Wednesday 9 October 2019

Rally - Pressure's off .

I won't be writing the report on the Beatson's Mull Rally for next week's 'Motorsport News'. It seems that this year's event will command the serious attention of the highly esteemed personage of the Rallies Editor himself who has been dispatched northwards straight from World Championship duty in Wales to report on world-wide interest  in Scotland. And rightly so, an event of such importance and magnitude deserves such deference. In all fairness, David Evans is as big a fan of the event as myself so the report will be well worth reading next week.

Of course I'm disappointed, but ever thus is the life of the freelance. Of much more importance are the rumours currently surrounding the weekly paper and its cousin, the weekly 'Autosport' magazine. Both titles are strongly rumoured to be closing down their print editions and going on-line.

Very sad. I know many of you have stopped buying 'Motoring News/Motorsport News' for reasons of cost, content or simply preferring to use immediately accessible on-line sources instead, but for me a print title is still the companion of choice at loo-breaks. I'm just not comfortable sitting in a stall with a tablet or phone in hand - especially when you turn around and find there's no bog roll.

Seriously, 'Motoring News' was an important part of rallying life in the early days. In the late 1960s I was contributing photographs to the Scottish monthly magazine 'Top Gear' then started photographing and writing for the weekly 'Motor News & Advertiser' newspaper, another Scottish based publication, and that led to sending in reports to 'Motoring News'.

At first I covered autocrosses, sprints and hillclimbs before moving on to race reports and then to rallying but many people had a big influence on a young and impressionable lad at that time.

Especially the late Gerry Phillips who was Rallies Editor for MN back then. Although we had talked on the phone, we first met at an International Scottish Rally in Aviemore. Over a few glasses of White Horse whisky he encouraged an impudent young upstart to become a regular contributor. That was over 45 years ago. Editor Mike Greasley was another inspirational motivator and there have been countless others since then. If anyone wonders why I have been, and am, such a staunch supporter of the paper in this increasingly digital age, there's the reasons why.

If the news is true, then it's a sad day for the sport. Whereas us auld gits are having to adapt, today's youngsters know no different. They think newspapers are for swatting flies. They have been reared in the new digital age and their enquiring minds have been nurtured on a diet of instant news, sound bites, video clips - and fake news. And therein lies a concern. Social media is awash with rumour, innuendo and questionable information, to the extent that browsers often have trouble separating fact from fiction. At least with a print title, you know where your news has come from. Sadly, newsprint is going the way of Rileys and Hillman Imps, alive only in the memories of those who linger behind. It's called progress.

As I said, the pressure's off this weekend. That means I won't have to be the dutiful, diligent, responsible, serious, sensible and polite sports reporter that I normally am. That's David's job.

Oh, and by the way, I still think Pete Lyons was the best F1 reporter - ever.

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