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.

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