Friday 30 October 2020

Rally - Looking ahead

Is that a light at the end of the tunnel? Or is it a couple of Cibies coming at you helluva quick?

Realistically, there is little prospect of forest or closed road rallying getting underway in Scotland again before April of next year. Even if an effective Covid19 vaccine is found over the next couple of months motor sport and its followers won't be high on the list of priorities.

And yet behind the scenes there is a steady buzz of activity helped along by the latest innovation to hit domestic and amateur sporting life - Zoom, and of course other on-line chat software. It's not the same as a gathering round a pub or living room table but these type of video chats provide a very effective compromise.

And of course, they are pretty 'green' as delegates and organisers are not driving to and from the various venues. Cheaper too, since no-one has to buy a round of drinks or provide coffee and chocolate biscuits for the travel weary and half starved. I have seen a multi pack of caramel wafers disappear faster than a Fiesta WRC off a start line.

Dropbox (and others of its ilk) is another great invention as documents, plans and maps can be shared amongst organisers and then discussed 'face to face' on-line at the next team video meeting.

There's no banter though. Meetings are shorter cos some folk have slow internet connections and look like geriatric 'Thunderbird' puppets. The fun factor may have been reduced but not the work ethic.

On that basis, plans are already well underway for a hopeful resumption in May next year. The inaugural Coast2Coast Rally based at Stranraer is scheduled to run on Friday and Saturday 7/8 May 2021 while the Duns based Jim Clark Rally should take place over the weekend of 29-31 May. Fingers crossed.

Similar work is going on behind the scenes right around the country at club and individual level as well as event and championship level.  Motor sport is far from dead, it's just resting. The organisational work never stops and we should all be thankful for the unstinting, unselfish efforts of those behind the scenes who never stop working on our behalf. Without them, there definitely would be no motor sport.

Maybe we should all hang a rabbit's foot from the rearview mirror, run over a black cat, touch wood and stick a wee St Christopher figure on the dashboard, for sure as fate we can't rely on the science - apparently. Depending on who you listen to "Covid is not happening" according to Trump, "Covid is under/out of control" by Johnson/Keir, and Davey has a foot in all three camps!

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Road - More old Stuff

Recent posts on classics and restorations seem to have been quite popular, so here’s a slightly different tale.

Once upon a time, some folk referred to the Datsun 240Z as the Japanese Austin Healey 3000 – powerful and tail happy. Toyota’s 2000GT appealed to sports car fans in the same way.

Being one of those sad, but tail happy people, I happened to notice that across the waatter in Trumpland at a recent RM Sotheby’s sale, a very rare example of Toyota’s 2000GT went under the hammer for more than $900,000.

Originally bought and owned by legendary American racing driver Otto Linton (1917-2018), this 1967 model had been well maintained throughout its life and fully restored prior to its sale.

Bidding quickly exceeded the car’s guide price of $700,000 to $850,000, closing at $912,500 - approximately £696,000.

Apparently only 351 units were made during the model’s short, three-year production run, a surprising few perhaps given the car’s good looks and performance. At the 1966 Speed Trials held at the Yatabe High Speed Testing Course, the Tosco (now TRD) tuned 2000GT raced through a tropical storm and averaged 128.76 mph around the circuit’s banked oval. By the end of the 72-hour event it had smashed three world records and set 13 new international records for speed and endurance.

And here’s a snippet I didn’t know. Toyota never formally made a convertible version of the car, although two were in fact built for a certain Sean Connery Esq, as secret agent James Bond 007 in the movie You Only Live Twice – cos he couldn’t fit in the hardtop!

Anyway, I thought it was interesting.

(Colour pics by Darin Schnabel courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)

Sunday 25 October 2020

Road - New for Old

Peugeot's news (see recent post) about re-manufacturing parts for its 205 GTI has just been followed by a similar announcement from Mazda. They are now producing parts in Japan for the Mk1 MX-5 including original hoods and interior trim as well as mechanical components and smaller bolts and washers. Just over 20,000 Mk 1s were imported into the UK originally and there are still many of them around, much revered and used by enthusiasts.

Taking that a stage further are the manufacturers and specialised engineering companies which are re-manufacturing 'continuation' models and selling them off to the obscenely rich and privileged. Think Jaguar with their £1m+ D Types and E Types, and Aston Martin with its 'brand new' DB6. Even the fabled Vanwall name is getting in on the act. The current Vanwall Group are planning to build half a dozen 'continuation cars' to commemorate the brand which claimed the world’s first Formula One Constructors Championship Trophy way back in 1958. A snip at £1.65m - plus VAT!

Meanwhile British Motor Heritage continues to do their bit for British classic saloon and sports car enthusiasts eager to keep their cherished motors running and on the road.

Crikey, there's even a new company on the go re-manufacturing the Mini Moke. For those of you of a certain age think golf buggy with a proper engine and road wheels! Admittedly they don't expect to sell many in Britain but some folk in the Caribbean appear to be keen! And how about a brand new (from the chassis up) MGB? Authentic in every detail until you look under the bonnet - powered by electricity.

Anyway, regardless of these 'brand new facsimiles' surely the idea of keeping older cars going (at the expense of replacing them with something minted afresh) would appease some of the less ardent green environmilitia and keep us aulder gits smiling as we polish our Minis and Mazdas, MGs and Healeys, Chevettes and Escort Mk1s and 2s and other classics at weekends.

Now where did I put the phone number of that awfy nice chap from the PPI reclaim specialists?


Wednesday 21 October 2020

Rally - New car from Hyundai

Hyundai has revealed details of its new Rally 2 Hyundai i20 rally car which it will debut next year. No details of price - as yet, but it looks the business!


Tuesday 20 October 2020

Rally - Mull Rally Special

In case you hadn't noticed, there was no Beatson's Mull Rally two weekends ago. No reason  to load the car/van and trailer. No reason to pack the bags with sun cream and sun glasses, midge repellent and lip salve, Speedos and t-shirts, scarves and gloves, wellies and anoraks, not to mention several spare sets of clothes when the first lot get sodden wet - and the 'anti-heave' tablets in case the ferry has rough crossing!

With no rally to report, the local on-island, annual subscription-based, monthly magazine 'Round & About' had a couple of pages to fill and by goad, fill them they have. They commissioned (no cash involved, just threats and blackmail!) an article from a big pal of mine looking back on the history and background of the event plus some tales which should stir the old memory box. Apparently the big lad retired to the treehouse one evening with a large glass of Lagavullin and a six pack of Tunnock's Caramel Wafers. He must have been awfy busy, tap, tap, tapping away - the neighbours thought a flock of woodpeckers had moved in.

Anyway, just in case anyone out there wished to avail themselves of this special issue, the Editor is intending to print a few extra copies in case any poor rally starved waif wants to wallow in a bit of nostalgia. These can be posted out for a measly £3 each. Not only will you be treated to a trip down memory lane, but the magazine also provides an informative and absorbing insight into regular island life and recent happenings - Covid permitting. Well worth a read, and maybe even a subscription.

The mag is due to be published on 31st October and you can get more information on the website. The website also has a sample copy of a past magazine so you can have a look. Also worth noting, the Round & About website lists holiday B&B and self-catering accommodation in the area, so keep a note of the address:


Monday 19 October 2020

Road - PHEV? Does it work?

Go to work in a van. If you want to clean up your act and 'green' up your conscience, but you suffer from range anxiety, there is a cure - and it's not a vaccine!

Friday 16 October 2020

Rally - Resurrection?

Peugeot has announced plans to rebuild and restore Peugeot 205 GTI cars on behalf owners or customers or for direct sale to any member of the public. As part of the process they will manufacture parts which are no longer available and hold a small stock.

Full story:

Tuesday 13 October 2020

Rally - On top of the world

If McRae was outspoken and Burns was well spoken, then the rather quiet young Elfyn Evans lets his driving do the talking. He now leads the FIA World  Rally Championship by 14 points with 2 rounds to go. Toyota Gazoo Racing team mate Sebastien Ogier slightly reduced his pre- Rally Italia Sardegna lead finishing 3rd one place ahead of Evans in 4th, but the Welshman is well placed to carry the fight to the finish.

At the finish on Sunday afternoon, Elfyn commented: “Today the main objective was to stay ahead of the driver behind and make sure that position was secure. Unfortunately I didn’t get as many points on the Power Stage as I would have liked, but all in all at least we secured the result and came away with solid points at the end of the weekend. Of course, you always want more than fourth place but we knew coming here starting first on the road was going to be tough, and we were almost out of the fight for the podium by the end of the first day. We continued to push but the times were close and in the end I think fourth was realistically the most we could achieve. Going onto asphalt (next round in Belgium), being first on the road should normally be an advantage and we’ll be hoping that will be the case.”

On only his second WRC outing this year an inspired Dani Sordo just managed to hold off a closing Thierry Neuville and Sébastien Ogier on the final day.

It was only Sordo's third WRC victory and his second consecutive triumph on the Mediterranean island after a dramatic finish in 2019. The Hyundai driver said: "We had a big lead coming into Sunday morning, but I wasn’t able to set the same times as Thierry and Ogier, so things were a bit too close by the end.”

Team-mate Neuville and Toyota's Ogier duelled fiercely, with Ogier fending off Neuville until a mad dash through the final stage earned Neuville the runner-up place by 1 second.

Teemu Suninen led initially, but after slipping back with mechanical problems on his Ford Fiesta, the Finn finished fifth, while world champion Ott Tänak suffered suspension problems on his i20 on the opening morning. He recovered to finish sixth.

1 Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 2h41m37.5s
2 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +5.1s
3 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota Yaris WRC) +6.1s
4 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1m02.3s
5 Teemu Suninen/Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1m33.9s
6 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2m27.5s

2020 FIA WRC Drivers Points after round 6

1, E. Evans, 111

2, S. Ogier, 97

3, T. Neuville, 87

4, O. Tänak , 83

5, K. Rovanperä, 70

6, T. Suninen, 44

7, E. Lappi, 38

8, D. Sordo, 26

9, C. Breen, 25

10, S.Loeb , 24

(Note: Thanks to Toyota Gazoo Racing for the pics)


Monday 12 October 2020

Back on line

You may have noticed little on-line activity of late (or maybe not!). That's indirectly due to Covid19 - apparently. The other week a builder inadvertently sliced through the Broadband connection leaving Castle Bunnet without Internet or TV, and therefore restricted access to the outside world.

Bad enough you might think but not nearly as bad as the aftermath in which the big chap became infuriated with umpteen futile attempts to get back on line. Initially tempers were raised going round in circles and through the various and endless menus on Virgin TV.

Direct inquiries are thwarted at every turn. Anyway, the first phone call was answered by a lady who failed the SatNav audition warning the caller that due to Covid19, long waits can be expected! 64 minutes of 'muzak' later the line was cut dead and a metallic voice stated "the other party has hung up" - Jaggy's ears and nostrils started venting clouds of Irn Bru steam.

At 8am the following morning another attempt was made. This time human contact was established. More trouble. The voice spoke perfect English but was heavily accented. That worked both ways, the caller obviously had little experience of someone speaking English with a Lanarkshire accent.

At first the voice on the phone insisted on going through the standard script to ensure that all on-screen advice had been followed, until  the ever-so patient big chap insisted on her hearing him out first - i.e. the line had been cut outside the castle and therefore no amount of tinkering inside would solve the issue. After 24 minutes came the response that he wanted to hear, "we'll send out a technician - next week!"

Within an hour of his arrival today the engineer had found the breakage and repaired it. Job done.

Given the initial infuriating difficulty with Virgin Media (and also recent similar experiences with Nationwide Home Insurance and Currys PC World) it would appear that personal greed and the drive for profit have overtaken the hard work ethic and desire to offer good service, especially amongst the bigger companies.

Which kind of makes one wonder if the CEO of Liberty Global, owner of Virgin Media, who was awarded a salary package of some £101 million (that's not a misprint) earlier this year and the Virgin Media CEO, Lutz Schuler (reputedly on a mere £8 million a year), would have the same trouble calling out a technician?


Methinks not. It's enough to make communism sound appealing - almost! Happy days, eh?

Saturday 10 October 2020

Rally - 2021 WRC Dates

The FIA World Rally Championship has announced a provisional 12 round series for next year. At the present time, three of the proposed events are described as ‘provisional’ - including Rally Wales GB. The reason cited is financial, but who knows? Politics could be involved - we won’t be part of Europe next year! Will the French based FIA take the huff? Full text of Release here:

Saturday 3 October 2020

Rally - Tribute Truck

As the evening sun dipped ever lower behind Knock Hill, silence reigned. It was getting on for 7 o'clock and the photographers were packing away their equipment. Then, from the far side of the race track came a distant rumble, growing ever louder and angrier. The unmistakable beat of a flat four venting through straight pipes unhampered and unrestricted by such politically correct requirements as 'silencers' reverberated mightily as a car burst into sight over the blind uphill apex at Clark Corner and threw itself down the straight towards the Hairpin.

Circuit Manager Stuart Gray just shook his head slowly, but all the while grinning to himself. He had allowed one James S McRae Esq to take the car for a spin round the deserted hillside autodrome "just to blow the cobwebs out" before putting it back on the trailer.

It brought a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye. The late summer sunshine casting long shadows across the track, picking up the bright blue and yellow paintwork and highlighting the sparkling chrome of the Subaru as it made its solitary and very moving progress through the vastness of the brooding terrain.

A fitting end indeed to an afternoon spent with James, Ally Shaw and James Gibb. The occasion was the first public showing of Ally's new tribute truck. Ally is not just a Colin McRae fan. He is a McRae fan, period. This latest truck demonstrates that in a very moving fashion.

Ally has recently joined the '5 Star Deliveries' haulage business which specialises in transporting cars, especially the expensive and exotic kinds! Managing Director James Gibb is well known to Scottish rally fans as both he and son Taylor engage in the noble art themselves. So when Ally approached the 'The Boss' for permission to create yet another 'Tribute Truck' as his work truck, there was no hesitation, consultation or deliberation. The results of that request were able to be displayed yesterday.

For this latest truck, Alan Smallwood from Coalville near Leicester was entrusted with the job. The result is sobering, evocative and memory stirring.

This weekend, Knockhill was supposed to have hosted the 'McRae Rally Challenge' a weekend of personalities, cars, displays and rallying, but sadly, Covid19 put a stop to that. However, it failed to prevent the unveiling of this new Tribute Truck although everyone was 'socially distancing'. No handshakes or bearhugs, just reminiscences shared and one star remembered.


Thursday 1 October 2020

Rally boots time, or not?

This weekend's Highland Thistle Rally for classic cars has been cancelled due to the ongoing Covid19 crisis and the Scottish Government's increasing restrictions on crews of two people car-sharing. Due to start on Friday in central Scotland and head north before returning back to central Scotland on Sunday, it has now been postponed to next year. On the off chance that you were planning to head out into the middle of nowhere to see the cars, then dinnae bother. 

This might also threaten other planned competitions for events with two-person crews which had been planned for later in the year, so keep an eye on your emailbox.

But if you're driving gloves are useless, then flex your computer fingers and get ready with paper, pencil, Romer and watch and enjoy all the thrills of navigational rallying from the comfort of your own office chair. The first round of the 'Nicolson Digital A4 Tabletop Rally Championship' gets underway this Friday the 2nd of October and you've got a week to complete the route before the closing date on October 10th.

There's still time to enter this 8 round Autumn/Winter tabletop series and there are classes for everyone from numpty aspirationals and auld gits who have forgotten all they ever learned in the sport's hey day - called the 'Fun' bunch - to Novice, Non-expert and Expert.

Here's the thing, it's free. Everything will be provided on-line including a map, not to mention 'Panic' envelopes for those who get stuck. Not only will you not need the AA's emergency number, but you won't need fuel and the car won't get mucky. Nor will you need to get out of the car and sprachle with the spare wheel while skinning your knuckles on the wobbly jack and wheelbrace in the wind, rain and freezing temperatures when you puncture a tyre. Similarly, you won't get lost in some godforsaken corner of Scotland which doesn't have a post code or a mobile phone signal. What's not to like?

And if you need more convincing, get the weans involved. Tell them it's entertaining as well as educational. These sort of exercises help with maths, mental arithmetic, geometry, geography, history, the English language and map reading skills - useful when your SatNav has lost its signal or your phone runs out of battery in real life. In fact, some of the weans might like to get their class mates involved, and thereby breed a new generation of would-be rallyists when we finally get the go-ahead to announce: "Gentlepersons, start your engines!"

All the details are on the Nicolson Digital  Rally Championship Facebook page:

And if you don't have an FB page then create one. It's easy for those auld codgers of a certain and cynical generation who have so far resisted and who will have nowt to do with social media. There is no need to pictures or personal information on it when you register on FB, but it will allow you to access this. It's well worth it just for that.

Organised by highly renowned plot and bashers Robin Nicolson and David Law, the 8 round series will take you around Scotland with different clubs organising each round.

The first round will take place on Orkney, so if you've never been, here's your chance without leaving the safety, comfort and central heating of your own home! Better get to it quick - over 50 entries so far ...

... and no need for rally boots!