Paul Barrett and Gordon Noble have unfinished business with the Roger Albert Clark Rally. Two years ago their tilt at the gruelling five-day event ended almost as soon as it began with ‘engine failure’ forcing them to call it quits early on the first day.
Next weekend, however, the Clanabogan man and his Omagh co-driver are intent on progressing further, much further.
Their preparations this time around have been even more conscientious than in 2019 by having their car maintained by Wales Motorsport, who helped them through three rallies – the Nicky Grist Stages, Scottish Rally and the Woodpecker – earlier this year in order to be ‘dialled’ in for next weekend’s gruelling challenge.
In those three warm-up events, the pair won their class twice and finished second on the other occasion, which proves they have found a sweet spot behind the wheel. And having ended up ‘upside down’ after two corners of his first night time driving experience, Barrett has undertaken some extra practice in the dark to ensure that doesn’t happen again.
“In 2019 we did three stages, so this time around we want to get through much more of it,” Barrett acknowledged. “The last time we did a night-time stage we were upside down by the second corner, so that’s as much as I’ve done!
“I’d like to think I’ve learned a lesson but there’s no point in easing ourselves into it because the pace the boys will be at, there are 10 men could win that rally!”
But to win the Carlisle-based event, which covers 560 stage kilometres and 1824 total kilometres, they will need a lot of luck as well as endurance as not only do they have to get through an exhausting five long days in the car, but their machine has to withstand the battering it will take.
And Barrett believes, with the amount of effort that has gone in behind the scenes, they are well placed to do that.
“Everything this year has been tuned in for the RAC, that’s what the three events were for. To get me and Gordy dialled in and the car dialled in,” explained the Clanabogan man.
“[The RAC is] five days – Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday – and on Friday there is 130 stage miles, which is about the length of four events over here, only we have to do that in one day!
“There would be 100 hours of notes alone. It’s proper rallying, it’s proper stages, that’s what it’s all about. It’s not just about me, it’s about the car, the team, the set-up, everything – the logistics, the navigator, it’s a challenging event for everyone involved not just the driver and the navigator.
“That’s one of the reasons I asked Gordon to come on board because he’s well capable of doing the job with all of his experience and that’s vitally important because the amount of logistics and everything that goes into it is ridiculous and a third of it is in the dark!”
As well as the overall battle for victory, Barrett and Noble will be keen to top the Tyrone charts as Dungannon’s Alan Jardine, Donaghmore’s Adrian Hetherington and Cookstown’s Keith McIvor are also preparing to tackle the RAC next weekend.
“It’s good to see everyone from Tyrone who is coming over to do it, it shows how strong the rallying community is here that there are so many cars going over from here,” Barrett added.
“I’m really looking forward to it, everything is in place and the amount of help everyone is putting into it in the whole team and at work, everyone is putting their bit in to it, which means a lot to me.”
Report written by Chris Caldwell – motorsport correspondent for wearetyrone.com and its associated newspapers.
Photos by Kevin Glendinning