The roots of The Ecurie Royal Oak date back to the late 1960s when there were two successful motor clubs running in the South East Cheshire area. Namely Cavendish Motor Club in Macclesfield, and Congleton & District Motor Club. Both were busy active clubs on the 1950s and 1960s road rally scene, but both began to decline when younger members were not prepared to take on the responsibility of running them.
However a member of Knutsford Motor Club, John Dignan had taken on a run down little public house called The Royal Oak in Rushton Spencer, and came up with the idea of forming his own motor club from within his new pub. John tried, in apparently typical fashion, to take over Cavendish Motor club but upset the members, so he began from scratch with a small band of friends and helpers to form Ecurie Royal Oak M.C.
To begin with they met a lot of opposition from one or two local clubs and from the RAC, neither of whom liked the idea of a Motor Club being run from a public house. John was accused of trying to sell beer off the back of a motor club, and things were not looking good until John recruited his friend and local rally navigator Don Barrow as President. Don was highly respected at The RAC and with his respectability they gained RAC Affiliation in late 1970.
Don Barrow was president for 32 years along with Vice President John Knott. During the 1970s and early 1980s Timo Makinen, one of Don’s old works drivers, was honouree Vice President. Ecurie Royal Oak M.C. became Ecurie Royal Oak Motor Club Ltd in 1979 when it became a Company Limited by Guarantee. By this time John Dignan had left The Royal Oak and the Club had a new landlord Les Young. Although Les had no knowledge of motorsport when he first came to the pub, he quite quickly joined in, eventually sitting on the committee, and although never competing, was to be seen on many events as a marshal or organiser.
As the club grew, it became a renowned breeding ground for quick road rally crews of the 1970s and 80s. So much so that in 1976 two of its members, Mike Pattison (of EARS) from Macclesfield, and Dave Taylor from Crewe won the Motoring News BTRDA Gold Star Road Rally Championship, which at the time was the country’s premier rally championship.
Being situated on the edge of The Peak District it also lent its self to enabling ERO to run some of the best Road Rally’s and 12 car Road Rally’s in the country. In 1975 The Oaks Trophy Rally was born. It quickly developed a reputation as a good testing event, and “The Oaks” soon became the most popular event to use the Derbyshire/Staffordshire Peak District using OS Maps 118 and 119. The event ran for 12 years until 1987 when the RAC changed the rules and effectively stopped Road Rallying.
As stage rallying became more accessible ERO began to run single venue stage rallies around the area. Harpur Hill Quarry in Buxton being one of the first venues in the late 70s. The Club went on to run events at Cauldon Quarry, Wilbaston Airfield, Trentham Gardens, and more recently Binbrook in Lincolnshire. But a venue that ERO became linked with for eleven years was Flookbrugh near Grange over Sands. ERO ran 19 events on the venue over the period of 1989 to 2000. The organising team developed a reputation of running slick well thought out events that always ran the full mileage, yet always finished early. The names of these events became regular fixtures in championships, The Adrian Barker Memorial, The Femme Fatale, The Oak Leaf and The Trentham Stages.
ERO’s first proper gravel rally ran in 1994 at The Sweet Lamb Complex in mid Wales. This popular event won Best Event in the Welsh National Championship in 1996. In 2000 The Sweet Lamb Stages requested forestry allocation, and ran a multi venue forest rally for the first time in the clubs thirtieth anniversary year. In 2002 The Sweet Lamb Stages becomes a round the new Peugeot 205 Chanpionship.
Also in 2000 the Oaks Trophy was revived and ran to the new road rally rules. It was an instant success, and was due to run in 2001, but was hit by the Foot and Mouth outbreak, as were all other rallies that year. It returned in 2003 as a round of the ANWCC and has run each year since with marcus watmough as clerk of the course.
E.R.O. also help to run many rally’s through out the country. Through its CASMS group it supplies radio and marshal cover for 15 to 20 events a year, supplying up to 20 radio crews at anyone time. It runs stages on several national events as well as the Network “Q” rally of Great Britain.Some of its members run the Stoke Rescue Unit who supply accident and emergency cover on up to fifty events a year.
ERO’s past and present members have helped to build the club into one of the most respected and highly acclaimed motor clubs throughout the U.K. The club also runs a varied programme of social events throughout the year, including days out to British Touring Car Championship Races, the British Grand Prix, historic races and hill climbs and visits to large motorsport outfits such as Malcolm Wilson Motorsport (Fords World Rally Team), and ProDrive (Subaru’s World Rally Team). The other events include Scalectrix competitions, table top rallies, rally simulators and of course the Annual Dinner Dance and Awards Night.