Wednesday 30 October 2019

Rally - Kingdom Stages

The final round of this year's Cobble Shop STRC will be the Kingdom Stages Rally at Crail, this Saturday, the 2nd November. The first of 6 Special Stages is scheduled to get under way at 08.30 Hrs.
Full entry list here:

Tuesday 29 October 2019

The future is ... Hopeful?

With rumours circulating for some time, Motorsport UK has confirmed that British motor sport's governing body will move from its present premises at Colnbrook in Londonshire to a new facility at Bicester, between Banbury and Oxford and right beside the M40, next year (2020).

Run by an organisation called 'Bicester Heritage' the 444 acre site at the former RAF Bicester airfield is currently being transformed into 'Bicester Motion' the UK’s only centre for historic motoring excellence. It is the national centre for a £5.5bn per annum industry that employs over 34,000 skilled people. Founded in 2013 Bicester Heritage is now home to 40 specialist businesses, and growing!

Motorsport UK has been based in Colnbrook, near Heathrow, since 1988 but the new location should provide significant geographical benefits for the rest of us. Situated just off the M40, Birmingham and London are less than 60 minutes away by rail. A planned hotel and conference centre is due to open in 2022, providing additional facilities for meetings, training and conferences.

Further down the line, Proposed track facilities will be used for training, testing and perhaps even licenced sprint meetings whilst providing an additional opportunity to host events for the sport, and create community gatherings.

Hugh Chambers, Motorsport UK CEO, said: "There are clear synergies between the objectives of Motorsport UK and Bicester Motion, particularly in terms of engaging the public with the automobile and more specifically, motorsport. Not only does it make perfect sense geographically, but the relocation is designed to be cost-neutral, so it is a fantastic opportunity for Motorsport UK to make a move which is long overdue. The location, in the heart of ‘Motorsport Valley’, will allow us greater access to the motorsport talent pool, and enable us to more effectively develop our commercial relationships, as well as being logistically more suitable for the governance of the sport."

“The plans for a hotel and conference complex, the centre for technology businesses and driving experiences really do provide the ideal facilities and backdrop for us to engage our clubs, members, and the wider motorsport community. Ultimately it will help us to showcase the sport to the public and inspire a growth in engagement.”

Daniel Geoghegan, Chief Executive of Bicester Motion commented: “The partnership between Bicester Motion and Motorsport UK enables both organisations to address the advances in the automotive sector and motorsport. Motorsport UK will move to a temporary office location at Bicester Heritage, a component part of Bicester Motion, in mid 2020, with a view to developing a new permanent office building following the disposal of the existing Colnbrook offices. Motorsport UK’s office will be located in the New Technical Site, which will provide purpose-built units in addition to the existing buildings on the historic site. The new Motorsport UK HQ will be amongst the first to be completed in this development."

Y'know something folks, despite all my cynical misgivings in the past, from the 'high-falutin' RAC Pall Mall days to the 'blazered' Colnbrook era, I'm beginning to feel that motor sport in the UK might just have a future after all. The guys in charge are now really beginning to make their presence felt. There are still many out there who think that change is not happening quickly enough, but anyone who has cleared out a loft or a garage knows only too well that it takes an awfy long time and much running about to clear out the rubbish, blow out the cobwebs, fix the lights and clean up what's revealed.

It's more dustbin, duster and dyson than magic wand - but hey, things are moving, eh?

Sunday 27 October 2019

The Wedding

Some of you out there may recall the misadventures of a certain Baby Bunnet as mentioned periodically in the pages of the ‘Scottish Rally Championship’ newsletter and in the monthly column of a rallying newspaper called ‘Road Sport North’ a good few years back. Well, she’s all grown up now. 

That might well be the reason the big chap may have appeared distracted over recent days, as he and Lady Bunnet attended her wedding on Friday. It has also been reported that Jaggy was on his best behaviour! 

Family and friends from all across the nation, and even from other nations to the south and across the sea, had gathered in the Northern Lowlands of Scotland to celebrate the occasion. It was a grand day out. 

After the ceremonial formality of the ‘tying of the knot’ and the 'draining of the quaich', there was feasting and dancing.

The groom spoke well, composed and mostly respectful, and so too did the Best Man, albeit a bit less respectfully and decidedly embarrassingly, while striving to be understood in his own dialect called ‘Geordie’. Apparently he comes from the quaint village of Hexham near somewhere called New Castle Up On Tyne.

A band of wandering minstrels called ‘Splendid Gentlemen’ (well worth looking up on FB) then did entertain the throng with music to fire the soul and stir the blood. The groom’s men also entertained the guests, perhaps unwittingly, with their drink infused tribal dance celebrations while belting out their favoured party anthems, most surprisingly almost in tune with the music. Subtle? Not a bit. To the uninitiated, the 'dance performances' comprised a varied selection of rhythmic finger pointing, foot stomping and backward stepping routines as the ladies looked on in wondrous disbelief, stunned into silence.

Throughout it all, the bride glowed and smiled, laughed and chatted, missing no-one. The perfect hostess, the perfect bride, and for one very fortunate (I'm biased!) young man, the perfect partner.
All too soon it was over, the music stilled, the goodbyes exchanged, the hugs got tighter and the tears did flow. As the last tail-lights disappeared over the horizon, the exhausted twosome were able to relax, finally, at the end of a most joyous, emotional and perfect day. 

Cheers, Kirsty and Thomas, may you never be alone on the highway of life.

Friday 18 October 2019

Andrew Cowan, 1936 - 2019

More sad news this week, Andrew Cowan, farmer, fisherman, rally driver, team manager, team owner and absolute rally enthusiast passed away earlier this week. No doubt much will be written in the serious motor sporting press about his achievements on the world stage, but closer to home he was President of Berwick & District Motor Club, the 1976 Scottish Rally Champion, twice winner of the Jim Clark Memorial Award (1977 and 1997) and loyal supporter of the Jim Clark Rally. 

One thing about Andrew, wherever he went in the world, he was as Scottish as shortbread and tartan and those around him knew it only too well!

He was a contemporary and friend of the late Jim Cark and they both competed on local car club rallies and autotests in the late 1950s. Then in 1960 he contested his first RAC Rally and finished 43rd out of 177 starters. That put him firmly on the rally route as Jim concentrated on his racing career. Although he did actually race a few times at Charterhall and Ingliston, Andrew did have one 'official' test in a F3 car. He had never driven a single seater, but in 1966 Jim Clark arranged with Colin Chapman for Andrew try one out. That test prompted a couple of races after which Andrew wrote a polite but brief letter to Chapman thanking him for the opportunity and informing him that he would stick to rallying!

And the rest, as they say, is history. To list all of his achievements would fill a book on its own, but merely listing his highlights gives some idea of the man's talent and determination.

He became a works driver with the Rootes Group and Mitsubishi but is probably best known for his 'marathon' drives on the London to Sydney and South American Marathon events, the Safari Rally and the 1985 Paris-Dakar Rally.

Between the two London To Sydney Marathons which he won in 1968 at the wheel of a Scottish (Linwood) built Hillman Hunter and 1977 in a Mercedes, there was a less successful outing on the 1974 World Cup Rally, but it typified the man's determination, and also his charm. Andrew had managed to 'acquire' the actual Mk1 Ford Escort which had been used to plan the route of the 1974 event. In other words, it was well used, as opposed to 'rally-proven'! Anyway, all he had to do was finance the on-event costs, hence his appearance at White Horse Distillers in Glasgow one fine morning where he managed to charm and persuade the Publicity Manager, Mr Gordon McIntosh (my Boss at that time), that this would be a most worthy and mutually advantageous venture.

Andrew didn't win that one, he finished 15th after a series of mechanical failures and suspension breakages which would have broken the spirit of a lesser man. Some would say determination won the day, others would say it was sheer, downright stubborn-ness that carried him and Johnstone Syer through. 

In 1983 he established Andrew Cowan Motorsports at Rugby in Warwickshire to run Mitsubishi Motors’ sporting activities and which later became Mitsubishi Ralliart Europe. Tommi Mäkinen scored 22 WRC wins and won 4 World titles between 1996 and 2001 driving for the team which also won the Manufacturer's World Championship title in 1998.

It's also worth noting that Andrew also gave Richard Burns his big break in the WRC, the Briton winning the Safari Rally and the Rally of Great Britain in 1998 during his three seasons with the team.

In 2003 Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports based in Germany took over the business although Andrew remained with the company until he retired.

Our thoughts at this time must be with his wife, Linda, his family and his vast number of friends throughout the Borders, Scotland and the rest of the world.

( There's slightly longer version of the tribute here:  )

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Rally - Beatson's Mull Report

That's the main report from the Beatson's Mull Rally now in the on-line mag. It's not as comprehensive as I would have liked although hopefully it gives a true account and flavour of the weekend's activities. With so many crews to get round and so little time, it's the best that could be done, especially in those dreadful conditions. It's still the longest (and hopefully most complete) report on the rally that you will read anywhere else, however there are many more snippets and quotes which were collected and which will be compiled separately and published later, if you have the stomach for any more?


If alcohol has such a dehydrating effect on the human body, as claimed by the world's leading medical professionals and do-gooding abstemious abstainers, then how come I'm still damp from the weekend? Is it just a question of finding out how much is sufficient to dry oneself out, does height and weight come into it, has intake capacity and toleration something to do with it, or does it only work when one over-indulges, falls over and hugs the pavement? On that basis, and purely in the spirit of biological and physiological enlightenment, then perhaps the experiment should be continued to assess the exact quantity that must be consumed to counter the effects of excessive rain on the human body and the osmotic effect of absorption through sodden clothes. Cheers everyone, here's to more scientific discovery, eh? David Attenborough has nothing on this!

Sunday 13 October 2019

Rally - The day after

Mull woke up to a different dawn chorus this morning, the sound of silence. Apart that is from the occasional angry bark of a rescued car which had been abandoned overnight in a ditch or in the bushes as a result of the enthusiastic, over-ambitious endeavours of its owner during the previous night’s antics. You could almost tell by the staccato rapidity of the gear changes or the leisurely drone whether its driver was in a good mood, or still in bad one! 

On a lighter note, first time driver on Mull, Shona Hale (car 150) was delighted she had achieved her pre-rally target to finish inside the top 100, a task made slightly easier by the fact that only 87 cars and crews finished. Driving a wee Citroen C2 bearing allegiance to her favoured tipple (or two!) and known affectionately as ‘the kettle’ due to its propensity to spit steam and boil over, the car performed faultlessly although the service crew were pressed into urgent action when she lost a mud flap! Considering this was one of the worst Mull’s on record weather-wise, Shona’s drive was quite magnificent – and she wasn’t last.

There were also a couple of unexpected visitors on the island over the weekend. One was the 84 year old Dad of rally driver and event sponsor John Marshall. Apparently his Dad has not been to many rallies as he is not really a rally fan – he is now. The other visitor was one David Richards Esq, who took quite an interest in proceedings. And yes, it was ‘that’ David Richards, the boss of Motorsport UK. Nice to know he’s still a fan and we can all remain hopeful that at long last the sport’s governors are on the side of the sport!

And now for some proper good news. James and Kerry MacGillivray are expected to be released from hospital in Paisley tomorrow having been kept in for ‘observation’. Best wishes to you both.