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!

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