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RAF Marham turns into rally track for the weekend

PUBLISHED: 18:07 13 September 2008 | UPDATED: 11:01 08 July 2010

An RAF rally car team set off at RAF Marham's first motorsport event, held in memory of World Rally Championship driver Richard Burns. Picture by Ian Burt.

An RAF rally car team set off at RAF Marham's first motorsport event, held in memory of World Rally Championship driver Richard Burns. Picture by Ian Burt.

As the heavy dawn mist lifted from Britain's largest operational air base this morning, a rather unusual sight was to be seen.

RAF Marham's Tornado GR4s were safely tucked away and in their place were some 9,000 cones and straw bales marking out what is one of the biggest rally events Norfolk has seen.

As the heavy dawn mist lifted from Britain's largest operational air base this morning, a rather unusual sight was to be seen.

RAF Marham's Tornado GR4s were safely tucked away and in their place were some 9,000 cones and straw bales marking out what is one of the biggest rally events Norfolk has seen.

Entrants in the two day event span from World Rally Championship (WRC) driver Markko Martin in a 2008 works Subaru Impreza to a 1960s Lotus Cortina.

But despite the differences in their machines, all 110 drivers are there to take part in the Richard Burns Memorial Rally, celebrating the life of England's only WRC champion, who died in 2005 aged 34 after a two-year battle with brain cancer.

The champ, who won the crown in 2001, had visited the station in 2000 and was given a flight in a Tornado - in return he gave crew a spin in his rally car.

Rally enthusiast Sergeant Chris Daykin's 20 minute lesson with the soon to be champion sparked both a friendship and set him on the path to his own rallying career.

It also sparked the idea for the weekend rally raising money for the Richard Burns Foundations, which was set up to inspire and support people with serious injury and illness and the RAF benevolent Fund.

“It was a great experience,” said Sgt Daykin. “I was already acting as a marshal at rallies and that 20-minute lesson gave me the impetus to build my own car and start competing in my own right.

“He was a hero of mine and inspired me and kept an eye on my career so I thought why not have a race here.

“It was quite emotional on the start line watching the WRC Subaru go down the track.”

RAF Marham's first rally is to cover 100miles in eight stages, complete with hairpin corners, straights, chicanes and plenty of gravel.

In position one was the 2008 WRC Impreza driven by Markko Martin, 32, who had competed alongside Richard Burns in the WRC from 2000 to 2005.

Other cars due to race over the two days include an Aston Martin DB9, an Austin cooper S, Ford Escort Mk2s, Audi Quattros, BMWs and several Imprezas and Mitsubishi Evos.

Norfolk drivers include Ray Brammer of R B Trucks at Downham Market, Dennis Marshall of Marshall Cooke Racing, Diss, Tony Hewitt from Halesworth, Tony Wales from Downham Market and Stephen Tilburn and Robert John, both of Hylton Gott Ltd Subaru, Downham Market.

A guest navigator is Neil Cole, a comedian and presenter of the World Rally Championship programme on satellite channel Dave TV.

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