Thursday 23 November 2023

Rally - R.A.C. Rally

Change of Plan …. Plans to be out and about this weekend on the rally with a stock of books in the back of the van have had to be shelved. Apparently it will be too cauld and wet for auld gits, so how the rest of you will manage I have no idea. Still the thought of mixing with the expected hordes of anoraks and bobble hats is going to be hard to resist although the assorted variety of coughs, sniffs, sneezes and dripping noses are best avoided at this time of year.

Having said that, the Ford Motor Company must be turning in its electrified junction box of a grave at the thought of fleets of Ford Escorts charging through the weather and the woods long after they were supposed to be destined only for museums, private automotive collections and the scrappie must be hard to bear. Despite the millions that were originally spent on designing the Mk1 and Mk2 Escorts to be perfect saloon conveyances for the masses, private enterprise and ambitious individuals have stepped up the development to another level to create a sporting thoroughbred. Today’s ‘modern’ Escorts are but ghostly silhouettes of past life.

Not only that, the anticipated thousands who will be attracted out of centrally heated homes and away from large screen TVs will be celebrating not just Ford’s icons from the past, but those automotive products of rival manufacturers – and of course, certain other manufacturers who are no longer manufacturing!

Which brings thoughts of the 1970s to mind with their predictions and surveys which suggested that at its peak the RAC Rally would attract some two million souls to jam the roads and throng the woods in pursuit of watching this exotic machinery in its natural habitat. And not just the machinery but the stars of their time who captivated, thrilled and enthused with their skills, antics and endeavours.

And it seems it is happening all over again going by the crowds who turned out in Wales at the R.A.C. Rally Start while social media is awash with fans old, young and new seeking to make the effort to don boots, wellies, scarves and gloves to brave the elements. That all evokes memories of sleeping overnight in cramped cars with ice encrusted condensation dripping on the occupants just so that a good spectating spot could be found ahead of the crowds and at the front of the queue.

Then in the morning the senses were alerted with the firing up of the gaz or paraffin pressure stove and frying pan with its assortment of sizzling and singed, bacon and sausages to be stuffed into dry rolls and washed down with scalding tea. Sights, sounds and smells we’re unlikely to experience ever again – but maybe this weekend?

Anyway, the reason for this trip down memory stage is that way back in 1995 the World Rally Teams Association commissioned a survey which found that the Network Q RAC Rally attracted 2.1 million spectators of which 85,000 paid for entry to the ‘spectator specials’. The survey concluded that rallying was the biggest spectator draw in most countries the FIA World series visited. However, it must be said that perhaps ‘the Colin factor’ played its part in those numbers!

No matter, this weekend might just prove something about the sport, not just to our own dearly beloved Motorsport UK but to the blinkered and blazered coterie of motor racing afficionados in Paris, France. But are they listening and watching?

Anyway to those of you who might be denied the opperchancity of purchasing a book for cash live in the open air, you’ll just have to settle for going on-line!

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