ROAD safety campaigner Steve Johnson saw his car terrifyingly flip over during the Gareth Hall Memorial Stages – but he remarkably recovered to finish third in class.
The Accrington rally ace, a prominent road safety figure in East Lancashire, had already smashed into a bank earlier in the rally in north Wales when he went off again in wet conditions.
His slide into a field was caught on camera as his Nissan Micra rolled over as it went down a hill.
Incredibly both Johnson and his regular co-driver Steve Butler avoided injury in the incident, and they were even able to continue the rally after spectators helped to push their car 30 yards back up the hill and on to the road.
Things got even better when the withdrawal of two rival cars saw them finish third in their category.
“When the car went over I thought, ‘Oh no, here we go again’,” Johnson said. “I have had one or two rolls before, which is not something I’m proud of.
“The last one happened 15 years ago and I had another one on a rally 30 years ago at the time when I was training for the fire service.
“I’d already slid off in the sixth stage in this event, hit a bank and bounced off it. We lost about three-and-a-half seconds and it put the steering out a bit, but we finished the stage and then took both front wheels off to repair it and get the tufts of grass out.
“Light rain started which made it very slippery before the eighth stage and I slid off on to the grass.
“You could say I ran out of talent!
“The grass took the speed off but then the car dug in.
“We rolled over 360 degrees before the car landed back on its wheels.
“It was quite a soft roll, we didn’t hit anything hard.
“We were both uninjured and apart from the panelwork the car wasn’t really damaged.
“The cars are very strong, they have a roll bar and they are built to withstand that sort of thing.
“More people die in fishing than in motor sport.”
Johnson was grateful to the spectators who helped get the car back on the road.
“We tried to get going but because the grass was damp we couldn’t get up the hill,” he said.
“But half a dozen spectators helped us and we found a route back to the road.
“If it wasn’t for their help we wouldn’t have finished the rally.
“The last few stages went without incident and I couldn’t believe it when we found out two crews failed to start the last stage and we were elevated from fifth to third in class, and 25th overall.”
Johnson promotes road safety and also works with the Under 17 Motor Club, which gives young people the opportunity to drive in motor sport events.
The club will take part in a Go MotorSport Live event at Ormskirk Motor Fest at the weekend.
The event attracted crowds of around 20,000 last year and the Under 17 Motor Club will give free passenger rides around the town centre.
On August 30 the club will also stage its latest autotest event at Blackburn and Darwen Services on the M65.
Accrington Motor Sport Club host an autotest and autosolo event at the same venue a day later.