Thursday 23 February 2023

Rally - What might have been?

It might be hard to believe, but the bone-creaking auld git clambering through the roll-cage trying to get out of the rally winning Citroen Rally2 at Knockhill last weekend was once a hot prospect in the world of British rallying.

In fact the 1980s produced too many gifted drivers for the number of professional seats available. Even though most manufacturers had a presence in rallying, and there were a goodly number of ‘professional’ private teams, there were still not enough ‘paid’ seats available for the talented few to make a career.

What helped these youngsters in the first place was the profusion of ‘one-make challenges’ like Peugeot 205, Ford Fiesta and Escort 1600i, Volkswagen, Suzuki and Lada not to mention the very worthwhile Bonus schemes run by the likes of Vauxhall/Opel and the tyre and oil companies. Some rallies and championships even offered cash prizes! There was serious money to be made at amateur level to support those just trying to get going in what was even then an expensive sport.

These schemes helped to ensure that the likes of Colin and Alister McRae, Andrew Wood, Robbie Head, Calum Guy, Louise Aitken-Walker, Barbara Armstrong and of course Dom Buckley Jnr got a chance to make it on to the international stage. Sadly, getting on to the stage and staying there are two quite separate targets.

There is little doubt that young Dom was every bit as quick as young Colin but whereas Colin could concentrate on competition, Dom had to combine his sporting forays with work in his father’s burgeoning rally car preparation business. Difficult choices had to be made.

Unfortunately for rally fans, business became the priority, but even on his subsequent sporadic outings, Dom Jnr was a force to be reckoned with. One can only wonder what might have been.

So it’s hard to reconcile the sight of last weekend’s grey haired rally winner with the fresh faced curly haired schoolboy pictured here, eh?

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