Wednesday 16 November 2022

Scottish Borders Hill Rally

The Scottish Borders Hill Rally takes to the forest roads, firebreaks, ditches and quarries of the Forrest Estate just to the north of St John's Town of Dalry this weekend, the 19th/20th November.

Unfortunately it's not a spectator event as the rally takes place on private land. However, if you fancy a nosey at the 48 car entry, the Service Park might just be of interest and a chat to the crews will provide an insight into the sport.

This type of event can accommodate all classes of vehicle from standard production 4x4s to custom built 120 mph V8 monsters with two feet of suspension travel. This weekend's event is also a round of the new Defender Rally Series a one-make championship for current model Land Rover Defender SWB cars and promoted by specialist preparation firm, Bowler Motors Ltd with support from Land Rover UK.

Like any form of motor sport it ain't cheap but the entry level production  car classes provide an ideal way of finding out what thrills and challenges the sport has to offer without breaking the bank.

However, not all events apply the same rules with regard to eligibility so competitors have to make sure they read and understand each individual event's Regulations and if they have any doubts, contact the Scrutineers before turning up at an event.

Even so, the cars are prepared to a less rigorous standard than special stage rally cars which means that at the top level, the competitive machinery is not quite so outrageously expensive.

However, it's the Production Car Class which could stimulate initial interest. The emphasis here is on strength and protection as opposed to speed and agility. In some events there is no need for a roll-cage although such an accessory is to be recommended. Even a single hoop behind the seats, or in the case of an old-school Defender pickup, behind the cabin and mounted on the flatbed would appear to suffice.

Otherwise, it's all about strengthening suspension mountings and protecting the underbody. Standard seats and belts can be used although proper race seats and harnesses would be better. Neither is a flameproof racesuit mandatory, although certainly advisable, but crew members must have an MSUK/FIA approved crash helmet.

On a recent event a first timer appeared with his bog standard SWB diesel Defender with a single external hoop and the driver competed in his tartan shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He and his co-driver had a ball. They weren't quick, but they weren't last. Another popular budget choice is the surprisingly competent Suzuki Jimny.

There's no recce and no Pace Notes, just a Tulip Roadbook and follow the arrows, although there is a timetable and Time Cards.

Each Special Stage will have some speedy sections, interspersed with some short, technical sections of rougher, muddy, or watery going.

This weekend the first Leg starts at 10.00 am on the Saturday morning and includes a couple of stages in the dark in the evening before the final Leg starts on Sunday at 10.00 am and finishes early afternoon so that folks from the south can head for home. Entry Fee is £595 for 12 stages totalling some 110 miles.

As I said, it's just a pity that this is a NON-SPECTATOR event but if you do venture up the single track road that leads to Forrest Estate please drive carefully as you'll pass a couple of houses and farms. The estate itself does actually allow public access for hill walking and mountain biking, but for one weekend a year it's closed for the Scottish Borders Hill Rally.


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