23 May: Lookback to SRC 1996

Scottish Rally Championship Newsletter, October 1996

The phone at Castle Bunnet burst into life one evening. Uh, Oh, thought he. BT have connected him up again, somebody must have paid the bill. Anyway on the other end was a sort of swooshing noise. But it wasn’t an alien space ship, it was just the sound of a big Volvo estate car on the M6. Chris Wagner was bored on the long drive north and thought he’d phone someone for a chinwag, guess who drew the short straw.

So what was the point of his trip south, he was only picking up the engine (again!) for the Audi. We might yet see this S2 in the woods, what do you reckon? … Speaking of the Rally ALNO Ian McEwan had a rather unique solution to the thought of contesting his first ever Pace Note event. He was co-driving for Alistair Smith in the V6 Sierra and Al gave Ian some  ‘In-Car Manx’ video tapes just to get him into the swing of using the notes! … Alan Barr got stopped by the Polis in Dalmellington on the run in from the final stage. Booked for speeding? Dangerous driving? Failing to indicate intentions? No, none of those, the copper only wanted to know if he could buy some turf (Alan of course is boss of Albar Landscapes who turf the pitch at Rangers FC) … Matt Calderwood wasn’t doing the ALNO but his engine was. Brother Scott had borrowed the engine for his Peugeot but when the oil light came on, big brother stopped play (Big brother is only 3 minutes older than the youngster!) … Ian and Rosemary Rooney were full of praise for the ALNO Roadbook, because it had marked the loos along the route. Now if Ian would only fit a vanity mirror to the visor it would stop Rosemary stopping every few hundred yards to touch up her make-up and do her hair … Prize for last minute preparation? On Friday evening Mark McKnight was hard at work in the garage fitting a new clutch, flywheel and starter motor and finished at 2:00 am.

One of the nicest stories at the ALNO happened at the end when Jimmy Christie and Murdoch Campbell arrived back at the finish and joined the waiting queue, only to be waved forward and on to the Finish ramp. All the way up the road they had been counting fingers and toes, trying to calculate if they  had done enough to clinch the Championship. Eventually they gave up and just drove to the finish. It  was with genuine surprise that they received the news that they had indeed clinched their first ever  national title. Nice one you two … Jimmy was lucky to be there. He had sold his car but Raymond  Munro had offered him the use of his. Jimmy wasn’t too sure at first, as he had never driven it before  and the wee shot that he did get prior to the rally proved that it was mighty different to his own one,  in fact, Jimmy reckoned it was a bit of an animal. But then Jimmy hurt his back playing squash and on the Friday before the event he had made up his mind he wasn’t going to do it due to the pain in his back and right leg. He was actually intending to opt out had not Raymond bullied him into doing it. Throughout  the event, on road sections and at Arrival Controls, Jimmy was seen easing himself out of the car and  going for a wee walk trying to ease the pain. In fact on the final run in to Ayr he stopped 3 times just  to get out and get some relief. Funny though, it was all gone later, and he walked up to get his ALNO  trophies from Big Roy without a trace of a grimace or a limp. Either that or he was anaesthetised with alcohol, the internal kind not the rub-on-outside kind! John Wayne would have been proud of him.

There were quite a few refugees from the forest series over in Mull for the Philips Tour with Gordon  Boyd and a visiting Stella Boyles coming off best with 6th o/a. They might have finished higher had it not been for a puncture and a spin which resulted in two broken rims, and they had to stop and change wheels, with Gordon cursing the laziness of the spectators who were pretty slow in helping – while he  sat on his bum in the car … Ian Donaldson had managed to repair the dyke-modified Sunbeam from its  McRae Motorsport Stages acrobatics, and although it didn’t look very pretty, the dimpled shape did resemble Talbot’s original attempt, and he finished a sterling 18th o/a and 2nd in class … Walter Barr was 21st and Billy McLelland wasn’t. He finished 27th overall first time on tar, first time in the dark  and first time on Notes – and him not used to seeing the Finishing flag at all … Chris Paton was 30th and  Monty Pearson 31st o/a, but Monty also clinched the F2 award in the EARS Motorsport/Motoring News Championship on the tie-break. This tie-break was something else. He and Graham Darcy had the same  number of 1sts and 2nds but Monty had one more 3rd than Darcy. Phew! … Simon Rogers was out as  well and finished 33rd although there were times when we didn’t know he was there. He’s repainted the Escort black and of course, Mull is mostly run at night … Ricky Wheeler made a guest appearance on Mull with Number 1 son’s Escort and finished 52nd, aided and abetted, or delayed and hindered, by Speedy Runciman in the left hand seat. You all  know Speedy? More ‘go’ than a truck load of Mars bars … Brian  ‘Beefy’ Fraser was out too and finished 53rd while Annabelle and Big Dave hustled the wee Peugeot round into 75th … But my abiding  memory of this year’s Mull was the sight of young Callum Duffy in his Mk2 Escort with its Astra 16v  engine catching John Price in the 2.8 MG Metro 6R4 on an 8 mile stage, in the dark and in the RAIN!!  That kid is something else, but he has no ambition to come over here and sort you lot out. Mind you I’d love to see it.

The Coltness Bears were over in force too. I spotted them getting deposited at the pub on  Friday afternoon. On Friday evening they left the pub, walked up the hill, watched the first cars, and  walked back down to the pub. On Saturday morning they walked up from the pub to see the first cars on the daylight stages and walked back down to the pub. On Friday evening, they left the pub, walked up to the first stage and walked back to the pub. On Sunday they just stayed in the pub. I couldn’t keep up, and I was just watching them … A certain J Fife Esq was spotted there too and in the early hours of  Sunday morning was to be seen clutching an umbrella in one hand and a steak sandwich in the other having first been invited to a Civic reception (with free drink!) in the Festering Piles and later spotted in the Mishnish where the drink wasn’t quite so free, but plentiful. And I thought him the quiet type too.

Another rare  creature was spotted in Mull too, John Baird was out co-driving for some English punter and making  threats about a driving comeback, or was that the drink talking? … The ex-Murray Grierson Subaru Legacy was spotted in Mull. It finished 2nd o/a in the hands of Chris Griffiths, 56 seconds behind 8  times winner, Neil MacKinnon in a similar Kenny McKinstry prepared Legacy … McKinstry had a look  round the island before the event and had a look at some of the 170 miles of stages, and then he had  a look at the maximum capacity entry list: “You’ve got yourselves a right little international here, haven’t you boys? I could even be tempted to come over for the crack next year.” 

Looking ahead to  next year, Louise Aitken-Walker fancies a crack at the closed public road Jim Clark Memorial Rally. Louise reckons that a current F2 ‘kit’ car would be just the business, and that victory would be on, even against the four wheel drive cars. She said this to a journalist (?) writing for the Network Q RAC Rally  preview in a special edition of ‘Rally Sport’ magazine. Look out for it on the newstands.

And speaking  of magazines, did you know that ‘Motoring News’ has been bought by Haymarket Publications, the publishers of ‘Autosport’? No-one knows what is going to happen although Haymarket have publicly stated that its future is secure … And speaking of Boydie, Mull could well be his last event in the Escort Cosworth. His MkI Lotus Cortina is coming along nicely in the workshop and it looks as though he’s going to forsake all this new technology for old. Two old timers together, eh?