Thursday 25 April 2024

Rally - Once upon a Speyside

Last weekend’s McDonald and Munro Speyside Stages Rally brought back memories. Long before stubble was classed as ‘designer stubble’ and beards became fashionable as opposed to an excuse for lazy b*gg*rs in the mornings, it was Sandy Dalgarno who created a new trend.

He had just won the first ever Speyside Stages Rally way back in 1997 but due to his hirsute and bristly presence on the day declared: “I’ll never shave before a rally again.”

Depending on which excuse you prefer to believe, Sandy either forgot to shave in the morning (likely), slept in and was running late (more likely) or he had put a shift in at work before going rallying and was already knackered (much less likely) or quite simply could not be *rs*d because it was the weekend (highly believable) but for whatever reason the usually swanky and ‘dandy’ Sandy’s chin was about as smooth as a jaggy thistle.

Regardless of that, Sandy and Martin Forrest won the inaugural Speyside Rally in a Ford Escort Cosworth which was sponsored by a local engineering firm – a highly respected engineering outfit by the name of Precision Engine Services. Indeed the proprietor of which was also taking part, one Andy Horne Esq, but his Metro lost the lead of the rally after two stages when its engine failed. His demise was followed by other well known local worthies including Graham Clark, Dave MacDonald and the Lord-Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire himself, the right honourable James Ingleby.

Dalgarno didn’t have things his own way though, Jim Carty had taken the Missus out for a ‘drive in the country’ in the family car, a wee Metro – with MG badges and a ‘6R4’ sticker. Anyway, Jim and Frances finished second managing to hold off the fervent attentions of Raymond Munro and Graham Brunton in another one of these Metro 6R4 jobs. Jon Burn and Stan Quirk had been in the mix in another Metro but an un-intended, exploratory diversion up one of the Speyside forest’s notorious firebreaks momentarily diverted their concentration from driving for victory, to fighting for survival! Anyway, their mis-adventure dropped them to fifth behind the Subaru Impreza of Peter Vassallo and Plug Pulleyn.

Duncan Jaffray and Andy McGowan finished sixth in another Escort while in seventh place was a young and impressionable rallying fledgeling by the name of Barry Groundwater with Brian Jamieson in a Mazda 323. John ‘The String Man’ Hamilton and David Noble were eighth in a Sierra Cosworth ahead of the top 2WD cars which were separated by just 10 seconds. And ‘No’, the name ‘The String Man’ is not a misprint or a spelling error for ‘The Strong Man’, Hammy’s business was actually manufacturing string which was an essential emergency tool in the days before gaffer tape and tie-wraps.

Andrew and Gordon Ritchie came off best in this battle in their Ford Escort Mk2 ahead of the Opel Manta of Paul Bova and Carol Christie.

Anyway, this modest five stage event provided Sandy ‘Whiskers’ Dalgarno with his first ever outright rally victory, and therefore one to be savoured, with a new good luck pre-event ritual initiated and a new fashion trend set for the rest of the world to follow. Happy days, eh?

Note: Back then the inaugural Speyside Rally wasn’t part of the Scottish Rally Championship but it was being observed that year for future inclusion. And guess what happened in 1998? It has been part of the national series ever since.

Another Note: I came across this entirely accurate, truthful and honest rally report whilst working on the book ‘The History of the Scottish Rally Championship 1990-1999’ which is well underway – I’m up to 1998 at present. Copies of the first book 1980-1989 are still available:

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