Monday 30 September 2019

Rally - Making memories

The year 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Mull Rally. Much has changed during that half century, not just to the sport but to the island.

Thankfully, one constant is returning this year after something of a hiatus, the Beatson's Mull Rally, whereupon the town of Tobermory will assume the mantle of 'Britain's rallying capital' for one weekend once again. One might be forgiven for thinking that Chester, Harrogate or Llandudno could command such terminology. Nae chance. Mull is quite unique in world rallying, no other event comes close. This is a land of magic and mystery.

How do I know this? It all started in 1971 when a young man in a tweed cap was dispatched from his post at Shell & BP's Head Office in Glasgow to the Isle of Mull to investigate the phenomenon known as 'the Tour of Mull'. On his return he made a positive report to his Boss, one Bill Houston Esq, the Sales & Promotions Supervisor of the oil giant. As sponsors of the Shell Scottish Rally Championship at that time, Bill had it in mind to include the Mull event as part of the Scottish Championship, which it was for a couple of years. Even when it was excluded from the Scottish national series, Shell continued their association with the event.

That young man has rarely missed an event on the sainted isle since. Since then his maturity has been peppered with life learning experiences, unbelievable adventures and memory searing images. Standing with Chris Coburn on Tobermory Pier with a stash of White Horse Whisky miniatures (that's another story!) because the MacDonald Arms was bursting at the seams with rally folk. The only thing that could get near the bar was a spider walking across the ceiling. There were 12 miniatures to a box, but do you know something, the memory fails to recall how many boxes were consumed that evening. Funny that!

Another lesson learned was to ensure that a cigarette lighter's flame was turned down before lighting up a fag. Failure to do so might result in the smoker leaning forward, cupping his hand around the flame to light his cigarette, and failing to spot the tall flame shoot up and ignite the skip on his baseball hat. He was last seen wandering off into the night oblivious to his hat ablaze but no doubt impervious to the discomfort by the amount of drink swilling about his warm internals. Moral - baseball hats are dangerous, bunnets are far safer.

That young man was there too when a callow youth first sauntered on to the scene (1993?) in a Mk2 Escort which had only escaped the scrappie by being pushed past the gates at dead of night. Converted to a rally car, this self-prepared machine looked to have all the durability of a McDonald’s Happy Meal free toy, and yet Calum Duffy finished an incredible 10th overall. The rest is history.

And there is so much more, MacKinnon did the dozen, a record that will never be beaten? Then there are the names, McKnight and MacGillivray, Duffy and MacCrone, Cope and Harper, Beecoft and Biggerstaff, Hill and Coburn, Gemmell and Griffiths - the list is endless.

One memory burns bright above all others. Standing there under a cloudless, star-lit sky, the first silvery frost nip of winter burnishing the grass and tree tops and the cold seeping up through the feet on a banking overlooking Glen Aros. In the distance, multiple pairs of search lights pierced the darkness as they swept round corners and sky-lines in search of tarmac, accompanied by a distant piercing growl which grew ever louder. A tonne of metal burst into sight on the left, white hot exhaust glowing on the tarmac underneath, red hot brake discs showing through the blur of spinning wheels and shot past like an Exocet looking for trouble, trailing a twinkling cloud of cindered brake dust and sumpguard sparks, the ears assaulted by the mechanical cacophany of the devil's orchestra. Once seen, heard and smelled and never forgotten.

Guess where that once young man will be in two weeks' time.

Road - SCoTY 2019

The 2019 Scottish Car of the Year awards ceremony will take place in  early November and, as ever, at this time of year there is quite a rush to drive and assess those cars the 15 judges might have missed during the past 12 months. The job was completed yesterday with a run in one of Ford's finest to Duns and back. Not to see the museum, but to attend a pre-Jim Clark Memorial Rally meeting.

If anyone still thinks that organising a Closed Road Stages Rally is easier and cheaper than organising a forest rally, a listen-in to one of those meetings will blow all those preconceptions into the weeds. Over two hours the 'To-Do' list was gone through in fine detail by the Chair and the amount of work undertaken by every delegate around that table prompted one silent question: "How the heck do they all fit that in with their days jobs!" They'll meet again shortly to discuss progress and what is yet to be done. My bunnet off to each and every one of them.

But back to the day job. Last week was pretty frantic with a fleet of the automotive industry's latest four wheeled temptations to get through and appraise. A tough job, but someone's got to do it, eh?

Thursday 26 September 2019

Rally - The Hills were alive

The final chapter of the saga that was the Armstrong Galloway Gone with the Hills Rally is now in the on-line mag and features such shocking revelations as breaking and entering in the cause of rallying, fire in the hole, coping with a mid-life crisis, the balming and soothing effects of liquor and the physical peril (to the perpetrator) of bicycle theft. Of course this is just another chapter in the soap opera that is Scottish rallying. And of course, it's all perfectly true.

Surely ye've got enough in there tae buy me a coffee!

And then the vicar showed me this!!

Wednesday 25 September 2019

Road - Affordable Defender?

Affordable Defender ... Just in case you missed it, there was a new Land Rover Defender Commercial tucked away at the back of the stand at the recent Frankfurt Motor Show where the new Defender was launched. Although not due for release till next year, final specification and price have yet to be finalised. However, if JLR want to re-attract the 'traditional' Defender buyers they are going to have to do something about the expected price. At this stage industry insiders are anticipating something in the region of £38,500 for the 90 and £40,500 for the 110, where expectations were originally in the £30,000 bracket. That was down primarily to the fact that the new Defender will be built on a production alongside the Discovery in their new factory in Slovakia. It is also anticipated that the base model will have a 2 litre diesel with an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission and permanent all-wheel drive. Towing capacity will be 3500 kgs.

Monday 23 September 2019

Road - SCoTY

Judging for this year's Scottish Car of The Year is already well under way but there are still some cars to be driven and assessed hence attendance at an SMMT event somewhere in the North of Englandshire where a host of automotive delight has been gathered together for Scotland's top motoring journalists (plus one!) to savour. Someone's got to do it, eh? Never one to miss a trick, yer auld pal Jaggy is here and already hard at work, and you folk think he has life easy!

Sunday 22 September 2019

Rally - Galloway Classes

Full roundup from all the Classes on the Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally now in the on-line mag. Where else will you find out what happened to everyone? Answer - Nowhere. My Big Pal Jaggy reaches the parts and people that other journalists fear to reach and reporters fear to ask. News & Galloway Gossip to come

Mike, Keith and Alan

David and Iain (aka 'James'!)