure, spoiled his run.
Middle-Left - Underbonnet detail of the 1.6-litre engine, showing the electronic ignition pack, and a spare ignition coil.
Middle - Plenty of space in the engine bay for the Brian Hart-developed 1.6-litre 'Kent' engine of the 1979 Fiesta.
Middle-Right - For the 1979 Monte Carlo rally, Roger Clark's Fiesta was decked out like the works Escorts on the same event, and carried 'Motorcraft' sponsorship.


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