Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Rally - Past & Present

Further to my recent post on next month's planned return of the Milltown Stages Rally, the Condor MSC website is now back on-line. If you want more information on the event and also more information on the 'Back to Roots 2 Wheel Drive Tarmack Championship' (BR2TC) then have a look here:

The 7 round championship includes two visits to Weeton just off the M6 between Preston and Blackpool - so you can go for a paddle after the rally and visit the Blackpool Prom, so pack the weans' bucket and spade!

Hamish Kinloch
Oddly enough, I came across some pics from the 2002 Milltown Stages Rally as organised by the RAF Motor Sports Association. The event was won by Tom and Stephen Morris who scored a time of  1hr 58mins 48 seconds for the 8 stage event in their Metro 6R4 - the average time for each stage was around 15 minutes! Told you it was a big venue. Robin Hamilton and Iain Edwards were 2nd in another Metro with Ricky and Russell Wheeler 3rd in their Escort Mk2.

Hamish Kinloch and Stuart Faulds were 5th in the very same Toyota Corolla that Hamish took to Rally Finland last year, and all he did was blow the dust off it - at least that's what Hamish says!

Clarky and Beefy
Another pair of weel kent faces were in the yellow Avenger which finished 20th o/a, driven by Alan Clark and co-driven by Beefy Fraser. The white Mitsubishi should stir some memories too. That was Lorna Smith and her faither in the Lancer, and they finished 12th.

As for the final pic, some folk reckoned that some of the surfaces were abrasive! But then again what would you expect from a 100 stage mile event? 

The Smith famil Mitsibishi

High speeds means heavy braking!

Friday, 10 January 2020

Rally - Milltown's back

You may have noticed a familiar name in the Calendar of Events just published in the on-line mag, It would appear that over the past few months the team at Condor Motor Sports Club have been awfy busy. Last used a s a tarmac rally venue some 15 or 16 years back, the club has gained permission for the former airfield at Milltown,. just to the north of Elgin, to once again echo to the sound of rally cars as opposed to aero engines.

Milltown was closed to flying in 1977 (retained by the RAF for signals use) although there continued to be some light aircraft use, but the whole site was still in good nick in the early 2000's. That was because although the original airfield was developed during the second world war it was never used for operational flights. Apparently it was originally created as a decoy to draw attention away from the nearby RAF Lossiemouth site which was heavily used during the second World War for North Sea operations.

Of course RAF Lossiemouth is still very much in operational use today as one of the UK's Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) Force bases which is often called in to action when the Ruskies start nosing about overhead. On that basis it would be unwise to let rally cars loose on the site as they might well be used for target practice!

With three runways on site plus an array of perimeter roads, Milltown is huge and an ideal site for a single venue rally. Indeed in its latter days of rally use the organisers managed to stage a weekend of rallying with two separate events, one each on Saturday and Sunday.

The Condor MSC lads and lassies haven't stopped at that either and are currently working on an 'alternative' rally championship aimed more at the budget conscious clubman than the ambitious national competitor.

The 'Back to Roots 2 Wheel Drive Tarmack Championship' (BR2TC) will primarily cater for two wheel drive cars and only certain modifications will be allowed, for instance no sequential gearboxes and engines/gearboxes located in original positions.

Regulations and Entry forms have been published but the club's website appears to be down at the moment so details cannot be accessed at present- perhaps the site has been overwhelmed with interest!

Meanwhile news and information will be published on their Facebook page so keep an eye out for that and I'll post more news here when I get it:

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Rally - And so it begins

The 2020 Calendar of Events has been published in the on-line mag (see link below). As usual, it's not just rallies, it also includes other events in Scotland which may or may not be of interest, or maybe just give you another excuse to get out of the house at a weekend when there are no rallies on! Additional events will be added during the season as more dates are confirmed, so keep an eye on it.

What regular competitors and fans will notice immediately is that some championship dates look a bit close. For those planning a season and working out a budget this is far from helpful, but unfortunately unavoidable in some cases.

There are an awful lot of critics out there who have never organised an event or even been part of a rally organising team so have little actual experience of what's involved. From personal experience, the biggest surprise is that there are still such folk in the first place willing to give up time, expend the effort and often at personal financial cost to provide the events that many simply take for granted.

Forest rallies and closed road events create the biggest demand on time and effort. Not only has a route to be found but the necessary facilities too, for Rally HQ and for service areas and trailer parks. Given the fact that most stage rallies take place in rural locations, finding such facilities which are big enough and have suitable dates are a big problem. And then there is the process of getting the necessary permission to have these facilities used by rallyists, no easy task there either.

Finding stages are no easier. Sourcing little used public roads which cause the least convenience to local folks while providing a challenge for drivers is hardly simple. In the same way, accessing suitable forest roads is entirely dependent on availability and dates. Forestry and Land Scotland (to give the old FC its new name!) only permit certain routes in a limited number of forests and then only on dates which suit them whether for reasons of harvesting, planting, maintenance or being used by other events.

Even when a route has been identified and permission gained, plans can change, often with little notice. For instance, I got a call from the Route Co-ordinator for this year's RSAC Scottish Rally in June at Moffat. Not just any RSAC Scottish Rally - this year's event will mark the 75th running of Scotland's longest established competitive car rally.

They already had a route mapped out but wanted to see what condition the roads were in after the R.A.C. Rally has passed through last November. It just so happened that I had a Mitsubishi L200 on press appraisal. Ideal!

Four of the five proposed stages were fine but parts of the fifth test were in a terrible state. It's a good job we were in the Mitsubishi, a 'normal' road car wouldn't have made it through the first two and half miles of forest road. The gloopy, slippery mud was one thing, but the deep ruts and serious pot holes would have grounded a saloon car within yards. Nothing to do with the rally, but some heavy machinery has been, and still is, in the forest since the rally went through.
So what to do? Hope the harvesting will be finished and roads repaired in time? Or look for another forest nearby? That will require another day's recce and subsequent changes to the route book and rally timetable.

Adding to the organisers' problems, one of the biggest hotels in the town just went bust at Christmas so reducing accommodation for visitors at a particularly busy time of year!

And that's just one event in the calendar. Every other event organiser will face similar trials and tribulations as they go about their season. The trouble is there are fewer volunteers, most of them are getting older (!), regulations are increasing, suitable local facilities are becoming more difficult to find and permissions harder to obtain.

And then there is the question of Marshals. More volunteers are needed per event (as new safety Regs demand) and it will hard to persuade some of these stalwarts to turn out nearly every weekend officiating at stage, targa and navigational rallies, race meetings, sprints, hillclimbs and autosolos.

Happy New Year everyone, eh?

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Rally - Here's to 2020

When a lump of black bun or a finger of shortbread just isn't enough, let alone a single caramel wafer, then why not double up with the Tunnock's Twinnock** and celebrate in style. 

Happy New Year everyone. Here's to a safe and successful 2020. There are challenges to be faced, rallies to be won and opposition to fight. I'll drink to that.

Or as one Tam o'Shanter might have put it:

 - Inspiring, bold John Barleycorn,
 - - What dangers thou canst make us scorn!
 - Wi' tippenny, we fear nae evil;
 - - Wi' usquebae, we'll face the devil!

Lang may yer exhaust remain emission-free, your intakes silent and your combustion chambers empty - for the 'Age of Electric' beckons. Aye, happy New Year richt enough, eh?

**Only available by special order!

Monday, 30 December 2019

Friends remembered

As 2019 draws to a close, spare a moment to reflect on lost pals. We lost a few more this past year. It started badly with the loss in January of  well known racer and hillclimber Kenny Allen from Crossford, and then came the even more unbelievably sad news of the loss of 22 year old rally driver Stephen McClory.

In March we lost another rally driver Alex Holmes (pink Chevette), and two months later Jimmy Horne from Duns. Also former race and rally driver and rally co-driver Geunda Eadie who won the Ford Faberge Fiesta Championship in 1979. Others who left us included
 club stalwarts Len Freshwater (BECC) and Janet Dickson (ADMC) and two Scrutineers, Rob McKinna and Drew Anderson.

October proved to be a dark month too with the passing of Andrew Cowan and although he wasn't one of us, Worcestershire's Russell Brookes who was well known to all Scottish rally followers and a great fan of the International Scottish Rally in its heyday.