Tuesday 29 December 2020

Rally - Withdrawal symptoms .

If you are suffering deep rallying withdrawal symptoms, especially with a Scottish flavour, then there is a 15 minute 'fix' available on the ScottishRallyTV 'YouTube' channel. It is entitled '2019 Scottish Rally Championship - Alternative Awards'. And very aptly named at that!

The most surprising thing about this short film is that it has only had 164 views - so far. So maybe more folk need to find it, it's well worth a look and a chuckle.

There is no running commentary - cos it doesn't need it, the 'stars' and actions speak for themselves. Neither is there a semi naked bloke with a big hammer and a bigger gong to get things underway, just a chap called Jock and the Playstation Boys, then Bruce the Doric, Wink and the wasp, and a most definite 'No comment' from Derek Mitchell.

The action then moves on to the naturalised sounds of Scottish wildlife as recorded in the forests, first with Mk2s, then BMWs - and more angry wasps, or rather a variety of FWD machinery of all makes, shapes and flavours, with a special mention for the Irish Toyota boys and girls "sending them on".

That's followed by some highly entertaining and educational 'in-car moments' with a short interlude recognising the 'most professional commentary team' (?) in British motor sport. The film finishes with a short series of embarrassing moments and a final dramatic flourish worthy of that chap Spielberg himself.

So give your eyes, ears and laughter box a treat - and turn the sound up full volume! You don't need to subscribe to watch it, but after doing so, you might just want to:




Wednesday 23 December 2020

Rally - Jaggy spotting

Here's a sight I never thought I would see. My big pal appears to have been spotted out and about, and not a rally car in sight. Of course there were four wheels in evidence, but there was no need for notebook and camera. Neither was there any need for a stopwatch. Indeed, the big chap was perambulating along at a most unnaturally leisurely pace, avoiding puddles and pot-holes and sleeping polismen. So it's not just Covid that is making life weird.

In times of darkness we all yearn for that first tantalising, uplifting glimpse of light. The promise of better times to come. The sport has lost too many good friends this past year, whilst the sport itself has been blighted badly. Similarly, business and domestic life has been sorely afflicted and life as we knew it seems to have been lost for ever.

And yet there is hope, although oddly enough I can't help feeling it's a bit like rally spectating. We've all done it - from the stage start or finish you walk into the first bend, and when you get there it doesn't look very exciting, but the next one ahead does. So you walk on, then stand and deliberate - is this worse than the first one? But then the next one beckons temptingly. So you walk on to the next, and then the next, and before you know it you meet equally indecisive lost souls coming the other way.

In the same way the end to this Covid business has proved to be every bit as annoying and frustrating. Many false starts and teasing predictions, but it does seem as though there is promise - at last.

In the meantime we all still have to be careful. No sport and no club nights, no socialising and no trips, and no pubs and no haircuts, just cairry oots and takeaways, old videos and magazines, box sets and Youtube, Zoom meetings and conference calls, not to mention sorting out the spanners and tidying up the garage - for the umpteenth time.

And then there's Brexit. What was initially promised as a quick, easy and friendly separation has taken three years of hot air, missed deadlines and countless 'final' deadlines and still nobody knows. And yet, despite the 'best endeavours' of both sides, seemingly working under the general principles of the Norman Wisdom School of Economics and Diplomacy, my big pal still has a smile.

He has every reason to be cheerful - there is new life to be celebrated and enjoyed, and that's surely a good sign when deep gloom pervades our nation. And the cause of that spring in the step? There's a grandbaby Bunnet about!

So let the good times roll and let new life bring light and hope into a dark and anxious world. And for the sake of that new life, we all have to be watchful and careful.

Take care, stay safe, and try to have a Merry Christmas.

Tuesday 22 December 2020

Rally - Steve Kitson retires

The name will probably mean little, if anything, to most rally fans but to those in the know, Steve Kitson was, and still is, one of the good guys, but he is now retiring. Yet another chapter in the history of British motor sport coming to an end - but he made a difference.


He has just retired this week from his position as Director of Corporate Communications at Kia Motors (UK) Ltd after 26 years with Kia and other Hyundai Motor Group brands.


He joined Kia in 1999 as Director of International PR at the Hyundai Motor global head office in Seoul and after 3 years in the role was appointed Marketing and PR manager at the Hyundai World Rally Team. Then came another move in 2004 when he moved to Kia's UK HQ in Surrey as Director of Press & PR. Prior to all that he was  a journalist - a proper one, before joining the automotive industry, first with National Breakdown and then spent four years with Renault's UK PR team before moving to Kia.


During his time at Kia he has helped the brand become a mainstream competitor, with sales growing from fewer than 25,000 cars sold a year in the UK to just short of 100,000 in 2019.


The Hyundai Castrol World Rally Team, as it was then, was also making its first tentative foray into rallying. It was run by Steve Whitehead at MSD (Motor Sport Developments) but with Steve now on board, MSD gained some additional and influential manufacturer support.


Jim McRae was entrusted with the Hyundai Accent Group A car on the 1997 Lombard RAC Rally (finishing 2nd in class). This was Hyundai's first entry into international motorsport events outside the Far East, before son Alister assumed full time WRC duties with the Accent the following year, but Alister had already spent a full season in Asia and China in 1996 with the Hyundai Coupe Kit Car following a couple of outings the year before.


The new Accent WRC machine debuted on the 2000 Swedish Rally and achieved its first top-ten result on Rally Argentina where Alister McRae and Kenneth Eriksson finished seventh and eighth.


Although the team made huge improvements over the next few seasons, their rivals were making bigger improvements with bigger budgets and Hyundai took the decision to withdraw and regroup, fully intent on making a comeback. In 2014 they did just that with the exciting new and very competitive Hyundai i20. And the rest as they say is history.


Meanwhile Steve was busy building the brand here in Britain, from a little known budget brand selling value cars at low prices to become the eighth biggest brand in the UK, and all the while keeping an eye on the company's motor sport involvement. Thanks Steve.


He won't be idle in retirement though, commenting: "Now I will finally get round to completing the renovation of my LHD Triumph TR6 so that my wife and I can take it touring across Europe – though I will of course still be driving a Kia in the UK!”


So if you come across a LHD TR6 on a Historic Rally on a future UK event and there is a big grin plastered across the face of the white haired driver, then stop and have  a word. He was, and is, one of the good guys.


Monday 21 December 2020

Road - Christmas GT

Rumour has it that a very secretive but notorious individual has been working with Bentley’s personal commissioning division, Mulliner, to upgrade his 'regular' transport. And the result? The Flying Spur ‘Reindeer Eight’.


The bearded customer was apparently heard to comment: “What fun it is to ride in a 542 horsepower sleigh. Plus, there’s space in the back for all my subordinate Clauses.  I’m looking forward to putting 41 million miles on the clock before the end of the year.”


There's another clue above the radiator grille. A gold reindeer in lieu of the Flying B mascot, while on the side of this velocipede the V8 badges have been replaced by a special ‘Reindeer Eight’ badge. A spokesperson for the purchaser would not comment on speculation that Rudolf  has lodged a complaint with his union, Silent Unite.


To emphasise the speed and performance required to cover the significant distance by the owner, a gold styling specification has been included, comprising of a carbon diffuser to the front and rear bumper, carbon side sills and a boot lid spoiler – for maximum aerodynamic performance at cruising altitude.  All Season tyres have been fitted to the 22” golden wheels given the cold climate of the customer’s primary residence and workshop.


The interior of the ‘Reindeer Eight’ showcases Bentley’s expertise in creating a modern cabin of unrivalled luxury and innovation, capable of comfortable seating for four or five adults or one mince pie fed personage and up to eight individuals of more elfin stature.


The industry-first Bentley Rotating Display also features in the ‘Reindeer Eight’ but has a few additional modifications to the standard spec. When the engine start button is pressed, the driver is greeted with the welcome sound of sleigh bells a-jingling, and a-ring ting tingling.


Furthermore, a 'Naughty and Nice' list has been integrated in to the navigation system to allow the customer to know quickly whether his fans have been good or bad while the second side of the display reveals three analogue dials showing outside temperature to help decide appropriate wearing apparel, a chronometer to manage the customer's time schedule and a compass vital for the customer to find his way home at the end of a very long working night.


Apparently, my big pal Jaggy has already been on the phone to Crewe to enquire after the availability and price of a used, high mileage, but eminently suitable vehicle as befits his own august presence!

Saturday 19 December 2020

Road - SCoTY 2020 Winner

It has been a very difficult year for the automotive industry - and difficult too for the nation’s motoring journalists. In these days of keeping one's distance and being limited to what and where one could drive, there was a regular kerfuffle with disinfectant, wipe-downs, hand sanitiser and facemasks each time a car was collected and returned.

Normally the winner of the annual Scottish Car of the Year awards is announced at a unique annual celebration of the car and its value to society, but this year it was all done on-line – although all cars which qualified had been driven and assessed by the panel of 14 'Scottish Association of Motoring Writers' members.

And despite the difficulties I think we gave the appraisals a fair crack and judged a worthy winner ...



Thursday 17 December 2020

Rally - Funeral arrangements

Reay MacKay's funeral will take place in Fort Augustus on 23rd December at mid-day. Sadly due to the current and ongoing Covid crisis and restrictions this will be a private family and friends service. 

However, the family has requested that anyone wishing to pay their respects may do so by standing on the road side between the Abbey Road junction and the West End Garage as the cortege leaves the Stravaigers Lodge site on its way to Kilchuimen cemetery around 12.45 pm.

As for the choice of photo, the family have enjoyed seeing other less than flattering images posted by friends on social media and feel sure that Reay would have enjoyed them too.

And so on that basis, here is proof that Reay would talk to anyone - even white van drivers! 


Rally - BRC 2021 Dates

The proposed 2021 British Rally Championship has a few surprises in store - and one shock! Britain’s premier rallying series will feature 7 events across the 4 home nations, with events in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales plus one rather surprising choice as 'reserve event'. And given the Covid uncertainties it might well be needed ...




Sunday 13 December 2020

Obituary - Reay MacKay, 1974 - 2020

A bad year just got worse. Reay MacKay passed away on Friday, he was just 46 years old. One of the most popular characters on the Scottish rallying scene, Reay was actually quite quiet and yet very sociable. He didn't need an excuse to stop and chat, he just did, whether he knew folk or not, with many people passing pleasurable time in his company.

The pre-rally (!) and after-rally parties at the Stravaigers Lodge sponsored Fort Augustus Rally Time Trials were always a treat. Reay was an excellent host at the family run Lodge, caravan and camping site in the centre of Fort Augustus and ensured that he had obtained a late licence for the Bar prior to the arrival of the rally entourage.

He sold the business over a year ago and bought a small farm where he recently spent a lot of time in the middle of nowhere on the back of a tractor or a digger and sending pictures of his sheep on his smartphone to family and friends.

He had been diagnosed with cancer just over two years ago but the treatment, although harsh at times, appeared to have gone well. His passing on Friday came as something of an unexpected shock. Even at his lowest ebb, there was little complaint, he would just busy himself about the farm when he was able.

Although he had many interests, both business and pleasure, rallying was his main escape. When not competing he would be travelling to events around the country and often to Scandinavia to spectate and usually with a group of friends.

It was through competition that he became more widely known and although he rarely contested a full championship season of events, his results spoke for themselves. The talent was undoubtedly there to have made more of an impact, but he went rallying for the enjoyment and the competition, not for the titles and trophies.

He had many co-drivers over the years but struck up strong partnerships with two, firstly with Robert MacDonald, but when Robert became a Dad other priorities took over, and latterly with Keir Beaton although many others have enjoyed his company in a rally car on many events.

He started rallying in 1994 but his progress up the results sheet was sporadic as business always came first and rallying was for fun. In 2009, he and Robert powered his newly acquired MG Metro 6R4 to victory on a very snowy Snowman Rally. After the rally he said: "Conditions were very tricky - we just had to keep it tidy and stay in the ruts, but it's brilliant to have won our first forest rally, and our home event."

The following year he won the National Rally event within the International Rally Scotland and followed that up with victory on the Kingdom Stages in a Subaru Impreza.

Over the years he was always considered a  top ten contender and a regular top six runner, but all too often plagued with mechanical failures which marred what might have been a more impressive results record.

Of course, that wasn't the reason he was there. It was always about the fun, hence he participated, and sponsored, Highland Car Club's Time Trials at Fort Augustus and took part in the Rally Hebrides event too, but perhaps his greatest adventure was on the 2018 Vetomies Rally in Finland where he and Keir finished 17th o/a in a locally hired BMW 325i.

His final rally visit was earlier this year at the Snowman Rally, just before Covid blighted the nation, and no-one would have guessed what Reay had been through. He was just a spectator, there for the craic, amongst friends. A gentle man in the truest sense of the words. Or as Keir said: "I never heard him say a bad word about anyone."

The good folk of Fort Augustus will miss him too. He was involved in numerous local businesses including the Monster Fish & Chip Company and was a true ambassador for his home town - once described as the unofficial 'Mayor of Fort Augustus' he'll be a hard act to follow.

It's just so sudden and so sad, our sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to his partner Jenny, the three children Stuart, Cameron and Isla, his brother Lorn, and their families, friends and acquaintances.

The full tribute is here: