Michael Neil Clifton Gascoigne, 1949 – 2021
Motor sport needs ‘doers’ every bit as much as it needs participants. Those behind the scenes, often faceless figures, that we all seem to take for granted – until something needs sorted or goes wrong.
It is notable that at the conclusion of most motor sports events there has been created a formal Protest procedure for aggrieved competitors to follow should they feel the need, but no such formalised process for expressing one’s thanks to the organisers for providing the day’s competition exists. Usually they all just pack up and go home.
Even a simple club autotest needs someone to put out the cones at the start of the day. Without them and the many thousands of others who marshal, officiate, record times and manage results there would be no sport.
The sport also needs those men and women of vision who can guide, shape and plan for the future and who can spot troublesome issues approaching over the horizon and then head it off at the pass.
Mike Gascoigne was one of those visionaries and ‘doers’. A highly respected Edinburgh solicitor whose off-duty passion was motor sport, in all its forms. He passed away on Friday and the sport will be the poorer for his loss.
Mike was Chairman of the Royal Scottish Automobile Club from 1998 to 2000 and he was still Chairman of RSAC Motorsport when he died. In later years he served as a Director on the RSAC and as Chair of the Scottish Rally organising committee.
He was also a Director of the Scottish Motor Racing Club, but of particular importance to him was his long standing connection with the Scottish Motorsport Marshals Club.
In fact he was one of the founding members way back in 1972 when he, David Swinton and Peter Francis first came up with the idea of a club purely for motor sport volunteers. A database of members was created and they were all advised of upcoming events through the club’s newsletter, ‘Marshal’s Post’, a vital service in the days before the Internet.
Event organisers who constantly struggled to find enough Marshals to safely run a competition quickly recognised the value of this new resource but that was just the start. Mike, David and Peter were only too well aware that motor sport was dangerous and that such risk had to be managed with a more ‘professional’ approach.
The idea for the club arose from attendance at a Training Day at Silverstone in 1970 organised by the British Racing & Sports Car Club. That sparked a desire to create a more ‘professional’ approach to the volunteer support back home in Scotland
The Scottish Motorsports Marshals Club was founded in 1973 and officially established as a limited company in 1976 to “to inform, to encourage and to improve” and led to a much more ‘professional’ approach to on-event safety and Marshal training.
They also acquired, built and introduced the first specialised motor sports rescue unit and ambulance for the sport in Scotland. That initial service has improved beyond all recognition over the past 45 years to the wider benefit of Scottish motor sport, although they have been known to venture over the border as and when required.
Mike served SMMC as Director, Treasurer and Secretary, and latterly Honorary President, throughout the club’s development from instigation to current times. His enthusiasm was bolstered by his legal training which enabled the club to create the structure that has enabled it to survive and prosper. It provides a service which we all take for granted – until something goes wrong.
He was also part of the team which organised the first ever SMMC motorsports marshals training day at Croft Circuit in 1979. That day will be forever seared on the memories of those who were there, especially those who returned home with singed fringes and smouldering clothing from the fire rescue demonstration. It provided a salutary lesson to all that motor sport was indeed dangerous and although the activities provided a ‘fun day out’ there was a serious purpose behind it, and that continues to this day – and with Mike’s foresight, beyond.
Mike’s expertise and experience was recognised outwith Scotland. He was a Licensed Trainer and outside the pure SMMC world, part of the safety car (Course Car) team in the days of the Lombard RAC Rally. This again reflected his focus on safety.
Mike’s legal mind and expertise has been a great help throughout his involvement with Scottish motor sport which now stands in better stead because of it. He was educated at Fettes College In Edinburgh before entering university and onwards to pursue a highly successful legal career.
And although we have much to thank Mike for there is one dubious mark on his CV. As a Prefect at Fettes College in Edinburgh, Mike had a ‘fag’. No, not a Scottish cigarette, but an English derived term for a schoolboy servant, a more junior schoolboy who would run errands and carry out other duties as required by the more senior ‘boys’. Mike’s fag was one Tony Blair Esq, former MP and PM, and we all know how that turned out!
Mike started to take more of a back seat over recent years standing down from his various Directorships and succumbed latterly to cancer. He was just 72 years of age.
We all owe a great debt to Mike and offer condolences to his family, friends and colleagues who will miss the erudite arguments, meticulous mind, dry wit and endless enthusiasm.