After all of the trials and tribulations encountered by Team NET-HERO over five days, Tony Jardine’s carbon neutral outfit finished the final day of competition with a flurry that saw them climb from 135th place to 75th after penalties had plunged them down the leader board.
An encouraging early 40th on Day Two and fourth in class meant that the final fifth in class was just one place lower than the car had been when it had planted itself into the dirt in Kielder Forest. That incident, and the severe weather that plagued the rally on the same day, felt like an age away as the toughest and biggest stage rally of the year reached its terminus under the Christmas lights of Carmarthen on Monday evening.
It had been all smiles in the Team NET-HERO camp after Leg 1, after a steady start to their rally saw the Hillman Avenger of Tony Jardine and Allan Harryman sitting in fourth place in class, and 40th overall, after an evening’s competition that saw plenty of cars succumb to the tough stages. “It was like a scrapyard” said Jardine, speaking of the cars that had suffered on the ice that had formed on Special Stage 4. “We just took it steady, didn’t try to push too hard and just aimed to make it safely back to service.” Four stages completed the evenings action, as the cars rallied on an increasingly icy surface on forest tracks lined with fans, despite the chilly conditions. Several high profile drivers were caught out by the freezing surfaces, including Top Gear’s Chris Harris and predicted front runner Roger Chilman, both of whom ended up in the undergrowth.
Trouble hit the Hillman Avenger of Tony Jardine and Allan Harryman on day two of the Roger Albert Clark Rally, as an off on stage 6 caused a premature end to their day. Problems had beset the duo before that though, shock absorber failure and more brake issues on the first stage of the day had already caused problems. The crash took place almost within sight of the end of the stage, and a corner that was sharper than expected forced them wide then airborne over a big rock which caused suspension damage and left them stranded in a bog below the road. Mere minutes later the Avenger of Rory and Paul McCann, teammates of Jardine and Harryman, suffered an off on the same corner, hitting the same rock, but they were not so lucky, as the car suffered severe damage in a multiple roll. Thankfully all involved are unhurt. After recovering the NET-HERO car to the service park at Kielder, the team set about assessing the damage and fitting many new parts including an entire new brake system, a different gearbox and the spare suspension and steering rack to replace damaged components to make the start of Leg 4 in the morning. Despite continued transmission and engine issues, the car climbed back up the leader board. Right to the end, black ice, polished ice and treacherous conditions made the event one of the toughest for a while, a real throwback to RAC Rallies of the 80’s and 90’s.
The rally hadn’t gone according to plan, and the campaign of Jardine and co had suffered its fair share of issues, but at the final time control the car ultimately made it to the end and in years to come it won’t be the finishing position that is discussed, it will be remembered as being the first overall team carbon neutral entry of its kind. This message was ultimately more important than the overall position, and whilst trophies are nice, the lifespan of the planet and, concurrently the lifespan of the sport that we love is a more valuable prize. The forests of England were always going to be a superb shop window for a carbon neutral approach, but with the extreme weather encountered on the rally, the message is even more pertinent than it was.
Speaking at the finish line, driver and instigator of the Carbon Neutral campaign, Tony Jardine had this to say: “After the trials and tribulations, including a big off, we are relieved and delighted to complete the adventure that is the Roger Albert Clark and stagger across the finish line. We had a mission to deliver the carbon offset message to the rally community and get to the finish line in the process, showing what is possible for now and for the future of the stunning forests of the UK and the world. We think we achieved that and the interest in the NET-HERO program was most encouraging. I’d like to thank my team for all of the hard work in less-than-ideal conditions, and all of the sponsors that made it possible for us to deliver such an important message. Without Pirelli, MIS Insurance, Alpinestars, 3D Motorsport and of course all at NET-HERO we could not have taken our message to the wider rally community.”