Wednesday 21 June 2023

Rally - Argyll this weekend

Forty years ago, the roads that the Forestry Commission ‘presented’ to Lanarkshire Car Club for their Forth Electrical Stages Argyll Rally were rather different to the roads ‘presented’ this year to Mull Car Club for their Dunoon Presents Argyll Rally. That’s because this weekend’s event (23/24 June) can trace its history back a further thirteen years to 1970 when Nigel Hollier won the first Argyll based Burmah Castrol Rally in his Ford Escort Twin Cam. Alastair MacRae (No, not one of the Lanark McRaes) was second in a Sunbeam Stiletto and James Rae third in a Ford Escort GT.

Fast forward to 1983 and four wheel drive was a pipedream – which was about to become reality. Audi debuted their quattro in the World Rally Championship in 1981 and immediately started winning rallies.

Back here in Scotland, those lining up in their two wheel drive cars to battle this latest round of the national Esso Scottish Rally Championship gave little thought to the revolution that was about to swamp the sport. They had a much more important domestic battle on their hands, but even here the technology was moving on.

Donald Heggie and Iain Mungall won the 1983 event in their Ford Escort G3, a rear wheel drive Escort built by Gartrac into a front wheel drive bodyshell. Their winning margin was a mere ten seconds over the 45 stage mile event with the Rover SD1 of Ken Wood and Peter Brown in second place thirty seconds ahead of the Ford Escort Mk2 of Allan Arneil and David Cannon.

The forest stages that day included such evocative and memorable names (to a certain generation!) as West Loch Eck, Glenbranter, Blawearie, reached via the rather disconcerting ‘Laird’s Grave Road’ (!), and Corlarach high above Dunoon.

Even forty years later the town of Dunoon is just about recognisable over the shoulders of Jimmy Fleming and Dave MacDonald sheltering under the brolly – sheltering from the damp Scottish sunshine! By the way, Jimmy finished tenth and Dave didn’t.

But if you are intending to spectate on this weekend’s event, the rules are somewhat different from those early pioneering days. For a start this event will take place on closed public tarmac roads not private forestry gravel roads. Spectating access is very restricted, whilst venturing on to a section of closed public road is an offence, so please acknowledge and respect the Marshals’ and other rally officials’ instructions and behave safely and responsibly. Get yourselves a copy of the event Programme which will give all the details.

Stay safe out there to protect not just yourselves, but the future of our sport.

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