Friday 29 September 2023

Rally - The Book

Nearly there! Last week the printer delivered a full ‘pdf’ of the book comprising its contents and layout. First of all my proof readers went through it and raised almost one hundred queries, then I went through it and found another hundred or so. All these changes had to be noted and passed on to David the graphic artist and compositor at the printer and another day and a half was spent on that this week.

It wasn’t all typos and mistakes that had to be altered but things like linebreaks and character spacing and every time you make a change it can alter the page layout and page breaks. Nit picking but time consuming.

As for the typos, even after all this time I’m still finding silly mistakes. However, the biggest problem has been sorting out all the Alastairs, Alistairs, Alisters and Alisdairs not to mention the Douglas’, Dougs, Dougies and Dugalds. At the last count there were four different Ken and Kenneth Crombies, three George Blacks and one George Blackie. And if you look through Entry Lists and Results sheets from the past, the spelling depended on who typed the names into the computer or which crew member filled out the Entry form. Some folk don’t appear to know their own bluidy name, never mind their driver/co-driver!

I reckon more time has been spent on checking and researching than writing but that’s it – finished. The whole job is now with the printer and he’s going to come back to me today with a final price. If it’s in-line with the original quote we’re ready to go, if not I’ll be looking for a paper round job 

The hardback covers will be printed off-site somewhere by another specialist while the pages are being printed in-house in Hamilton and then the two brought together for binding also in Hamilton. A fascinating process from what I’ve seen so far.

The 1980s were a transitional decade in many ways and not just in the sport of rallying. Black & White news photography was giving way to colour photography as the newspapers developed their own printing technology and the arrival of computers consigned typewriters and carbon ribbons to the museums. Then there were teleprinters and fax machines, photocopiers and the advent of mobile telephones. They all had an impact on news gathering and publication. Wondrous enough then, but the 1990s introduced even more technological marvels.

When this book covering the Scottish Rally Championship from 1980-1989 is finished, I’ll get on to the 1990-1999 volume. Which brings to mind the book sponsor’s question: “What’s the time scale?” I stupidly said: “Six months!”

Monday 25 September 2023

Rally - Blast from the Past

I got a call yesterday. “Do you have an entry list for the 1980 Coltness Stages Rally? I’ve got a photo from Frank Love, but I can’t remember who navigated for me that day!”

The initial response was: “Sorry, no. At that time I was reporting mainly on Sprints, Hillclimbs and Race meetings for Motoring News and Autosport so it’s highly unlikely I’ll have anything on the rally …. but I’ll have a look!”

You know what? Guess who wrote the report for the weekly paper? Apparently my job on June 26th 1980 was to report on the Motor Auctions Group Coltness Stages Rally.

A full house of 120 cars and crews plus reserves (!) assembled in Newmains on the outskirts of Wishaw that day for the 15 stage rally which incorporated a variety of private tests in Lanarkshire and West Lothian. Some of those tests have entered into sporting folklore and included such hazards as railway level crossings, navigating around and under quarry machinery and the ever memorable and fierce Muldron double ‘yumps’.

The rally was won by Coltness CC President Tom Clark and navigated by Lanarkshire CC Vice President Charlie Young – local crew winning local event organised by friends and family – a coincidence surely! First prize was six bottles of Auchentoshan whisky!

In all fairness the competition was indeed fast and furious with three Ford Escorts in the first three places. Clark and Young finished over a minute clear of Jimmy Horne and Ashley Strachan but they were only ten seconds in front of Alastair and Judy Fletcher.

The ‘Triple CCC/Castrol’ Vauxhall Chevette of Fred Henderson and Fiona Beacon was fourth, just four seconds behind the Fletchers while in fifth place were Walter MacDonald and Charlie Caven in another Escort which had been challenging Clark/Young for the lead until the crew picked up a one minute penalty. Rounding off the top six were Jimmy and Margaret Fleming in their Chevette.

Some weel kent names were seventh and eighth, a certain George Marshall and Alan Ainslie in another Chevette followed by the Sunbeam of Richard Stewart and Bob Morland. Malloch Nicoll and Gordon Mackie were ninth, and tenth were John Wilson and Ken Richardson both crews in Escorts. By the way, the Group 1 award was presented to George Gillespie by one Jim McRae Esq.

John Allan retired when a brake disc broke and pulled the centre out of the Escort’s wheel while his younger brother, James, rolled his Mini. Drew Murray dropped out of the top ten courtesy of an errant tree stump, Bill Lymburn broke the panhard rod on his Triumph TR7V8, Bruce Lyle hit a tree followed in unison by Hugh ‘Uncle Shooey’ Steel, stock car racer Ronnie Burns and ‘Rocket’ Ronnie Gray.

As for Robin Christie he rounded a right hander on the penultimate stage just a shade too quickly and the Chevette fell on its roof - landing on top of the Course Opening car!

You know what? I still have the carbon copies (youngsters - ask your parents) of the actual report which I typed up. Aye, them were’t days, eh?

Monday 18 September 2023

Rally - Another nailbiter

Having missed the Voyonic Grampian there was no way I was going to miss last weekend’s Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally.  And it wasn’t just the competition that was the attraction. ‘The Hills’ has been, and is, a special event in many other ways.

Take last year for instance and who could forget that very emotional gathering in Talnotry when rallying paid its respects to the late Queen? The soulful, mournful notes of “Sleep, Dearie, Sleep” played by the lone piper echoing around that eerily silent glen deep in the heart of the Galloway hills and forests. A more fitting tribute could not have been dreamt up by Hollywood.

There were other thoughts too that dark September, it was also the fifteenth anniversary of the loss of a world rally champion.

These thoughts were again to the fore on the drive down the A712, the 17 mile stretch of road that runs from New Galloway to Newton Stewart, a road which is also known as “The Queen’s Way”. So named in honour of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee way back in 1977 by the Forestry Commission with Princess Anne unveiling a marker stone to solemnise the occasion.

This year would be different again. Three night time stages. The organisers had come up with a cunning plan to run six stages during the afternoon and a further three stages when night fell. As the penultimate round of the KNC Groundworks Scottish Championship, contenders needed only to contest the first six stages while the additional three were optional but designed to attract those thinking of November’s RAC Rally, and so it proved, although a few of the Scottish crews tackled the final three stages just for the fun.

Rallying at night is still one of rallying’s great challenges and adds a whole new dimension to the appeal. In daylight, crews get the chance to ‘read’ the terrain and spot the dangers but when darkness cloaks the land their senses and the view are restricted by the reach of the lamps. A spread of white light piercing a hole in the darkness – and no way of knowing what lies beyond.

As it was close in Aberdeenshire so it was close again in Galloway. Going into the final stage of six Jock Armstrong and David Henderson were tied on identical times. One six and half mile stretch of forest road would determine the outcome.

At the finish, David was shaking his head: “I thought I had a puncture in there. The car was just sliding everywhere.” But that wasn’t a lack of grip at all, that was a measure of the man’s commitment. He had taken ten seconds out of Jock, and whereas Jock had equalled his time on the first run through that stage, David had bettered his by six seconds.

Victory fell to David and Chris Lees in the Ford Fiesta R5 by ten seconds from the Subaru Impreza of Jock and Hanah McKillop with John Wink and Neil Shanks again showing great form in third with the Hyundai just holding off the Fiesta of Michael Binnie and Emily Easton-Page. Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson were fifth in the Skoda Fabia with the Fiesta of Iain Wilson and Chris Williams rounding of the top six.

Mark McCulloch’s hopes were dashed on the first stage when a tyre punctured and broke the brake disc, Finlay Retson suffered a double puncture, Rory Young slid off the road in SS2 and Scott Beattie retired at the end of SS2. An eventful day for some.

The top 2WD cars finished 13th, 14th and 15th. John Crawford’s Escort Mk2 was 13th with Josh Davison in the hot seat while Peter Stewart and Dave Robson were 15th in the Peugeot 208 Rally4, but in between these two was that cheeky wee Opel Adam driven by Robert Proudlock and Steven Brown. Surely a 1600cc FWD car had no business finishing 14th overall? But then again, the 1.2 litre Peugeot only has three cylinders! I’ve seen bigger engines in ride-on lawnmowers.

It's also worth noting that all four MG3 rally cars started and finished with Tom Constantine and Tony Walker the best of the bunch finishing just three seconds ahead of Lewis Haining and Chuck Blair on their first run out in the car. Tom was faster over the first two stages, they tied on SS3 and Lewis was faster over the final three. How close was that?

It’s also worth noting that both David Henderson and Jock Armstrong went out to contest the final three night time stages. David was faster on two and Jock on one with David winning the nine stage event overall by 22 seconds with Alan Carmichael and Ivor Lamont third in their Hyundai.

Oh, and one other reason not to miss this event, and it’s personal. It was on this event last year that a certain motor sports journalist decided to retire – but that’s another story. Anyway, it’s always nice to stop on a high, isn’t it?

Wednesday 13 September 2023

Rally - The Princess Foghorn

Once upon a time, the Galloway Hills Rally was a rather different affair to what will be presented to the rallying public in the Galloway forests this weekend. For a start it was originally a stress-free, non-championship event whereas Saturday’s (16th Sept) Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally is the penultimate round of this year’s KNC Groundworks Scottish Championship, and as such there is rather more at stake than fun and frolics.

The 1980 Galloway Princess Rally was such an event. Running over the weekend of 29th/30th of November, this traditional end of season thrash was sponsored by Sealink (Scotland) with concessionary ferry fares luring over a flock, herd, band, gang or motley collection (what’s the collective name for such a group?) of Irish crews and cars to do battle with the home based Scots and the English folk from just around the corner in Cumbria and Northumbria.

Global warming hadn’t been heard of back then so there was no surprise when the Saturday night revellers woke on the Sunday morning to first scrape the ice off the inside of the various Castle Douglas hotel windows and then the outside of rally car windscreens. At least that provided advance warning of the stage conditions. The surfaces were slippery, damned slippery.

This event also took place back in the dark old days of no mobile telephones, no YouTube moving picture updates while folk thought the internet was for catching salmon in the Solway. For that reason the Irish invasion was accompanied by Brian and Liz Patterson who produced the on-event Bulletins entitled – ‘The Princess Foghorn’ – and who were helped/hindered in their information gathering task by one J Bunnet Esq.

The bulletins were hastily typed up on plastic printing plates called ‘skins’ and then run off on an ink-fed duplicator in the back of the Brian&Liz mobile before being passed to volunteers to distribute them around the ten stage route. Technology at its finest!

Anyway, 43 years ago the rally was won by a young chap called Malcolm Wilson who had his sponsor, and boss of Total Petroleum in this country, John Donovan along for the fright of his life. Less than half a minute behind this pairing was Drew Gallacher with Frank Main. Ian Cathcart was third with Ernest Kidney while in 4th place was the 1600cc Mazda hatchback of John Lyons and Willie Rutherford. The top 1300cc car finished in a scintillating seventh place overall and that was the Escort driven by Graham Walker urged on by a certain Ken Wilson Esq – keeping it in the family.

Donald Heggie had a lady, Rosemary Gordon from the Royal Scottish Automobile Club, out for a hurl but when he punctured on the penultimate stage, the gentleman that Donald was had to change the wheel himself! Also losing out was Bill Dobie. He and Pete Mellor were leading the rally when the Escort got sucked into a bog. Derek Boyd, who described himself as the second cousin of the ‘real Derek Boyd’ broke his Sunbeam’s axle while the number 16 seed, Kevin Doyle, managed a rally finish despite being ‘navigated’ by a chap called Ivor Clark!

An additional note – Ivor was a wee bit under the weather on the day and was asking folk if they had any Bisto. Why? He was suffering a case of ‘the runs’ and reckoned that according to the adverts, “Bisto browns and thickens”. Oh, please yourselves.

Another odd choice was the selection of a TVR Tasmin as Course Car – it didn’t make it out of the first stage!

Ivor wasn’t the only one under the weather after the Saturday night frolics, but as if some folk didn’t have enough then, they resumed where the left off after the rally on the Sunday night. Some folk never learn.

There won’t be any of that shenanigans this weekend though because the Scottish Championship title could be decided with one round to go. Serious stuff.

Full spectator info here:

… And of course, SRCTV’s Becksport Media  will be out on the stages filming the action for YouTube on the Scottish Rally Championship channel no doubt with commentators Hugh Daudit an Niall Whacket attempting to relay the drama, thrills and spectacular action. Gaun yersels lads and lasses.

Rally - Multi-point turn?

The power of social media, or did someone with a bit of clout have a word in their ear?

Saturday 9 September 2023

Rally - Thinking out loud

Thinking out loud - Part Two (see previous post) … It’s easy to criticise Motorsport UK, it’s not so easy to come up with answers. The sport of rallying in this country faces two big problems. Venues and spectators.

Venues such as race circuits, hillclimbs, stadiums and ovals are mostly  clearly defined and spectators can be more easily managed. But when it comes to rallying, the nomadic nature of the sport means there are countless venues but none of which are owned by or managed by motorsports companies. When it comes to managing spectators, it is much easier to control the numbers in a 150 acre small site and even up to a 3000 acre permanent major race circuit site. Compare that to the task facing a bunch of amateur volunteers looking at a 400 acre wide open public forest like Craigvinean or a 200,000 acre forest like Glentrool, more than one of which is likely to be used in a one day rally.

So if a venue cannot be managed, how can spectators be controlled? That is the biggest worry and the biggest fear faced, not just by Motorsport UK, but by every rally right up to the World Championship. You only have to look at recent TV and news coverage including this weekend’s event in Greece to see that the ‘eedjit spectator’ is alive and well and causing frustration and concern to all really organisers.

Unless we can own/control the venue there is little chance of controlling the spectators. For sure managed spectator areas have been a big help but there are still thousands of enthusiasts across the country who flock to the forests and find their own way in. Fortunately the majority are mostly sensible but it’s the minority that cause the problems and the stage cancellations.

As cars get quicker, so the consequences of things going wrong assume more serious magnitudes.

That’s one of the reasons behind the creation of rallycross almost 60 years ago. Invented by the TV companies, one of the ideas then was to bring rallying to the punters and to smaller venues. It didn’t work. The sport evolved into its own discipline whilst folk continued to trek for miles to see rally cars in their natural environment, on gravel private roads or closed public roads.

This is intrinsic to the very appeal of rallying. Coping with the unknown. For sure, frequent use of some stages/roads will become familiar to regular crews but every time they visit, conditions are different, be it surfaces, weather, time of day/night, direction or variations in length and route. So whilst the terrain may be familiar, the challenge is still there.

This is such a huge problem for the sport that it is easy to see why it is easier to walk away and ignore it rather than sit down and address it. That’s why the common perception is that motor racing gets more support from our governing body than rallying. But until a philanthropic entrepreneur comes along with the resources to buy up chunks of ‘public forest property’ to run a business and a sport while still allowing public access on a regular basis then clubs will have to deal with the various Forest Enterprise government bodies.

However, private ownership/management will still have additional demands to manage like wildlife habitats and on-site water quality while trying to grow and harvest timber in a profitable manner. On the other hand roads could be built of a better quality and maintained to a higher standard. If managed properly then the sporting side can also remain profitable - but if not managed properly then the sport is doomed.

And yet that remains the most viable option. As Yorkshire's Kris Hopkins noted, there is an ‘All Party Motorsport Group’ in Parliament, which offers a route by-passing MSUK, but that will require a concerted effort from the clubs and associations nationwide to come up with a business plan and the funding to take such a momentous step. It will also require leadership from a calm, persuasive and business-minded group of individuals unlike such rabblerousers as myself and many of my generation. The future is in the hands of the younger generation while memories remain the property of the older generations.

So it is easy to see why MSUK may find it easier to talk with and manage race circuit owners and private facility owners about the issues they face, unlike having to deal with amateur rally clubs who own nothing but a stack of arrows, stakes, stage boards and a pile of tabards.

There is a way forward if anyone thinks there is merit in such an idea. Sit down at a table with MSUK high heid yins. Hugh Chambers is a sports management professional and David Richards is a successful businessman and if they won’t sit down and discuss the issues then a trip to Westminster is called for. But for that to happen will require a much more considered approach.

The first thing such a group will ask for, having listened to the reasons for requesting such a meeting, is a Business Plan. At this point the majority of folk reading this will roll their eyes and switch off, but for anything to happen on such a momentous scale, a Business Plan is an essential tool. Without it the idea ain’t getting out of the Stage Start Time Control.

Just as rugby and football share many similarities they are completely different sports. So it is with rallying and racing. On that basis maybe they too should have different governing bodies to manage the unique circumstances that each discipline throws up. If two separate governing bodies are a bit much, perhaps MSUK could create two separate sporting entities within their organisation each with equal prominence on the executive – one for rallying and one for speed events.

Of course, there is one other big problem with which Motorsport UK has to deal, and that is based across the Channel in Paris. When it comes to making decisions and rule changes, the FIA could teach our own MSUK a thing or three!

At a time when rallying is facing its biggest threat from multiple directions maybe this is the wrong time to think such radical thoughts, or perhaps this is the right time for a single minded focus group to break away. Whatever route is chosen will not be easy, but organising a rally ain’t easy either.

If such an idea was to gain traction the biggest immediate problem would be identifying the specific individuals with the drive, energy and passion to see it through.

Volunteers or nominations anyone?

Friday 8 September 2023

Rally - Dead end

Houston Rallying, we have a problem” and so goes the old saying … it’s called Motorsport UK. At a time when the future of forest rallying is already under severe threat, the sport’s governing body has just announced a change to current regulations, without any apparent consultation, which will be introduced and implemented in less than two months’ time (Nov 1st). According to those who must be obeyed it will no longer be allowed to run ALL two wheel drive cars at the front of the field ahead of the four wheel drive brigade. This allowance will be restricted to those cars under 1400cc.

At first glance this might seem like a sensible idea, but in reality it could catastrophically reduce the number of entries on forest stage rallies. Those clubman competitors with FWD and RWD machinery who are already working on a tight budget and facing ever rising costs could well re-think their future plans.

They may not fancy running behind the four wheel drive cars if this new ‘seeding on past performance’ rule is re-introduced. 

Admittedly it would be unfair to single out the total traction brigade for causing the most damage to gravel roads. Some of the ‘new generation’ rear wheel drive cars with 300 bhp power units can cause just as much, but to introduce such a rule without any consultation or consideration is not acceptable in a democratic country.

No doubt Motorsport UK will point to the fact that they have a Rallies Committee which meets regularly throughout the year and offers up suggestions for, and reactions to, proposed rule changes. This committee is comprised of folk who have both competed in rallies and organised them and therefore have practical and relevant experience. The problem arises when committee members disagree with the MSUK hierarchy which retains the power to override any committee suggestions with which they don’t agree! In this case it very much looks as though their own committee was not even consulted. So much for democracy, eh?

So far, Motorsport UK have not offered any justification for this rule change but that’s the problem with a self perpetuating oligarchy – they are answerable only to themselves. They have completely overlooked the fact that those people whom they are supposed to represent are paying their wages through competition licences and permit fees.

Rallying is already under threat from numerous outside sources, and not just environmentalists. The various national Forestry enterprises around the four home nations are under pressure to allow more public access, which means restricting access to motorised pursuits. Already clubs are struggling to contrive routes using only the forests which have been made available and not necessarily the ones they wish to use.

Public access is being actively encouraged for walkers, dog walkers, hikers, orienteers, fisher folk, naturalists and mountain bikers, but when a club or organisation comes along requesting exclusive access for a stretch of road for one or two days per year all sorts of objections are placed in their way.

Instead of fighting for our sport, our governing body is lying in the road and letting everyone else walk all over us.

It’s not right and it’s not fair.

Over forty years ago, an approach was made to the AA by a group of respected enthusiasts to set up a rival motor sport authorisation body to the RAC’s Motor Sport division. That caused a bit of a stooshie at the time and the governing body then got a bit miffed and responded with a separate sporting organisation devolved from the RAC which was supposed to be more representative and responsible to the sport. In light of that the AA and its proponents thought there was no need to pursue the project and it was quietly dropped.

Perhaps now is the time to have a re-think and take a good look at what we have and see if it can be improved or replaced. No easy job though, as the FIA would have to get involved and approve any new body’s ability to act as a National Sporting Authority.

Rallying needs a regulator and governor which will listen to its public and fight for its paying members. At the moment, the sport of gravel rallying seems to be heading towards the Flying Finish at full speed – but what happens when it reaches the Stop line?

Tuesday 5 September 2023

Rally - The Galloway Galloper

Way back in the 1970s, when hair was long and moustaches even longer, the south west of Scotland had numerous stage rallies, for instance the Rhins Stages, the Autumn Stages, the Solway Coast, the ever so memorable Baldoon Stages which was actually more of a rumbustious automotive hoootenanny than a stage rally, and of course the Galloway Hills. Almost fifty years later the only one that survives is the Armstrong Galloway Hills.

There were many reasons for that, the non-championship status and convivial end of season atmosphere, the chance to give guest co-drivers and sponsors a run out in the car and the shenanigans in Gatehouse of Fleet at the before-rally party (!) on the Saturday night. Sair heids and dicky tums were the order of the day as dawn broke on the Sunday morning ahead of the rally. 

It was also the scene of Jaggy Bunnet’s greatest success. Having failed as a rally driver, he had taken up co-driving and crewed with many luminaries of the day accompanying such ‘stars of the stage’ as John Cleland and Alistair Brearley amongst others. He was even invited to various test sessions with the likes of Jim McRae and Drew Gallacher where he was able to impart vast amounts of valuable insight and share his knowledge which no doubt helped them further their own careers. 

But it was with Murray Grierson that he scored his greatest success and coincidentally Mad Murr’s greatest achievement (?) finishing second overall on the 1985 Galloway Hills Rally. They finished runner-up to Donald Heggie first time out in the fearsome turbocharged Audi quattro but may well have beaten the Flying Fifer was it not for his choice of co-driver that fateful day. On the other hand, given the quality of the entry, perhaps it was due to his co-driver’s ability that Murr managed to finish so high up!

Funny thing is though, Murr went on to win the event outright for the first time the following year in 1986 and then again in 1990, ‘92 and ’94 and this further outright success no doubt directly attributable to the experience and advice he gained in ’85! Another observation. He had black hair back then, it turned white rather quickly after that. Must have been his hormones.

This act of derring do reached the far flung corners of the UK including the ears of those high heid yins in that biblical weekly tome, ‘Motoring News’. Such was the disbelief that a full report was commissioned as opposed to the more usual wee summary roundup stuck in a column and the extracts from that report are shown here. This actually confirms that JB was (is?) not just a mythical figure in Scottish sport but had a valid competition licence to participate as issued by the sport’s national governing body, based in London (near France), RAC Motor Sport.

A true story, eh?

Today the event has come of age. It’s part of Scotland’s national championship and the sport is all the better for it. It’s also much kinder to the competitor and service crew’s constitution.

As the penultimate round in this year’s KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship the 2023 Armstrong Galloway Hills will take to the woods in just over a week’s time, Saturday 16th September. See you there?

Saturday 2 September 2023

Obituary - David Barlow, 1946 - 2023

Digby … David Ian Gunn Barlow, 1946 - 202

Scottish motor sport suffered another very sad loss yesterday when David ‘Digby’ Barlow passed away.

If you wanted a quiet life, David Barlow was one of those folk best avoided. This quiet, unassuming, very polite gentleman would engage anyone in conversation leaving most folks thinking the world was a better place with chatty, friendly types like him around. On the other hand if an opinion was expressed or an interest mentioned which were in tune with his own thoughts and interests, then the chat could take on a more ‘sinister’ turn.

The outcome of such conversations could have the listener volunteering for a bout of rally marshalling, club organisation work or even getting more involved at the sharp end of rallying, and all the while thinking it was their own idea. The word ‘sleekit’ comes to mind, but only in the nicest possible way.

And so it was that when he created and launched the Junior 1000 Ecosse series for 14-17 year olds way back in 2012, those talents were put to good use as he assembled a team of willing ‘volunteers’ around him to put his ideas into practice. In all fairness he was a good listener, but if those suggestions didn’t measure up they were given short shrift. The result was a safe and controlled environment for ambitious young drivers to gain an affordable foothold in the sport from which valuable lessons, skills and habits could be learned and put to good use in the years to come.

A stockbroker and entrepreneur by day, David was a rally fan by night and weekend. Like most folk of his generation he started with a Mini Cooper S in 1970 contesting local navigational rallies but the lure of the forests sucked him into stage rallying. First and foremost he was a realist and knew he was never going to threaten the podiums or the prize lists but that’s not why he went rallying. He took up the sport simply for the fun and the thrill.

He enjoyed the cars as much as the sport hence his varied choice of cars. After the Mini came a Ford Escort TC, RS1700 and Group 4 Escort rallied throughout the 1970s. The trouble was, running a Group 4 car was pretty expensive so he switched to an alternative form of competition with the proliferation of ‘one-make’ challenges in the 1980s. He competed in the initial Vauxhall Nova and Astra Challenges where limited modifications to the cars ensured a much more competitive element to the contest.

That led to what he regarded as his best result ever – when he beat Colin McRae! In the 1987 Scottish Rally Championship David finished the season eighth in the Group A Class Up to 1800cc, two points clear of Colin who finished tenth. The mere fact that Colin only scored points on one Scottish round that year was somehow overlooked in the re-telling of the tale!

To be fair, David rarely contested a full championship season himself so his end of season championship placings were not truly representative of his talent behind the wheel. He was indeed a more than competent amateur driver.

Thoughts of hanging up his driving gloves were already in his mind but he relished one final fling and bought the ex-Stewart Robertson Talbot Sunbeam Lotus in 1989 – the last ever works rally car built by the factory team. In July he contested the Jim Clark Memorial Rally with Ian Flockhart but retired the car with an engine problem. However he was back out on September’s Kingdom Stages with Ian where he finished 47th overall – third last! A six minute ‘off’ on SS12 (of 14) ruining a possible top twenty finish although a 28th overall finish on the end of season Trossachs Rally was a better result for him and Ian.

Outings were sporadic thereafter, picking and choosing championship and non-championship events as when he could fit them in to his own busy business schedule but on the 1990 Kingdom Stages, he and Ian finished 20th overall and sixth in class. That was followed with a 34th on the Hackle and 25th on the Trossachs.

It was on one of his final events that he scored the best result of his career when he and Jim Noble finished 11th overall and fifth in class on an event which meant so much to him, Dunfermline Car Club’s Scotphone Stages Rally. After which David said: “This was the most expensive and enjoyable rally car I ever bought and there was a tear in my eye when it was sold.”

A former director of Dunfermline Car Club, it could be argued that David put much more back into the sport than he derived from it, and perhaps his lasting legacy will be the inspirational Junior 1000 Ecosse Rally Championship which he devised, created and managed along with his enlisted ‘volunteers’.

Over the past decade this competition series for 14-17 year olds in one litre cars has introduced over 180 youngsters and their families to the sport in a safe, friendly and affordable format – if anything in rallying can be called affordable! But for those desperate to try rallying and gain valuable experience, this series offered a serious opportunity with quite a few going on to bigger and better things in ‘senior’ rallying.

In 2016, David was nominated by the Scottish Association of Car Clubs for the UK-wide JLT MSA Volunteer of the Year awards which he duly won for his persistence in improving access to the sport for all.

A stalwart of Scottish Motorsport for five decades, having been a marshal, Clerk of the Course, a co-ordinator, commentator and competitor, he received a trophy and £1,000. It was after this that he earned the unofficial title of “Saint Digby” in certain sections of the Scottish motor sporting press!

It is said that no-one is indispensable, but looking around the current leaders and office bearers within Scottish motor sport, there is no obvious candidate who could fill his racing boots.

Our condolences to Hilary and the two ‘boys’, Lee and Chris, his wider family and huge circle of friends.

R.I.P. Saint Digby