A TWO-MAN team of Vale of Clwyd drivers have taken the high road to Scotland with their classic Ford Escort Mark Two in a bid to retain their title in the Historic Car Class at the Argyll Rally.

Will Rowlands and Rich Birch took the title on the spectacular Cowal Peninsula last year with a sizzling display over two-days which also saw them finish 19th overall in one of Scotland’s premier motorsport events.

Will, a plumber, and Rich, a maintenance supervisor with Denbigh-based Lock Stock Self Storage who have sponsored him for the event, arrived on Wednesday ahead of the Friday evening start.

The pair, both 39, have known each other since their schooldays at Denbigh High School and are both members of Clwyd Vale and Bala Motor Clubs.

Their car dates back to the golden age of rallying in the 1970s when Britain’s Roger Clark twice won the RAC Rally in an Escort when the forests of North Wales were the cockpit where he battled against legendary Flying Finns Hannu Mikkola and Timo Makkinen.

Those superstars would all recognise the car piloted by its owner, Will, with Rich in the co-driver’s seat and which is based around an original 1970s body and rebuilt using an engine and parts identical to those from the Seventies.

The rear-wheel drive car is powered by a classic Ford Cosworth BDG two-litre engine blasting out 270 horsepower and the pair are well-stocked with tyres for the rally.

Rich said: “We won the Historic Class last year and finished 19th overall out of 140, ahead of plenty of cars which cost a lot more so we were really pleased. It was good to be up there battling with the big boys.

“Will and I have known each other since school and we’ve been into rallying for a long time – the first time I saw it on television I was hooked.

“I was only about seven and I just couldn’t believe these guys were driving cars so fast between the trees.

“There’s a great relationship between us in the car. We might look like Laurel and Hardy but we know each other really well.

“It’s a brilliant event on the Cowal Peninsula, all run on over 60 miles of tarmac roads which are closed for the event, including two stages on Friday evening through the town of Dunoon followed by three more including a final 14-and-a-half-mile stage.

“Then next morning we’re back for another eight stages – we’ll have recce’d them on Thursday and Friday – to the finish late on Saturday afternoon.”

Lisa James, of Lock Stock Self Storage, said: “We’re delighted to support Rich. He and Will are really passionate about rallying and it will be good to see the Lock Stock logo flying round those stages in Scotland.

“We like to get behind local people and organisations, including those involved with sport, and we’re hoping they’ll bring back the trophy again.”

It’s been a frustrating season so far for Will and Rich who have had mechanical problems at earlier events but they are hoping the Argyll Rally will kick-start their season.

Rich added: “We’re expecting it to be quite hot up there and very dry which can take its toll on tyres so we’re taking plenty of spares.

“We’ve had a bit of bad luck so far this year but we’re hoping that’s behind us now and we can do well in Scotland and then in August we’ve got the Rali Bae Ceredigion in Aberystwyth.”

Lock Stock, founded in Denbigh in 1999, is the UK’s largest containerised storage company with over 3,500 units providing over four million cubic feet of space at 22 parks across North and Mid Wales and the border counties.

Their existing sites stretch from Holyhead and along the North Wales coast at Caernarfon, Bangor, Llandudno, Abergele and Rhyl, on the Dee at Flint, Saltney and Deeside and inland at Denbigh, Mold, Wrexham and Newtown in Powys, and at Oswestry and Shrewsbury in Shropshire.

The company also specialise in the off-site hire of containers such which can be delivered by their specialist lorry, sizes range from 10-feet long up through 20-footers to 40-foot units, all eight feet high and eight feet wide, from 640 to 2,560 in cubic feet in volume.

For information about Lock Stock Self Storage including off-site container hire contact them on 01745 817178 or go to https://lockstock.biz/

You can keep up to date on Will and Rich’s progress online including live video and full results via Facebook, Twitter or the website at www.argyllrally.co.uk