Rally Exclusive: Interview with Mike Broad

Mike Broad has competed as a rally co-driver alongside some of the biggest names the sport has ever seen, and in some of the most revered eras, including Group B.

A current Motorsport UK Council member, and President of the British Trial and Rally Drivers Association, he’s a man who knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the special stages. I tracked Mike down for a chat about the year that the Mintex International Rally visited Cadwell Park, way back in 1979.

Mike Broad is someone who I grew up watching in rally videos – that’s what we did in my house! He competed alongside a number of my rally heroes, perhaps most notably Russell Brookes, who we sadly lost last week.

I’ve been lucky enough to interview Mike for rally TV shows before working for MotorSport Vision here at Cadwell Park, and in fact this photo was taken a few years ago when we were talking at the launch of the British Rally Championship.

So when I found out last week that the heralded Mintex International Rally held two stages at Cadwell, I just had to arrange a call with Mike – who came second overall with Per Eklund in the Triumph TR8 – to bottle some memories of the adventure, and get his thoughts on the role race circuits are playing in rallying. Here’s what he had to say…

PW: What do you remember of the Cadwell Park stages of the rally in 1979?

MB: I have a story about those particular stages at Cadwell actually. ‘Pekka’ [Per Eklund] and I almost got done for illegal servicing.

That year, the snow was immense. Stig Blomqvist and Per would pull up at a stage and decide whether or not to drive it – and they were Swedish!

We all thought Cadwell would be wet tarmac, and were quite looking forward to it after all the snow. We’d already had the car serviced and had new tyres fitted, then we got word from John Davenport – who was our Team Manager at that time – who’d somehow got into the circuit and driven it in a road car.

John was waiting for us, with a set of 5 inch snow tyres – basically like bike tyres on a rally car, insisting that the team put these on the car because the snow was that bad. He meant business!

I actually don’t know how Per decided where to start braking – especially in a car like the Triumph TR8, which was not known for its handling.

PW: You came fourth on the second Cadwell stage, 7 seconds behind Henri Toivonen in the Escort RS1800 – surely a more suited car to the conditions – and ended up beating Toivonen to second place in the rally by almost a minute. The tyres worked, then?

MB: Yes, you could say that – we knew Stig would run away out in front in the Saab Turbo, but we never expected to beat the Escorts.

That rally was one of the most memorable of my career – how Eklund drove like he did I’ll never know. It was a real experience!

PW: Your rally career spanned eras which are now revered by rally fans and competitors alike, counting people like Roger Clark, Walter Rohrl, Ari Vatanen, Russell Brookes as team mates; friends. Were you aware at that time of how big that era would become for the sport, and what a part of history you were part of creating?

MB: No not at all, it was just what we were used to. People like Roger [Clark] and Henri [Toivonen] would just be part of the service area, whatever rally you did.

We were aware of how good the Scandinavians were, and they’d keep coming back to do rallies here in the UK. But as we went into the 1980s there were a lot more of them!

When you’re working in an environment with all of those drivers and co-drivers, you just grow into it, you don’t really notice.

PW: Alongside Russell Brookes, you took on the mighty 4wd Group B supercars, often in cars which were fighting well above their weight, for example the 2wd Opel Manta. That must have been hard work?!

MB: It was fun, competing with Russell. He would go into every rally with one goal – to win. There was no other mind set, even when he had no chance on paper. It was exciting, he was a character. You didn’t see it as fighting above your weight, because he didn’t.

PW: Race circuits are coming back into the spotlight in rallying, with Oulton Park hosting a stage of the WRC at Wales Rally GB last month. And then there’s the rise of the Circuit Rally Championship. You competed during eras when alongside stately homes, race circuits provided a different challenge in big events – what role do you think they play in rallying now?

MB: I think we’ll see a huge change in rallying in the next 3-5 years, and thanks to the Circuit Rally Championship, race circuits have already found their place in rallying ahead of that change.

I think we’ll see more closed road rallies come on to the calendar, and I see circuits – with their natural amphitheatre style experience for spectators – being part of big events like these, much like Oulton Park was at Rally GB this year.

I think the Circuit Championship has really found its level – it caters so well for club rally drivers, is entertaining for spectators, and you still get the likes of R5 and WRC cars appearing on entry lists, so the mix is bob-on.

For more information about rallying at Cadwell, visit http://www.CadwellPark.co.uk.

 

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