The life and times of a partially retired motoring and motor rallying journalist in Scotland.
Author of the book 'The Scottish Rally Championship 1980-1989'
The Rally meeting ... Rally drivers,
co-drivers and event organisers have been invited to an 'open' meeting in Stirling
on Sunday the 18th of August. There is just one subject on the informal Agenda
Here's the strange bit. This meeting has been called by competitors! It
must be serious, eh?
The principal instigators include drivers Iain Wilson, Des Campbell,
Simon Hay, John Wink and co-driver Neil Shanks. They are hoping for a big turn-out
to discuss and debate (argue?) about what has gone wrong with the sport in Scotland
and what can be done to put it right. Before it's too late! And you know what?
They invited Motorsport UK to sit in - and they will be represented.
Dwindling entries and loss of interest have been put down to a number
of factors but primarily those relating to cost, red tape and lack of
volunteers. Failure to address this situation could result in the sport disappearing
off the calendar rather quicker than we might think. If we lose organising team
manpower it won't be the lack of competitors which will threaten the future of
the sport it will be the lack of rallies.
It might be argued that this is not just a meeting for competitors, it could
be regarded as a meeting specially for non-competitors. The folk who
really need to be there are those who thought about entering the Snowman and
Argyll, the Mach1 and Solway - and then didn't! The sport needs to know and
understand why. What has put would-be competitors off? Where has the inclination
gone to go out to the garage of an evening to tinker with the car or service
van to get ready to rally?
It's not necessarily the front runners who are of particular concern
here, the ones who have a privately prepared car and professional support. It's
the capacity class competitors, the midfielders, the tail-enders and the
newcomers. The crews who run last on the road are every bit as important as
those who run first. Rallies need numbers, not just names.
It's no good casting envious looks at David Bogie, Euan Thorburn or
Garry Pearson. David started in a Nova while Euan and Garry came through the
Peugeot 205 cauldron. The fact that they have achieved success in business just
means that they can buy better kit. They should be celebrated not envied. The
real point is, where are the Davids, Euans and Garrys of tomorrow?
If the sport is too complex and too expensive to consider in the first
place then we have no chance of attracting newcomers. That means we have to get
this sorted now. The worry is, 'now' may even be too late.
On that basis, if any competitor or would-be competitor has a serious
concern about the future of our sport, then they have to be in Stirling on the
18th of August.
The venue is the Stirling Court Hotel which is on the University of Stirling
campus and lies between Stirling and Bridge of Allan. SatNav post code is FK9
4LA - for drivers who are not bringing a co-driver with them! The meeting is
timed to start at 13.30 Hrs and the room is booked till 17.00 Hrs
If you don't turn up then you're view won't be heard, if you can't
turn up then drop the gang a line. And if you are coming, best to drop them
a line to say so to gauge numbers. Worst case will be the old red BT phonebox
outside or there is a number of bigger conference rooms inside! They can be
contacted through the Facebook group at:
The recent cancellation of the two day Solway
Coast and downturn in entries at the two day Mach1 Stages suggests that rally folk
don't want multi-day events - unless it's a 1 day/2 night thrash around a hebridean island in October or
a four day historic rally in November! OK, that's a bit facetious, but if car
clubs are to organise events that are popular then they have to know what
Compare that to the 2 day Sprint which is on at Kames this weekend. In
fact most Sprints are 2 day events, both days counting separately for
championship points. Practice in the morning, race in the afternoon. Simple.
Each run lasts around 1m 20 to 1m 40 seconds so competitors will get two
practice runs and two competitive runs for their day's sport. Not a lot of time
in the car, eh?
And yet, not a word of complaint. Admittedly some folk turn up in the
morning and go home at night but there were others there who camped out - in
tents. And it was raining. For sure there were quite a few motorhomes, camper
vans and vans with sleeping bags in them - but there were around 70 entries
One of the big attractions is that unless you are driving a 'proper'
race car, the rules and regulations are less strict than in rallying. Drivers
here are using 'out of date' seats and belts although they have to pass
inspection by the Scroots for signs of wear or damage. Roll cages are simpler,
personal safety equipment is less stringent and the permitted car 'sound
check'levels are higher. Oddly enough
there was no requirement for ground sheets under the awnings!
Between runs, folks mingled and chatted and helped each other, so the
atmosphere was good, the competition close and the entry fee was £85 for each
Another big attraction concerns the facilities. Kames is a more than a
match for any UK-wide club venue with toilets and showers and now a brand new
commodious club house and cafe where folk can chill out and chat, and purchase
a tea and a pie - or two! (Other foods and salad rolls are available).
Many hillclimbs and race meetings are two day affairs as well with
practice on Saturdays and racing on Sundays, so whilst this is accepted
practice in motor racing, why so much objection in rallying?
Anyway yesterday's visit provided the chance to see Scotland's latest star
in action, and whata treat for the
eyeballs. Louse Calder's 1 litre Jedi was the class of the field as she set the
Fastest Time of the Day.
Younger daughter and wee sister of former British Speed Champions,
Colin and Heather, ex-kart racer and now sprinter and hillclimber Louise is obviously
a spoke from the same wheel. Her car control in dry, greasy and wet conditions
was a treat to behold. Weighing little more than a bag of crisps (for the sake
of journalistic accuracy, a Multipack!) and driving a car little bigger than a
handbag (for the sake of journalistic accuracy, an oversized 'designer label'
handbag!), Louise displayed a level of confidence and commitment that was quite
simply fascinating to watch. Oddly enough, she didn't look the quickest, but
she did look the tidiest and the clocks don't lie.
During the first afternoon 'greasy run' watching the car exit the
slightly uphill Paddock bend, the rear stepped out as it crested the rise. Unlike
her more experienced rivals, there was no wild snatch of opposite lock, but a barely
discernible adjustment to her line which set her up for the following downhill
sweep to the right. Like she meant that approach and racing line in the first
place. In fact that is the trademark of her driving, neat, controlled and
quick. Pure dead gallous. Gaun yersel Louise.
I'll return to rallying and it's problems - and perhaps a solution,
First we had 'Scottish Rally Scene' covering Scottish
clubrallying then 'UK Rally Scene' with
its expanded horizons, but in the latest issue, Bob Irvine's ambition knows no
bounds. Whatever next? Can we expect a special lunar edition in this 50th year
of the Moon landings? There's reports from Scotland, England, Wales, Northern
Ireland and Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Isle of Skye and the Isle of Barbados,
but he also has time for a chat with a certain Malcolm Wilson OBE. As usual there
is much to look at and read in the magazine, and it's available to purchase
from the usual Ebay outlet or look out for a wandering Bob selling copies at
rallies. If you don't know what you're missing, there is only one way to find
out. And it only costs a fiver.
The M-Sport Ford World Rally Team cars will carry a small but significant addition to the team livery during next week’s Neste Rally Finland. A small ribbon will mark the life and times of Manus Kelly and his passion for rallying. As the team said: "Rallying is a tight-knit community and his love and passion for the sport will not be forgotten." Nice one team.
The news that the Solway Coast Rally scheduled to
runin 10 days time has been cancelled has
come as a shock. It was one of the rallying year's highlights. Terrific venue,
good roads and a great social atmosphere. If an event such as this can fail to tempt
competitors then other events could be in serious trouble.
This news comes hard on the heels of the Mach1 Stages which was in
doubt before the rally due to lack of numbers and also last month's Argyll
Stages. In fact both of those events took the decision to run although the
organisers incurred a loss. Those are circumstances that cannot and will not
There are no 'professional' car clubs in Scotland. All are amateur
organisations run by amateurs giving freely of their own time and often supported
and supplemented by their own financial resources. On that basis they cannot be
expected to organise and run events at a loss.
Competitors often don't help themselves either. Late entries and
entries with promises to pay the Entry Fee later or on the day don't help with
confidence, and then there are those who enter and simply don't turn up. No excuses,
no apologies, just an empty bay in the service area. Promised entries may help
organisers to make a decision regarding break-even point, but come the day the
non-arrivals can turn break-even into a loss.
Those who do turn up and then complain about lost mileage or stages
certainly have a worthwhile gripe, but it's not the organisers' fault. It's
This article is not a criticism of competitors, but they have to know
and understand that just as rallies need competitors, rallies need organisers.
So what's the problem? Unfortunately this has been an all too common
theme on these social media pages. Two factors stand out - rising costs and
There is another other factor at work here, the increasing variety of other
sports, pursuits and pastimes to claim our interest, attention and participation.
Rallying (and motor racing) has to compete with sports which are cheaper to
enter and compete and often with fewer rules and less red tape. Take
mountainbiking for instance. You've
only got half the number of wheels and the 'fuel' is much cheaper and less
refined - bacon rolls if you're not a serious competitor, green veg, fruit and
energy drinks if you are!
Such is the richness of variety on offer elsewhere, even golf is
suffering with memberships down at clubs across the country. If they can't
compete for the pound in our pocket, what chance has rallying?
So what has to be done? The sport has to be made cheaper and regulation
eased. Unfortunately that's not going to be easy given that the government is
hell bent on killing off petrol/diesel cars and going electric which poses a
whole new problem for the sport. Until then there has to be a concerted effort
to reduce costs and complexity and that could lead to unpopular choices. Such
as WRC and R5 cars can only compete inBritish Championship events while restrictions are placed onthe machinery at national and regional
championship level. And how about the introduction of a proper 'Road Car' class,
sort of Group 1 but without the manufacturer led tweaks and upgrades!
Contentious I know, but uncertain times need radical ideas. And if
Silverstone can renegotiate its deal with the new F1 business (as opposed to
sporting) hierarchy then surely we can renegotiate our deal with the Forestry
Commission. After all, fewer cars will cause less damage!
Which brings us back to safety. The price of staying safe has risen
dramatically over recent years, but at what cost to sporting participation?
The alternative? We'll all be buying classic cars and doing 'tours'
until the oil runs out.
In the meantime there is something brewing in the background and
hopefully I'll be able to bring you news of that, or I may just write a longer
article for the on-line mag - it'll be too big for FB!!