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At 82 years of age is Ken Harper the oldest rally driver in the world?

Ken Harper can't exactly remember how many Alpine rallies he has actually driven in, but it’s 15 or 16. He does remember doing his first Alpine 56 years ago in 1951. In 1952 he drove the first Porsche in Australia for Norman Hamilton in that year’s Alpine. In which case, was he the first driver in the world to be paid to drive a Porsche?

Ken's motor sport history is as long as your arm. Starting in club events in the 1940's driving an MG TC, he competed in nearly every Round Australia event in the 1950's plus the more recent Round Australias as well. In the 1960's he was a car builder and driver for the Ford Works Team, competing in state and national events as well as the 1963 East African Safari. In 1962 he was part of the Ford Team that came second outright in the Armstrong 500 which later became the Hardie Ferodo, today known as the Bathurst 1000.

Ken had a couple of decades off rallying (a miserable time) but was an early member of the Historic Rally Association (HRA) when it formed in the early 1990's. His first project was to build a ‘69 Mustang for forest events. Ken drove this big red beast to 3rd outright in the trial section of the 1995 Round Australia with son Kim alongside. The Mustang has since been converted to a bitumen rally car and gets the occasional outing, including a string of 1st, 2nd and 3rd outrights in the Forest Classic Rally over the last number of years. To achieve this he has been ably assisted by navigators of the calibre of Nick Wright and Graeme Vaux.

In 1996 he built a Twin Cam Escort for son Kim which has competed in over 60 events. In 2000 he completed the white Mk 1 RS2000 Escort that he will drive in this year’s Alpine.

These days, when Ken and his wife Olive are not in Queensland escaping the Melbourne winter, he can be found in his Glen Iris garage tinkering with Escorts and other stuff. Ken's continued involvement in motor sport has been a great boost to the other senior members of the HRA by supplying them with an in-built excuse to keep rallying, namely: “But darling, of course I'm not too old to keep rallying. I'm 20 years younger than Ken Harper”.

For the 2007 Alpine, Ken's usual navigator, his son Lee, is unable to compete due to a commitment to co-drive in Classic Adelaide, so David McAdam, a HRA member and all-round motor sport competitor, will be calling the corners for Ken. “I reckon we will have a ball,” David said.

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