Ford Escort RS Mk2: PH Fleet

Brands Hatch Winter Stages is a favourite in the calendar despite the Mk2 being better suited to dry conditions. It's always wet at this time of year but nobody expected it to be as slippery as a lump of ice cream on a hot plate. Just to recap, the Escort is powered by a 313hp 2.5-litre Millington Diamond 2 engine, has no form of traction control and no ABS. It weighs only around 900kg and represents one of the purest driving experiences out there, but you do know you've got a tiger by the tail once the start light turns green.

Main topic of conversation among the Escort boys was tyre choice. The rain started early so most opted for full wets (my only option other than slicks), while some were braving intermediates. My Kumho Ecsta TW02 full wets have got a nice wide blocks and plenty of grooves to get the water away. Like most wets, they're made from the softest compound which in this case is Kumho's K12. We dropped the pressures to 24psi to try and get some heat into them and that turned out to be a good decision.

As we exited the first time control on SS1, all pumped up and raring to go, the pin holding the driver's windscreen wiper to the arm snapped and the wiper did a neat pirouette through the air before landing on the ground. I said 'bother' and got out. Luckily a mate was passing and we were able to unbolt and swap the arms. This meant co-driver Dave couldn't see much for the next couple of stages until the rain eased off, but he didn't seem that bothered.

'Slippery' doesn't come close to describing how greasy the rally stage that started the event was and, at low speeds on a succession of 180 degree bends, understeer was horrendous. Kicking the back out with the power is fine but, with a tightly wound-up limited-slip diff, that can lead to more understeer followed by snap oversteer. Neat and tidy ruled the day. The exit from the rally stage was across a bog-like gravel section and I found myself peering out through my one-wiper porthole. We'd only done around two hundred metres of the rally with a whole day to go.

We completed the first couple of stages slowly partly because, like an idiot, I hadn't scrubbed the new wets in before the event. To be honest, the pace felt disastrous until I got back to the paddock and found everyone else was struggling too. Apart from getting a massive tank slapper on exiting Druids on one lap, we survived unscathed where several others hadn't. I was using too high a gear to try and neutralise the torque of the Millington and it didn't work.

A couple of stages later, the tyres got scrubbed in and started to work well. By SS4 (which you can see some of in the video), the rain had stopped and there was some semblance of grip. Even then though, extreme care was needed. On the main straight it was easy to kick the back out in fifth so I rolled on the throttle as smoothly as possible and short shifted for most of the event.

From then on we got going quicker, but still kept it smooth. By SS7 a dry line started to appear, the times came down and we started to close up the gap to the front but an accident compromised the stage and SS8 was abandoned. Shame, but thankfully the crew were OK and that's the main thing.

So we finished in our seeded position of 21 from 79 starters, happy to have got the first wet rally out of the way in the new car unscathed. The first two rallies in this car have both been cold weather events and I can't wait to try the 'Millie' out on warmer, grippy surfaces once the weather cheers up.

Watch the video here.

: Mk2 Ford Escort RS
Run by: Jesse Crosse
Bought: August 2015
Mileage: N/A
Purchase price: N/A
Last month at a glance: 2016 season gets off to a slithery and exciting start

Previous updates:
Jesse's new Escort in all its 313hp glory
First run at Castle Combe for the new RS
First competitive outing and the RS is flying

For the background on Jesse's 'Yellow Peril', see all the updates here.



Action pics: Clive Marchant


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Comments (11) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Rob175kks 16 Feb 2016

    The description of this cars wet weather handling sounds exactly like my E30's, except i'm dealing with about 100 less bhp & about 100 less talents!

  • I-Mac 16 Feb 2016

    I love reading these updates. Great to see you out enjoying yourself.....smilesmile

  • Blayney 16 Feb 2016

    Few things in life seem more right together than a mk2 Escort and a Millington 2.5

  • sege 17 Feb 2016

    wow, I love it!
    Thanks so much for the words and video Jesse and PH.

    Conditions looked very challenging, but that is petrolhead porn right there.

  • Dafuq 17 Feb 2016

    Classically awesome car, takes me right back to my childhood every time I see one of these. Epic then and epic still.

    So here is a concept, having just read the article on the modern design Alpine............

    Could Ford easily replicate a version of this Escort in a modern guise (and be trusted to make it RWD and manual)?

    What a thought, makes my piggy bank quake in fear.

    Edited by Dafuq on Wednesday 17th February 11:12

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