Friday 29 November 2019

Rally - RAC Rally Roundup

A whimsical look back at the RAC Rally and how 'oor ain fowk' fared - or didn't as the case may be ...

Jim McRae and David Greer

Cameron Binnie was attracted!

Christmas on the back of a truck

Wednesday 27 November 2019

Rally - 2020 Toyota WRT Line-up

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team has confirmed its all-new driver line-up for the 2020 season. Six-time FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier, proven rally winner Elfyn Evans and rising star Kalle Rovanperä will all join the team along with their respective co-drivers.

Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal) said: “I’m really pleased with the driver line-up we have been able to put together for next season. We know how strong Sébastien is and we’re all looking forward to working with him and Julien. Elfyn is a driver I have been watching for some time. We’ve seen that he can have the speed to win on almost any surface, but he can also be very clever when needed and score good points. I’ve known Kalle since he was very young and it’s always been clear that he has something special. He still has lots to learn, but I believe that he is ready for this step now. I want to say thank you to Ott and Martin, Jari-Matti and Miikka, and Kris and Seb for all they have done for our team. I wish them all the best for the future.”

Elfyn Evans added: “Joining TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is a great opportunity for me and I’m really excited to get going. Tommi has been very successful as a driver himself and knows what it takes to perform at this level. It’s been great to deal with him so far, and I’m looking forward to getting to know the team better as we ramp up towards the start of next season. 2019 was a mixed season for us – missing three rallies due to injury being the low point – but there were some strong results and performances as we competed for stage wins and podiums. It will be nice to work with Sébastien again too: With the experience and success he’s had, he’s a great guy to have in the team.”

Team Chairman, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team, Akio Toyoda said some very nice things at the press conference which included a sincere thank you to past team members: "Jari-Matti, thank you for fighting with us for three years and Kris, you have worked hard for Toyota. Lastly, Ott, I am happy like myself that you finally achieved your dream, becoming World Rally Champion. Myself and Toyota are very proud of helping to achieve it.

Unlike Mr Tomoyama (President, GAZOO Racing Company), I have not been good at climbing the podium, but you taught me how to do it in Finland last year. Thanks to you, I could see the view from the top of the podium and get to know how sticky the champagne is. I really appreciated it. I think your decision, “After achieving the goal, I want a new challenge with different environment”, is simply amazing. You will become Toyota’s rival next year. For us, having a strong rival is big motivation to move forward. Because you have taught me how to stand on the top of the podium and how to open champagne bottles well, I can shower the champagne to you from higher position when we see each other the next time. See you again on the podium!"

Top bloke Mr Toyoda, eh?

Full text of press release here:

Monday 25 November 2019

Rally - A Day Out

Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry won the Roger Albert Clark Clubmans Rally yesterday. Note the use of the word 'Clubmans'. This event was run over 6 stages in southern Scotland. As such you won't hear much about this rally within a rally as it comprised only a small part of the much larger 5 day, 300 stage mile R.A.C. Rally itself, but for those unable to commit to a week long event, it entailed a simple 52 stage mile, one-day, run-out in the woods.

Northern Ireland's Bryan Jardine was 2nd and England's Phil Jobson was 3rd making it a truly 'international' affair in its own right. Donald Peacock had been holding a pretty impressive 4th place in the humble Peugeot 205 over the first 4 stages, but dropped 18 seconds in Twiglees in the dark to Ireland's Noel Lappin. Despite a heroic fightback across the road in Castle O'er where the Peug snatched back 7 seconds from the Mk2, Donald and Albert lost out on 4th place by one second. Close, eh?

Colin Smith was delighted with 10th. After the responsibility of being CofC for the Jim Clark Rally this was a chance to relax and enjoy the other side of the sport. Mind you, enjoyment and rallying don't always go hand in hand. Colin and Adrian had a front puncture in the Astra in Ae and had to stop and change it. Not only that, they towed a Welshman's stricken Sunbeam out of the woods back on to the road where the grateful crew could change a broken alternator and get back in the rally. Nice one boys.

Alan McMorran scored a very surprised 11th place finish. Surprised, because Albert claimed to have retired from rallying after last year's Galloway Hills! That's his second event since he 'retired'. Ian Forgan retired the Ford Ka in the first stage with clutch failure and Alistair Brearley failed to come out of Ae when the Escort had an intimate encounter with a ditch.

And another thing. Whilst standing there in the dark at the far side of the Lockerbie Lorry Park waiting for cars to finish, a figure in white loomed out of the darkness. It was Albert Connolly in his racing ovies and he wanted to query a stage time with the results crew. Fortunately it was the Chief of the Field Results Team who was on hand, Paul Crossley, and Paul patiently took note of his query and said he would look into it once he had all the paperwork to hand.

Naturally, being of an inquisitive nature and inquiring mind, my big pal Jaggy, who was holding the camera, innocently asked of Paul why in this day and age of digimation and electronickery why such a time couldn't be checked more quickly. One could see the whites of Paul's eyes glowing in the gloom as his eyeballs rolled upwards in exasperation at my pal's ignorance.

Patient as ever, Paul explained that although competitors record their own times as Time Cards are handed in at various Controls, the Marshals' check sheets provide a valuable back-up supporting document, but these are only returned to HQ when the stage is closed - and not necessarily promptly.

That still left my big pal with a puzzled expression on his face till Paul pointed out that over the course of this 5 day event some 6,000 individual Time Cards (from Passage, Stage Start and Stage Finish Controls) would pass through his hands and he would have to deal with some 17,000 individual times, not to mention countless queries!

That kind of puts things in perspective, eh? It also explains why Paul didn't get to his bed till half three in the morning on Saturday night and was up again at the crack of dawn on Sunday to continue his duties. So whilst we rightfully praise Marshals, Officials, Paramedics, radio, rescue and recovery crews we shouldn't forget the tireless efforts of the Results Teams personnel on every event. Without them there would be no competition either.

Clubmans Top Ten:
1, Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry (Ford Escort Mk2) 59m 20s
2, Bryan Jardine/Darragh Sheridan (Ford Escort Mk2) +0:02:13
3, Phil Jobson/Chris Sheridan (Ford Escort Mk1) +0:03:33
4, Noel Lappin/David Fitzsimons (Ford Escort Mk2 1400) +0:07:05
5, Donald Peacock/Albert Connelly (Peugeot 205GTI) +0:07:06
6, Anthony Harrison/Simon Barnes (Ford Escort Mk2) +0:09:36
7, Darren Martin/Dan Hurst (Ford Escort Mk2) +0:11:16
8, Steve Forster/Terry Martin (Ford Escort) +0:11:20
9, Mike Axford/Dave Thomason (Ford Fiesta RS) +0:12:27
10, Colin Smith/Adrian Lloyd (Vauxhall Astra) +0:19:36

Thursday 21 November 2019

Rally - Lookback at JCR

A certain Column appeared in yesterday's 'Motorsport News' - Here is the full, unedited version ... 

There was an almost palpable sense of relief inside Rally HQ at the end of the Jim Clark Rally. In the weeks running up to the event it must have felt as though the eyes of the nation were on the organising team.

They needn't have worried. The rally ran well and pretty much to schedule. They did lose two stages though when the first two runs of the Langton test on Friday afternoon were cancelled on safety grounds. That decision was taken at mid-day on Friday so that there was time to get the news out on social media to the thousands of fans who were flocking in to the area.

Two more stages on Saturday were affected by accidents which meant that a number of drivers had to be given Notional Times. That can happen to anyone, but both incidents were dealt with effectively ensuring that the second run at both tests was not affected. There was no over-reaction. Each incident was considered on merit and action taken as swiftly as possible.

Prior to the event there were some lurid headlines in the 'popular press' although to be fair, there was some responsible reporting and journalism out there too.

Perhaps surprisingly, and credit where credit is due, the main Scottish tabloids were quite fair whereas some of our supposedly more 'respected' publishing outlets and broadcasters were more interested in reporting history rather than news. And this despite frequent contact and conversations with Editors and so-called reporters in the past who simply choose to ignore facts if they don't suit their stories.

In particular, our ‘national public’ broadcaster was much more interested in past events than previewing the weekend's competition.  The first clue came from the fact that the item appeared in the 'news' section rather than as part of the sports bulletin. Thereafter the BBC person's monologue was more concerned with past events and the cost of the front running rally cars than the actual competition itself.

On the other hand, the local ITV station managed to present a live report from the event itself and did an altogether better job previewing the weekend and reporting from the rally. However, the pre-event rally coverage did prove one thing, that motor sport has a long way to go before it is accepted by the mainstream media. Imagine if they previewed a football match, mentioned the team's history, reported from the match -  and then didn't give the score afterwards. Motor sports fans have every right to feel short changed.

Fortunately the Jim Clark Rally team rose above such headline grabbing attempts and simply got on with the job.

Principal amongst that support were the local folks of the Scottish Borders pleased to have 'their rally' back. Of course it caused some disruption and of course there were a few grumbles and dissenters. Particularly from one bloke who had to carry the weekly shopping from  his car to his house in the next street which had been closed off to the traffic for the rally on Saturday morning! But for the most part, folks were enthusiastic and Duns was abuzz.

Big crowds turned out for the Friday afternoon start and there was a decent crowd at the finish despite the cold and the rain. Mind you some of the drivers tried to inject a bit of heat into the proceedings with some noise and wheelspin leaving the Finish line in the Square. And the Police? They heard and saw nothing untoward. Nice one.

Amongst drivers and co-drivers too there was a sense of relief and satisfaction. There was barely a word of complaint about lost stages and Notional Times too, everyone just so pleased to be back on closed roads in the Scottish Borders.

The spectators too played their part. When the Safety crews running ahead of the rally asked folk to move back, they did so. Attitudes appear to be changing.

And so to next year. Plans are already underway for a return to the rally's traditional date - in May, over the weekend of 29th to 31st, and with better weather, hopefully.