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Eccleshall rally star follows in mum's footsteps

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: February 13, 2014

By Kerry Ashdown

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RALLY star Harry Gardner from Eccleshall is 25 years old and already has a string of successes to his name.

By coincidence he went to the same secondary school, Blessed William Howard (Stafford), as did young rally driver Jacob Watts, who was featured in last month's Newsletter rally article.

Harry's family own the company Norman & Birch Ltd who have been in Hanley for more than50 years. It is a motorbike shop currently selling new and used motorbikes and catering for servicing and repairs. Harry works in the family business as a director.

After his early school years he attended both Stafford College and Staffordshire University studying business management.

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"Now everyone in my family has been racing something at some point. I followed in my mum's footsteps of wanting to take up rallying," said Gardner.

"My mum Susan Birch used to rally Mk1 and Mk2 escorts in the 1980s. She won the BTRDA ladies' forest stages championship and when I was born retired from competition.

"Now, no discredit to my mum's abilities but, finding support and sponsors is way harder for me being a male than it is for a female."

Elliot Graham, from the Staffs village of Leigh, is Gardner's co-driver and his former's father, Andrew Graham, is not only a Gardner family friend but he also won the Heart of England Rally Championship in 2009. Little surprise therefore that Harry and Elliot would link up to rally together.

"I want to progress as high as possible in rallying and at this current moment, all my time, effort, and money goes into my rally car and paying for my team.

"To make the next step up I need some support, guidance and a good car, " said Gardner.

"I currently rally a Peugeot 106 Cup car in the BTRDA national gravel series. In 2012 I won the 8-valve championship and this year has been a massive upgrade to the super category.

"Lots of third places and fastest stage times have resulted in a lot of component failures and fifth in the championship.

"To be honest the 106 is getting dated and just couldn't hold together when I wanted to push.

"I managed to buy an aging 1997 Subaru Sti rally car which I only drove literally onto the trailer before my first time in a 4WD car on the Red Kite Stages rally in June 2012.

"I got seeded a lowly car number 35 out of 80 starters. After a day of cars holding me up, and with no fifth gear, I finished second overall, seven seconds behind the overall winner. It was just an awesome day against cars of more power and better specification.

"We have looked at many options for this year, but have decided that the most cost effective and competitive way is to go with the two-door Subaru I purchased last year.

"The car had a shake-down event on the Red Kite rally but an exhaust manifold failure caused us to retire on the second stage.

"It has now undergone a comprehensive rebuild and transformed into a B13 class turbo car."

Gardner and his co-driver Graham, are doing the BTRDA (British Trial and Rally Drivers Association) 2014 championship together with selected rounds of the Welsh Rally Championship this year.

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