Thursday 26 May 2016

Rally - The bigger issue

There is much debate and uninformed opinion raging on the 'facetweetblogosphere' at present, but also many expressions of sympathy and support from all quarters regarding the recent decision to cancel this year's Jim Clark Reivers Rally. In order to clarify the position the organisers have issued a Statement and this has been published in full in the on-line Rally mag (line below).

But far from being a single-issue topic of interest, some folk are overlooking the fact that over the past two years we have lost three major forest rallies in Scotland, the Merrick, McRae and now the Reivers. Surely there is something bigger going on than the furore surrounding one event?

Whilst the three main events in the Highlands always seem to attract healthy numbers, those in the south don't fare so well. Apart from the three we've lost, the Scottish has struggled in recent times, but should be OK this year since it is now back in the BRC, while the Galloway Hills regularly fails to attract a big Scottish entry although it benefits from a mini Irish invasion each year as they appreciate a good thrash in some good woods, whilst the Merrick and McRae are gone for good.

This is not a single rally problem, this is a wider sporting problem. Competitors have every right to choose which events they wish to do and how far they are prepared to travel, but what will encourage them to compete more often?

As well as encouraging current competitors, the sport also needs to attract many more new competitors on an ongoing and regular basis. If we can solve that we're halfway there.

And whilst I'm on the subject. It wasn't 'spectators' who were involved in the fatalities two years ago, one was a journalist and one was a photographer and both were 'signed-on' as members of the media. What complicated the issue was that they had two friends travelling with them who were not 'signed-on' and were not members of the media - a fact that many media outlets choose to ignore when writing their reports and headlines.

The full article and the full JCR Statement is here:

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Rally - YouTube TV

Faster Scotland on YouTube. With reference to the item a couple of days ago, apparently there is still a wee bit of editing (and perhaps dubbing!) work needing to be done on the new 'Faster Scotland' inaugural YouTube TV prog, but the team (twa blokes and a burd) have prepared a wee teaser to titillate and tantalise. They have also promised that this first of a planned monthly series will be up in a few days. The teaser actually looks quite good, apart from the inclusion of two clips from a Hammer House of Horror production which somehow slipped past the film censor. I'm sure you'll see what I mean.

What will not be shown on the programme will be Jim McRae's arrival at Craigvinean for his starring role. As he pulled up to halt in the pickup, the assembled throng spotted that the trailer had a puncture and Jim was asked: "When folk passed you did they not try to point or indicate somehow that you had a puncture?"

The measured response was: "Nobody passed me on the way up." I still don't know if that was a threat or a statement. Aye, you can take the man out of Lanark but you can't take Lanark out of the man!

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Rally - Reivers News

Shock news tonight. There will be no Jim Clark Reivers Rally on 5th June. Following a club organisers meeting tonight, the reluctant decision was taken by a bitterly disappointed team, but really they had no choice. With insufficient entries received as of yesterday's 5pm deadline, the club would have suffered a substantial loss.

Considering the amount of time and effort expended on this year's event over the past 12 months it's a bitter blow to the whole team, especially in light of recent events. With just three weeks to go, three major re-routes had been forced upon them. "First we had to change the route to avoid a pair of nesting Goshawks in Wauchope Forest," said Dan Wright, club chairman, "then another pair was found close by another stretch of road forcing another major re-route. And a final re-think was underway to accommodate another rally event in three weeks time in the same area."

The club found themselves in a similar position to the late lamented McRae Forest Stages which found itself in similar circumstances last year.

Each stage rally in Scotland, and the rest of the UK, is organised by a dedicated team of volunteers representing an amateur car club and if an event is not financially viable, then it would be unfair to expect the club membership to cover the losses. It's a simple case of economics. If there aren't enough entries to cover the cost of staging a rally, then it is the amateur car club which has to pick up the shortfall and that's unfair on the individual members.

The club does have limited funds in the bank but these are being held in reserve for next year's event when the Jim Clark Rally will return to a closed road format which is the club's primary aim.

"It was a very difficult decision to take," said Dan, "and yet it was relatively easy. We had no choice. To carry on and run this year's event at a loss would jeopardise next year's return to the event's traditional format."

First run as a  closed public road event in 1997, the Jim Clark Rally can trace its roots back to 1970. That first event used a variety of farm, forest and military roads before becoming one of the UK’s premier forest stage rallies in the 1980s.  

The event reverted to a forest rally format following the tragic events in 2014 and the subsequent investigation. An accident claimed the lives of two media personnel and a guest travelling with them - and NOT spectators as is so erroneously reported in many sections of the media!

A ruling from the Lord Advocate was expected earlier this year, but he is still awaiting one final report. The organisers are confident once this has been completed that the event can revert to its more traditional format.

The club is grateful for the many messages of support received not just from rally fans but from the Borders folk themselves who have supported this event since it started.

Note: All competitors who had entered this year's event will receive a full refund as the club greatly appreciates their support.

Monday 23 May 2016

Rally - Caught on camera

Conned, scammed and duped, but not angry. Strangely calm given the unfamiliarity of the situation. As for the location, I was in Craigvinean Forest north of Perth and so was a certain red and black Mk2 Escort. Why?

Funny how things turn out. The weekend was all about Portugal and Kris Meeke's extraordinary but richly deserved and measured victory, and today was all about Craigvinean and McRae.

Some of you may recall the quarterly magazine 'Faster Scotland' that Josef Stuchlak published and distributed at Scottish motor sports event up until a year ago when he switched his interest and entrepreneurial flair from the printed word to the moving image. He's been planning a 'YouTube' magazine for some time now and it's beginning to take shape. It's all about Scottish motor sport, on four wheels and two, on the loose and on tarmac. He's already got most of the material for his first prog but wanted something else, hence this morning. Craigvinean and a man called McRae.

Somewhere along the line, yours truly got roped in. An extremely unusual experience, as bashing fingernails with tyre levers is infinitely preferable to appearing in front of cameras. Apparently Josef's first choice of guest gave him a body-swerve or had made an acceptable excuse, whereas I was caught unprepared.

Jimmy with Josef and Iain
Jimmy of course is a natural. When you think of the number of microphones and cameras that have been thrust in his face over 40 years of rallying, it's second nature. As for yours truly, just make sure the kids are in bed and the pets are locked up in a different room when you view the first episode. The biggest surprise was managing to speak without a lump in the throat.

That always happens when I see Colin's Escort. I first photographed the car for him at his home when he got it finished in May 2007, exactly 9 years ago this month. The car was special to Colin.

When Josef and Ian Struthers finish the edit, what you'll see and hear was totally unscripted and unrehearsed, but what should come across is their enthusiasm for this new video magazine. If that doesn't sell the programme, nothing will. And given the line-up of volunteer guests in his first prog - things can only get better.

Cecile B de Mille or Peter Jackson it ain't, but it should be worth a watch and if you encourage them this could be regular feature of the Scottish motor sporting video landscape.

When I get the link for the final prog, I'll let you all know.

Sunday 22 May 2016

Rally - Happy Krismeekmas

It could be argued that Kris Meeke had a better start number on Friday than WRC series leader Sebastien Ogier who had to run first on the road doing the sweeping, but what is indisputable is that Kris made the most of it.

Leaders from the second stage to the end, Kris and Paul Nagle produced a masterful performance at Rally de Portugal to claim their second World Championship win. This win, Citroën’s 95th victory in the WRC, was just rewards for the hard work of the Abu Dhabi Total WRT at its first gravel rally of the season. Having rejoined this morning under Rally2 regulations, Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau and Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson made it to the final podium.

Armed with a healthy 45.3-second advantage, Kris and Paul could afford to manage their lead. Whilst Andreas Mikkelsen dislodged Sébastien Ogier from second place, the Citroën Racing crew controlled proceedings at the front. After the first runs on Vieira do Minho and Fafe, they still held a 35.5s lead. At the end of the Fafe stage, Kris and Paul could finally relax after claiming their second win in the WRC, finishing 29.7s ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen!

At the finish Kris said: “First and foremost, I must thank the entire team and PH Sport for the work done this weekend. We have secured this win against top-level competition so the performance is especially important for me as a driver. Before the start, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Although I’ve done a lot of testing over the last few weeks, I was clearly short of competitive mileage. But I managed to drive quickly and led pretty much from start to finish, managing my lead from Saturday afternoon onwards.”

“I was cautious again today, as there were quite a lot of embedded rocks on Fafe, especially on the second pass. It really is a very special feeling to win here. The atmosphere is incredible, with some of noisiest and most passionate fans in the world. They say that getting that first win is a monkey off your back, but it feels like this one is just as important. There aren’t too many drivers that have won a WRC rally, but there are even fewer who have won two! We’re now going to try and build on this result for the next few races and especially in 2017 to be compete at the highest level!”

He summed up: “It was nearly a perfect weekend, a text book performance. It’s another step for me as a driver. This year is all about gathering experience and I couldn’t have done any more. We’ll use these rallies this year for our benefit and try to mount a title challenge next year.”

After set-up changes to his Volkswagen Polo R Andreas Mikkelsen grabbed second from team-mate and championship leader Sébastien Ogier who suffered two punctures today. With just one spare wheel in his Polo R, he compromised his pace to ensure he completed the final Power Stage and reach the Matosinhos finish after topping up one of the flat tyres with air.
Dani Sordo finished fourth after his hopes of a podium ended yesterday due to stability issues with the rear of his Hyundai i20. Eric Camilli claimed a career-best fifth in only his fifth start in a World Rally Car. The Frenchman had a broken handbrake in his Ford Fiesta RS today and a final stage spin almost allowed Jari-Matti Latvala to catch him. The gap was 5.3sec.
Latvala completed the rally with blistered and bandaged hands after wrestling his Polo R through the twisty mountains on Friday with broken power steering. Mads Østberg was almost three minutes behind in seventh in another Fiesta RS after downshifting problems and a broken driveshaft cost time.

Two WRC wins - here’s hoping there will be many more for the man from Dungannon.

1, Meeke / Nagle (DS 3 WRC) 3:59:01.0
2, Mikkelsen / Jaeger (VW Polo-R WRC) +29.7
3, Ogier / Ingrassia (VW Polo-R WRC) +34.5
4, Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:37.1
5, Camilli / Veillas (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:01.6
6, Latvala / Anttila (VW Polo-R WRC) +4:06.9
7, Ostberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:53.6
8, Prokop / Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +10:24.1
9, Tidemand / Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +11:45.2
10, Fuchs / Mussano (Skoda Fabia R5) +13:14.0