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?

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