Wednesday 23 September 2015

Rally - R.I.P.

Rallying In Peril ... Is it just Scottish rallying’s turn for depression, or is this a symptom of a much deeper malaise? The news this afternoon that Coltness CC have very reluctantly had to cancel the 21st Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally has come as a shock. It was the final round of a national championship for goodness sake!

Earlier this year we lost the Merrick which struggled to get 60 entries last year (2014) after soldiering on valiantly in the face of dwindling numbers. And don’t go thinking it’s only the last two rounds of the national championship which have suffered.  Prospects are not looking good elsewhere. A quick run down of entries on the six events which did run this year are no less encouraging:

Snowman – 107 entries
Border Counties – 87
Granite City – 103
JC Reivers - 78 (including 6 Land Rovers)
RSAC Scottish – 74 (including 6 Land Rovers)
Speyside – 96 entries

It’s not just the English who have a north/south divide, we’ve got one up here in rallying terms. Neither can you compare the Scottish championship with the BTRDA series. They have a catchment population of some 60 million, there’s only 6 million of us up here, so it has to be summat else.

How many entries did the McRae finally get? I’m not sure, I haven’t dared ask. The Bears are not in an approachable mood at present, but I believe it was less than 60.

On the other hand the tarmac boys and girls are going well with entries bursting at the seams, but they are running out of venues too. To coin a phrase they are not ‘out of the woods’ yet either. Sorry, that was a terrible pun!

In other words, the sport up here is in trouble with declining numbers taking part. This is not a new phenomenon, it has happened before and the sport has bounced back. It’s only a few years ago since English events were facing reducing entry numbers, but look at the BTRDA now.

Looking ahead to next year, if we stick with the same number of events as now, then the break-even point will be lower and Entry Fees higher.  Are there too many events? What is the ideal number of events for a championship? Should rallies be shorter? Are cars too expensive? Control tyres – a good idea? Pump fuel only? Is the sport over-regulated? Where to get the best pies at a service halt – Huntly Auction Mart?

If this situation is to be resolved then competitors must get themselves together to tell the organisers exactly what they want and are willing to pay for.

All competitors are members of a car club and that car club will be a member of the Scottish Association of Car Clubs, which incidentally has a representative on the MSA Rallies Committee. It may not be the most streamlined process in the world, but it could be a start. Someone needs to take a lead, canvas opinion, get drivers and co-drivers to sign up to an acceptable formula and try to jump start the whole damn show and get it back on the road.

As things stand, there is no point in dozens of volunteer enthusiasts working their socks off at nights and weekends right across the country to create and run events which do not appeal, for whatever reason, to those who compete.

What was it Gloria Gaynor sang? We Will Survive. Fingers crossed, eh?

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