Friday 28 April 2023

Rally - Information sought

The text for the 1980-1989 volume of the book on the history of the Scottish Rally Championship is just about finished. It features a short report on every round of the Championship with Top Ten results and Class winners from each event and Championship tables at the end of each season. At the moment the word counts is in excess of 81,000 and there are a couple of wee stories still to add.

However, I’m looking for some information to complete this. I need the Class winners for the 1980 Andrews Heat for Hire Rally (Sept 4/5) and the Class 1 and 2 winners (I’ve got Class 3 and 4 winners) of the D&A Arbroath Stages Rally in October. I also need to know who won Class 1 on the Trossachs in October that year.

If anyone has a set of results from any/all of these events that would be most helpful, even if you have an Entry List from these events that would give me a good start as well. By the way, trophies are another good source of such info. If you have any old trophies from parents/grandparents day they always show the event and date and what the prize was awarded for.

So if you can help with any of these drop me a line or get in touch.

Wednesday 26 April 2023

Rally - Thunderbirds are go

Prospeed Motorsport near York is an engineering company which specialises in off-road vehicles for work, leisure and motor sport. Their latest creation will appeal to firefighters, particularly those who have to deal with incidents in city centres and towns.

It has two big advantages over current fire fighting vehicles. It can access multi-story car parks despite the height restrictions and it carries the ‘Coldcut Cobra’ system for extinguishing EV battery fires.


It’s not that electric vehicles are more prone to catching fire than their petrol or diesel siblings, in fact according to statistics they are less likely to catch fire, and if they do the battery pack is harder to ignite than a petrol fuel tank.

Following two serious car fires in Liverpool and Stavanger the subsequent investigations highlighted the risks. At the Kings Dock Car Park at in Liverpool six years ago, the resulting blaze led to the loss of approximately 1,150 vehicles and severely damaged the structural fabric of the building. More recently a similar incident in Norway destroyed hundreds of vehicles and led to the partial collapse of the multi-story building.

Of particular concern in this case was the fact the Norway has a high proportion of electric vehicles although the fire initially ignited in a turbo diesel car. Another factor which the investigations highlighted is the fact that modern cars are wider than previous models and yet car parking bay marking lines are pretty much the same. This means that vehicles are closer together when parked these days thus allowing any fire to spread more easily!


Dealing with EV fires is bad enough but dealing with exploding fuel tanks can be just as dangerous, perhaps more so as ignited fuel can run along the ground and get into drainage systems thereby spreading the risk.


This is where Prospeed came in. They have built a Rapid Intervention Vehicle on their Toyota HiLoad 6x6 chassis. Getting quickly to the heart of the fire in such circumstances can be essential as standard fire appliances cannot access such buildings. Most times they have to fight the conflagrations from outside the building while the six wheel drive can drag any handbraked and parked cars clear of the fire and cope with any rough terrain in the rural hinterland if the need arises.


So what’s the point of this FB post? No point really – I just wanted to make all the rally rescue and recovery crews rage with lust at the sight of this impressive bit of kit. Hee, Hee.


Naturally, no price was published. You’ll just have to phone and ask, but keep the smelling salts handy!

Sunday 23 April 2023

Rally - Watching the telly

Unable to travel to Elgin for the McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages Rally I thought I would tune in to SRC TV Live on Friday evening and during Saturday. It was the first time I had watched the new championship live streaming service. A big difference from being there and in amongst the grit, glaur, excuses and the banter. It was a different experience. Very different.

I also learned a new skill. How to ‘mirror’ my mobile phone to the telly. That was another first. As someone who can better cope with points and spark plug gaps rather than ECUs, this ‘mirroring’ business was initially a most frustrating mental and patience testing kerfuffle. Somehow I managed it and the relief was enormous. The feeling of triumph was as satisfying as a pie sandwich on the way home from the in-laws’ salad lunch. Simple success amuses simple minds, eh?

On Friday evening, I settled down with an eight pack of dark chocolate Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers and a big pot of tea. First off were the interviews in Fochabers prior to the start (I thought Ashleigh was, and is, a star!)  then the action in the forests as dusk descended.

Being used to watching the WRC action on television with its variety of summarisers, commentators and interviewers plus the use of multiple cameras and camera angles both on board, outside and up in the air, there was something of a culture shock experience as I heard but didn’t see the SRC TV commentators (is that deliberate?) and there was just the one camera.

I don’t know what the set-up reminded me of but it did conjure up an image of ‘Still Game’ meets Barrie Hinchcliffe (youngsters, ask your Dads) and the result was the best bits (or the worst?) of ‘It’ll be alright on the night!’ Simple, but effective.

Thus sated, there was a repeat performance on the Saturday with a bit of stage action and end of stage interviews. Once again, the art of ‘mirroring’ was mastered. And you know what, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Mind you I can understand that there are two schools of thought on this live streaming service. There are those who don’t like it and those who love it, with very few in between. I put that down to those who don’t understand it and those who do. I suppose subtitles are out of the deal?

Oddly enough I switched over to the live coverage from Croatia on Saturday morning after the Speyside coverage and here I must admit to an ever so slight bias. Jon Desborough is a friend, so I just happen to think he’s an excellent summariser, but the professional commentators left me cold. We have to accept that those who are broadcasting on world wide television have to be politically correct these days and able to inform the sporting uneducated and the unknowledgeable while imparting news and information about the teams and crews, but it didn’t excite me. For sure the speeds are mind bending and the pictures mesmerising but the end of stage interviews reflect the professionalism of the sport at its highest levels. At times like this you miss the pithy remarks of the likes of Craig, Petter, and of course, Colin.

So it was back to the afternoon coverage of Speyside and to heck with Croatia. Back to the simplicity of one camera angle and the two curmudgeons (plus the one in the background correcting them all the time) and I loved it.

However, over the next few days the Becksport Media team will be producing more professional looking video reports from the weekend as they have done in the past and these will be worth a watch for sure. Having said that, I still like the live streaming coverage.

For sure we’d all like more cameras and more information but would we then lose the simplicity of the format? If I don’t make the next round of the series in Duns I’ll be at home with the feet up watching the telly, but I’ll be watching and listening to SRC TV, not the BRC offering.

Wednesday 19 April 2023

Rally - Ford Puma

20 years ago … If your mind conjures up the image of a Ford Puma rally car, you may think of turbos, wings, four wheel drive, compact SUVs and FIA World Rally, but 20 years ago it was different.

The original Ford Puma rally car was a svelte front wheel drive coupe initially with a 1400cc engine but later 1600cc. In a bid to get ‘youth’ more interested, Ford introduced the Ford Racing Puma 1400 Rally Championship for ‘standard’ similar spec cars. A ten round competition for these cars was created to attract youngsters and rally newcomers to the series and perhaps find a new rally champion who could progress through the ranks. The championship was attractive with a first prize of £1500 for the winner of each round. Second got £1000 and third received 500 quid.

A couple of cars came north and oddly enough, with the McDonald & Munro Speyside Rally this coming weekend, there is a Speyside Rally connection, for exactly 20 years ago, this picture of two ‘young’ hopefuls was taken with one of those cars. Sadly neither of them went on to world rally greatness but both left a lasting impression on the sport and continue to do so now. One of them is forever getting his hands dirty and has a big reputation for building and fixing rally cars, while the other is one of the country’s top co-drivers and foremost rally organisers.

And, as if to prove rallying must be good for you, they really don’t look all that much older than they did back then.

Sunday 16 April 2023

Rally - Hydro X Prix

St. Helena arrives in Scotland

There is a lot of cynical scepticism about the whole idea of Extreme E, the world wide electric vehicle off-road racing series being promoted to advance the idea of sustainable and environmentally friendly motor sport. But considering the money, the planning and infrastructure behind this whole concept, the brains behind this original idea will have been prepared for all the likely and unlikely arguments and objections from the ‘green brigade’ and eco-warriors. And that goes for the rest of us motor sporting sceptics.

For a start, those power generating containers spotted on the TV cameras behind the scenes for charging up the vehicles are hydrogen fuel cell powered, not diesel, whilst the ship itself is one of the ‘greenest’ sea going ships on the planet.

A former passenger cargo ship, the St. Helena, has undergone a multi-million Euro refit to minimise emissions and transform her into Extreme E’s operations hub. The ship transports the championship’s freight and infrastructure, including vehicles, to the nearest port, in this case Greenock, and will then be based in Troon throughout the duration of the Hydro X Prix.

Since its purchase in 2018, the St Helena has had a complete refit. In addition to building a science laboratory for ongoing research work, there are 62 cabins on board which can sleep up to 165 people, two lounges, an 80-seater restaurant, a 100-seater exterior deck, an 80-seater presentation area plus capacity to carry 90 20-foot shipping containers.

The ship uses low-energy LED lights, has low-water consumption bathroom fittings and chairs made from recycled plastic bottles, collected from the Mediterranean, amongst many other innovations. There is also a hydroponic system on board in the kitchens which enables the Chef to grow the ship’s own herbs and garnishes.

(  And here’s a very personal plea, please don’t tell the high heid yins at Ferguson Marine or the twa ferries might be further delayed as they attempt to copy some of these ideas above!  )

Amongst the cargo, is the fleet of ODYSSEY 21 electric race cars, plus all the temporary structure based paddock of team garages, Continental tyres, and other operational equipment required to set up the race site in the former Scottish opencast coal mine at Glenmuckloch.

Of course, the sceptics will continue to castigate the use of electric vehicles, but you can’t blame the motor companies for that. It’s the governments of this world which have decreed that the internal combustion has to be replaced by electric motors, and that means using batteries. And yet, despite this the auto manufacturers are continuing to research and develop sustainable fuels, synthetic fuels and other power sources such as hydrogen.

Alejandro Agag, CEO and Founder of Extreme E, said: “Only 18 months ago world leaders met in Glasgow for COP26, aiming to secure global net zero by the middle of this century. As an off-road rally series which focuses on the promotion of electric vehicles and clean energy innovations, the old mine is the perfect natural amphitheatre to showcase the necessary industry transition to move from fossil fuels to clean energy futures. It will also impactfully act as an example of the important role water can play in future renewables and healthy conservation.

Racing in Dumfries and Galloway will create the exciting opportunity to highlight climate issues and solutions that are not just global, but also right on our doorstep. The racetrack lends into this aim, as it is located in the restored former opencast coal mine, which is about to undergo the next phase of its major transformation into a Pumped Storage Hydropower (PSH) plant and wind farm.” 

Whether this is the right way or the wrong way to promote electric vehicle propulsion is a matter of personal opinion, but if the governments of this nation and the rest of the world are dead set on killing off the internal combustion engine in motor sport, then what is the alternative? Scalextric, Playstation or X-Box?

Admittedly I’m still on the sceptical side of the argument, but there are bigger brains than mine behind this with big reputations at stake, including sponsors, highly regarded specialist engineering companies and well known motor sporting personalities. Either they all know something we don’t or it’s all about the money. I’m prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt for now, but let’s see how Hydro X Prix plays out plus the feedback from the local community and Queensberry Estate.

It’s just a pity there is no chance for the motor sporting (and motoring) enthusiast to visit this event and see for themselves, so therefore we will have to rely on the TV coverage which will be live on STV and ITV over both Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 May.

Saturday 15 April 2023

Although I spoke to Craig Breen a few times over the years, I didn’t ‘know’ him, so the tributes are best left to those who do, like this one:

-          Statement from Hyundai Motorsport President Sean Kim -

"The reality of yesterday has still not sunk in, and it is unlikely to for a very long time. Everyone here in Alzenau is feeling the loss of our team-mate and friend Craig deeply, and we are supporting our colleagues through this incredibly difficult time.

To say he was a much valued and well-regarded member of our team only touches the surface. Craig had a passion for rallying that ran deep. He was more than just a driver, he was a true lover of the sport. Craig wore his heart on his sleeve, something that enamoured him to so many people. He had a way with words that was completely unique; his end-of-stage quotes were always a highlight.

Craig was also a phenomenal driver. There are so many highlights, both within our team and in the rest of his career, but in Rally Sweden he showed us his true essence. He was performing at the top of his game and reminding us all of the incredible talent he possessed. That podium meant a lot to us as a team, but you could see just how much it meant to him.

It is clear the whole rallying community and beyond is feeling this profound loss. The outpouring of grief and sadness in the past day is testament to the man that Craig was. He leaves behind a legacy within Hyundai Motorsport and the wider motorsport community that is difficult to put into words. Rest in peace, dear friend."

Thursday 13 April 2023

Really sad, shocking and unexpected news - the following Statement was received today:

Statement from Hyundai Motorsport
April 13, 2023 - Hyundai Motorsport is deeply saddened to confirm that driver Craig Breen today lost his life following an accident during the pre-event test for Croatia Rally.
Co-driver James Fulton was unharmed in the incident that occurred just after midday local time.
Hyundai Motorsport sends its sincerest condolences to Craig’s family, friends and his many fans.
Hyundai Motorsport will make no further comment at this time.

Tuesday 11 April 2023

Rally - 40 Years ago

In just over a week’s time the McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages Rally will take to the forests in the far north, but exactly 40 years ago, the month of April meant the Granite City Rally. Sponsored by John Clark BMW, that event was a counter in both the Shell Oils Autosport Championship and the Esso Scottish Rally Championship.

It was quite a rally. Over one hundred crews had been attracted to the event which offered 80 miles of tests split up into 16 Special Stages – for an Entry Fee of £120. There are folk who reckon “some things never change”, but in Scotland there is one sure fire, dead cert feature of rallying that does change, and constantly changes – the weather.

In late April 1983, the protagonists were treated to snow, rain, dense mist and glaur, lots of sticky, wet glaur! In these conditions, Darryl Weidner was the hot (cold?) favourite in his Audi quattro. One of the first of these cars to reach private hands, Weidner had been the man to watch last year as he grappled with the fearsome turbocharged beast. And with that under his belt, conditions suggested that he should walk away with the spoils this time.

Another ‘certainty’ in rallying is that nothing is ever certain. Enter George Marshall in a rear wheel drive Vauxhall Chevette.

Weidner and Doug Hart took an early lead but at the halfway point in the rally it was Marshall and Ken Wilson who were leading by 23 seconds. An absolutely heroic, sphericals-out effort through the 12 mile Clashindarroch test saw the Chevette take almost a minute out of the Audi.

Over the next eight stages, the Audi was eating into the Chevette’s heels and clawing back vital seconds. On the penultimate test, Marshall spun losing 12 seconds, and losing the rally lead in the process. At the finish, just 16 seconds separated the top two on a day which should have been dominated by the four wheel drive machine. But this was a day for heroics and true grit and Marshall rose to the challenge. What a fight.

Forty six seconds behind the Chevette was the Ford Escort Mk2 of one David Llewellyn, with Martin James, giving us a glimpse of the Welshman’s growing prowess. Terry Pankhurst was 4th, Phil Collins 5th and Allan Arneil 6th whilst other entries included the likes of Bill Dobie, George Hill, Ian Cathcart, Roger Chilman and Jeff Churchill along with many of our own pre-event favourites including Donald Heggie and Ken Wood.

Also taking part was Andrew Wood with John Robinson in a front wheel drive Ford Escort XR3 Turbo. This was a new one-make rally challenge for Ford’s latest Escort derivative. These were basically Group N machines so unlikely to threaten the leaderboard, but Wood finished an impressive 21st overall that day behind a certain Mark Lovell (12th) and Trevor Smith (17th).

The long range weather forecast suggests a heatwave in the north for the Speyside this year, so best pack your wellies along with your gutties if you’re going, just in case.

Happy days, eh?

Tuesday 4 April 2023

Rally - Extreme E

Extreme E, the electric off-road rallying series, is coming to Scotland. Originally rumoured to be considering an event in the Outer Hebrides, the Hydro X Prix will now take place at the former Glenmuckloch opencast coal mine site in Dumfries and Galloway on 13-14 May 2023.

The restored former coal mine is about to undergo a major transformation into a Pumped Storage Hydropower (PSH) plant and wind farm. It will provide a poignant backdrop for the sport which uses its platform to raise awareness of climate change and global solutions.

As an off-road rally series which focuses on the promotion of electric vehicles and clean energy innovations, the old mine is the perfect natural amphitheatre to showcase the industry transition from fossil fuels to clean energy futures. It will also act as an example of the important role water can play in future renewables and healthy conservation.

Alongside far flung racing destinations which have so far included Greenland, the Atacama Desert, Saudi Arabia and Senegal, the Hydro X Prix in Scotland represents an exciting return home for the sport in its third season, creating the opportunity to highlight climate issues and solutions that are not just global, but also right on our doorstep.

Catie Munnings who drives for the Andretti Altawkilat Extreme E team, said: “It’s always great to have a home event, and racing is Scotland is something I am really looking forward to. There’s always something unique about every Extreme E course but racing in a location like this which is close to home will be something special for me and the team. I've heard the track will be a combination of both fast sections on grass as well as drops into a quarry which will be really interesting to see.”

Jenson Button, JBXE Team Owner, said: “We are really looking forward to the next round of the championship in Scotland. There is such a passion for motorsport in the UK, and it is great that the series is returning to its roots once again. I’ve been lucky enough to race on UK soil many times throughout my career and those memories will always be incredibly special to me. The last time the series raced in the UK JBXE were able to pick up a podium – and so we will be aiming for similar at the Hydro X Prix.

Anna Fergusson, Estate Director of Buccleuch’s Queensberry Estate, home of Glenmuckloch said: “Hosting Extreme E is a wonderful opportunity for Buccleuch and the local community. Their commitment to the environment flows through everything they do, and using the sport to highlight local and international nature-based projects enables engagement on so many levels. For me, personally, recognising gender equality sends an incredibly positive message, which is important to recognise.”

The project, which secured funding in 2022, will enhance and aid the balancing of the UK power system, enabling the integration of more renewable generated energy into the country. 

Once constructed, the Pump Storage Hydropower plant will have the capacity to deliver 210 MW per hour, providing eight hours of storage capacity. 1MW is enough to supply the average power requirement for 2,000 homes for an hour. Utilising two 105 MW reversible hydro-turbines, the site will store power during periods of excess energy supply and release stored energy at times of peak demand. 

The wind farm will comprise of eight 4.2 MW turbines and will have the ability, via a direct connection, to power the Pump Storage Hydropower plant. 

Extreme E will also embark on a community led project to mitigate climate change effects on local salmon stocks. From the impactful re-planting of over a thousand trees to monitoring water quality and temperatures, Extreme E will focus on a long-term transformation of the River Nith area that will protect the salmon stocks so important to local industries.

Extreme E’s floating centrepiece, the St. Helena ship, which was built in Aberdeen and went on to provide a vital lifeline to the island of St Helena for over 30 years, will arrive in Glasgow in mid April to start unloading its freight and vehicles ahead of the race event.

Being a sport which takes its impact seriously, many measures are in place to keep Extreme E’s event footprint to a minimum. These measures include capping the number of team personnel and staff who can attend the event, remote working, and crucially, not having spectators on site.

The racing action will be best viewed live on STV and ITV, in the UK, over both Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 May to enable the best views.

About Extreme E:

With legendary motorsport names involved in the series including Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button, NEOM McLaren, Andretti and Carl Cox, Extreme E is a radical new racing series. Electric SUVs compete in extreme environments around the world which have already been damaged or affected by climate and environmental issues. The five-race global series highlights the impact of climate change and human interference in some of the world’s most remote locations and promotes the adoption of electric vehicles in the quest for a lower carbon future for the planet.  

To minimise local impact, Extreme E races will not be open to spectators, with fans instead invited to follow the action through live TV broadcast, and on social media. 

Pictures show:

Schoolchildren from Kelloholm Primary School with Catie Munnings (Andretti Altawkilat Extreme E) and Kevin Hansen (Veloce Racing)

Anna Fergusson, Estate Director of Buccleuch’s Queensberry Estate, with Catie Munnings and Kevin Hansen

Bad Things Happen in Threes

Whilst in hospital, it wasn't just my email that was scammed and Facebook corrupted, but my Twitter account has been hacked too, so don't rely on anything you see there until it is sorted. Meantime, I am back home and trying hard to catch up. Thanks for all the kind messages.