A car destroying roll on the event 12 months ago has done little to lessen the insatiable appetite for speed of octogenarian Bob Bean as he bids to clinch another national title at this weekend’s Trackrod Rally Yorkshire (Friday, September 28th and Saturday, Sept 29th).
Legend is an over-used and often under-earned word but Bob, from Cleckheaton near Bradford, has almost done it all in an amazing career that has spanned six decades.
The 80-year old retired farmer first sat in a rally car in 1960 and rose to the heights whereby the Escort Mexico he campaigned in 1972 was fully supported by manufacturers Ford.
He has competed right across Europe and Africa and returns to the North York Moors Forests on Friday in a 1962 Lotus Cortina, bidding to clinch both the BHRC2 section of the Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Rally Championship, for drivers of pre-1968 and other historic cars below 1600cc.
Last year Bean barely got past the spectator area at the Woodyard in Dalby Forest on the opening ‘night’ stage when he and then co-driver Malcolm Smithson tipped an ageing Ford Escort onto it’s roof and out of the rally.
“We wanted to carry on but the roof was bent and the windscreen was broken so they wouldn’t let us,” insisted the only man believed to have done all (or nearly all – memory maybe not as sharp as his driving these days!?) of the Trackrod rallies which have been running continuously bar one year (due to foot and mouth) since 1977.
“My first international was in a Cortina in the mid-sixties and we smashed the windscreen on Friday night then too,” says the veteran driver who has done more RAC Rallies (now Rally GB) than anyone in history.
“We had no windscreen but carried on all the way through to the finish on Sunday and it never stopped raining.
“We got soaked again and again yet still finished 19th overall!”
Bean and Smithson bounced back to win their class on the Roger Albert Clark Rally last November but Bean has teamed up with a new navigator this season in Miles Cartwright, from Scarborough.
“It was nothing to do with the accident,” assures Bean. “Malcolm decided it was time to bow out and thought it was best to do it on a high.
”The BHRC2 title race has become a winner-takes-all affair with Bean locked in battle with a Ford Anglia driven by Welshmen Malcolm Rich and Arwel Blainey. Whoever finishes highest takes the trophy. Bean added:
“My aim was to get 80 and then take a look at things, but on my 80th birthday I went out on the North Wales Rally and won our car’s category outright and so I’ve carried on.
“If we have a good weekend coming up we can still win the title.
“The last round – the Rally Isle of Man (on closed public roads) was cancelled, which was a shame as I don’t go too badly on tarmac so everything comes down to the Trackrod.
”Bean and Smithson will re-untie to do the ‘national’ support event to this years Rally GB -Britain’s round of the World Championship – which begins just five days after the Trackord.
Before that he will again be one of the centres of attraction when the crews line up along Filey Beach Road from around 6pm prior to Friday evening’s start and opening stage, again in total darkness, in Dalby – passing the scene of last year’s terminal accident.
All the Trackrod Historic Cup cars and drivers, plus a handful of army Land Rovers, will be available to talk and pose for photographs before the first competitor crosses the start ramp an hour later.
The following morning the Trackrod Forest Stages Rally contestants, many chasing points in the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA Championship as well as various other national and regional title races, will join in for the other five stages.
Both the start and finish, from mid afternoon on Saturday, are completely free to onlookers,who are encouraged to use the special spectator areas in Dalby (Woodyard andHousedale [Saturday only]) and Cropton (Spiers House, also Saturday) to catch the action.
These areas have full facilities, including refreshments and toilets, with Dalby Woodyard also carrying informed commentary – more details of which are on the rally website.