Monday, 19 April 2021

Road - Fun on four wheels

Last week started well, and just got better.

Sad face this morning, it has come to an end and it has to go back.

Funny how simple things amuse and entertain simple minds.


http://www.jaggybunnet.co.uk/car-reviews/17-apr-ford-fiesta-st-edition/

 

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

England gets green (amber?) light for forest rallying

Before we all get carried away by the news that MS UK has given the Trackrod Rally in Yorkshire on 24/25 September the thumbs up for forest stage rallying to resume, there are a significant number of hurdles yet to overcome. Principal amongst those are the number of people allowed inside each competing car and the management of spectators.

Perhaps the most difficult of these two is the latter. Unlike single venue events where public access can be managed, forest stages and closed public roads will provide a far bigger challenge. At last weekend's Grand National at Aintree crowd numbers were limited and small white circles were spaced out two metres apart on the grass in the public enclosures where people and their bubbles were permitted to stand and watch. I don't see that being a practical solution in the forests or wide open countryside. And no amount of telling will stop the die-hards from venturing into easily accessible and more remote locations.

Then of course there are other restrictions to consider. Not just the two people per competition car but what about Ambulance, Paramedic and Breakdown/Recovery crews. Not to mention Service Crews. If three people are allowed to work on each car, how do they travel from Start to Service to Finish? That maybe manageable for the single-car private teams but we are seeing more and more bigger units, even at national one day events, where three or four cars are being run by one large entourage.

And suppose members of the family want to accompany drivers and co-drivers? And I haven't even mentioned Marshals yet. It's all very well having remote signing on, scrutineering and stage timing but there will always be a  need for hands-on Marshalling along the route and in stages, even if only for safety purposes.

What hasn't been mentioned so far is politics. The four home nations have all taken a slightly different approach to Covid19 management and that could also affect competitors and officials from different areas travelling to and from events.

Nope, a 'return to normal' is not going to be easy and before we get too carried away, some of the 'experts' are concerned about another spike in infections which may or may not require more restrictions being imposed. If the NHS comes under pressure, that will have another impact on amateur sport too.

In the meantime, clubs and organising teams across the country are still planning events dated for June and July with little in the way of assurance, let alone guarantee, that the plug won't be pulled at the last minute. That too may well be affected by the vaccination programme which is targeted to have all adults double jabbed by the end of July.

There is yet another factor to consider. The Trackrod is being seen as a 'trial' event, just as last year's 'M-Sport Return to Rally' event tested out new management and remote timing systems. Much was learned at the Cumbrian single venue forest rally particularly with regard to Stage and overall Event Timing, but what was also noticeable was the number of spectators who had gathered in the undergrowth in a private forest. The persistent rain had done little to dampen fans' enthusiasm for the chance to see, hear and smell rally cars in the woods.

So far there is no word from on high with regard to official permission being granted to allow stage events to be run north of the border and the fear here is that motor rallying won't be at the top of the list. Especially with the Scottish Parliament being 'closed' at present for the forthcoming general election. So it's OK to shut down government during a pandemic and organise a mass public event like a general election? Nuts! It could have been delayed by a few months till everything else is 'safe' to open and everyone has been double jabbed.

So what's the answer? Unfortunately there isn't one, but if everyone sticks to the current guidelines and gets their jabs then positive progress can be made.  Rallying needs to show its responsible face and adhere to the pandemic guidelines and restrictions. As the shepherd dipping his sheep said when he saw one jump right over the dip: "One missed sheep and we'll all be flocked".

Rally - Final chance

The Survey backing the Northern Irish campaign to host a round of the FIA World Rally Championship in 2022 closes today Wednesday 14th April. So this is your last chance to fill it in and support the cause.  It'll only take a couple of minutes - and it's painless:

https://www.rallynorthernireland.com/

 

Saturday, 10 April 2021

A Little Bit of Housekeeping

I must apologise for the lack of rally stuff these past few months. Oddly enough there haven't been an awful lot of events on which to report. You'd think there was something wrong in the world. Given the enforced lack of activity it has to be admitted, there were serious thoughts about hanging up the pen, ditching the notebook and pensioning off the computer to spend more time in the garden and greenhouse.

However quite a few private messages, emails to my personal address and phone calls have been received over these past few months expressing some relief and thanks for keeping the on-line mag, Blog and FB page going. Apparently quite a few of you appreciate it, even the nonsense.  So thank you for that.

Most of these contacts have come after an Obituary has been published and that seems to be a much appreciated service. Over the past six months the on-line magazine has recorded the passing of Phil Walker, Gordon Hastie, Reay MacKay, Farquhar MacRae, Johnstone Syer and Bill Taylor all of whom made their mark and will be sorely missed. Since no-one else is doing it, someone should. The sport of rallying is so intense in Scotland that everyone knows, knows of, or knows someone who knows most folks involved, and so when we lose someone, we all feel the loss.

That appears to have prompted requests for more. For instance, some folks wondered why there were no tributes following Hannu Mikkola's sad departure and David Sutton, both well known to the sport in Scotland, or even the late Murray Walker.

The reason is simple, the 'jaggybunnet' on-line magazine is about all things Scottish and Scottish rallying plus other sporting and motoring matters which are intended to be of interest to Scottish fans. This brief is quite simple as there is no other 'national' Scottish magazine or newsletter devoted to all things Scottish, hence obituaries for other folks are best left to those who know them better and are more knowledgeable.

For that reason the on-line mag and social media outlets have continued even though there has been little to write about, hence much of the nonsense which has appeared of late. Having said that we need a bit of nonsense to brighten our lives these days and fortunately my big pal Jaggy is full of that. So until things pick up again, there will continue to be a variety of topics covered, issues addressed and nonsense reported whilst staying within the brief. OK?

As the shy, retiring and quiet type myself I will leave the nonsense to Jaggy. In fact he was telling me the other day what keeps him sane in these quietly depressing times.

It was a tug on his 'lockdown and stay-home' eight month pony tail from someone seeking a bit of attention! Apparently there were some rubber bricks needing to be built up into columns, purely so they could be knocked down again, and a ride-along, push-along truck needing to be loaded and pushed. A Grandpa's job is never done.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Road - Electrically driven

There are some more worrying signs within the Bunnet household. Concern is being expressed about the wellbeing of my big pal Jaggy. With more manufacturers building more electric cars, it would appear that he is succumbing to their charms.

It has been alleged that he has been seen driving around in such demonic devices and actually smiling while doing so. Observers seem pretty sure that these were indeed 'smiles' as opposed to 'grimaces'. And this despite the lack of gearboxes, clutches and aural accompaniment.

It's this latter attribute which generates continuing doubt. Raised on the sound of flat head V8s, straight sixes, Twin Cams and BDAs, this apparent liking for an automobile which is virtually silent is therefore awfy suspicious.

Another very suspicious and extremely worrying omen has been the appearance of two new posters on the wall of his garage. Alongside the BMC rosettes, Michelin men, Rothmans posters and others advertising 'Castrol R' and 'Esso Puts a Tiger in Your Tank' is one of Greta Thunberg.

Even more troubling, there is a more recent and darkly foreboding addition to this display. It portrays Patrick Harvie in full rumpled Harris Tweed electioneering pose, glaring and pointing accusingly, and ordering us all to go green. This surely a much more worrying sign than Jaggy eating all of his vegetarian haggis with kale and pak choi salad.

Which prompts the questions, is it medical or psychological? Alcohol related - or lack of alcohol? Advancing years or lockdown leeriness? Or is it simply an acceptance of the inevitable?

That too is hard to bear. Simple acceptance is not a trait for which he is renowned. This fearless forestry fighter for justice, friend of the underdog and bitter enemy of authority has long been a pain in the backside of those who wear blazers instead of anoraks and shod with shiny shoes instead of wellies.

He was most recently spotted at the launch of the all-new Mazda MX-30 electrically powered automobile. Although this event was attended by other motoring journalists, no-one admitted seeing him. Apparently, he had been, driven and gone by the time I got there, so neither can I be sure it was him. Apparition, ghost or a figment of the imagination. Who knows?

http://www.jaggybunnet.co.uk/car-reviews/25-mar-mazda-mx-30/

 

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Rally - Survey for NI/WRC

A little something to do. It seems like years since the forests fell silent and the roads emptied, except for passing tractors and fleets of parcel delivery vans. Meanwhile arrows, stage boards and road closure signs are gathering dust in car club storage units around the country. Marshals vests are turning mouldy in understairs cupboards and the only signs of life inside silent rally cars are spiders weaving their untroubled webs. Even the midges in Argyll and Glentrool are wondering where their next meal is coming from.

Whereas other sports are beginning to show signs of returning life rallying remains outcast on the fringes of awareness, stuck well down on the list of banned activities. That's down to the 'single occupancy inside a car' rule. Two folks sharing the same cocooned air space for sporting use is unacceptable. So be it, who are we to argue with those who make the rules - but don't necessarily follow them? Such is life.

And yet we could all be doing something constructive. A minor thing individually, but collectively generating much greater impact and authority.

Wales has lost its World Rally Championship counter, so there's no point in trying to 'save' it. It's gone. There is no turning back. The Welsh government is not prepared to back it any more for a variety of reasons, but across the water another band of diligent enthusiasts are hard at work with promising local government support.

Nowhere in the UK does rallying enjoy a higher public profile than Northern Ireland - and the Emerald Isle. It would appear from efforts already underway that there is also strong political support for Northern Ireland to host a UK round of the World Rally Championship.

It's unthinkable that the UK will not have a round in the foreseeable future. The French may claim to have invented rallying with the first Monte Carlo Rally of 1911 before the Swedes and Finns took it 'off-road' in the 1950s, but the Brits have been right there every step of the way ever since the first automotive combustion chamber sparked an internal explosion.

Mind you there is another historic version of the introduction of the noble sport of rallying. Researched and written by the Laird o' Castle Bunnet himself no less, it's quite an extensive document if you haven't read it already - and it's all perfectly (nearly) true! The full tale was told last year:

http://www.jaggybunnet.co.uk/2020/06/08-jun-the-origins-of-rallying/

But back to the appeal. To perpetuate our sport, stake our claim and widen its public awareness we need a WRC counter in the UK, and if there is a way forward across the water then we should all get behind their efforts.

However, the politicians need to be convinced that this is a 'good idea' and given the recent restrictions and upheaval caused by Covid19 they need some additional reassurance that their investment in backing this proposal will pay dividends. They know the event will attract thousands of fans but they would like to try and get an idea of just how many thousands so that they can be fed, watered, and accommodated. To that end they are asking would-be fans to complete an on-line survey so they can attempt to gauge demand.

The survey will only take a couple of minutes to complete, but it is essential to convince the politicians that an investment of this nature will pay off. Given the strong ferry (and air) links between Wales and Scotland and given the appeal of Irish rallying, a strong celtic invasion is anticipated. Similarly, England's rally following and the country's strong links with Europe (Channel Tunnel) will attract many more furriners to the delights of Northern Ireland.

Those attractions include of course the challenging nature of the area's closed road stages, the pubs, the backdrop provided by the Mourne Mountains, the country pubs, the infectious enthusiasm of the Irish fans, the atmosphere in the Irish pubs, the sheer exuberance of the local Irish crews, the effervescence of the crowds in pubs, the hospitality of hotels and B&Bs and the hospitality of landlords and innkeepers. Oh, and there's a wide variety of food with local ingredients to be tasted and savoured as well, like fish and chips, pie and chips, steak and chips, roast potatoes and chips whilst the import restrictions of haggis will be relaxed for the week to ensure a plentiful supply of haggis and chips for their more northern cousins. Other diets and tastes will be catered for.

One  thing's for sure, the WRC won't have seen a party like it.

So please, if you would visit a WRC round in Northern Ireland, fill in the survey, and if you've never been, you don't know what you're missing, so here's your chance to make a difference. And just one more thing. There will be a prize draw for some of the lucky participants. So, go to it, please.

https://www.rallynorthernireland.com

 

 

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Rally - Gamechanger?

If the new Kia EV6 can live up to its advertising blurb, and there is no reason why not, then the future of motor rallying might not be quite as bleak as it looks at present. It would appear that Kia has taken a mighty step forward in electric car acceptability.

 

This SUV styled machine comes with a choice of options and specifications as you might expect. Of particular interest to us rally fans, is an option to specify a long range battery pack which should be good for up to 316 miles on a single charge.

 

Of even more interest is the fact that this new electric vehicle will also have 800V ultra-fast charging capability which means that the EV6 can go from 10 to 80 per cent battery charge in just 18 minutes. And for the performance nuts amongst us, the GT version will hit 60 mph from rest in around 3.5 seconds and will do 160 mph if the Polis aren't looking.

 

Admittedly the price range of these new SUVs goes from 40 grand up to 60, but what's really important here is the technology advances - improved range and awfy quick chargers. It starts to make the whole idea of 'long range' performance rally cars not so much of  a pipe dream after all.

 

On this basis it won't be long now before we have more compact, easily interchangeable battery packs and even faster charging. The only downsides are no whiffs of Castrol R and no blood curdling music from BDAs and V8s.

 

And if you think this is far fetched. Remember when Japanese cars first started to make their skinny wheeled appearance on British roads and the over-managed, strike blighted British car manufacturers laughed?

 

They are not laughing now - they've all gone, but Kia appears to be doing the business, and they are just the first among many.