Thursday 30 July 2020

Rally - Proposed 2021 SRC Dates

The KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship has revealed its proposed calendar for next year with the best 5 scores from 7 to count:


Scottish Rally Championship 2021 calendar:

Rd01, March 6, Snowman Rally, Inverness

Rd02, April 17, Speyside Stages, Elgin, Moray

Rd03,May 30, Jim Clark Reivers Rally, Duns

Rd04, June 25/26, Argyll Rally, Dunoon

Rd05, July 24, Scottish Rally, Lockerbie

Rd06, August 14, Grampian Forest Rally, Banchory

Rd07, September 18, Galloway Hills Rally, Dalbeattie

**October 23, Carlisle Stages, Carlisle

(**reserve event)

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Road - A wee correction

In the previous post it was suggested that the Covid19 pandemic had "nothing to do with" Mitsubishi's decision to withdraw from the UK (and European) market. That's not strictly true of course, as the sudden drop in sales right across all automotive markets merely exacerbated an already worrying retail trend. All manufacturers were already well advanced with plans to reduce output and share under-used production facilities and all the while planning mergers to form stronger financial units. The arrival of the Corona virus merely added a further degree of urgency to boardroom decisions.

There is already an over capacity in the world's assembly lines hence the number of deals being done between 'rival' manufacturers to share facilities allowing them to shut down loss making plants and reduce capacity.

But before we go criticising the manufacturers we have to look beyond their own problems. They are being told by the world's governments to switch production to electricity, and they want it done quickly. The problem here is that if the UK had to switch overnight from petrol/diesel to electricity, the country would grind to a halt. That's because there is insufficient generating capacity and not enough chargers to go round. Also, battery technology is not quite there yet to store all the stuff that's generated.

That means there has to be compromise, i.e. a gradual phasing out of combustible fuelled devices in favour of the new 'green' power alternatives.

Admittedly the situation is getting better. The latest generation of electric cars are enjoyable to drive and 'range per charge' is improving all the time. More importantly the public is rather more willing to accept them, but that is still a slow and gradual process.

The global pandemic has certainly accelerated the adoption of electric, hybrid and plug-in cars in the UK and Europe, with diesel and petrol vehicles losing traction as a result. That change is already underway, albeit slowly, but speeded up by the pandemic. Although new car sales fell in June by nearly 34%, the number of electric cars sold was more than double the number sold in June a year ago.

There are currently just over 40 million petrol/diesel vehicles on UK roads, so there is no way that situation can change overnight, just as there is no way to enforce change. The switch over from manufacturing current engines to electrical motors will also require changes to the raw materials source and supply chain as well as alterations to production lines and manufacturing methods. Not to mention the massive design challenges that this will place on engineering and R&D departments.

Government and society are keen to promote alternatives to our reliance on the private car, but that is a long term wish. Already the country's major cities are trying to ban cars from their centres and charging more for car parking - even at work! One only has to look at the squandering of £776 million in introducing trams to Edinburgh to see how well their 'alternative' options are progressing!

Of course, change is underway, but is it the right change? There are hydrogen powered heavy trucks being run in various countries across the globe plus hydrogen powered buses and cars, but will it ever make mainstream production? Who knows? At the moment the world's governments seem hell bent on electricity.

And then of course, what to do with all the redundant petrol and diesel machinery? This will need to be recycled. So too will batteries, and this will be an expensive process too as some of the more exotic materials used in their construction will need to be handled carefully - and expensively.

There is no such thing as 'cheap' power any more. And it will be the end users who will have to pay for it all. That's us by the way.

Puts a whole new meaning to the phrase 'on yer bike', eh?

Monday 27 July 2020

Road - Sign of the times

It looks very much as though Mitsubishi Motors will be withdrawing from the UK and European car markets, putting the relevant franchised dealers in a very difficult position.

That puts the imminent introduction of the new Eclipse Cross plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and the next-generation Outlander PHEV into doubt too.

Part of the Renault Nissan Alliance, the word within the trade is that Mitsubishi might become the brand for America, Renault in Europe and Nissan in Asia.

This has nothing to do with the Covid19 pandemic which is raging across the world, and more to do with the motor industry's ongoing efforts worldwide to cut costs and improve efficiency across their manufacturing operations.

This won't be the last such move as all the automotive giants seek to streamline their business and follows on from the recent merger of  Fiat Chrysler with Groupe PSA (Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel and Vauxhall) which created the world's 4th largest automotive group.

Mitsubishi hasn't been active in rallying of late, but its record speaks for itself. With Andrew Cowan at the helm, the rally team won one Manufacturer's World Rally Championship title in 1998, were runners-up in 1996 and scored six 3rds. They also scored four Driver's titles with Tommi Makinen.

And as for the Lancer, it has become the 4WD clubman's choice throughout its successive 10 generations of the model.

And no more pickups!

Sunday 26 July 2020

Rally - Sign Language

Sometimes a photograph just doesn't need a caption. On the other hand, there could be a photo here of the original 'Captain Slow!'

Once upon a time, photography was both a profession and an art form. Nowadays, everyone with a smart phone or digital camera and computer are photographers. The profusion of these devices and their fail-safe, fool-proof excellence means that anyone can produce a great photograph. It has also meant the death of a profession that once was quite exclusive.

Nowadays, a photograph can be taken in the depths of a forest and within seconds, edited for composition, exposure and sharpness, and immediately posted on the Internet for all the world to see. Quite incredible when you think about it.

Compared to fifty and more years ago, that was unbelievable. Back then, photographers went to events with pockets full of rolls of film. These spools had to be manually loaded into the back of mechanical cameras and then speeds and apertures chosen before the shot was taken. Only the top professionals, and well-off amateurs, had motordrive cameras. Otherwise the rest were stuck with one frame per click and a maximum of 36 pictures per film before it had to be swapped for a new 36 exposure film.

When the rally was over, it was home time and a long session in the dark room ahead. Back at base, chemicals had to be correctly mixed and films developed, washed and dried before photographs could be hand printed - all the while in a dark room with a red light.

It was hours before photographs could be produced compared to seconds nowadays. And if these photos were destined for a publication then they had to be sent by air, train, or road to London based magazines and newspapers. Email was a thing of science fiction!

Some of the more professional operations had telegraph/wire machines but although that gained time it lost out on quality. So Air Mail, carried by aircrew from Glasgow to Heathrow, British Rail Red Star from Motherwell to Euston, or overnight post catching the Royal Mail train when it stopped at Carstairs in the early hours of the morning were the principal delivery methods.

For more 'local' daily newspapers like the Glasgow Herald or Scotsman it meant an early morning car trip to hand them into the Picture Desk (which never closed!) or in this case the Argyllshire Advertiser, Helensburgh Advertiser and Dunoon Observer. Fortunately, the weeklies printed late Tuesday or Wednesday so as long as you got the pics in the first class post, they were there in time for editorial use on Tuesday morning! But that was when First Class Post was reliable!

Anyway, these particular photos were taken ahead of the 1994 Weldex Rally for publicity purposes. After the 'sensible' photos were taken, a few 'silly' ones were taken for fun - and these have not been widely published, if indeed they have at all - until now!

Such innocent times, eh?