Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Rally - Bert Shankland

Bert Shankland
I didn’t know Bert Shankland, but I knew of him. The Glasgow born rally driver who lived and rallied most of his life in Tanzania passed away last month. He and his co-driver Chris Rothwell won the East African Safari Rally outright in 1966 and 1967 driving a Peugeot 404. Bert worked for a Peugeot dealership at the time and his natural talent, affability and exuberant personality earned him a huge following in Africa throughout the 60s and 70s.

Two wins on one of the toughest events in the rallying calendar in a privately entered car was pretty impressive, especially considering that Ford was keen to carve this specific notch on its gearstick following its third win on the classic in 1964 with a Cortina GT (Ford Zephyrs won in 1955 and 1958) and numerous other failed attempts along the way.

Ford had to wait until 1972 for its next Safari success, this time with a MkI Escort driven by Hannu Mikkola. I was aware of all this because I was writing part-time for a weekly Scottish newspaper called ‘Motoring News & Advertiser’ – not to be confused with a certain other national weekly title called ‘Motoring News’!

At the same time I was also working full time with Shell & BP Petroleum in Glasgow on their involvement in the Scottish Rally Championship, and other sponsorship activities, and so when Shell Multigrade Oils sponsored Hannu on the Safari, I was involved at the Scottish end of the promotion. After the rally the actual car was shipped north for some promotional activities - and I actually got to drive it.

Anyway, that was when I first came across the name of Bert Shankland. Born in Glasgow in 1932, he moved to Tanzania in 1958 to work for Ridoch Motors in Arusha. It was about that time he started rallying and was spotted by Jimmy Finney, the MD of Tanganyika Motors, who persuaded Bert to join his company and drive Peugeot cars. Further support for his rallying adventures came from Ken Kassam of Leyland Albion!

The Safari wins were Bert’s only international success, but he campaigned successfully on national rallies throughout the 60s and 70s.

Safari rallying was so very different from our own fledgling forest special stage type events in the 60s hence my fascination and I recall an incident at the time which would have denied Bert his first Safari win. The wee Peugeot was stuck in a right boggy hole of the kind in which elephants and such things would bathe when along came Pat Moss and Elizabeth Nystrom in their factory Saab. They stopped to tow the stricken Peugeot out of the claggy glaur allowing Bert and Chris to win their first ever Safari Rally outright – while Pat retired with front suspension damage, caused by pulling Bert out of the sheuch.

Chivalry, eh?

1 comment:

  1. Bert Shankland...! What a name , what a figure. Made us so proud ...when I was a kid in the 1960s, Bert Shankland was as huge as Michael Schumacher, Alan Prost, Hamilton and Ayrton Senna, all rolled into one. Even local musicians included him in their lyrics. The East African Safari was a tough race. Muddy, dusty, hilly, dangerous and demanded highly skilled driving. Bert Shankland adopted his new country, Tanzania and carried our flag at a time when colonialism was still a fresh thing in most African minds. Apartheid and such evils were still running amok across the continent. But Mr Shankland loved Africa and he raced to win , he and his mates, Chris Rothwell and Chris Bates. In his time he highlighted the Peugeot 404. I remember how i used to brag to my school mates that my uncle owned a Peugeot 404 (injection) thanks to this race winner. I am saddened by his death and was disappointed how it was reported in 2012. One local Tanzanian item even said he was born in 1950. That would make him 16 when he won the 1966 East African Rally. Impossible. Shows how we need to correctly document our heroes and historical events. Hail this blog and salute to his friends and family.