Another shock for Scottish rallying. Alistair Smith passed away last week after a short illness. He had been on a family holiday last November and fell ill shortly after returning home.
Alistair was a long time member of Scottish Sporting Car Club and a stalwart of Scottish national rallying from the mid 1970s to the end of the 1990s and briefly appeared back on the scene when his son Steven came of age to drive in 2006. He would have been the first to admit he was no headline grabber, he was there for the sport, the challenge and the fun and seemed to enjoy building rally cars as much as driving them.
He worked in the family business which dealt in the wholesale and commercial supply of carpet underlay. However, it was a love of cars and a desire to go rallying that led to his first foray into the forests.
With wife Mary navigating their Ford Escort Mk1 on the 1975 Arbroath Stages Rally, they won their class first time out and were awarded a prize for the best improvement on seeding.
In 1980 he registered for Division 2 of the Esso Scottish Rally Championship although only a couple of events were tackled that year with new co-driver, Charles Turner. The following year he ended the season 28th overall in the national championship and 4th in the 1301-1600cc class. With a 2 litre engine in the car for 1982 he finished 5th overall in Division 2 and was placed 7th in the over 2 litre class which combined both Division 1 and 2 drivers.
He was now classified as a Division 1 driver and several changes of co-driver ensued which included primarily Gordon Hastie and Alistair Reid. He finished the 1983 season 20th overall in the Championship standings - one place behind a chap called Andrew Wood!
Another time-out was called due to house and family building although he still contrived to spend many hours in the garage. A Ford Cosworth was obviously the way to go but such an option was out of the question. "I couldn't even afford the engine let alone a whole car," recalled Alastair.
So he built his own contender, from a Ford Sierra XR 4x4. He went through numerous 2.8 and 2.9 V6 engines, one of which was the result of a deal done in a layby with a van near Otterburn in the dead of night, and another sourced from a 'one-owner' car - in this case, the one owner was the Strathclyde Police Traffic department!
With Russell Fair now in the hot seat he managed two finishes in 1994, 37th on the Weldex and 23rd on the Weir Toyota. He started 1995 with 11th on the Snowman Rally and followed that with his career best result on the Valentine Rally and his first top ten finish, 7th overall. He was 23rd on the Weldex and 8th on the Perth Scottish National Rally.
At the end of 1996, he called it a day with 15th on the RSAC National and 17th overall on the season ending Rally Alno in Ayr.
By this time, son Steven was karting although Alistair was building a Peugeot 205 for the Peugeot Challenge. Sixteen year old Steven's rallying baptism was co-driving for his Dad in the Peugeot on the 2004 Galloway Hills where they finished 67th overall.
Latterly Alistair's 'free' time was spent under the bonnet or underneath Steven's various Peugeots and Escorts as he pursued his own rallying activities and that's the final image that many of us will have. Alistair in his element and in his ovies, serious when called for, but otherwise grinning from ear to ear and enjoying the whole atmosphere round the rally and the banter with other crews.
He wasn't an extrovert or a show-off. He made friends easily and was excellent company when the fever of competition had died down. Alistair was a 'proper gent'.
He will be sorely missed by Mary and sons Steven and Andrew, their family and friends, and Alistair's wider circle of rally friends and acquaintances. Our condolences to them all.
Tuesday 1st March, 3pm at South Lanarkshire Crematorium, Sydes Brae, Blantyre G72 0TL
NOTE: The full version of this Tribute is here: