Tom Clarke is hoping last year’s misfortunes will be a thing of the past as he targets a big year in the Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC).
The New South Welshman has confirmed he will return to the ARC full time this year, behind the wheel of the M-Sport prepared Ford Fiesta R5 and with long-time co-driver Ryan Preston calling the notes once again.
It’s been a tough 12 months for the talented driver, who showed plenty of promise and pace during the 2022 season before a big crash in Launceston derailed his season.
Last year’s hopes of building on a solid campaign were short-lived though as constant mechanical issues at every event prevented Clarke from putting together a consistent run.
The recurring steering dramas forced him to park the car after the Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland, before he returned to the ARC for the final two rounds in his Datsun Stanza.
With M Sport having now addressed the issue, Clarke was looking forward to a fresh start and a big season in fixed car.
“We are excited for the 2024 season and have high hopes for a big year,” Clarke said.
“M Sport actually identified a worldwide steering issue with the Fiesta, so it wasn’t unique to us, but I believe they have sorted it out now, and we can aim to have a clean run this year.
“Last year was extremely disappointing to be honest – I felt like our notes had been good, we weren’t making big mistakes and we were capable of getting good results, but those issues put a dampener on everything.
“So with those steering gremlins now sorted, I am ready for a fresh start and I can’t wait to get back out there again. I am keen for some clean runs in the Fiesta and will be aiming for podiums this year.
“I don’t think it’s that out of reach either, although there is going to be strong competition again this year so it won’t be easy, which is a good thing.”
As for the Stanza, Clarke won’t be leaving it in the garage for too long despite plans to run the ARC in the Fiesta.
“I had a fantastic time in the Stanza last year and we are likely to run in it again this year,” Clarke added.
“It’s going to be a busy year with about 12 events all up. Obviously I will run all six ARC rounds in the Fiesta, as well as being locked in for six events in the Stanza.
“I also purchased an old Mitsubishi Evo from the 1990s ARC era, so I will have a tinker with that, rebuild it as a Group A car and maybe have some runs in that too.”
The Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship kicks off later this year with Rally of Canberra on 5-7 April.