If evidence were needed as to how far the legend of Scottish racing driver Jim Clark stretches, look no further than the entry list for the motor rally that bears his name. This coming week, hundreds of rally crews will descend on the Borders town of Kelso for three days of racing on the same country lanes where a young Clark learned his driving trade. Among them are future world champions from Finland, seasoned campaigners from Yorkshire, and first-timers from just a few miles down the road wondering if they will be able to follow in Clark’s footsteps.
One crew stands out in the ‘home town’ column of the entry list, though. Adam Spence and Erin Kelly. Hailing from Sydney and Brisbane respectively – yes, that’s Sydney, New South Wales, and Brisbane, Queensland – Adam and Erin are making the journey to Scotland specially to compete in the Jim Clark.
A crack team in the Australian ‘targa’ closed road racing series, Spence and Kelly are keen to see how they measure up against the current stars in the British Rally Championship – a series that has been a proving ground for some of the greatest names in rallying history. With the Australian targa events being contested on closed asphalt roads, the Jim Clark Rally seemed the natural choice for Adam and Erin’s introduction to British rallying.
However, the crew are under no illusions about the magnitude of the task in front of them. Narrower roads, night driving and unfamiliar tyres all lie ahead – not forgetting, of course, the famously unpredictable Scottish weather! Adam and Erin will also be swapping their usual steed, a turbocharged Renault Megane, for a high-revving Honda Civic Type R. Lancashire-based rally preparation experts EuroRallye are supplying the Civic, and have been working round the clock to get the Honda decked out in a special livery devised by Adam’s Redback Racing crew and their sponsors.
“I’ve been looking at the stages quite a lot, and to say they are different to the Australian roads would be quite an understatement. They are so, so different. The roads I have seen are extremely narrow and unforgiving in terms of run off areas and will put much more demands on the navigator to get calls out pretty rapidly”, admits Adam. “In Australia the roads are primarily far more flowing and wider. The average speeds I am used to would be higher but I am totally realistic that the Jim Clark is going to be a very steep learning curve for both myself and Erin”.
“We are in a new car with no real testing, this is going to be a complete learning curve for me”, Spence continues. “I am pretty sure Erin and I are on the same page that we want to be at the finishing line as our number one goal, but also to start to try and get some pace as we get used to the roads and the car. We are just excited about being here at the event, to be honest”.
The EuroRallye Honda Civic Type R will be running as car number 27 on the Jim Clark Rally. The action gets underway on the evening of Friday 31 May then continues over Saturday 1 June, taking in more than 130 miles of the Scottish Borders’ toughest lanes.