Tuesday 30 May 2023

Rally - The Reivers Return

It was just a short visit to the Jim Clark Reivers Rally this year, but it was good to get outside and get some fresh air at the Rally Service Park just outside the town. The field had been cropped but the jaggy stubble still presented a prickly health hazard to those wearing shorts! Even so, braving such terrors it was good to be there and enjoy the craic.

The atmosphere in a Scottish service park is always friendly especially when the sun is shining. And there was much goodwill in evidence between the teams, for instance, Robert Proudlock loaned arch rival Archie Swinscoe his spare steering rack. Archie had damaged his Vauxhall Adam’s rack on the Friday/Saturday run and would have been out but for Robert and Malcolm’s sporting generosity. Nice one boys, and it has to be said, both youngsters came away with mighty impressive results. Archie finished 15th overall and Robert 19th leaving Dangerous Des Campbell in third place in the class and 23rd overall. Des admitted that even without a split manifold he would have struggled to keep the bairns in sight.

Speaking of youngsters, ex-SRC Media refugee and now Dirtfish correspondent Luke Barry had his first taste of competition in the driver’s seat. And what an event to choose, albeit this event and these roads were home territory for him. Not only did he finish, he wasn’t last, and with a smile brighter than a solar array.

There was little to choose between the ladies too. At the half way point Meghan O’Kane had a one and half second lead over Aileen Forrest but managed to stretch that to nine seconds by the finish. Mind you there might be trouble in the O’Kane household after this as it was Meghan’s first run out in faither’s Subaru Impreza and her first rally with four wheel drive. Ashleigh Morris was a close third and Sarah Hunter may well have featured had not the Peugeot 205 given up the ghost in SS4. In fact she was leading her class when the hard pressed Peugeot stopped. Just four lady drivers, but on a more encouraging note there were 26 lady co-drivers on the Reivers event!

It was good to see the Sloan boys back in action. At 10.00 am on Saturday morning Scott Sloan was out on the tractor cutting silage when he got the call. He was 15th reserve and didn’t think he was going to get a run at all - and so it was too heck with the silage and get the car prepped and trailered! Then it was off to Duns for him and David. They had hoped for a top thirty finish in the Peugeot 208 but were pleased enough with 43rd – as they hadn’t had time for a recce!

Technical Terms & Excuses …

John Rintoul was one of the first to get into his civvies. “On the first stage I was carrying too much speed into a chicane,” said JR, “I got through the first three bales OK but hit the fourth. It wasn’t a big hit, but it burst the radiator.”

An onlooker thought it just looked like a nudge.

John added: “Well, maybe it was a nudge-plus!”

And finally …

Ian Forgan buzzed the Ford Ka’s wee engine: “It wasn’t my fault. I was wearing the wrong shoes! I had loaned my blue shoes to another driver and hadn’t got them back so I was using my black shoes – and I over-revved the engine.”

That’s a new one for the book, eh?

And finally, finally …

Garry Pearson’s expensive weekend woes prompted one local bystander to comment. “If anyone wants coal this week they’d better buy it this afternoon before Garry gets back to the office!”

( Pearsons of Duns are the local coal and log burner merchants.)

Friday 26 May 2023

Race - Another sad loss

Ian chatting with Clive Chapman
at a Club Lotus event in Duns ten years ago
Whilst we celebrate the return of rallying to Duns this weekend, there is a sad footnote to add to the event. Local farmer, architect, author, motor racing fan, Ingliston race track designer and discoverer of talent, Ian Scott-Watson passed away earlier this week. He celebrated his 93rd birthday just last month and still every bit as interested in motor sport as he ever was.

Ian was the man credited with discovering a young driver possessed of a raw talent and uncanny ability behind the wheel, regardless of whatever machine he was driving from a tractor to a Formula 1 car, from a rallying DKW to a British Touring Car Championship Ford Cortina Lotus. His name was Jim Clark.

Clark’s talent was spotted on early road rallies in Berwickshire where Ian quickly realised that Clark was a better driver than navigator so they swapped roles. It was also Ian who persuaded him to go motor racing occasionally loaning him cars to help progress his career. In fact Ian managed the young man’s sporting affairs for the first few years until Clark’s potential was spotted by the more professional teams. A star was born.

However, it cannot be emphasised strongly enough that without Ian’s encouragement guidance and influence that star might never have been discovered.

Thursday 25 May 2023

Rally - 40 years ago

… or to be more precise, 42 years ago, there were serious fears regarding the future of the Jim Clark Memorial Rally. 

Northumbrian Motor Club team had decided to withdraw from organising this annual event, but Border Ecosse CC and Berwick & District MC stepped in to fill the void. The reason was simple, they wanted to ensure the tradition of a local motorsport event on the original rally date to coincide with Reivers Week. It was an easy fix, BECC’s already established Ecosse Stages Rally was pulled back a few weeks and the new joint organising team announced their Jim Clark Memorial Stages Rally for 1982.

Although not a counter in the national Scottish Championship any more, the new event retained its status within the East of Scotland Championship and therefore attracted a decent entry to its 12 stage format. Starting and finishing in Duns, the stages consisted of four visits to Charterhall plus some private roads including locations at Langtonlees, Twinlaw Cairn, Westruther Mains, Stichill Stables, Sunlaws and Lempitlaw, with Monylaws and New Heaton just over the border in Northumberland.

Winner of the previous four Ecosse Stages Rallies, Dom Buckley had the coveted number one on the door of his Ford Escort and with George Blackie alongside immediately opened up a slight lead over the first two tests at Charterhall. Ivor Clark bounced back over the next two to overtake Buckley, although whether he was helped or hampered by his co-driver on the day was a moot point. In the co-driver’s seat of the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus was one George Marshall Esq!

Doug Riach and Rodger MacFarlane finished third in the Hydrasun Vauxhall Chevette ahead of Jimmy Horne and Ashley Horne in the Stakis Hotels Escort. Dropping out of the leading trio early on was Andrew Wood whose Strathclyde Motor Spares Escort was plagued with electrical troubles till it was a finally sorted for the final four stages. By then it was too late to finish any higher than fifth. Adding a little dash of exotic interest to the entry list and the final top ten was David Murray’s Porsche 911 which finished eighth overall.

The success of this ‘new’ event therefore assured a future for the rally and which has ultimately led to this weekend’s motor sport extravaganza in the Scottish Borders. Thanks are therefore due to the sterling efforts of a small band of dedicated individuals from two car clubs plus friends and colleagues from other car clubs around Scotland to ensure the Beatson’s Building Supplies Jim Clark Memorial Rally remains a fitting tribute to the man whose name it bears.

So to all those planning to visit the event this weekend please bear in mind and respect the efforts of all those volunteers who organise and officiate to ensure that the rally continues to entertain, enthral and excite the local folks, the visitors and the fans while playing a vital part of the Scottish Borders sporting life.

Wednesday 24 May 2023

Rally - More from 1988

Yesterday’s post on the 1988 Croall Bryson Jim Clark Memorial Rally generated quite a bit of interest, so here’s a bit more from 35 years ago.

The organising team from Berwick & District MC and Border Ecosse CC had produced a printed Programme for the event which had little in common with this year’s glossy, full colour and informative tome which is being sold this year. But back then they had included an article from that nefarious and somewhat mythical character, a certain Jaggy Bunnet Esq, who had been allowed to pen his thoughts. Dangerous perhaps, but in this case quite insightful.

As Round 6 in the national series the 1988 JCMR marked the mid way point in that year’s ten round Esso Scottish Rally Championship. With five rounds already run and four more after the JCMR, this event fell perfectly in the middle so folks were starting to make predictions.

Leading at that half way stage was Colin Valentine from Murray Grierson, Stewart Robertson, Colin McRae with David Gillanders in fifth place in the points tables. That alone was raising eyebrows as Valentine was driving a Group N Mazda 323. OK, it had four wheel drive and a turbo – but Group N?

Colin Valentine and David Gillanders
On the other hand Grierson had his fearsome South African sourced Opel Kadett 400 while Robertson had a Talbot Sunbeam Lotus. As for McRae he started the season in his Vauxhall Nova but a certain Donald Milne loaned him a Nissan 240RS for the Autofit Stages in Argyll and he finished second first time out in the car! Even more impressive was his ninth overall finish on the previous month’s British Midland Scottish Rally and top Scottish Championship points scorer – back driving the diminutive Nova.

Lying fifth in the championship after five rounds was Gillanders. He had three wins to his credit so far in the mighty Metro 6R4, but a non-finish on the Scottish and a poor result on the Granite in a troublesome Group N MG Montego somewhat masked his championship potential.

Donald Milne with Colin McRae
and 'Big Al' Smith looking on
However, the competition took a dramatic turn when both Valentine and reigning Scottish champion Murray Grierson struck trouble on this Kelso based event with McRae holding off Gillanders and Robertson for top points to move into the championship lead - and on course to become the youngest ever Scottish Rally Champion at the end of the year. History was made.

And for those of you intending to spectate or just be out and about on this weekend’s Beatson’s Building Supplies Jim Clark and Reivers Rallies, Mr Bunnet added a few words of wisdom in that 1988 programme which are still relevant today:


     Dinnae staun too close tae cars or track

Anmindyersel when parking oot there

     For if the Polis catch ye it micht be sair!

Tuesday 23 May 2023

Rally - Down memory lane

Pete and Lou with Mr & Mrs Croall
35 years ago, the Jim Clark Memorial Rally sponsored by Croall, Bryson & Co Ltd, was rather different to what will take to the closed public roads of Berwickshire this weekend. Two days of British Rally Championship action on Friday and Saturday followed by the KNC Groundworks Scottish Championship counter, the Jim Clark Reivers Rally, on Sunday.

Previously run over the tarmac roads of the Otterburn Ranges and through the forest roads of Kielder Forest, the 1988 event was back in the forests. Starting and finishing in Kelso, the 48 mile event featured one private ‘Spectator Special’ in Springwood Park followed by eight forest stages in Kielder.

Colin and Neil
Another big change was its inclusion in the Esso Scottish Rally Championship for the first time since 1982. It was also a round of the Esso Metro Super Challenge attracting a large number of 6R4s. In fact, 6R4s filled four of the top five places at the finish of the rally which was won by Pete Slights and Lou Naylor, but in second place overall was the RWD Peugeot Nissan of a young Colin McRae and the not quite so young Neil Ewing. 

Phil Walker and Dave Wilford delivered one of their most impressive drives with sixth place in the Ford Escort Mk2 ahead of Stewart Robertson and Lawrance Clark in their Talbot Sunbeam Lotus. In fact there were six Scottish crews in the top ten including the third placed Metro of David Gillanders and Bob Wilson, Jim Carty and Bobby Wallace were ninth in their Metro while a young Andy Horne with Mike Ramsay were a mighty impressive tenth in the Opel Ascona.

Phil and Dave with Louise
Just outside the top ten in 11th place was the Nissan 240RS of Donald Milne and John Baird.

Louise Aitken Walker and international rugby star John Jeffrey joined event sponsor Mr & Mrs Robert Croall and other local worthies in the guest line-up presenting the prizes at a very festive open air presentation in Kelso Town Square.

Oh, and a couple of other youngsters did rather well too, Robbie head and Robert Reid won their class.

The Bairns - Robbie and Robert with John Jeffrey

Saturday 20 May 2023

Hillclimb - Bye bye

 Bye, bye, Doune .... 

Hillclimb - All about the lean

 It's all about the lean .... 

Hillclimb - Proper racing car!

 A proper racing car!

Hillclimb - Star driver

Star driver … Goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway. Star driver at Doune has to be the irrepressible Colin McLachlan in the mighty ‘Moose’, an Austin Seven based Special which weighs around 4 cwt (just over 200 kilos), is powered by an almost nuclear 750cc motor and has about as much contact with terra firma as the eraser ends of four school pencils. As for bravery? I don’t think there is a medal big enough to do him justice.


Hillclimb - A Day out

Perhaps the best thing about this weekend’s Kenny Allen Memorial Hillclimb at Doune was the craic. The two day event was neither a counter in the Scottish or the British Hillclimb Championships so it had more of a ‘club’ atmosphere. Folk were there for the fun and the sporting pleasure. No pressure and no tantrums. Between climbs, competitors milled and mooched about from one pit to the next chatting away to anyone who couldn’t escape.

There was a goodly smattering of other interested parties there too. With no F1 on the telly and no rallies to go to, some spectators were just looking for an excuse to get out of the house or away from the garden. There were even some rally drivers and ex rally drivers there just for the craic. Kenny would have been in his element in such a gathering.

Despite the absence of the ‘big bangers’ in the various championships there were some interesting entries with the Austin Sevens providing the best spectacle, as ever.

And it wasn’t just the sights, it was the sounds. On a personal note the best music was produced by John Welsh’s Tornado Ford GT40, Garry Dickson’s 2 litre Twin Cam Ford Cortina Mk1 and Jim Johnstone’s Triumph TR6.

Thursday 18 May 2023

Hillclimb - King Kenny

The two day Speed Hillclimb at Doune this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, 20th and 21st May, is called the Kenny Allen Memorial Hillclimb in tribute to the racer we lost four years ago. It’s not a British Championship round this weekend, but the event has a varied entry of over 50 interesting cars including classes for roadgoing cars and modified sports cars, so if you fancy taking up the sport at an affordable level, come along and have a look.

Kenny Allen epitomised the sport of hillclimbing, fiercely competitive on track but approachable and friendly in the Paddock. Even when he ‘retired’ from motor racing, hillclimbing and sprinting, Kenny could be found at meetings competing in his roadgoing Lotus Elan. Once a racer, always a racer.

Mind you, he was known to keep dubious company at times and one of the attached photos shows him with some decidedly dodgy characters. One was a co-founder of Coltness Car Club while the other came from the far east – over two bridges and turn right! If you recognise them, then perhaps you kept dubious company too.

Monday 15 May 2023

Rally - No free pens

If anyone reading the previous post thinks I was won over by the kindness and generosity of the folks at Extreme E and the hospitality on offer, then think again. I travelled to and from the venue at my own expense, although I did succumb to the offer of a free lunch. I had a cup of soup, two wee slices of bread, a cup of coffee and a fizzy drink (non-alcoholic), and that was only because my sandwiches were in the van which was in the car park a mile away from the actual site. In fact we were shuttled to and fro by electric bus!

There were no gifts, no free branded baseball hats, not even a free pen. All I have done is relay the information that I gleaned on the day from the questions which I asked. The people were very open, even the furriners who were struggling with the Scottish accent.

There was a fully equipped and staffed Media Tent but no Press inducements. I have reported what I saw and heard and folks can make up their own minds as to what has been written here. More could have been written and each point justified but that would have made the article much, much longer. And yet, no matter what has been published, the cynics will remain unconvinced, I just wrote up what I saw and heard!

In all fairness, there was indeed an extensive lunch on offer in the catering marquee but I took one look at the Menu – that was ‘extreme’. No wonder I opted for the cup of soup!

No pies, no chips, and no baked beans.

Rally - The future is green?

Whether we like it or not, indeed whether we believe in it or not, the issue of ‘climate change’ is being factored into all future motor sport, so we either get with it, or find another sport.

Already event organisers and competitors are being asked to ‘offset’ their carbon emissions and there is a growing number of schemes which will happily take your money to ‘invest’ in environmental projects. Some of these schemes are more believable than others, but whether you agree with them or not, they are here to stay. Our national government and our sporting government say so.

I am no fan of electric motor sport. It is soul-less, although Formula E does produce some close racing at times. It’s the same with Extreme E, there are some good dices, but the silence is disturbing.

Anyway, it’s not for live public consumption, just the telly and social media. And they have a world wide audience of over 135 million at the last count.

Maybe that’s why there are so many critics and cynics, people who can’t or don’t want to see the bigger picture.

In this case the bigger picture is that Extreme E is a showcase for the technology and to prove that motor sport can clean up its act. Critics point to the use of a ship to transport the show to far flung locations, diesel lorries to carry it from dock to site and the use of diesel generators and other equipment on site. That’s simply because current infrastructure hasn’t caught up.

At no time has Extreme E ever claimed to be 100% carbon neutral but it is closer to it than any other form of motor sport, and that’s where we are vulnerable, particularly rallying. Protesters are becoming ever more active and militant, but at the moment they are concentrating on bigger headline grabbing stunts, although it wouldn’t take much to put a spoke in our wheel. Rallying is an easy target.

Having said that, Extreme E’s aim is to reach 100% self-sufficiency, and they are getting there. They are using Hydrogen generators, plus solar and wind power to create electricity. I was actually allowed inside the shipping container which houses the hydrogen fuel cell and had a good chat with the Chief Technical Officer. He also allowed me to take pictures. The unit also houses the UPS (uninterruptible power supply) and battery storage system whilst second life batteries are also used around the paddock.

Extreme E are therefore on course to achieve their aim but perhaps the bigger reason for this whole programme is the research and development side which we don’t see. They are using competition to push the battery and charging technology and of course the electric motors used in the cars. Hence the competitive race series. Give a development engineer an electric car to drive and he or she will carry out their tests and assess the results, but give these same machines to professional racing and rally drivers and the poor bluidy things will get thrashed to bits. That’s when the engineers and scientists come back to see what broke, what needs fixing and what could be improved. We all know that racing improves the breed and this technology will work its way through to the wider motoring public.

Looking even further ahead, Extreme E are amongst the first to say hydrogen is the way forward. The current electric cars are a means to an end as world and national governments have decreed this is the way forward. Unfortunately there aren’t enough natural resources in the world to build sufficient batteries to make this possible, hence the need for another fuel source. And since the various governments haven’t yet realised this, it’s up to the private sector, whether we like it not, to take the lead. Work is already underway on the hydrogen fuel cells which will be used in the cars next year. Once again these machines will be used to further advance and develop the technology of the future.

Amongst the invited guests at the weekend were politicians and leading industrialists who are being shown what is available and what is possible. That’s where the racing comes in. It’s not just a test bed it’s entertainment to help sell the message.

Extreme E won’t replace rallying but it should help us to protect the sport’s future as long as we can adapt. On the other hand, once the politicians realise the limitations of their electric-first, battery-only beliefs then the way could be re-opened for other fuels for our ICE (internal combustion engines) and here hydrogen can play a part along with other solutions like synthetic fuels. Both Formula E and Extreme E have an important part to play.

We either clean up our act, or shut the shop.

Sunday 14 May 2023

Rally - Back to normal

Kames today provided a vivid contrast to yesterday’s Extreme E event, although it has to be said that the electric car races were rather more spectacular today due to the Scottish weather. It rained. The course turned to mud. And the competition looked a bit more like dodgems in the wet after yesterday’s dry conditions with huge clouds of stoor trailing the cars. So in one sense it was exciting but not in any other senses. There’s no doubt the cars are very quick and hugely powerful digging for grip in the dry and sliding everybluidywhere in the wet and the mud, but there’s no bark from any exhaust and no discernible gear changes. No heightened sense of drama. It was like watching a silent movie.

Fast forward to today’s Albar Trophy meet at Kames and enjoyment was restored. You didn’t need eyes to know when someone was on the throttle, or off it, and when they were going for gears. Sweet music restored. The competition is different too of course. No racing, just one car on track at any given time but the enjoyment is multiplied with the addition of sound.

Someone said Extreme E will never replace rallying. He was right of course, but the Extreme E organisers have never claimed that it would. They are trying to offer something different and have their own reasons for doing it which I will go into later this week.

The rally cars may have been less powerful and slower than the electric machinery but the Kames track gives the drivers plenty to do. And in doing so, rewards the spectators with an enhanced spectacle, the mechanical cacophony enhancing the visual treat.

Yes, there is a place for Extreme E, but it won’t and can’t replace stage rallying.

Friday 12 May 2023

Rally - Selling out

Apparently I have sold my soul to the devil. Simply by attending this weekend’s Extreme E event I have been accused of selling out. Well, that’s just a load of over ripe manure. How can anyone criticise anything that they haven’t seen or experienced. It’s one thing watching rallying on the telly, quite another actually standing there in sodden anoraks, underneath dripping trees with wet feet having trauchled through ditches to gain a good vantage point.

So, to answer the critics (thankfully very few) my prime reason for attending is to find out more about the technology and the sport of Extreme E. I’m not worried about the motor racers, they have their own Formula E business, but if Extreme E can help point a way forward for rallying then it must be well worth a look.

The over-riding reason is a concern for the future of stage rallying itself. For instance what will happen to our sport after the year 2030?

This is when it has been decreed by the great and the good (?) that there will be no more internal combustion engined cars running on fossil fuels sold in this country, and many others across the globe. If electricity has not reached the stage of everyday sporting practicality by then, what will happen to our sport?

Does Toyota, Hyundai and Ford have long term plans for electric rally cars? Will the WRC cease to be? Has Motorsport UK got a plan? And what about the individual investment every rally car owner has made in their own pride and joy? Will they become ‘historic’ overnight?

There is also the threat to forest usage by rally cars. Already the walkers, ramblers, bird watchers, naturists and cyclers are squeezing rallyists out of long time favourite forests and stages, hence the growing frequency of double usage. As for the forest owners/managers, roads are not being built or maintained for rally cars but primarily for timber extraction trucks and heavy equipment, so those are additional threats.

And although Extreme E vehicles are more akin to Hill Rally competition vehicles, maybe there is something our sport can learn.

That’s why I’m going tomorrow – with an open mind and a desire to learn. I’ve already submitted my list of questions to the scientific team behind this whole concept and maybe I’ll get some answers tomorrow.