Sunday 10 February 2019

Rally - Afterthoughts

You know what? The Snowman Rally organisers have a lot to answer for. Last week's decision had wider repercussions than even they thought. For instance, it caused serious matrimonial disharmony within Castle Bunnet. Thinking that she had the place to herself for the weekend, Lady Bunnet had made 'other plans'. These plans did not include a certain motor sports journalist, who was consigned to the greenhouse all day yesterday!

Instead of an afternoon of rugby telly watching, beers and shouting, which in itself was no match for the sight and sound of rally cars in the woods, the poor sod was listening to the matches on radio  while on horticultural duty. At times like this one truly misses the late Bill McLaren and recently retired Ian Robertson. Very few of the current crop come close.

Thinking back to last week's decision, and given the uncertainties over weather and road conditions, the organisers really had no choice. Safety has to come first and the repercussions of that tragic, unforeseeable fatal accident six years ago still haunt the forests in the north. That affected, and still affects, many people.

Similarly, given their own past record, the Forestry Commission now takes a much more considered interest in safety procedures and plans prior to the running of any sporting and leisure activities on their 'public' estate. They too have to be consulted and satisfied beforehand.

Looking further ahead, there is another factor at work here. Lack of entries will concern organisers of one day forest rallies to come. With the local crews deserting their home event, the Snowman had to lose miles to make the event financially viable. Normally one of the best supported events in the season, it bodes ill for those to come who may either have to increase Entry Fees or reduce stage miles.

There was one more equally serious issue, a shortage of Marshals. This too could have the effect of making events shorter in future as organisers seek to reduce the number of stages to suit the man/womanpower available on the day.

All of these consequences will place additional onerous demands on senior rally organisers, but if there is any hope for those assuming such responsibility, it is in the knowledge that they now have genuine support from the sport's governing body.

The newly appointed Motorsports Council Chairman must give us all hope for the future. He is as much a fans of cars in the glaur and on gravel roads, as he is of the cleaner and more shiny variety on sealed surfaces, unlike the previous incumbent of this exalted position.

Indeed Mr Richards was in Scotland  just last week meeting Ministers and MSPs following the conclusion of the Public Consultation document on closed roads. Now that is seriously encouraging for the sport of rallying, not just up here but right across the UK.

Coincidentally, two of the MSPs he met with represent south west Scotland constituencies. That surely bodes well for the Solway Coast and the Galloway Hills. Both events are staged in areas where sections of closed public road could benefit and enhance both competitions while keeping local disruption to a minimum. And it can't escape folk's notice that the Galloway Hills in September will be the final round of the new-look British Rally Championship - 'wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more' to coin a phrase!

In the same way, the more recent appointment of Chief Executive Hugh Chambers will offer similar assurance to those involved in planning, organising and managing club and national motor sporting events.

The whole of the Motorsport UK team faces a huge task in the coming years, but to ensure a viable and successful future they need our support every bit as much as we need theirs. Onwards, and upwards, eh?

Meantime, I've got more seeds to sow. Damn if these blighters aren't tiny - hope Lady Bunnet doesn't go looking for her tweezers any time soon.

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