Saturday 13 April 2024

Rally - Dangerous thinking

Had a thoroughly enjoyable, and ultimately surprising, trip to the far south (Lancashire from Lanarkshire) on Thursday last to the home of 2300 Club, the instigators of the original Tour of Mull Rally. Ostensibly intended to flog them some copies of the book, they turned the tables on their unsuspecting visitor. Thank you one and all.

And yes, some books were sold, including a copy to the originator of the event title, ‘The Best Rally in the World’. This provided something of a surprise, nay, a shock to the system. The grinning potential purchaser flourished what looked like a cherished slip of paper dug out from the deepest recesses of a well worn wallet. He had obviously learned his craft of solemn thriftiness from a certain very well known rally driver in the past! Getting him to part with cash has been as easy as extracting a stripped nut from a wheel stud.

Anyway, when carefully unfolded it turned out to be a £20 note and as it was opened out I’m sure the Queen blinked at the light. It must have been an old 20 quid note as it still had the Queen’s picture on it, but not Elizabeth the second, it looked awfy like Victoria!

However, the trip itself brought back memories of the regular journalistic expeditions up and down the M6 to the magazine office in Leyland and the printer at Bamber Bridge, and brought back memories of some of the good times pre-retirement. 

And so it was the late trip home the other night over a mist shrouded Shap and rain slicked roads offered up its usual chance to contemplate wild thoughts and ideas unburdened by external interruptions.

The two books I have already written and now published (the third one is currently half completed) have been so well received that it has set me thinking and prompted yet another idea for another book. If the idea was ever to see the light of day, it would probably have a title something like – ‘The Lost Talents’.

Looking back on the 1970s, there were quite a few opportunities for aspiring and talented rally drivers and co-drivers to get the chance to drive for a manufacturer’s ‘works’ rally team or one of the many manufacturer supported private teams. Unfortunately, as manufacturer interest in the world series dwindled throughout the duration of the 1980s into the 1990s, these opportunities diminished in number and availability. Fast forward to today, and we have three ‘manufacturer’ teams competing in the World Championship and virtually no manufacturer supported private teams.

So what chance does an aspiring and talented youngster have today of ever becoming a professional rally driver or co-driver? Given the current cost and technical complexity of competing at the top level and the number of manufacturers deserting rallying and flocking to Formula 1 and Formula E, those chances are fast disappearing.

We need a simpler and more affordable formula to increase the level of competition to excite more competitors and attract more spectators whilst enticing more manufacturers and enthusing more sponsors. Make the cars more akin to what are driven on public roads, with less complexity and more easily maintained, along with more manageable events and costs and we might yet have a chance.

If there was to be a change, it would be too late for many i.e. ‘the lost talents’. Over recent years, the sport has produced many would-be champions, but only McRae, Ringer, Reid and Aitken-Walker have made it. Many more got a taste of ‘works drives’ but progressed no further due to a lack of opportunities and budgets and perhaps a book on such ‘lost talents’ as Andrew Wood, Dom Buckley Jnr, Robbie Head, Callum Guy, John MacCrone, Jock and Barbara Armstrong and Lorna Smith, as well as Stuart Loudon and Cameron Fair, to name but a few, might just be of interest. And those are just the Scots, think of the many English, Welsh and Northern Irish talents which shone so brightly but all too briefly.

It could be quite a book, couldn’t it?

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