13 Jun: Obituary – Mike Gascoigne

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.

When Mike stood down as Secretary in 2019 the SMMC Board presented him with a print of a Lancia – his favourite manufacturer.

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.

Mike Gascoigne receiving an award on behalf of the Royal Scottish Automobile Club from Allan Dean-Lewis of the MSA to mark the RSAC having been a registered motor sports club for 100 years.

08 Jun: Obituary – Gavin Gray

Obituary – Gavin Gray, 1956 – 2021

Another good rally man gone. You may not recall the name but you will recognise the mutton chopped face and the polka dotted car. Gavin Gray was one of those rally drivers who were never likely to threaten the front runners far less the podium, but he was one of that stalwart breed who put the ‘craic’ into rallying and the fun into competition.

Typical of the man was his entry for the 2018 Mach1 Stages Rally. In his Entry Form he had noted “something French” where the make and model of car should be. In anticipation of him actually building or buying something exotic, the midfielders were eagerly awaiting the ‘new’ car’s debut. What a dissie.

There it was in all its glory, the usual polka dotted Citroen ZX. The only thing ‘Dakar’ about it was a new sticker on the bodywork, but where he had purloined it no-one knew, while the only thing exotic was the manual was written in French. He did however explain that he did indeed have “something new” in the workshop. Sadly we won’t find out what it was.

Ambition stretched to finishing rallies as opposed to scoring points or prizes, and his career was peppered with a goodly amount of both. For instance, on the 2016 Mach1 Stages, the alternator failed. He tried to carry on by replacing batteries but ran out of supplies after the third one! On the 2017 DCC Stages the timing belt snapped and then on the Mach1 later that year he failed to finish again: “The drain plug fell out of the bottom of the radiator, lost all the water and goosed the engine,” he said, before pointing out: “and I didn’t hit anything!” No doubt a referral to past adventures and excuses.

The last time we saw him was on the 2019 Mach1 and he had another sticker. This time, home made. The names “Jack & Victor” were colourfully reproduced on the rear windows. That was how he went rallying, for the fun of it. On a more serious note, and very typical of his outings, he finished 36th overall, but only after he had spent most of Saturday night into the early hours rebuilding a broken gearbox ready for the Sunday run!

It might be unkind to note that he appeared to spend more time under the bonnet at rallies than in the driving seat, but to Gavin that was all part of the experience.

However, it would be wrong to think of Gavin as a midfielder. His talent was only limited by the machinery he had and the budget he could afford. Working as a mechanic, he self prepped and maintained his own cars starting first with a Hillman Imp in the early 1970s before moving on to Clan Crusaders, hence his preference for single venue events.

His best result was probably 24th overall on the 1992 Tour of Mull Rally driving a Peugeot 405 Mi16. Mull was his favourite event competing annually throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, first in a Clan Crusader, then the Peugeot and finally the Citroen. He was such a fan of the Mull event that when it was forced to suspend Closed Road events, he contested the 2018 Mull Targa Rally to support both event and the island and finished 26th.

Determination, or stubbornness, was another trait. For instance, he was unsuccessful in finding accommodation on Mull for the 2003 event so he sailed his motor boat over from the mainland and parked it in Tobermory Bay. Scotland’s answer to Monaco? Sunseeker yacht? Not quite, it was no gin palace on the water. In fact I heard one wag comment: “It’s no’ very big, I saw some tadpoles giving it a right good kicking!”

Gavin passed away on Saturday after a year long battle with cancer, bravely endured all the way. He was just 65. As we express our condolences at this sad time to his wife Tricia and son and daughter, Andrew and Rachel, his family and wide circle of friends should also be in our thoughts.

02 Jun: BRC Round 1 – Report

… Moffett Wins British Rally Championship opener … Irishman Sam Moffett took a nail-biting win at the opening round of the 2021 Motorsport UK British Rally Championship on Bank Holiday Monday (31 May), taking victory by a slender one-second margin at the Neil Howard Stages in assoc. with Graham Coffey & […] Read more »

28 May: Oulton start for 2021 BRC

… Oulton opens 2021 British Rally Championship … One of the largest Motorsport UK British Rally Championship entries in recent times will head for the picturesque Oulton Park this Bank Holiday Monday for the opening round of the 2021 season, the Neil Howard Stages in assoc. with Graham Coffey & […] Read more »

04 May: M-Sport Stages Returns

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04 May: Virtual Marshal

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