Tuesday 19 September 2017

Rally - Bears in the woods

Last week, the motor sports papers, mags and websites were full of tributes to a lost star. And rightly so. Colin McRae MBE touched so many lives in so many different ways. From the computer screen generation listening to those couthy tones and watching Subarus and Fords dancing on the screen to those more fortunate who saw the man and machine in full three dimensional action, hurling cars at unbelievable speeds into the unknown.

This weekend it's Coltness Car Club's turn to pay tribute, but not just to Colin. The whole McRae family have been a part of the club since Jim took up rallying in 1974 after a career moto-crossing, or motor cycle scrambling as it was called in those days. As wife Margaret observed: "I was happier, because I thought cars were safer than motor bikes - if only I knew!"

At 31 years of age, Jim was a late starter in rallying, and who knows, had he taken to rallying before he discovered bikes maybe Scotland could have had its first world rally champion a lot sooner.

Even then, rallying was changing. And fast. Four wheel drive, turbos, superchargers, power steering, sequential shifts, suspension, electronics, tyres and of course Pace Notes.

The sport demanded more of its drivers too. Top drivers had to become top athletes to cope with the physical demands and the pressure. Talent behind the wheel was not enough.

Then along comes a skinny, gangly young man who turned that theory on its head. If it was front wheel drive, rear wheel drive or four wheel drive he would simply jump in and drive the wheels off it. The biggest problem was getting him to slow down, and countless relatives, friends and team managers tried to do so over the years. But it was that innate ability, courage and spectacular car control that endeared him to countless rally fans around the world.

Like Colin and his Dad before him. Alister came through motor cycle trials and motocross too, but it was 'dodgy motocross knees' that encouraged him to switch from two wheels to four. It could be argued that Alister was just as quick as his big brother but he had a more 'thinking' approach to the sport. He was also a bit more flamboyant and talkative outside the car. Two quite different personalities and two quite different attitudes to the sport.

And yet, throughout all that fan hysteria and public clamour, all three of them would drop into clubnights when they had the time. Even at the height of his fame, Colin enjoyed the clubnights. It was the one chance he could relax amongst friends. He wasn't 'on stage' he was one of the 'bears'. Both he and Alister were ribbed mercilessly about their exploits whether winning, losing or crashing. Nothing was off limits, and everything that happened within the club, stayed within the club.

Coltness Car Club celebrated its 60th anniversary 3 years ago and the McRaes have been a central part of this club for over 40 of those years. So this Saturday's one-off 'McRae Gravel Challenge' at Craigvinean Forest will commemorate not only a lost club member but the whole family. Although Alister now lives in Australia, faither will be there. Jim will be on Course Car duty.

What Coltness have planned is unusual, four stages in one forest in one day. Facilities and space are limited so if you're planning to come, bear that in mind, but I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday. Just remember, sensible clothes and stout boots. Oh, one other thing, if you do transgress, just 'bear' in mind who is running this event!

Full spectator information is on the Coltness Car Club website:

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