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?

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