Thursday 29 February 2024

Road - Peek into the future?

As the former editor of the UK’s best light commercial vehicle magazine (now retired!) I miss the industry, the technology and the insights, so I’m particularly miffed at missing out on Ford’s latest creation, the Ford Performance SuperVan 4.2.

This was actually revealed last year and was demonstrated at Goodwood, which I did make mention of here, but the van is currently on t’other side of the world breaking records and setting new ones and will be making an appearance at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix next month (21-24 March).

Apart from the silhouette, this all electric machine bears little resemblance to any other light commercial vehicle but that’s not the point, the point is all about promoting electric vehicles with Ford commercial vehicles at the forefront of that.

Anyway at Mount Panorama during the Thrifty Bathurst 500 event, and with Romain Dumas at the wheel, the ‘van’ set a trio of lap records, for the quickest closed-wheel vehicle, electric vehicle, and commercial vehicle to lap the 6.2 kilometre racetrack.

Afterwards, Dumas who drove the vehicle last year at Pikes Peak, said: “This is the first time I have driven SuperVan 4.2 faster than 300km/h (186.4 mph), and we left nothing on the table as we pushed for the fastest lap possible. No one has ever driven a vehicle like SuperVan 4.2 around Mount Panorama, and certainly not this quickly.”

But before you all think that we are all being subtly converted to electrically propelled vehicles as the way of the future, Ford are hedging their bets too.

The company has entered into practical trials with Ocado Retail and BP using its hydrogen fuel cell E-Transit project.

Ford has been working on hydrogen fuel cells since the 1990s and this latest test will take their research a stage further. Not only will they be working on the vehicles themselves but plans for a nation-wide re-fuelling structure to support such a move should the government ever change its mind about electricity and the motor car!! And pigs might fly (Ed.).

Anyway, I’ll be interested to see how the project works out. Surely a better idea than ‘wet-belt’ engine technology. Manufacturers of such propulsion units recommend belt changes at 100,000 miles but I know of dealers who are recommending 60,000 mile limits. Me? I’d be changing them at 30,000 miles. Happy motoring, eh?

Monday 26 February 2024

Rally - Editor’s dilemma

Following publication of the book ‘The Scottish Rally Championship 1980-1989’, work is ongoing with the next volume covering the years 1990-1999, but this 1991 photo won’t make it, not because it’s not a good or bad photo, but simply because others have been chosen which were taken on that same day!

And yet, this photo is still quite remarkable as it captures a rather unique moment in Scottish stage rallying. At the conclusion of the 1991 International ‘Scottish’ Rally the final results revealed that no less than six Scottish drivers finished in the top ten along with three English drivers and one Swede.

In fact three of those Scottish drivers not only came from the same town, but were from the same family finishing 1st, 3rd and 8th, while yet another came from the same county, just a few miles from Lanark and who finished fifth and winning the Group A award as well! The driver who came fourth was, and is, from the Scottish Borders while the tenth placed driver came from the Scottish Highlands.

Before Jim McRae won the 1988 Scottish Rally, Andrew Cowan had been the previous winner in 1963, when Jim was still riding motor cycles, so a home win was long overdue.

At the finish of the 1991 event, and having finished runner-up no less than six times, Jim remarked: “It took me eight years to win my first home International – Colin did it in three!”

This photo shows five of that top six meeting a couple of Scottish Rally fans.

Copies of the current book are still available:

Thursday 22 February 2024

Rally - 34 Years ago

How times, and attitudes, have changed … The text below is from a genuine Forestry Commission Press Release issued ahead of the 1990 International CHI (RSAC) Scottish Rally. I came across this whilst working on the latest book and thought it might be of interest to all those who fear for stage rallying’s future in the nation’s forests. 

It’s not just what is said in the Press Release but also what is omitted that is of interest. Where the PR mentions damage caused by rally cars, the text states that roads are ‘repaired after rallies’ have passed through but doesn’t actually state how soon or how long afterwards! Nor is any mention of how and when roads are maintained before rallies use them and/or when lorries are using them.

I fully realise this is a Press Release issued by FC to make them look good, but it is a good example of ‘PR-Speak’ which highlights the positives whilst overlooking the negatives. This was always a bone of contention in the past but at least the two sides were usually able to work together and come up with an acceptable plan and cost.

Trouble is, the future looks even more bleak now than it did then.

Full text below:


The CHI Scottish Rally is the latest British motor rally to enjoy the challenges and excitement provided by Forestry Commission forests. Sixteen of the eighteen timed special stages, which gives both drivers and spectators thrills and action, are on the Commission’s forest roads.

Mr Roger Hay, Director of Engineering at the Forestry Commission said today:

“Commission forests are clearly important to the rally organisers and spectators. They provide opportunities for drivers to test high-speed driving and manoeuvring skills and for the fans it provides some of the most dramatic pictures.

We cooperate willingly with the organisers and have done for many years since we were asked in the early 1960s to help provide off-highway facilities. We provide facilities to the RAC for 64 rallies in our forests throughout Britain every year, from the international events to the local club gatherings. Without the forests I am sure rallying in Britain wouldn’t be the same.

But these high speed driving skills take a heavy toll on our roads. We build them to a very high standard of engineering, capable of taking 38-tonne timber lorries but even these lorries don’t cause the damage that rally cars can do – especially on bends and corners. 

Our foresters and engineers prepare the routes in advance, and repair them afterwards which costs money. In some forests where a particular route is popular, and where more than one rally uses it each year, the long -term damage to the roads can be quite substantial.”

As well as being a major supporter of rallies, as manager of Britain’s largest estate, covering nearly two and one half million acres, the Commission is probably better placed than many other organisations to conserve and enhance the wildlife and environmental values of the British countryside, whilst still being able to host motorsport events of international standards.

Today’s forests have benefits and uses for all – enjoy them!


Monday 19 February 2024

Rally - Season opener

The Scottish stage rallying season which opened at Knockhill yesterday with the Grant Construction Knockhill Stages Rally provided the first victory of the year for Hugh Brunton and Terry Mallin.
It was a very determined Brunton who took to the first of the day’s ten stages setting fastest time on all but one. Fresh from his 4th place on the Riponian, the Skoda driver just looked instantly quick on the track and the hill. As the day wore on there were a few smiles before a relaxed looking Hugh was confirmed as the winner.

Mind you, Brunton was never able to relax, Peter Stewart and Kerrie MacGillivray were right on his tail all day. First time out in the Citroen, Peter wasn’t just here to get ‘seat time’ ahead of the East Riding Stages (where he will again join battle with Brunton!) next week, he had his eyes on the main prize too. Victory was not to be as Peter admitted: “I only drove it out on the public road one night last week for the very first time. I tried the ‘launch control’ about six times too and haven’t quite mastered it – yet!” When asked if he tried this on the public road too, he said: “Of course not!” - but I couldn’t tell if he had his fingers crossed at the time.

In third place were Ian Forgan and Chris Lees and they would have been closer to the first two had it not been for a slow time on SS2. “The oil pressure took a dive,” said Ian, “but I couldn’t smell or hear anything and everything felt good so thought it might be something to do with the sensor. So I backed off and cruised round slowly. Fortunately, it was only the sensor.” However, a minute had been lost and that made a difference between going for the win and finishing third.

Unfortunately the fight for the front lost a bit of sparkle when Donnie MacDonald and Andrew Falconer’s VW Golf suffered a woopsie on the fourth stage. Unused to the car, MacDonald suffered a bit of understeer on a greasy right hander on the tight hill section and put a wheel on the grass, which dragged the VW off the road into the glaur. They lost four minutes eventually finishing in 14th place overall.

Barry Groundwater and Ashleigh Will were fourth in the garishly coloured Evo6 but Ross McFadzean and Cameron Dunn ran them close finishing just two seconds behind. Rounding off the top six were Barry Hogg and Andrew Skinner having a run out in the ex-Ross MacDonald Evo9.

Andrew Blackwood and Richard Stewart won Class 1 in their 1400cc Ford Fiesta by well over a minute from the MG3 of Luke Constantine and Antony Coates who were also first placed in the MG3 one-make Challenge. Luke’s ‘wee’ brother Tom was third in class and second MG with Tony Walker. Of the five MGs which started, four finished, with Ruan Lowry retiring with a gearbox problem.

Mark Constantine, father of the two boys and himself an awfy rapid and highly successful Vauxhall Corsa driver in his own right, was very complimentary about the MG3 Challenge as a means of introducing a ‘budget’ category to rallying: “The cars only have about 100hp but they handle really well and brake well and therefore ideal for teaching youngsters how to drive. Luke was driving his car all year last year and was never off the podium places and Tom was on the podium today. That’s great, and both of them want to do Mull this year.” So that means there will be three Constantine drivers on the island this year. Mark added: “These cars will be good for them on Mull, not too quick, but great fun to drive, for their first baptism! It’s important to learn how to finish before trying to win.”

Dave McIntyre and Darrell Clark scored the Class 2 victory from Cole Hastings and Mark Roberts with Drew Barker and Shona Hale third. McIntyre’s paced earned him a superb 12th overall finish as well, and might just have made the top ten had it not been for a misfire on the first two stages which slowed the Citroen. Fortunately, ‘Dangerous Des’ was on the spanners and fixed it for SS3. Cole Hastings did very well too finishing 15th in the MG ZR but whereas his Dad has a propensity for dry stane dykes, young Hastings seems to have a liking for the straw bales at chicanes! As for Drew, once he woke up he was on the pace. Auld man syndrome?

Richard Wheeler and Mark Casey were a tad lucky to win Class 3. As he booked into the Start of SS1, the clutch cable broke on the Escort, but since he was in ‘dead’ time, Wheeler was able to nip back to service, repair it, and get back out without incurring any penalties. Sneaky, eh? But dead legal. They also finished in ninth place overall in the historic spec Escort ahead of the Class 3 runner up Vauxhall Nova of Simon Jennings and Greg Bates.

Other highlights included Andrew Blackwood’s quite sensational 11th place overall in the 1400cc Fiesta, and he might just have made it into the top ten but for a spin on SS9. Equally stunning was Owen Paterson’s 8th overall finish with Scott Sloan in a Subaru. This was only the 18 year old’s third time out in the car which faither Stuart and Uncle Ian said was the ‘old dog’ which had been built from left over parts from their own cars. And he had to contend with a broken engine mounting for the last two stages – speed with maturity!

It wasn’t all fun and games though, Meghan and John O’Kane cowped the Fiesta R2 on its first outing on the fourth stage. It was Megan’s first time in a left hand drive car and it was just a tricky corner on the twisty and greasy hill section that caught them out. Full marks to her though, a bit of panelbeating and some ‘magic’ tape and she was back out to finish the rally – and going well. She’ll be a sight to watch this coming season.

What a grand day out, with even the sun poking its nose out from behind the Hill for a looksee, and to cap it all the Junior 100 Ecosse Challenger youngsters were all out marshalling to see what rallying is all about from the other side of the fence. Nice on lads and lasses.

And finally, a wee thank you from me. I was quite taken aback by the welcome I got and seemed to spend more time chatting and catching up than I did spectating. Hopefully I’ll be out and about on more events this year.

Top Ten:
1, Hugh Brunton/Terry Mallin (Skoda Rally 2 Evo 1600cc) 49m 37s
2, Peter Stewart/Kerrie MacGillivray (Citroen C3 Rally 2 1598cc) 50m 45s
3, Ian Forgan/Chris Lees (Ford Fiesta 1598cc) 51m 11s
4, Barry Groundwater/Ashleigh Will (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo6 2000cc) 51m 35s
5, Ross McFadzean/Cameron Dunn (Mitsubishi Evo 1998cc) 51m 37s
6, Barry Hogg/Andrew Skinner (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9 1998cc) 52m 28s
7, Ben MacDowall/Alison Horne (BMW 130i 2996cc) 53m 56s
8, Owen Paterson/Scott Sloan (Subaru GC8 1998cc) 54m 02s
9, Richard Wheeler/Mark Casey (Ford Escort Historic RS 1999cc) 54m 40s
10, Dave McIntyre/Darrell Clark (Citroen C2R2 MAX 1600cc) 54m 54s

Saturday 17 February 2024

Rally - A wee problem

I am currently hard at work on the next volume of the history of the Scottish Rally Championship (1990-1999) and have encountered a wee problem – copies of the ‘1980 to 1989’ volume are still available, see me at the Grant Construction Knockhill Stages Rally tomorrow Sunday 18th. I’ll have a couple of boxes with me if you missed out at Christmas or have a birthday coming up !!

Anyway, I digress. Back to the problem. I have in the past claimed that some on-line historic rally results websites may not be 100% accurate. Well it appears that some of the records I have may not be accurate too.

Cast your minds back to the early 1990s. It may be hard to believe nowadays but there was general discussion and much dissent amongst the ranks of club rally drivers back then that those who could afford to invest in four wheel drive machinery had an unfair advantage over everyone else.

The solution? Penalise the four wheel machinery. Gawd, did that cause a kerfuffle! There were many against the idea but many more all for it and different events and championships came up with their own solutions. However, what was almost universally accepted was the adoption of some sort of penalty per stage mile applied to competitors’ times. Some wanted a one second per stage mile penalty whilst others wanted a one and a half, two or two and half second penalty.

This meant that competitors had to check event Regulations beforehand to make sure they knew what penalty was being applied, because this would have an effect not just on final totals but progress during the event. In the majority of cases, the penalties were applied after the rally just before Results were declared Provisional giving crews the opportunity to check their positions before Final Results were declared.

It was therefore a wee bit more difficult to keep an eye on rivals’ times during the rally itself because rally timing was based on actual stage times, penalties were only applied later.

And this is where the real problems arose. It would appear that these final totals were calculated by human, not by computer – that’s because computers count in decimal points whereas humans worked in minutes and seconds. As we all know, some folks cannae coont very well!

That becomes even more complicated where an event counts towards two different championships, one of which has introduced the 4WD handicap and the other hasn’t, which meant two separate sets of ‘results’.

A recent example I encountered proved even more difficult. Although the Regs stated that they organisers would run a 52 mile event, on the day the actual total stage mileage was 47. Trouble was it would appear that those who were counting the final ‘totals’ added 52 seconds to the 4WD finishers times instead of 47.

I was fair flummoxed by this whole carry-on but once Official Rally Results have been declared final no queries or protests will be accepted by the organisers or the sport’s governing body. On that basis I have had to work with what was officially produced on the day – even though I know some final results from some events are wrong!

No doubt I will encounter more discrepancies as I work my way through this next book. Fortunately the 4WD handicap system was later removed as this was obviously the way automotive technology was going, but it didn’t half cause a stramash at the time.

To order copies of ‘The Scottish Rally Championship 1980-1989’ see below:

Friday 16 February 2024

Road - Off roader – or Tank?

Chinese manufacturer BYD is making great inroads into the world vehicle markets but less well known is the fact that this company is already the world’s leading manufacturer of New Energy Vehicles (NEVs) and power batteries. And it’s not just quantity, it’s quality too. BYD will be showing their latest technology at the Geneva International Motor Show 2024 at the end of the month.

Taking centre-stage at the show will be the YANGWANG U8 powered by innovative new technologies: the e⁴ platform and the DiSus-P Intelligent Hydraulic Body Control System.

BYD's e⁴ Platform is the world's first mass-produced four-motor independent drive technology platform. Compared with current conventional vehicles, it precisely controls the driving of all four wheels through four independent motors.


This independent control of the torque of the four wheels allows the YANGWANG U8 to use differential steering. Similar to a 360 degree ‘tank turn’ the left and right wheels can spin in opposite directions enabling the car to do ‘U-ey’ while standing still. No more handbrake turns at speed then, eh?


The BYD DiSus Intelligent Body Control System takes ride quality a stage further. Not only does the hydraulic suspension system control body-roll, but if offers greater control when cornering, accelerating and braking while enhancing vehicle agility.


Apparently the configuration boasts some 1100 bhp from its four electric motors with a 2 litre petrol engine range extender!


The Yangwang U8 offers an exciting glimpse into the near future of cars and 4WD vehicles, but it does look kind of familiar, somehow, doesn’t it? And whilst the technology may be attractive, can buyers live with the name?

Thursday 15 February 2024

Rally - The bell of doom!

Coming to a forest near you? The Yorkshire Dales National Park and North York Moors National Park are having 18 new electric vehicle (EV) charging points installed in their car parks funded by BMW UK through its ‘Recharge in Nature’ partnership with National Parks UK.

This latest development marks the next stage in the Recharge in Nature partnership, which will install EV chargers across all 15 of the UK’s National Parks by the end of 2025.


Neil Heseltine, Chair of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and National Parks Partnerships’ Board Member, commented: “The Yorkshire Dales National Park alone welcomed 5.1 million visitors in 2022. We’re so pleased that our partnership with BMW UK will support those who are travelling to Yorkshire’s National Parks in EVs. Part of our responsibility as National Parks is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of our Parks and this includes facilitating more sustainable journeys to Yorkshire’s National Parks.”


Alongside the installation of EV chargers throughout all National Parks, the Recharge in Nature partnership is also supporting community impact and nature restoration projects.


The North York Moors National Park is using this funding to support outdoor volunteering programmes for families and young adults. The goal is to boost the physical and mental wellbeing of those volunteering and establish a community of committed conservationists. An important aspect of this is also ensuring young people have a say in the National Park’s decision-making processes.


Which begs the question, have any local motor clubs been asked for their comments or invited to join “having a say in the National Park’s decision-making processes”?


Is that the bell of doom I hear ringing in the background?

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Rally - #42

Further to the previous post regarding Hyundai’s new livery for Rally Sweden, here’s a couple of updates. The official reason for Hyundai’s ‘N’ performance branding is that the sports versions of the road cars are engineered at the company’s Namyang R&D centre in South Korea following which the cars undergo rigorous testing and validation at the Nurburging test facility in Germany. Regardless of that I still think it stands for ‘Nuts’! The i30 N and i20 N are seriously good fun.

Another thing to note about this weekend’s Rally Sweden is that the organisers have re-named the Brattby special stage. It will now be called #42 Brattby. Craig was fastest on both visits to the stage last year. Nice one Sweden!

As Cyril Abiteboul said: “He’s a much-missed member of the Hyundai Motorsport family and will forever be in our hearts.”

And so say all of us.

Rally - Hyundai, New Livery

WRC … Hyundai Motorsport will debut a new livery on this weekend’s Rally Sweden. The new design places particular emphasis on the Hyundai ‘N’ ethos under which Hyundai offers a range of high performance road cars.

Some say the ‘N’ stands for ‘Never Just Drive’ and given the fact that Hyundai engineers themselves regarded the original i30 N as a ‘corner rascal’ with its improved ride and handling I can see what they mean. Having driven the original i30 N at its launch five years ago I reckon the ‘N’ stands for ‘Nuts’.

Anyway, what I most like about the new livery is on the bootlid. Nice one Hyundai! ….

Thursday 1 February 2024

Rally - MullMurmurs

Work continues apace on the book ‘Murmurs on Mull’ and it’s all getting really close to publication. To keep the costs down I have actually done all the typesetting myself on behalf of my less electronically competent and technically challenged big pal Jaggy who in fact was the author of all the bulletins issued during the rally from 1993 to 2010.

Oddly enough Brian Molyneux’s book covers the start of the adventure in 1969 and takes it up to 1993 so the book could be seen as a follow-on from Brian’s beautifully written history although the two writing styles couldn’t be more different.

However, I have been looking for a suitable photo of Jaggy Bunnet with which to embellish this publication, but just like Scotland’s famous and very shy wild Haggis, the camera-shy big chap seems to have avoided the prying lens of most photographers throughout his forays on the island. A fact which has no doubt played its part in the myth – is there, or was there, such a character at all? Was his presence merely a figment of a fevered imagination or a drink fuelled apparition? Apparently the glorious Isle of Mull has that effect on visitors.

For example, Paul Tattersall managed to take this picture which appears to show the physical presence of this infamous character, or was it simply a trick of the light or perhaps something to do with the fume laden ‘nip in the air’ within the Tobermory Distillery yard during a Scrutineering session?

Does anyone else have a suitable picture of this imaginary creature?