Saturday 30 April 2022

Road - LR Defender

Getting away from it all ... with no Scottish rallies on this weekend, it's back to the day job.

This week's puzzle is how to categorise the Land Rover Defender. This a Clydesdale that thinks it's a thoroughbred, or should that be the other way round? It will happily tow 3500 kgs but can dispatch the 0 to 60 mph sprint in under six seconds - although I didn't try it with a trailer!

It will clamber over rocks and through bogs just as easily as it will cruise quietly and effortlessly at motorway speeds on the open road. The biggest surprise is that the 2 litre engine (with electric motor) produces in excess of 400 bhp. It's expensive and it can be thirsty but is addictively desirable.

Hence the need to sit in complete solitude on top of a mountain to seriously ponder this most difficult dilemma.

And some folks think I have got it easy! Full review soon.


Friday 29 April 2022

Rally - Pace Notes Mag

The May edition of Pacenotes Rally Magazine is now on sale!

Following his last gasp victory at the Circuit of Ireland Rally, Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble have taken prime position on our cover this month!

The Fisher name is back on the prestigious ‘Circuit’ trophy for the first time since 1999 when Alastair’s uncle, Bertie Fisher, last won the event. We have a comprehensive Circuit of Ireland report but that’s just the tip of the iceberg in what is another jam-packed edition of your favourite rally magazine.

In this month’s ‘In My Garage’ feature, we’ve taken a closer look at a former French 106 Cup winning pocket rocket. It comes complete with many of its original scrutiny stickers, not to mention its original shell. How many rally cars that were built in the ‘90s can boast in having that?!

Becs Williams gives an insight into the World Rally Championship with a particular focus on Seb Loeb, and we have an interesting look inside Skoda’s Fabia Rally 2.

Turn back the clock and enjoy being whisked back to 1994 to remember when Kenny McKinstry clinched the Irish Tarmac Championship title, while Mitsubishi fans will be pleased to hear that Jamie Arkle delves into the success of the Lancer Evo 4.

Then fast-forward to present day for a whole host of event reports that include the Tour of Epynt, Willie Loughman Forestry, Birr Stages, Rally North Wales, Tour of Caerwent and more. Plus we have a clubman profile with Terry Brown, not to mention John Fife’s and Bryn Pierce’s take on Scottish and Welsh rallying.

Make sure you don’t miss out and grab your copy quick!

Pacenotes Rally Magazine is available in print, via our digital app, and is also available by contacting 028 40660390. 

Visit for more details.

Thursday 28 April 2022

Rally - Speyside tribute

A nice touch … 63 Car Club, the organisers of the McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages Rally had invited a guest ‘starter’ to the rally start in Cooper Park and was introduced to the massed spectators over the public tannoy. Stuart Kennedy is the son of Ken Kennedy who was Lands and Parks Manager for Moray Council when the club first approached the Council with the idea of a ‘city centre’ stage as a means of introducing the sport to the local folks and general public.

That was back in 1999. Hard to believe the first Cooper Park test was held quite so long ago – in the last century!

Over the years this double run round the Park has proved to be such a success that it has become part of the fabric of the event, and it’s all thanks to some forward thinking from Moray Council and their staff. Nice one Stuart.

Monday 25 April 2022

Rally - SAMSC and the Future

Four weeks back I happened to mention that the Scottish Association of Motor Sports Clubs is looking for a new Chairperson. It has now circulated a 'Role Profile' job description giving applicants some idea of what the job could involve.

It has been sent to all member clubs, plus other folks on their circulation list, but there is apparently no intention to post this on the SAMSC website. That's fair enough as the incumbent will have to be a member of a recognised and member club. So if anyone has the desire to get involved it will need to be done through their own car club.

For those who are not currently a member of a club and fancies a rather different sort of challenge then they'll need to have a chat with some like minded friends. All nominations must be Proposed and Seconded by member clubs.

So far, it would be safe to say that the Committee has not been inundated with responses. Neither has a closing date been set - yet.

No surprise really when you see what the job entails. On that basis perhaps it is time to look at a different approach. Should the 'job' be remunerated in some way? Not so much a wage but a contribution towards expenses. With Association meetings held centrally, folks from the far north or deep south may well be put off, not just by the travelling distance, but the time spent getting around the meetings and variety of events all around the country.

'Zoom' or 'Teams' meetings on-line are all very well but as anyone knows a lot of work is done face to face away from the table and this human inter-action is not just desirable, but I would venture to suggest, vital.

Not so long ago there were two associations, one for the West and one for East, perhaps that could be looked at again, but this time on the basis of North and South which would seem to make more sense travelling wise.

Motor sport, particularly rallying, is nomadic by nature so travel has to be expected. A North/South divide might be more appropriate and practical and perhaps one Chair could officiate at each. That would of course mean the incumbent would have to travel twice as much as other committee members to co-ordinate views, opinions and decisions.

A more contentious point would be to grant the new Chair more power to represent the sport in Scotland, not just at club level, but at national and local government level. We still lack a strong presence on SportScotland and that's where the big decisions are made. If the sport has to fight for its future in the face of other organisations who think that motor sport is morally and environmentally wrong then there needs to be a way to argue the merits of each case.

There is of course another organisation some 400 miles to the south  (dependent on where travelling from) but with decentralisation one of the British government's aims perhaps our 'national' governing sporting body could consider the same. There is some precedent here in that the RSAC has long had the power to approve rally routes submitted by Scottish car clubs. This is necessary because Scots law is different from English while Forest & Land Scotland is also a separate entity from the Forestry Commission and we have our own Forestry Liaison Officer up here.

It's a minor point, but it highlights just one of the smaller issues - why did an event in the north of Scotland have to 'import' an MS UK appointed Safety Delegate from the deep south with all the additional expense that would entail. Surely the sport in Scotland should have its own qualified personnel up here?

Is it time for the sport in Scotland to have a stronger say in the way things are run? Should the SAMSC be given more powers? If so, that means a much more professional approach is needed to manage such a venture.

Anyone up for it?

Road - Ford Fiesta Active

I was asked at the weekend by a couple of folk what I thought about the Ford Fiesta I was driving recently, so we had a short chat. The trouble was I had a wee bit of an admission to make. Motoring journalists aren't supposed to have favourites, they are supposed to report fairly and dispassionately.

They have to rise above popular opinion and not be swayed or tempted by top Spec and full Option sheets, shiny paint, glittering alloys, sultry engine noises and the fresh smell of a brand new interior when you open the door.

It  just so happens that I like small, well-suspended, good handling, nimble cars with a decent bit of poke. You can have as much fun at half the speed.

That's not to say I dislike the bigger bangers and thumpers, but the trouble is you can't exploit their potential on public roads, so you end up frustrated - the Fiesta is frustration-free ...

Sunday 24 April 2022

Rally - Speyside Report

David & Barney
David Bogie and Barney Mitchell won the McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages Rally yesterday, but they had to come from behind to do it! David Henderson and Chris Lees scorched into the lead over the two short spectator sourrounded tarmac blasts around Cooper Park in Elgin. The tarmac rally specialist and ex racing driver instantly at home despite unfamiliarity with his new Fiesta R5.

Into the forests and it was Jock Armstrong and Cameron Fair who stunned onlookers with a time 7 seconds quicker than top seeds David Bogie and Barney Mitchell. Bogie snatched a second back in SS4, then disaster struck in SS5. The MINI suffered a recurrence of its Snowman Rally problems stuttering to an almost-halt four times in the stage. Luckily Service was next.

The Subaru was outpaced over the final four stages but a clatter against a chicane in SS6 didn't help matters and Armstrong stayed second.

Snowman winners Michael Binnie and Claire Mole finished third but the Mitsubishi was at full stretch all day over the fast and furious Speyside roads but it had a rear vision mirror full of R5 breathing down its neck. A bit lost on the sandy surface of the first forest stage, Henderson was an awfy quick learner and his times just got better, and better. He finished just 4 seconds off the Mitsubishi's tail.

With a new car to learn, Freddie Milne and Patrick Walsh were a cautious fifth in the Fiesta R2 while Scott MacBeth and Daniel Forsyth proved there is life in the Lancers yet, rounding off the top six places.

Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts had a troublefree run in the Focus to finish 7th and no-one could more pleased with 8th place than Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry in the self-built Proton Satria Evo after a troublesome start to the year in Inverness.  John Wink and Will Atkins had a better run in the Hyundai i20 R5 to finish 9th ahead of Angus Lawrie and Paul Gribben in their Evo9.

Scott Beattie was in the hunt for top honours early on till an 'off' with the Evo in Gartly very close to the scene of Garry Pearson's accident four years back and with big things expected of the Peugeot 208 on Speyside, it wasn't to be when Peter Stewart had to retire the car with a failed coil pack. Top 2WD was therefore the Ford Escort of Stuart Egglestone and Brian Hodgson in 20th place overall - in a Pinto engined Mk2. A Pinto! Marvellous, eh?

There will be a one page report in next Thursday's 'Motorsport News' and that will be followed (as usual) by the world's most comprehensive Speyside report in JaggyBunnet's on-line mag by the weekend.


Thursday 21 April 2022

Rally - McRae Rally Challenge

The latest news from Knockhill is that World Champions Louise Aitken-Walker MBE and Tina Thorner will be reunited for the McRae Rally Challenge at Knockhill on the weekend of  July 2/3.

The duo won the Ladies World Rally title in 1990 and will be at Knockhill both days driving in rally cars in which they have previously competed as they take part in the Parade of Champions each day.

Louise also raced in the 1989 British Touring Car Championship as team-mate of twice BTCC Champ, and some time rally driver, John Cleland before going on to partner Tina to win the World Title the following year.

Tina carried on being a highly successful Co-Driver, including partnering Colin McRae in both 2004 and 2005 in the works Nissan team on long distance Safari type events.

Both Louise and Tina will also be on the Knockhill fans stage for interviews, autograph sessions as well as driving in the Parade of Champions. 

Wednesday 20 April 2022

Rally - Speyside Entry List

Full Entry List and some other info on Saturday's (23rd April) McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages at Elgin now in the on-line mag at:

Can Binnie do it again?

Tuesday 19 April 2022

Road - Nostalgia

The older you get the less you look forward and the more you look back. It's called nostalgia. This comfortable feeling is aroused by tainted memories that things in the past were better than they are now. In some cases that's true, but most people who hanker after the golden days of motoring are secretly pleased that points have been replaced by electronic ignition and carburettors superseded by fuel injection. That ensures a modicum of reliability as opposed to the old time fears - will we get there on time, if we get there at all?

Not so long ago this desire for more affordable look-alikes was fulfilled by kit cars whereby individuals or companies could build a car from a component set of parts and install their own choice of engines, gearboxes, transmissions and suspension. You only have to look at the number of Cobras out there, it would take a keen eye to spot some of the better builds for what they are.

But for those folk with more money than sense, a new industry has been spawned - manufacturing 'brand new discontinued' models. Combining traditional skills with new materials and methods some manufacturers have come up with 'continuation' cars, like Aston Martin building brand new DB4s and DB5 'Goldfinger' cars, Jaguar have built new XKSS and C Types as well as lightweight E Types, and Bentley has built some 'brand new' 1929 blowers.

And if the manufacturers are at it, then why not the smaller more specialised companies which introduce their own ideas to 'improve the design and styling, ride and handling, reliability and performance'. That's not a restoration, that's a new-build. No wonder there's an awfy lot of shiny 'original' Land Rover Defenders out there! And then there's rally cars. How many 'brand new' Ford Escort Mk2s are running through the forests?

The trouble is this exclusivity comes at a price which pitches them well out of reach of the vast majority of most nostalgia seekers and well away from the pockets of those who could afford the originals back when they were new.

Cars like the Thornley Kelham Jaguar European are now appearing on the market but nowhere, even in the small print, do they state a price. That's down to customer specification and discussion. In other words, if you have to ask, you can't afford it. Consider this, they say it takes 5,000 man hours to build one. You can do your own sums from there.

And yet some of these cars do actually look drop dead gorgeous enhancing the evocative lines and appeal of the originals while offering a better ride and a more reliable power option. There's even a variety of 'electric classics' on offer if you look around.

What prompted this latest epistle from the 'wee-est room' thinking space was the appearance of yet another 're-interpretation', this time based on the Austin Healey 100/4 - a personal favourite and one that no-one should tamper with. Or should they?

I'm in two minds. I simply can't make up my mind whether this 're-imagining' is a good thing or not. And yet, despite all the doubts and reservations, I want a Healey by Caton - I really, really want one. I wonder if any of Prince Andrew's rich and generous ex-friends might want a slightly more respectable new pal?