Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Rally - Obituary

Farquhar Finlay MacRae, 1937 - 2021

The new year started badly again with news that rally driver and retired garage proprietor Farquhar MacRae passed away a couple of weeks ago in Raigmore Hospital after a short illness. The 'restricted' family funeral was held in Inverness yesterday.

A very quiet, intelligent, practical and resourceful engineer, Farquhar was a rally driver who went rallying for fun. His name very rarely appeared in the top ten results on Scottish national events but he was a regular class winner in the early days when he drove a 1 litre Hillman Imp.

Like most of his generation he was reared on navigational road rallies but unlike the many who opted for a Mini, he chose the Hillman Imp. Following a gradual progression towards special stage rallies in 1961, so too did Farquhar, although it wasn't until 1967 that the Scottish Rally Championship decided to become an 'all-stage' affair.

Even so, contesting a full championship season wasn't for Farquhar, he simply picked and chose events which were either near his home base at Inverinate near Kyle of Lochalsh or just appealed to him. Perhaps that's why he wasn't better known. It wasn't for lack of talent. On the 1967 Hackle Rally there was only one Imp in the top ten results behind a flock of Cortinas and Coopers - and one VW Porsche. Farquhar finished 10th. He was 15th on the Border Rally later that year, again in the Imp.

With just four scores to his name in 1968 from the 7 round series, he finished 8th overall in the Scottish Championship but this was the time that the ubiquitous Ford Escort started to appear in private hands. He also finished 4th overall on St Andrews & DMC's Tour de Stages in his Imp behind one Mike Hibbert Esq! In 1970 he won Highland Car Club’s Autumn Rally which was held in treacherous wintry conditions.

Concentrating on his garage business meant little time for rallies, but the urge was a still there and he appeared sporadically at events where his lack of regular mileage was marked by unfortunate, and often undeserved lowly, seeding positions. I never heard him complain. That's not why he went rallying.

1978 marked the final appearance of the Imp. It bowed out with 54th overall and 18th in class on the Granite City which prompted a trial with an Avenger on the same event the following year and scored 50th overall and 2nd in class. This change of cars may have been prompted by the appearance of a new co-driver, and partner, Fiona Kennedy who matched Farquhar's competitive nature but with the same limited enthusiasm for championships.

A Davrian with an Imp engine appeared for a few events but Farquhar quickly appreciated that although fast, it was just a bit on the fragile side, but not before he scored class wins on the 1981 Heron Rossleigh and John Wilson Bedroom Stages rallies and non finishes on the Snowman and Granite.

Time for a change, and the duo opted for a Toyota Corolla for the rest of the season, the car that was to bring them most success and a higher national profile. Running under the 'Team Castrol' banner they scored 19th overall and 5th in class on the Blane Stages. That was followed with a 24th on the Arbroath Stages, 15th on the Tom Dickson Cameras and 17th on the end of season Trossachs.

1982 opened with 16th on the Snowman and three 14ths overall on the trot on the Hackle, JW Bedroom Stages and the Forth Electrical. A puncture on the penultimate stage of the Border Counties dropped them to 42nd overall and they bounced back on the Arbroath with a superb 10th place overall before rounding off the season at the Trossachs with 18th. That resulted in a very satisfying 10th overall in the 1982 Esso Scottish Rally Championship.

The duo's rallying tailed off after that but the Corolla was still delivering top 20 finishes when Farquhar hung up his driving gloves.

He wasn't a regular at after rally prizegivings despite his class winning performances and often winning 'marque' awards and 'mixed crew' awards, but that wasn't because he was averse to drink and parties. Yes, he was on the shy side, but he was really good company when you had time for a sit down and chat. No, the real reason for missing out on trophy presentations was as he once said: "Kyle is an awful long way from everywhere" and there was always the need to get back to the business.

Our sincere condolences to his wife Fiona, son Finlay and daughter Janice. All those who knew him will miss him too, and for those of you who didn't know him - you missed out.

Road - Appeasement!

By way of an apology for publishing the previous post to the obvious distress and mental disturbance of those of you possessed of a sense of style and appreciation of the finer points of automotive design and engineering, here is another offering more suited to our tastes.


Ford has introduced a new model of the Ranger pick-up, developed in partnership with MS-RT (M-Sport - Road Technology). This is a much more sophisticated version of the more muscular looking desert race influenced Ford Ranger Raptor.


Based on the Wildtrak which is already pretty comprehensively equipped the MS-RT gets a distinctive new front grille and integrated fog lights. These are complemented by its extended wheel arches and sculpted sideskirts which wrap around the huge 255/60 x 20 inch OZ Racing alloy wheels.


Under the bonnet Ford’s 2 litre Bi-turbo EcoBlue diesel producing 211bhp is mated to the same 10‑speed automatic transmission as in the Ford Mustang sport car. Ranger’s selectable four-wheel drive system is retained for off-road use and on road when driving conditions are difficult.


There is no change to the 1,098kg payload and 3,500kg towing capacity.


No details of price as yet but the pickup will be available to order from Summer this year.


However, there is one insignificant tiny wee option on the list which will be a 'must tick' for many of us really sad gits. The Maxhaust app-controlled soundbox delivers a soundtrack that will have you reaching for the Radio/CD 'off'  button! Me first!


Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Road - Grotesque or divine?

As a lover of all things mechanical and especially those on two wheels, I saw this and thought of you lot out there, stuck at home and slevvering over what you might be doing in more normal times. Just a little something to make you think of open roads, sun glistening on tarmac and the wind whistling through your Covidian beards (male riders only!) billowing out from around your open face helmet. This will either tickle your fancy or curdle your Irn Bru.

If you thought the Germans were a serious, staid and emotionless race, it may surprise you to know that there is a motor cycle customising scene alive and well in the land of lager and leather shorts. But being German, their idea of customising is rather different from the outrageous chrome and jewelled paint schemes, extended forks and spine jarring suspensionless creations of those more outrageous starred and striped metal bashers and scaffolding pole users across the water.

Apparently BMW Motorrad have a habit of handing bikes to some of the better known customisers as a marketing exercise. In this case Dirk
Oehlerking of Kingston Custom based in Gelsenkirchen near Düsseldorf got his mitts on the latest R18 cruiser model.

This creation does have one thing going for it, or perhaps that should be two things - a two cylinder boxer engine. Not just any boxer engine, a direct descendant of the original 1923 configuration with an 1,802 cc power plant producing 91 hp and delivering a maximum torque of 116 lbs-ft (158 Nm) at 3,000 rpm - and a soundtrack to die for.

Trouble is I can't decide whether it's so ugly that it should be loved - or too beautiful for a culturally bereft 'bear' to appreciate it. Regardless of that, it is most certainly different.

Me? I'll give it a body swerve.



Saturday, 16 January 2021

Rally - JCR cancelled

At 9.30pm last night the executive committee of the Jim Clark Rally reluctantly decided to cancel this year's rally which was due to take place at the end of May. All relevant participant parties had been advised earlier in the day before the news was made public.

It's not what the sport wanted to hear but neither is it unexpected. The sheer unpredictability of the advance of Covid-19 and the constantly changing rules and restrictions means that planning an event, even one which is four months away, is fraught with uncertainties.

There was another factor which had to be taken into consideration. Given the slow pace of the national vaccination programme, some would-be Marshals had expressed reservations about travelling without having had their jag!

Similarly, the age profile of those who organise and participate in stage rallies might suggest that although the auld gits could plan and organise a rally , there could well be a considerable number of 'younger' competitors, helpers, fans and followers who would be keen to travel without the security of the anti-Covid vaccine.

And that surely will have a considerable impact on any stage rally thinking these days, right across the country.  Just another consideration when planning a major outdoor event.


Thursday, 14 January 2021

Rally - Just Thinking ...

Earlier today, the FIA World Rally Championship added Arctic Rally Finland Powered by CapitalBox to the 2021 calendar.


The all-new snow and ice event will be based in Rovaniemi on 26 - 28 February and replaces the cancelled Rally Sweden as the WRC’s only pure winter rally. It forms round two of the 12 event fixture list.


The announcement means Finland will host two WRC rounds this year as Rally Finland will also take place on 29 July - 1 August.


Rovaniemi, the capital of Finland’s northernmost Lapland province, lies just outside the Arctic Circle where temperatures can plunge below -30°C in February. 


The rally starts on Friday 26 February with a morning shakedown, ahead of the opening special stages that evening. Saturday features three tests driven twice ahead of Sunday’s final leg, which closes with the Wolf Power Stage. The 10 stages cover 260km.


Naturally, the rally will run under strict national, local and FIA Covid-19 procedures and organisers will follow all protocols on whether fans will be allowed.


But here's the thing, and following on from recent posts, the competitive part of the event is noticeably short - 260 kms is a mere 161 miles. We all know only too well the reasons for this of course, but it is to be hoped that when normality eventually returns to everyday life, the sport can get back to the bigger challenges it used to offer.


Or is this really the way forward for the future of the sport, and not just at international level?


But here's the 'other' thing! At 161 miles of stages, this WRC event won't be much longer than a certain other event somewhere off the west coast of Scotland. It has already been touted as a possible addition to the British Championship. What next? The WRC comes to Mull?


And if weather was the deciding factor for this second Finnish inclusion, then just think what Mull could offer by way of a challenge. All four seasons in one weekend. And another thing,  which stage would be chosen for the Power Stage?


Duffy versus the world - in a Mk2. Yeehaaa!!


(Please note, the foregoing is of course a flight of fanciful thinking apart from Arctic Rally Finland. All references to other events and drivers should be taken with a pinch of salt, or a large malt. Or might there be a tincture of truth in there somewhere?)