Wednesday 31 July 2019

Rally - Tyneside this weekend

Short preview and full entry list for this Sunday's (4th Aug) Glendinnings of Prudhoe Tyneside Stages Rally In memory of Maurice Mabon which gets underway on the Otterburn Ranges at 08.30 hrs.

Info here:

Rally - 40 Years of M-Sport

Cumbrian bsiness celebrates 40 years of driving, rallying, racing and wining. Wonder who that could be, eh?

Monday 29 July 2019

Rally - Dead end, or new Beginning?

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 - Rallying.

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:

Over to youse. See you there?

Sunday 28 July 2019

Fact Finding mission

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 competitors want.

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 both days.

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 day's competition.

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 what  a 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, shortly!

Rally - World domination

First we had 'Scottish Rally Scene' covering Scottish club  rallying 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.

Friday 26 July 2019

Rally - In commemoration

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.


Wednesday 24 July 2019

Rally - Uncertain times

The news that the Solway Coast Rally scheduled to run  in 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 continue.

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 fellow competitors.

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 increasing regulation.

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 mountain  biking 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 in  British Championship events while restrictions are placed on  the 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!!