Thursday 30 May 2024

Books - Career change?

From globetrotting motoring journalist (!) to autojumble stall holder. Having missed the Jim Clark Rally last weekend, the intention is to be fully fit for a trip to the Borders this weekend.

I have taken a pitch at the Borders Vintage Automobile Club ‘Festival of Motoring’ at Thirlestane Castle on Sunday 2nd of June. The idea is to sell some books, primarily my own self published titles ‘The Scottish Rally Championship 1980-1989’ and ‘Murmurs on Mull 1993-2010’. If you haven’t yet availed yourself of one of these historically interesting and illuminating publications, here’s your chance.

Both books have already gone down well with buyers, especially the photographic section in the Scottish Championship book which features over 350 photographs, the majority of which have never before been published, while the Mull book is compiled from the FULL and complete set of on-event rally bulletins issued during an 18 year period and provides a unique insight into the annual Mull Rally.

And just for a bit of variety I will have some additional books and memorabilia which might just be of interest to Land Rover, Porsche and Jaguar enthusiasts.

Look out for the red Ford Transit Custom. Apparently my pitch is under ‘the tree’ – so hopefully no lightning strikes on Sunday!

I have no idea what to expect but hugely looking forward to it. As ever, cash or card welcome, but no trade-ins or bartering, and no Embassy vouchers, Provi cheques, Green Shield Stamps or empty ginger bottles.

Thursday 23 May 2024

Rally - Jim Clark weather prediction

The weather forecast for this weekend’s Jim Clark Memorial Rally is looking typically Scottish and is a concern not just for competitors, but to rally officials and marshals alike who will have to brave whatever is thrown at them in order to stage an event of this size and scope. There is however one surefire, well proven, reliable method of predicting the weather this far north – on the day of the rally just stick your hand out of any window for a few seconds then draw it back in. If your hand is wet then it’s raining, if your hand is dry then it’s about to rain.

But it could be worse, and not that I want to worry anyone, but these photos were actually taken on the Jim Clark Memorial Rally, although it was a wee while ago – way back in 1986 to be precise.

Richard Mawson and Geordie Tindall won the rally in their Ford Escort RS from the 1300cc Ford Escort of Gordon Boyd and Kenneth Crombie. And the winning margin? Just 4 seconds. In third place was the Opel Manta of Jim Fleming and Adam Duff ahead of the Talbot Sunbeam of George ‘Galloping’ Gillespie and George Black while Ivor the Driver finished fifth in a most unlikely choice of rally machine!

So with all that in mind, and in addition to all the safety advice which will be dished out to spectators in advance of the rally, here’s some more advice. Make sure you pack the wellies and sou’wester, tee shirts and sandals, furry boots and woolly bunnets, sun cream and chilblain salve and you’ll be ready for anything. Oh, and perhaps just put a tube of midge repellent cream in the pack while you’re at it. You never know.

Stay safe, stay dry and enjoy yourselves.

Wednesday 22 May 2024

Rally - Say it with flowers

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Chelsea Flower Show opened its garden gates in London this week for the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual extravaganza of all things gardening, and of course I was there in my official capacity as Head Haggis Herder and Groundskeeper for the royal estates in Scotland.

The opening day is reserved for VIPs and members of the Press, and of course, for an event which enjoys royal patronage it also attracts celebrities, nonentities and selfie-seekers plus folk of all shapes and sizes who read the weather or appear in adverts with spurious claims to fame and notoriety. And in order to help justify the forty quid per head entry tickets the RHS also likes to entice some famous celebrities to their show to give the ordinary punters something to look out for in addition to the floral abundance and enticements.

Unfortunately their budget, bolstered by the eye watering entry prices, doesn’t quite run to genuine A-listers and despite suggestions that the stars of ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ would be the main attraction there wasn’t a single wrinkled stocking in sight, let alone a Foggy, Cleggy or Compo. However, this hugely popular television soap series was represented by some of the other ‘stars’ of the show and I managed to beat off the excitable massed throng to get close enough to take a photo of the twosome through the exotic shrubbery.

Of course, even if you’re not a fan of the show you will recognise these two instantly. One of them played the part of a Hell’s Angel riding his vintage Davidson around the village. I say vintage Davidson because his bike is so old, Davidson hadn’t even met Harley at the time. The other character enjoys an equally high profile in the show as he is the ‘meals on wheels’ delivery driver in his Ford Model A box van light commercial vehicle.

Naturally both of these esteemed star guests were invited to cut the tape to open the show much to the disappointment of His Royal Himness and Her Royal Herness who were relegated to the role of cheerleaders for the ceremony. And in my strenuous, but ever so humble, efforts to rub shoulders with such famous personalities I was delighted to receive two accolades to commemorate this momentous occasion. Sadly, not the autographs I was seeking – but a fat lip and a boot up the erse.

Tuesday 21 May 2024

Rally - Spot the weans

Yesterday’s post about the Jim Clark Memorial Rally 35 years ago seemed to be well appreciated so here’s a few more, but this time – no captions. You’ll just have to look for yourselves and scratch the old thatch box above your neck, that is if you have any ‘thatch’ left like some of those in the photos who look very different today to what they did back then.

The top four finishers will be easily recognisable but perhaps not the class contenders. Yes, some haven’t changed that much whereas others might require a bit more thought. Least well known will be the ‘Little and Large’ duo but they were quick in their day although no longer involved, while the ‘tyre’ man, the ‘Pace Note’ man and the FIA man are still pretty much recognisable. Anyway, all these pics were taken at the outdoor prizegiving in Kelso Town Square after the rally.

Apologies also for some of the marks on the photos but the negatives have suffered a wee bit due to age, much like most of the rest of us, and that’s why some of these pics did not make the Scottish Championship 1980s book! In fact quite a lot of pics didn’t make the final edit of that book so maybe I’ll post a few more in the run up to this week’s rallyfest in Duns.

Still it makes a change from pictures of rally cars, seeing pictures of those inside the cars and inside the helmets. On the other hand some might say a few of this motley collection might just look better with their helmets on.

It’s also surprising just how many of them are still rallying and still involved.

Monday 20 May 2024

Rally - Looking back on the JCR

35 years ago the Jim Clark Memorial Rally looked rather different to what competitors and rally fans will experience this coming weekend. The biggest difference might be the fact that the rally back then was centred on Kelso as opposed to Duns while the format was radically different too. Prior to the present day’s ‘closed road’ rally status, it was a special stage rally held on the Forestry Commission’s gravel roads. That one day event comprised eight special stages totalling some 52 miles of timed tests.

Perhaps more controversially all non Group A and N four wheel drive cars were given a handicap of 2 seconds per stage mile. This was a period of great change both mechanically and competitively as Pace Notes were forbidden despite their use on some other events at that time. In fact, physical checks were carried out during events with crews and cars being subject to spot checks to ensure that no ‘additional paperwork’ was being carried – and used – by competitors.

Rally HQ was based in the welcoming Cross Keys Hotel facing Kelso Square while the rally Start and Finish controls were in the open square directly in front of the 200 year old Kelso Town Hall. At the end of the day, the rally prizegiving was held outside in the square on a temporary stage erected in front of the Town Hall steps and was very well attended not just by competitors but by the townsfolk as well keen to see what all the fuss was about.

In 1989, the forest rally was won by the sprightly ‘young’ crew of Steve Bannister and Dave Oldfield in their Ford Escort Mk2 by 1 minute 11 seconds from the MG Metro 6R4 of Ian and Pat Beveridge. Bill Lymburn and Allan Hutchinson were third in another Escort Mk2 while in fourth place were the top local crew of Ian Baumgart and Ian Maxwell in another Escort.

Murray Grierson and Roger Anderson were fifth in the Opel Kadett 400 while Jimmy Girvan and Campbell Roy lost out on a top six finish when their Toyota Celica GT4 unintentionally spent some 8 minutes in a Kershope ditch.

Pat Haley with a certain Robert Reid Esq won their class and finished 27th overall in a Talbot Sunbeam while the ‘young’ McRae - Alister - and David Senior were 20th overall in their class winning Vauxhall Nova. And speaking of ‘youngsters’ and newcomers, Brian Lyall and John Taylor finished 22nd in their Nissan 240RS.

Changed days indeed, but the rally is now back in its spiritual home!

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Rally - Busy weekend at Kames

It was good to see Kames jam-packed last weekend, as were the empire biscuits in the Kames Kaff, jam-packed that is, and icily topped! The paddock was hoaching and the spectator car park bunged full. As for the on-track action, the big cars made plenty of noise and the huge field of Junior 1000 cars descended on the track – and the grass – like a swarm of hungry midges scenting summer exposed, peelly waally flesh.

Graham Bruce’s over exuberant audition for ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ was quickly and sensibly curtailed early on and he and David Aitken stuck to the tarmac (mostly) from then on to score the first rally win of the Kames season. Only 16 seconds behind after 16 stages were Stephen Donnelly and Colin McCall, the two Ford Escorts having the legs of the mighty impressive 1600cc Vauxhall Nova of third placed Peter O’Neill and Eilidh Williamson.

The battling Subaru Imprezas of Gareth Dalgliesh/Andrew Side and Cammy Williamson/Roscoe West were pretty closely matched all day finishing in 4th and 6th places just half a minute apart although it was hard to decide who had kicked up the most turf whilst demonstrating their hand-brake turn cornering skills! However, separating these two in fifth place was the Ford Fiesta ST of son and father duo Graeme and Jim Rintoul, the Fiesta behaving itself this time to allow the twosome more time inside the car than under the bonnet.

If there was a ‘Drive of the Day’ award David Telfer would be in the running. He finished 7th overall on his first rally. He was neat and tidy all day and just got quicker and quicker. All was explained later. It might have been his first rally, but he has been competing in just about every other form of motor sport that East Ayrshire Car Club has to offer from autotests to sprints. As for his co-driver, Hayden Brown was competing on just his third rally – and he’s only 14, but his birthday ain’t far away. He turns 15 on the 28th of this month – and already a seasoned campaigner!

If David was ‘driver of the day’ then Fraser McCurdie must be the ‘autocrosser of the day’ as his novel line at the hairpin on the first stage of the morning saw the Mini scuttle around the outside of the tyre barriers on the grass flinging muck and turf everywhere. But he sobered up after that to finish 14th and third in class. Not so Billy Hamilton, who almost went golfing. Unfortunately, he tried to take the Kadett with him and parked it astride the tyre barrier. At least he had less damage to contend with than Ewan Murdoch whose Escort now has an unwanted ‘air-cooling vent’ at the bottom of the cylinder block. As for Colin Hay, the ‘retired’ Mk2 driver was at the wheel of son Steven’s Vauxhall Nova. He was just getting the hang of this front wheel drive nonsense when a couple of the paddles in the clutch got bent and he couldn’t select gears. Another one needing to get the gearbox out will be James Wilson. Although he finished 10th overall and 1st in the 1400 class in the MG, he had fingers crossed going for a finish as it was getting more difficult to select gears as the day wore on. Each shift being engaged with a crunch!

As for the youngsters, the top six were covered by just 43 seconds! How close is that? Rian Walker won on the day with a tidy and well driven Skoda but the tie-break rule had to be applied to separate Charlie Mathewson (VW Up!) and Ollie Forrester (Skoda) for second place. As if that wasn’t enough, the tie-break rule had again to be employed to determine fourth place with Lauchlan Hunter (VW Up!) getting the decision ahead of the top placed Nissan Micra on the day which was William Paterson’s car in 5th place overall. It would be hard to pick a ‘driver of the day’ from this wild bunch, but Lucyanne Cree’s top ten finish showed a big improvement on last year’s pace carrying more speed into and through the corners and keeping her foot flat to the board on the straights.

Perhaps the previous day’s training and testing session for the 14 to 17 year olds helped them all. It was also good to see Max McRae, Robert Proudlock and Lewis Haining plus many other ‘elders’ turning up to help and advise the youngsters on Saturday and also sitting in with them to give practical guidance. As ever, the big topic of where to go next after the 1000cc cars is a concern not just for the youngsters, but the paying parents! Fortunately the newly created MG3 Rally Challenge ( might just be the answer. A one-make, budget conscious category being run by Niall Cowan and Mark McCulloch. Well worth a look!

There was another ‘treat’ in store for the youngsters on Saturday. After the rally training activities they were asked to assemble in the paddock – to help with stage construction. Over 150 stakes and arrows had to be set up around the circuit and of course tyre markers moved to be ready for Sunday. Another valuable lesson learned and an insight into just how much work the regular volunteers undertake to provide all rally crews with their sport.

East Ayrshire Car Club Kames Spring Rally supported by Mayfield Garage Services


Top Ten

1, Graham Bruce/David Aitken (Ford Escort) 23 mins 28secs

2, Stephen Donnelly/Colin McCall (Ford Escort) 23m 54s

3, Peter O’Neill/Eilidh Williamson (Vauxhall Nova) 23m 59s

4, Gareth Dalgliesh/Andrew Side (Subaru Impreza) 24m 01s

5, Graeme Rintoul/Jim Rintoul (Ford Fiesta ST) 24m 12s

6, Cammy Williamson/Roscoe West (Subaru Impreza) 24m 32s

7, David Telfer/Hayden Brown (Ford Escort Mk2) 24m 46s

8, Liam Harvey/Chris Wareham (Ford Fiesta) 24m 54s

9, Kenneth Dalgliesh/Scott Wightman (Ford Escort Mk2) 25m 11s

10, James Wilson/Rebecca Wilson (MG ZR) 25m 13s

Junior 1000 Top Ten

1, Rian Walker/Stuart McBride (Skoda Citigo) 26 mins 12 secs

2, Charlie Mathewson/Ian Bass (VW Up) 26m 18s

3, Ollie Forrester/George Myatt (Skoda Citigo) 26m 18s

4, Lauchlan Hunter/Richard Simmonds (VW Up) 26m 23s

5, William Paterson/Niall Cowan Jnr (Nissan Micra K11) 26m 23s

6, Thomas Babb/Andrew Blackwood (Skoda Citigo) 26m 55s

7, Alfie Letham/Craig Wallace (Skoda Citigo) 27m 23s

8, Jairaj Jutley/Lewis Haining (SEAT Mii) 27m 29s

9, Lucyanne Cree/Chloe Fleming (Skoda Citigo) 27m 30s

10, Rhys Purvin/Paul Cummins (Nissan Micra) 27m 41s

Saturday 11 May 2024

Rally - Kames by the Sea

If you missed out on the World Championship Rally in sunny Portugal this weekend then how about a trip to Kames by the Sea tomorrow Sunday 11th May for the Kames ‘Spring Rally’ – that is Kames ‘Spring Rally’ not the Kames ‘Spring Roll’, that is an entirely different dish served up in the local takeaway.

And if the ‘by the Sea’ bit is confusing, dinnae fret, it’s true as well, but only if you climb to the top of the ‘Cairn Table’, a hill just to the south of the circuit. After a stiff uphill walk to the 593 metre peak you can see the Atlantic surf rolling into the Prestwick and Troon Beach, just a stone’s throw to the west – that is if the haar hasn’t rolled in off the ocean! On the other hand, don’t mention that to Steven Brown. The renowned Munro-bagger will no doubt wish to desert his co-driving post to ‘bag’ one of Ayrshire’s biggest mountains.

Anyway, there’s a full entry promised for tomorrow and a whole flock of Junior 1000 competitors all no doubt dead keen to empty the Kames CafĂ© in search of energy enriching sugar and sustenance to enable them to rout their rivals. It could be argued that the 1000cc cars are a bit slower than the bigger bangers, but the competition is closer – and fiercer.

As for the heavyweights – which could apply to the crews as much as the cars – there is whole bag of misguided talent ready to take on the thrills and spills that this challenging complex has to offer, and that plus the best rally-spectating environment has to be worth a day out.

With Graham Bruce and Colin Gemmell heading up the entry and expected to set the targets, spare a thought for the 1600s which includes Stevie Irwin, Colin Hay and Ewan Murdoch plus a host of other quick 1600 competitors and that should prove a rerr terr.

There is however one other thing that the eagle-eyed should be aware of, the prospect of some scheming skullduggery taking place on the field of play. Far be it from me to cast aspersions but if you do see one of tomorrow’s competition cars lingering too long at stage starts and stage finishes and the crew engaging with the Marshals in some secretive chat. It could well be that a certain someone could be attempting to bribe the Marshals for a little ‘leeway’ with their stage times in return for some home-made traybake!! If that’s the case, there may well be a surprise, very surprising, winner tomorrow. So pay attention when spectating and help put an end to foul play.

Full Entry List and it gets underway tomorrow at 8.30 am-ish:

Rally Results available on-line courtesy of Raymond’s Rally Ready Reckoner:

Oh! And purely as an aside. I’ll have some books with me tomorrow as I have a couple of orders to deliver, just in case anyone else wishes to purchase a small slice of Scottish motor rallying history!!

Monday 6 May 2024

Race- Sport for all

There are those who regard sprinting and hillclimbing as non-spectator sports. Fair enough, their choice. There are also those who don’t think football is a spectator sport, and that is understandable too, but yesterday proved to be a grand motor sporting day out for any petrolhead.

There was much to see and hear at Scottish Sporting Car Club’s sprint at East Ayrshire Car Club’s track at Kames in Muirkirk. In-line fours and flat sixes, mixed with the whoosh of turbos and the high revving wail of motor cycle engined specials. A treat for the mechanically minded as much as the aurally addicted. Even just a walk round the paddock is enough to sate the appetite as much as a ‘full Scottish’ at Cairn Lodge on the way there!

And then there is the on-track action, with its mixture of exotica and the ordinary and with just one car on the track (sometimes two) at any one time, the watching is enhanced by the listening.  There was quite a bit of heeling and toeing going on yesterday even amongst the road cars and even though the track is narrow, there is a variety of ‘racing lines’ through the corners not to mention braking points! There were around a dozen MX5s in action and every one of them seemed to have a different approach to and exit from corners! Great fun.

And given the very tricky, damp conditions yesterday there were a few bumps and thumps with adrenalin pumps working as hard as fuel pumps. Fortunately no serious crashes, and apart from some additional nights in the garage required, only bruises and injured pride to show for them. Motor sport can be dangerous.

As a warm up for next week’s Kames Spring Stages Rally on Sunday 12th May, it was ideal. The organisers have received a full entry plus reserves for Sunday’s event including a full house of Junior 1000 drivers and their cars. In fact the only thing missing yesterday was Rhona’s tablet tin of sumptiousness, thank goodness for the traybakes in the Kames Caff!

Friday 3 May 2024

Race - Sprint Weekend

There’s a two day Sprint on at Kames this weekend, Saturday (4th) and Sunday (5th). With classes from road cars to racing cars there are opportunities for all budgets and all abilities from newcomers to seasoned campaigners. If you want entry level motor sport, get yourself a Mazda MX5 and have a go at this.

I’m going to be there on the Sunday - and I’ll have some books with me, oddly enough! So if you haven't got one, or two yet, "stoppa me and a buya one", as they say in furrin parts.

Cash or card, but no cheques, Provi vouchers, Embassy tokens or Green Shield Stamps !!

Look for the red Transit.

Rally - First Draft

Schoolboy, or school bus driver?
Big problem. Last night the first draft of the book ‘The Scottish Rally Championship 1990-1999’ was completed. Phew! Job done.

Unfortunately not. The word count in the first book ‘1980-1989’ was around 86,000 words but subsequent requests from readers wanted longer reports and more stories.

Duly obliged, but gone too far. Far too far. The current word count stands at 144,000. Some serious editing will therefore have to ensue.

The trouble is, deciding what to leave out. If the 1980s Scottish rallying seasons planted the seeds of future success, then the 1990s bore fruit with three Scots becoming world champions and multiple national champions in this most exciting and thrilling of sports.

But those were the success stories. The sad fact is that so many more would-be stars never got the chance to compete on the world stage and those who did were unable to find a fulltime professional seat. Scotland was simply bursting with talent during that decade.

So the process of slashing and cutting will have to begin – and I haven‘t even started on the photograph selection process!!

As for the photo? Will that make the next book? Choosing what to leave out is going to be as difficult as reducing the word count.

On the other hand, it has been jokingly mentioned that there is scope for another book when the history series is complete and that final book will contain all the tales and pics that had to be left out. Maybe some serious consideration will need to be given to that idea too.

As for the photo – schoolboy or school bus driver? What do you think?