Saturday 18 March 2023

Robin Cunningham, 1946-2023

Robin Cunningham, 1946-2023

Scottish rallying was saddened to hear of the passing of Robin Cunningham earlier last week (Friday, 10th March) who passed away suddenly, but peacefully, at home.

A name unfamiliar to many of rallying’s younger generation, Robin won the Scottish Rally Championship Co-driver’s title in 1983, exactly 40 years ago this year. That was the year that his driver, Jimmy Fleming won the national Driver’s Championship in their Toyota Celica GT.

Robin’s presence in the car was somewhat overshadowed by the personality which drove the crew to many successes in the 1970s and 1980s. If Jimmy was the team’s showman and social convener, Robin was the supporting act that kept the show on the road.

When Jimmy opened James Fleming Car Sales in Ayr in the early 1970s, he was the main presence in the car sales showroom while brother-in-law Robin managed the workshop and service. In fact the ideal partnership.

Ever watchful to exploit a sales opportunity, Jimmy was aware of the strong motor sporting culture in Ayrshire at the time, particularly in rallying. Names like Tom Bicket, Gordon Hunter, Drew Gallacher, Ian Gemmell, Andy Smith, Hammie Hannah, George Porteous, Lawrence Seditas, John Wilson and David Fulton were regulars in the rally entry lists, so Jimmy and Robin joined East Ayrshire Car Club.

At first they contested single venue events in a Vauxhall Chevette 1300 but when the business took on the Toyota franchise they switched to a variety of Toyota machinery which included at one point, a fearsome home brewed 3.5 litre V8 Toyota Starlet.

If Fleming’s headline gabbing exploits, especially at the after rally parties, generated legendary renown, it was Robin who kept an eye on the prize. He managed the paperwork and logistics and became an extremely proficient co-driver - despite an initial reluctance! But don’t get the idea Robin was a shrinking violet, Jimmy once let slip that he had to rescue Robin from ceremonial and high jinks excesses on more than one occasion. The ideal partnership indeed.

Robin’s wife Jan and Jimmy’s wife Margaret (Robin’s sister) made regular appearances at events in the early days although it has to be said that it was only the menfolk who over-indulged. Our condolence to them both and their wider family and huge circle of friends.

The funeral service will take place on Wednesday 29th March at Stair Parish Church, KA5 5HW, at 10.00am, thereafter at Masonhill Crematorium, Ayr, KA6 6EN, at 11.15am.

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