Saturday 29 July 2023

Rally - The Book

That’s it. Finished – I think. After four re-writes, the job is done. And yet, there is a constant nagging compulsion to tinker and change the format. What started as one book during Lockdown to record the history of the Scottish Rally Championship has turned into a series with each volume representing one decade. Initially the purpose of the book was simply to record the history of the sport up here before it is lost forever in the rush to exclude us from the forests and ban us from four wheels and the use of the internal combustion engine. Yes indeed, there are dark forces at work out there.

The initial concept was written in the style of a work of reference rather than a record of the drama, excitement, fun, fierce competition and sporting adventure that actually took place during these sportingly turbulent decades. Hence the re-writes and format changes.

The 1980-1989 volume now consists of four chapters with the first mainly a textual record of event reports and the other three sections primarily consisting of photos and captions, some of which are more than just captions!

Whether it works or not is not for me to decide and no doubt there will be critics, but that’s nothing new. Criticism is a constant factor in the life of a working journalist. However, the hope is that even if there are omissions, the content will rouse faded recollections and revive long forgotten memories of times and friends past.

Anyway, the photographs were taken to the printer last Monday and the final version of the text is being collected from the proof readers next week. It also looks as though the book has got a sponsor and there is a meeting on Monday to confirm. My ever so grateful thanks to them and the other advertisers who are providing much valued and appreciated support to record forever a sport which has given so many of us so much pleasure, huge excitement, much fun and multiple spine tingling thrills along the way.

Meanwhile I’ll keep you informed of progress, and by the way, here’s a few more pics that didn’t quite make the final edit ….

Sunday 23 July 2023

Rally - Notes from an onlooker

The 2023 RSAC Scottish Rally was a wet and slippery affair, but there were fleeting glimpses of orange brightening up the dreich grey landscape and damp Galloway greenery. It wasn’t the sun, it was the flying Subaru Impreza of Jock Armstrong and Hannah McKillop.

It was close though. Michael Binnie and Claire Mole were only five seconds behind at the end of 44 miles of stages in the Forrest Family Ford R5. Binnie made a mighty effort to close the gap over the final two stages and took 12 seconds out of Armstrong, but it wasn’t quite enough. Even so, Binnie was fortunate, Finlay Retson and Paul Beaton were on course for the runner-up position when their Fiesta expired on the final stage.

It was closer still in third place, the Fiesta of David Henderson and Chris Lees just pipped the Hyundai of John Wink and Neil Shanks by ONE second. It was good to see Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson having a decent run for a change and were rewarded with fifth ahead of Iain Wilson and Chris Williams bouncing back with a strong sixth after their tumble in Argyll. Just missing out on a top six were Willie Paterson and Tom Hynd. Were it not for two punctures they would definitely have been in there.

Stand out performances? Providing hope and encouragement for the grey haired and auld fart brigade was the Pinto engined Mk2 of Stuart Egglestone and Brian Hodgson. In such conditions they shouldn’t have finished in the top twenty, should they? Indeed they did, finishing 16th overall (2nd 2WD behind John Crawford and Josh Davidson) but even more impressive was young Robert Proudlock’s pace. With munro-bagger Steven Brown alongside the duo finished 21st overall in the wee class winning Opel Adam and sixth 2WD.

Mind you, Proudlock might have had some ‘outside’ assistance. Chris Ingram (European Rally Champion!) paid a flying visit on Thursday and was re-united with his old Opel Adam and spent some time with Robert at the test day who said afterwards: “I reckon that in a 2 mile stage he was 15 to 20 seconds quicker than me!” Even so Proudlock finished two seconds clear of the fast and furious Peter Stewart/Harry Marchbank in the rapid Peugeot 208, and that’s going some.

Not so lucky was Mark McCulloch. He drove the Proton to nearby John Hardie’s house for its overnight stay after Scrutineering on Friday. On Saturday morning he fired it up and drove six miles to Dalbeattie for the rally start where someone noticed an oil leak. Closer inspection revealed an almost circular three inch hole in the gearbox casing. The main shaft bearing could be seen clearly through the hole but there was no sign of the cause. A quick phone call established that there was no oil loss evident on Hardie’s driveway so it happened on that six mile road run on Saturday morning. A real puzzle.

Armstrong’s victory in the ‘old-tech’ Subaru versus the playstation generation was all the more impressive as he was running MRF tyres all day. Once regarded as a budget rally tyre, the Indian manufacturer is now matching the Europeans in terms of performance – at nearly half the price of the Frenchies!

And a final word. Iain Wilson’s agricultural and forest machinery premises just outside Dalbeattie were tailor-made for a rally service park, and he couldn’t have been more hospitable to the rally circus. Thanks Iain, and sorry for the muddy tracks in the field!


1, Jock Armstrong/Hannah McKillop (Subaru Impreza) 43m 09s

2, Michael Binnie/Claire Mole (Ford Fiesta R5) 43m 14s (+0:05s)

3, David Henderson/Chris Lees (Ford Fiesta Rally2) 44m 06s (+0:57s)

4, John Wink/Neil Shanks (Hyundai i20 R5) 44m 07s  (+0:58s)

5, Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo) 44m 12s (+1:03)

6, Iain Wilson/Chris Williams (Ford Fiesta Rally2) 45:20 (+2:11)

7, William Paterson/Tom Hynd (Skoda R5) 45m 33s (+2:24)

8, Joe Hegarty/David Turkington (Ford R5) 46m 18s  (+3:09)

9, Chris Collie/Ricky Finlayson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) 46m 46s (+3:37)

10, Phil Pickard/Simon Pickard (Ford Fiesta S2000T) 47m 23s (+4:14)

Friday 21 July 2023

Rally - Malle Rally Special

Got a wee shock when I saw this headline on a press release today, but I mis-read it. At first glance I thought it proclaimed ‘Mull Rally Special’ but it’s not! Apparently this is a special edition Morgan three wheeler sports car as the company has teamed up with an upmarket clothing and travel accessory company called Malle London.

The collaboration has resulted in the Morgan Super 3 Malle Rally Special complete with the full Driver’s Collection of Morgan and Malle apparel and accessories, and also includes entry into one of the future Malle rally events, in Great Britain, the Alps or into the Arctic.

These rallies include The Great Malle Rally in the UK, The Great Malle Mountain Rally in Europe and the forthcoming Great Malle Arctic Rally. At 1500 miles, the UK rally is the longest motorcycle rally in the country while the European adventure crosses the entire Alps mountain range in a 1,500 mile route from Austria to Monaco, taking in some of the highest drivable roads in Europe.

The special model features a list of options which include USB charging points, lockable storage, Beeline navigation system, rear luggage rack, LED headlights, footwell lighting and cupholder and considering its rally ambitions, what I would regard as two ‘essentials’ - heated seats!

Having said that, the 1.5 litre, three cylinder Morgan is no slouch. It produces 118 bhp and weighs just 635 kgs which enables a nought to 60 mph time of around 7 seconds and top speed of 130 mph.

Naturally, this being just a press release there is no mention of cost but a quick look at the website reveals that a ‘standard’ Super 3 can be put on the road for a shade over £43,000 – and then there is a list of options which would embarrass a Rolls Royce dealer!

Which begs the question, would they allow me to ‘test’ one on the genuine Mull Rally?

( Photography by Tom Kahler and Shane Benson )

Wednesday 19 July 2023

Rally - Sixty years ago

If you thought the RSAC Scottish Rally was tough 30 years ago (see previous Blog post) it was even more of a challenge sixty years ago. The five day 1963 RSAC Scottish Rally marked the final transition from a purely navigational exercise with timed driving tests to a more speed based event with timed special stages on Forestry Commission gravel roads. Marks were still to be lost on the road sections, but the competition itself was pretty much decided on the special stages. As for the cars, they were more ‘roadworthy’ than ‘stageworthy’ as opposed to the rather more specialised machinery used nowadays.

From a Glasgow start on Monday morning the 3rd of June, the 300 mile route, which included 100 miles of forestry road sections, headed northwards to the rally’s base at Grantown on Spey. On the way, the first of 21 Special Stages was at the Rest and Be Thankful where Bob Haddow’s Jaguar E Type (rally runner-up last year) set the fastest time, only to retire on the third stage at Drummond Hill when the exhaust system was ripped off. 

Coincidentally on the 21 special stages it was only ‘the Rest’ and one of the Clashindarroch stages where the leading competitors could actually attain an average speed of 50 mph!

At the second stage at Monument Hill where the rally used a Forestry Commission stretch of gravel road for the first time two years ago, the Mini Coopers of Logan Morrison and Sandy Morrison and the MGB of Sir Peter Moon were fastest along with Andrew Cowan’s Sunbeam Rapier.

And how’s this for a change of route? At the Balblair stage on Tuesday, the official in charge took the competitor’s Roadbook, deleted the stage instructions and told the crews to follow the arrows! I wonder if the organisers will try that this weekend?

On Wednesday, one of the drivers, Hamish Wilson in his Sunbeam Rapier commented: “I’m getting the hang of this special stage lark now – I can now get the car into overdrive third!” Explain that to the younger generation.

Andrew Cowan also had an anxious moment when he arrived “full tilt” at the end of the Drumtochty stage only to find that the rally official had forgotten to fully open the gate. The Sunbeam ripped the gate off its hinges losing its door handle in the process. It could have been worse though, thank goodness for to-day’s more ‘professional’ amateur Marshals, eh?

Wednesday was actually a short day which allowed the crews, supporters and officials to have a bit of a bit of a ‘hooley’ in Grantown that night. Good job breathalysers were not introduced until 1967, eh?

On Thursday there was trouble in the Glenlivet stage where a badly placed ‘No Entry’ sign at a fork in the road caused havoc with many competitors going the wrong way. Apparently it was quite easy to miss this one as the faster cars were doing “in excess of 50 mph at this point!” The mind boggles, but worse befell Bobby Parkes when one of the spoked wire wheels on his Austin Healey 3000 collapsed and the car finished the test on the brake drum as the wheel bounded off into the bondocks.

Cowan was lucky in the Leanachan test at Spean Bridge when the Sunbeam plunged off the road and over the rocks. He was lucky, the car survived and he quickly regained the road but John La Trobe was less fortunate when he holed the radiator on his Rapier when it plunged off the road. Oddly enough fastest through here was Ian Woodside – in an Austin Healey Sprite!

On the following Clunes test, a certain Bill Dryden burst two tyres on his ‘works’ Vauxhall Victor VX 4/90 but his brother Dennis in the sister car waited for him at the end of the stage and helped him change wheels. Also in puncture trouble in a private VX  4/90 was one Jimmy McInnes Esq, erstwhile storyteller and later in his career, Ingliston motor racing commentator.

Logan Morrison’s Mini didn’t make it.

The final day on Friday was less stressful – for some.  Northern Ireland’s Derek Boyd and Reg McSpadden missed a Control in Aberfoyle and had to dash back when halfway to Glasgow.  That error cost them dear, dropping them from 3rd and 4th to 5th and 6th overall although it did McInnes no end of good. His fourth place finish and top Vauxhall earned him a ‘handsome’ cheque from Vauxhall.

Of the 55 starters, just 39 crews and their somewhat battered cars made it back to the finish. 


1, A W Cowan/D Thompson (Sunbeam Rapier) 125 Pts

2, R A Clark/H Patton (Mini Cooper) 133

3, H Wilson/R Wilson (Sunbeam Rapier) 177

4, J W McInnes/A McInnes (Vauxhall VX 4.90) 195

5, D D Boyd/B Crawford (Mini Cooper) 223

6, J R McSpadden (Volkswagen 1500) 248

Monday 17 July 2023

Rally - Champagne anyone?

This Saturday’s RSAC Scottish Rally (22nd July) will be a fairly simple affair compared to the 1993 Perth Scottish Rally which itself was a mere shadow of last century’s week long endurance events!

This weekend, all competitors will tackle six Special Stages with the one-day event starting and finishing in Dalbeattie whereas 30 years ago, the rally produced 4 different sets of Final Results.

Based in Perth, the main three day Scottish Rally event with 26 stages run over Friday, Saturday and Sunday was won by Richard Burns taking his third British Championship victory on the trot. He finished over 3 minutes clear of a puncture afflicted team-mate, Alister McRae in the second of the two Prodrive Subaru Legacys. Robbie Head was third in a Ford Escort Cosworth and David Llewellin fourth in a Vauxhall Astra.

Malcolm Wilson was in contention until a gearbox mainshaft broke and he finished fifth in his Ford Escort Cosworth but still well clear of the Peugeot 205 of Paul Frankland. Gwyndaf Evans cowped his Escort and Jim McRae retired his Escort with broken front suspension.

Meanwhile in the Perth Scottish National Rally, two-day, Friday/Saturday version there were just 15 Special Stages with two Ford Escort Cosworths in the lead separated by a minute at the Rally Finish. David Gillanders and Doug Redpath scored the victory and maximum points in the Burmah Scottish Rally Championshjp counter from George Gauld and Stella Boyles.

There was another Ford in third place but this one was an Escort Mk2 RS demonically driven by one Sam Mullen Esquire with brave (some might say ‘unwise’) co-pilot Gerry Bryden. Andy Horne and Andrew Jardine were fourth in a Manta 400 from the Mazda 323 of Andy Kelly/Roy Campbell while Dave Elder/John Bennie were sixth in a RWD Toyota Starlet.

As for the top seeds, first on the road Bill Stewart put his Manta off in Gairletter while Raymond Munro burst the differential in his Metro 6R4 and Mike Horne broke his Sierra Cosworth’s diff.

There was also a separate Final Results sheet for the National Rally – Land Rovers, and another one for the Perth Scottish Historic Rally. Good job we had computerised results by that time, eh?

Anyway, with just one competition that means it will be much easier to decide who gets to spray the champagne this weekend.

Oh, and one other thing, be careful who you might share this FB post with – there could be weans of a sensitive nature who might accidentally see the fotie!

David and Doug

Friday 14 July 2023

Rally - Decisions, decisions

Too many pics, too few pages … The text for the 1980-1989 book is now with the proof readers but the process of selecting photographs is not getting any easier. If you start off with over 8,500 photos it is relatively easy to exclude those which are not sharp or badly exposed. Then you weed out the less interesting subjects or the ones which are poorly composed. Obviously there are multiple images of certain crews so the best of these have to be retained.

What were once thousands have been reduced to hundreds and yet the task just keeps getting more difficult. The ‘final’ selection is down to just over 200 but that’s still far too many for the number of pages – even when the page count is increased by 20!

So here’s a few more pics which haven’t made the final, final selection.

As for the previous pics, in case you hadn’t recognised them, that was Allan McCleary in his Davrian on the 1986 Snowman, Andrew Wood in the ‘Andrews’ Opel Manta on the 1986 Granite City, Barbara Armstrong all crossed up in the Peugeot 309 on the Baldoon Stages in 1989 and of course, Donald Heggie in the Ford Escort G3 on the 1983 Snowman … but fear ye not, there are other pics of them which will be in the book!

Folk are also wondering how they will be able to get copies of the book when printed. Details will be released nearer the time although the plan is to sell them in person at rallies and autojumbles/classic car meets as well as being available to purchase online - probably Ebay.

Sunday 9 July 2023

Rally - Editorial difficulty

Here’s another photo that didn’t make the final edit (see previous Post), although it was close. Very close.  Way back in late 1985 the Trossachs forests were thronged with the biggest crowds the area had ever seen. The rally fans were out in force to see the debut of the first MG Metro 6R4 in private hands, the Golden Wonder car of Ken Wood and Peter Brown.

The event also provided Austin Rover with their first win for the car with an amateur team when Ken and Peter scored a convincing victory by over a minute and a half from the Opel Ascona of Tom Muir and George Sharp. David Gillanders and Graham Neish were third but a canny drive from George Marshall and Lyn Jenkins saw the St Boswells driver clinch the 1985 Scottish Rally Championship title, an achievement almost overhadowed by the appearance of the ‘supercar’.

Had the picture been used in ‘the book’, the caption might have been Ken saying: “I keep tellin’ ye, there’s naethin’ doon there – the engine is roon the back!”

Rally - The Book

Not being able to visit Machrihanish this weekend means work can continue on ‘the book’. It’s just about finished and will be off to the proof readers next week, hopefully. The proof readers both know about rallying, one is good on facts, the other on spelling and grammar. The main feature text currently runs to 84,000 words!

What started as a single book project on the history of the Scottish Rally Championship quickly became a six book series with each volume covering a decade from 1960 onwards. There is just too much to tell for one book!

In terms of world rallying, Scotland has certainly punched above its weight with four world champions to date, Colin, Derek, Robert and Louise and they all started their careers on Scottish soil. And then of course there was Andrew Cowan’s many successes on foreign events, marathons and with the World Rally Championship Mitsubishi team. The Scots’ impact on British rallying is no less impressive and they all learned their craft in the Scottish forests.

Perhaps that’s why the book has taken so long to reach this stage. It’s now on its fourth version and revision! The first book will cover the period 1980 to 1989 – including Colin McRae’s first impactful appearances on four wheels.

However, the biggest problem has been not so much deciding what to include, but what has to be left out. Of course editorial tinkering could go on forever but at some point a halt has to be called just to get it printed and out there. That applies particularly to photographs.

The book will no doubt delight and disappoint in equal measure. No doubt there will be complaints about who was and who was not mentioned or featured and why some photographs were included whilst others were excluded. Who knows? There might be another book with the all the bits that were left out!

By the way, if any business or company out there would like to take an advertisement in, or even sponsor the book, then I would be delighted to hear from them. Of course such a publication as this will not appeal to those companies selling specific priced products but will be more beneficial to those seeking to promote and enhance their public perception and brand awareness.

As an example of the difficulties, here are some pics that didn’t make the book!

Saturday 8 July 2023

Road - Desire on wheels

 Now there's a car park ... 

Saturday 1 July 2023

In the footsteps of Kings

Next time you go to Argyll for the Dunoon or Machrihanish rallies it might be worth taking a couple of extra days off for a wee holiday and take a trip back through time. Apparently there are over 350 ancient monuments in and around Kilmartin - that's a lot to take in with just a couple of days, but I always wanted to visit the Nether Largie Standing Stones.

These stones are nowhere near as impressive or anywhere near the same scale, or even as well preserved as Stonehenge, but that’s down to the Scottish weather over thousands of years and no doubt the Scottish desire to rob the stones for other uses, like building houses and dykes. However just to stand there and think that these huge grey and gritty slabs of rock were lifted, moved, erected and carved without the aid of JCBs and Clydesdale horses, or Black & Decker drills, power saws and steel chisels beggars belief.

They're not as impressive as the Callanish Stones either, but at least they are easier to get to. Callanish is on the Isle of Lewis and CalMac holds the key to controlling visits!

Neither did the inhabitants have watches to tell the time or copies of the Mull calendar hanging from a peg in the wall to count the days and months and yet these weighty monoliths were aligned to such a degree of accuracy that the midsummer and winter solstices could be observed so precisely.

But ever since those stones were erected 5,000 years ago, this part of Argyll and Kintyre has been fought over and ruled by a whole succession of kings, knights, clans and invaders. In fact there are reports of Kings ruling their own small kingdoms as far back as 330 BC. Hence the sheer number of religious and historical artefacts, stone circles, burial cairns, graves and huge grave slabs. On the Isle of Iona alone there are reckoned to be the graves of up to sixty Kings!

The area around Kilmartin is so steeped in history that a brand new museum was due to be opened this Summer, but that has now been delayed till late Summer - so I'll have to go back!

It's an absolutely enthralling and stunning landscape, which beggars the question, why the fascination?

My first job on leaving school was with Scottish Agricultural Industries based in Glasgow and this was my patch. I squelched and stumbled diagonally across every bluidy field, farm and croft in western Scotland and the Inner Hebrides from Wemyss Bay in the south to Oban in the north (well, it felt like it!), rain, hail or shine, and through midge infestations, taking and analysing soil samples and then recommending which fertilisers were needed to produce crops and feed.

I even advised the Farm Manager for High Park Farm near Campbeltown owned by one Paul McCartney Esq. And no, the great man wasn't in, but I was in his greenhouse - and sworn to secrecy about what was growing there!

It was while doing this and speaking to those who worked this magical and mysterious land that I learned its history and folklore. In other words, visiting the Dunoon and Machrihanish rallies brings back more than just rally memories from the Burmah and Argyll Stages rallies, this area’s history goes back much further than that - a lot further.

Try it some time. But until the new Museum is opened, start from Kilmartin Church (beside the new museum) and follow the signs. Take your own footsteps into history.