|Age – 60+
Family – Married with two children
Lives – Leighton, Cheshire
Occupation – Car Technician
Group B MG Metro 6R4
Rob was keen to get involved in some form of motorsport from a very early age, and in 1969 became a member of the Potteries and Newcastle Motor Club.
Initially taking his Austin Healey Sprite to Autotest events, Rob moved through the ranks quite quickly trying his hand at Production Hill Climbs, Speed Hill Climbs and eventually Autocross, before the sport of Rallycross caught his attention.
Continuing with the Sprite, Rob converted the car for Rallycross and took part in events at Brands Hatch with reasonable success, until a rule change outlawed all open topped cars. Rob set about getting over that hurdle with a visit to the local scrap yard; there he found a Ford Escort Mk1, he removed the roof, and back at his workshop cut it into quarters playing around with the design until eventually it not only fit the Sprite, but Rob felt it looked good too.
A Ford 1760cc twin cam engine, followed by a 1930cc version, powered the Sprite to success at Lydden, Brands, Snetterton, Knockhill and Croft. The stock block rule that first came in to force in the early 1980’s finally ended Rob’s run in the Sprite.
Rob chose Porsche for his next move in the form of a 914, before building his trusty 911; bought from John Clarke. The car had Belgian origins, and the Porsche was the first time Rob had experienced competing in a left hand drive car, never been phased by much during his career, he soon got to grips with this 3,000cc normally aspirated, 2WD machine, regularly keeping the 4WD machinery at bay. The engine was upgraded to a 3.2 version and finally 3.3. Transmission was supplied via a standard synchro gearbox with a welded locked diff.
Rob has never chased championships or sponsorship deals; married to Shirley with 2 children, he preferred to race as and when he wanted to without the pressure some drivers faced in chasing success to keep sponsors on board. The Gibson clan went racing together as a family; if Rob couldn’t do it that way then he wouldn’t do it at all. The whole family loved the sport and all got involved one way or another to form their own little team that saw Rob climb through the rankings.
Rob Gibson still holds the record for the fastest 2WD car in the Porsche 911, around the Brands Hatch Rallycross track. The 911 firmly put Rob Gibson on the Rallycross map, many who approach Rob in the paddock today recall his Porsche days mentioning the time the Porsche took to flight, literally, at Lydden Hill in 1985.
John Taylor called Rob in 1986 and invited him to spend at day at Ford to test drive the Ford RS200. He enjoyed his day, but disliked the car; Rob powered the car round the track for the whole morning, but by Lunch time knew this was not the car for him, later telling JT that he was very impressed with the cars looks and power, but felt that he would not be comfortable using it in competition.
Group B was definitely the way to go and Rob turned his attention to the Metro 6R4, eventually taking ownership of an ex works, Malcolm Wilson car C868EUD. The car fit Gibson like a glove, he was instantly impressed by the handling and speed of the 6R4 which ran a 3lt non-turbo charged engine producing around 400 bhp.
The success at home in the regular British series did not seem enough; the ERC round at Lydden Hill each September, had for many years been the event pencilled in to every British driver’s calendar, ‘the big one’ that they always looked forward to, the opportunity to show the European drivers what the Brits were made. However taking them on on British soil was not enough, Rob wanted to experience the European tracks and longed to take his talent overseas.
Following the 1989 British Rallycross Grand Prix, at Brands Hatch Rob was approached by a fellow Garage proprietor in Cheshire who wanted to buy his Ford Dealership in Holmes Chapel, after lots of deliberation and family meetings Rob finally agreed a deal and now free of both of his Ford garages, Rob’s time was his own and the way free to pursue his ERC ambitions.
Rob’s first full ERC year came in 1991 and he was instantly ‘at home’ on tracks that he had longed to experience. Prepared by Rob and his team in the RGV workshop the engine power was regularly tweaked until 500bhp was achieved with a speed of 0-60 in 1.9 seconds.
The Group B era was to be somewhat short lived as the FIA ruling meant that they were to be outlawed. Rob considered briefly building a different car but felt that he would find anything hard to come up to his expectations after driving the 6R4, so returned instead to the occasional outing back in the UK and Ireland. Rob had thoroughly enjoyed his time on the European Trail which was fraught with disaster as well as success, his greatest achievement was to finish 5th overall in the series. ‘’The Group B years, were the best ever’’ Gibson said recently.