Monday 30 January 2017

Rally - The future?



I was expecting a bigger news media backlash after the tragic accident which claimed the life of a spectator on the Monte Carlo Rally. Perhaps the sport was lucky - this time. Although the continental press has a more tolerant view of such incidents, the British press did not pick up on it. No doubt other world events were concentrating minds and efforts elsewhere such as the Dis-United States of Trumpland.

As I said the sport was lucky. It would have been so easy for the non-specialist, sensation seeking side of the 'news media' to criticise and an easy headline to write. Especially since the introduction this year of more spectacular and powerful cars with improved (faster) aerodynamics could have provided the sport's detractors with strengthened arguments  to criticise our sport.

Indeed, it made some within the sport question the wisdom of introducing faster machinery at a time when national governments are urging sports governing bodies to make sport safer. Not just for those who take part but for those who officiate and spectate.

This may yet come back to haunt us. Dates have now been confirmed for the official Fatal Accident Inquiry into the Inverness and Duns tragedies. There will be a preliminary hearing this month (February) and the full Inquiry will be heard in July.

No doubt the 'great British press' will be waiting to record and publish proceedings with a liberal application of pre-conceived expectations and ill considered opinions based entirely on a lack of knowledge of the sport and its following.

Without going into the circumstances of such tragedies and  incidents, British stage rallying is under scrutiny like never before. Remember, there were two quite separate incidents on the same day on the Duns event. Also, there are still ongoing repercussions from the accident in Aberdeen in which three spectators were injured way back in 2012 and the Court of Session has yet to rule on these. This incident happened in the same year that there were two fatalities and seven injured at another bad accident in Cavan in Ireland while another accident in 2015 left two injured at Tralee in Co Kerry.

If the sport is to survive, let alone thrive, then we must all assume some measure of personal responsibility to ensure that it is safe to watch. That means intervening if folk are seen to be standing in exposed locations. Most general public will listen to advice from those who know better but the biggest problem is with the 'eedjits'. Those who think they know better.

It s because of them that the future of spectating on rallies will henceforth be one of controlled and managed spectator areas with no movement into and out of stages being permitted while the rally is passing through.

The days of arriving at a stage in a hurry, legging it in ahead of the top seeds to get a vantage point and then leaving after seeing them to catch them at a later stage are long gone. Regardless of the experience and knowledge of such afficionados, we cannot be seen to be endorsing this practice.

But before we start  flagellating ourselves with big sticks it is worth bearing in mind that the most dangerous sport at which to spectate remains football.  Care has to be exercised when quoting statistics because such figures inevitably refer to personal tragedies, but nevertheless they are always used to bolster arguments or support criticism. Even so, more lives have been lost by fans travelling to and from football matches, entering or leaving stadiums and even within stadiums yet there has never been a call to ban football. But just as that sport has learned lessons, so too must ours.

It's not a question of comparison just an observation that statistics can be used for good as well as bad.

It's up to us, and not just the MSA or individual event organisers, to keep the uninformed safe from themselves. The days of folk assuming responsibility for their own personal safety are long gone. Sadly these days, many refuse to accept any personal blame or criticism when things go wrong, instead lashing out and blaming someone else. No matter their own shortcomings, it's never their fault.

This is not something that will be easily controlled or managed, it will require a culture change in peoples' own behaviour.

This applies equally to the olds hands who 'know better' and have survived their own early years of spectating and think they are invulnerable. They too must comply if only to set an example for newcomers and innocent bystanders.

This is something that we all have to bear in mind at the start of a new rallying season. The eyes of the nation will be upon us like never before and sharply brought to a wider public when  the FAI gets underway.

Whether we like it or not the new rules are here to stay, but that won't be enough to protect our sport from its detractors. We must observe these new rules and heed the advice of Marshals. There is no scope for standing idly by and laugh at the eedjits when they are showered by stones or fall into ditches.

Please. Stand well back, and use your knowledge and experience to advise others. The future of our sport is in our own hands. The alternative is reliving memories amongst friends in the pub, watching films and reports from events in the past, or weekends spent pulling up weeds in the garden.

Remember the old adage - Gang warily!

Friday 27 January 2017

Rally - Celtic connection



M-Sports 'works' cars will carry new number this plates this season. Sébastien Ogier's Ford Fiesta will have the number 'WRT 1' while Ott Tänak will carry 'WRT 2'.

The number plates have been loaned to the team by W R Tullock and Sons Limited – the longest established Ford Dealer in Scotland. The fifth generation W R Tullock and Sons was founded in 1901 when William Reid Tullock returned to his home in Orkney following 17 years in America.

During his time in the USA, William met Henry Ford and from that first meeting the Tullock family’s loyalty to the Ford brand began.

It is even recorded that after crossing the Atlantic en-route to London in 1915, Henry Ford anchored in Kirkwall Bay where William was requested to come on board and renew their friendship.

Since its foundation, the company has remained a family firm. Managed through the generations, William passed ownership onto his two sons, David T Tullock (Theo) and Robert P H Tullock.

Theo’s son Robert T Tullock was next in line, followed by his two sons, David R Tullock and Duncan A Tullock. Today, David’s son Warren R Tullock continues the tradition and it was he who offered the two number plates to M-Sport’s lead drivers for the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship.

David and Warren were invited to the Autosport International Show in Birmingham to see the new cars.

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said: “We have long enjoyed a special relationship with the Ford brand, as have W R Tullock and Sons, and we are delighted to accept their offer of these special number plates for the season ahead. It’s fantastic to have such support from such long-established members of the Ford family - highlighting the magnitude of what we have accomplished over the past few months.

“Now, all that remains is for us to continue our strong showing and keep the Blue Oval in its rightful place – challenging for the top-step of the podium.”

Warren R Tullock added: “Being avid motorsport fans – especially anything Ford or powered by a Ford engine – my father and I both thought this was an ideal opportunity for M-Sport to emphasise their position in the 2017 World Rally Championship; not only displaying the numbers one and two, but also having their status as a world rally team underlined with WRT 1 and WRT 2 on their car registration plates."

“We were absolutely thrilled and delighted when Malcolm expressed the same enthusiasm as we did for the idea and wish him, Sébastien, Julien, Ott, Martin and all at M-Sport every success for the exciting season ahead.” 

Rally - Monte bound

When planning a 1300 mile route from Scotland to the south of France (and back again) in a fifty year old Mini it pays to plan ahead. Essentials include food and drink, Haynes manual signed by Paddy Hopkirk and French phrase book, maps and pencils, anoraks and torches, spare points and rotor arm, spare tyre and tool roll - and bog roll! 

Intrepid paparazzi photographer (although 'Speedy' will have to remain anonymous to protect his identity in case of threats of actual bodily harm following this 'scoop') caught Pat Haley in the act of mid-preparation ahead of yesterday evening's Paisley start for the Monte Carlo Historique Rally.

As they say in Frenchland: "Quand vous devez aller, vous devez aller!"

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Rally - Paisley to Monte Carlo



Around 80 cars are expected to gather in the shadow of Paisley Abbey tomorrow afternoon ahead of the 2017 Historic Monte Carlo Rally start which gets underway at 6pm.

Paisley is the only British start point, out of seven European cities, for the 1300-mile trip to the South of France.

The Historique class will feature cars which competed in the Monte Carlo Rallies between 1955 and 1980 while the Classique event is for older cars from 1911 to 1980. Bringing up the rear of the entry list are entries in the Monte Heritage Runs which have no intention of going anywhere near Monte Carlo, instead taking in a series of short classic routes in Scotland.

Playing a starring role in this year's event will be Paddy Hopkirk's Mini Cooper S which he drove to sixth place overall 50 years ago. Now in the hands of Coltness Car Club stalwarts, Pat Haley and Mike Hyrons, the car has been completely refurbished and rebuilt ready for a return visit to Monaco.

About the only thing Pat 'Paddy' Haley shares with the Northern Irish legend is the initials 'PH' but Pat did take part in forest stage rallies in the 1980s with his Talbot Sunbeam so he has some idea of what lies ahead. Mind you, a certain stalwart (who shall remain nameless) within Coltness CC is taking bets on how far they will get before their first major fall-out!

The trouble with Minis is that there isn't much room inside the thing to get away from each other. Such confidence, eh?

Pre-rally start festivities will get underway from 4pm with lights, music, street food and pyrotechnics before the formal and official start commences at 6pm.

So if you fancy a bit of a wallow in automotive nostalgia pop along and join the fun.

Sunday 22 January 2017

Rally - Strike 1 for Seb



Sébastien Ogier claimed his fifth Monte-Carlo victory and his first for his new team scoring M-Sport World Rally Team's first win since November 2012.

Jari-Matti Latvala finished second in a Toyota Yaris on the Japanese manufacturer’s return to the WRC after a 17-year absence. Final day engine problems for Ott Tänak denied M-Sport a one-two as he slipped to third place.

Ogier took the lead late on Saturday’s penultimate leg when rally leader Thierry Neuville broke his Hyundai i20 Coupe’s suspension after an impact.

With a comfortable gap, Ogier took no risks through the final snow-hit speed test over the famous Col de Turini. “I was hoping to win but to take it from the first rally, after only one month together and with so little preparation, feels really amazing,” he said. “The conditions didn’t make our life easy this weekend, starting first in the snow on day one and finishing with more and more snow.”

Latvala struggled to find a good rhythm initially but changes to his car’s set-up revitalised the Finn.

Third overnight became second when Ott Tänak dropped time with a broken ignition coil pack in his Fiesta and Latvala sped by.

With no service, Estonian Tänak worked furiously to make repairs and did enough to hold onto third, fending off Dani Sordo’s i20 Coupe with a spirited downhill drive to the finish of the last special stage in falling snow.  
Craig Breen finished fifth in a Citroën DS 3, commenting: "
The conditions were unbelievably difficult. I guess that's why the Col de Turini has become such an iconic test! I did wonder whether or not to go with the snow tyres for the final test, but I kept the slicks and it became more and more difficult the further we went on the stage. But we managed to make it to the end and stay in the top five, which is a great result."

 

Elfyn Evans completing the top six in another Fiesta. The Welshman struggled for grip in the early stages, but as soon as the conditions became more consistent, he and Daniel Barritt were unstoppable. Securing more stage wins that anyone else throughout Saturday’s running, Evans set the fastest time on three out of a possible five speed tests and was untouchable through the second pass of ‘La Batie Montsaleon – Faye’ (SS12) – 7.4 seconds faster than his nearest rival.

 

And the final word? Malcolm Wilson OBE, said: “I can’t put into words the feeling in the team right now. It’s been five years since we have stood on the top step of the podium and I can tell you that it’s a feeling we want to continue. Once again, we have won on our debut with a new car and I think that just goes to prove the high level of expertise we have in this company. You just have to look at the performance of all three drivers – Sébastien, Ott and Elfyn all securing stage wins. We have got a great base car in the Ford Fiesta WRC. We know that we’ve still got a lot of work to do, but we’ve certainly got something good to work with. Again, I cannot praise the team enough. This result is down to their hard work and dedication. Each and every one of them – here on event and back home at Dovenby Hall – should be extremely proud of what we have achieved this weekend.”

 

OVERALL CLASSIFICATION:


1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:00:03.6
2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:15.0
3. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:57.8
4. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +3:35.8
5. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen DS3 WRC) +3:47.8
6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +6:45.0
7. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Škoda Fabia R5) +9:32.7
8. Jan Kopecky / Pavel Dresler (Škoda Fabia R5) +12:58.1
9. Stéphane Lefebvre / Gabin Moreau (Citroen C3 WRC) +14:43.8
10. Bryan Bouffier / Denis Giraudet (Ford Fiesta R5) +16:09.