My First 25 Years Of Rallying

By David Coleman

I thought I would put finger to keyboard and share some memories with you on my motorsport life so far…..

I started my love of Rallying in 1985 standing on my old school bridge that crossed Wigton rd in Carlisle and watching the last of the Gp.B cars heading from Carlisle into the lake district on the RAC rally.

After leaving school in 1988 I started my first job through my late dad at B&Q in Carlisle on an apprenticeship. One of my colleagues was a keen rally fan and took me under his wings telling me about the golden days of the sport and introduced me to Spadeadam MC and the meetings held at the sportsman in Laversdale.
My memory is a little shaded so some of the following may be slightly incorrect (20 years of painting cars seems to have broken the grey matter!).

I was introduced to marshalling through Spadeadam, on Moresby pits (Fellside stages?) where we had the clocks on the flying finish , Brett Mitton’s Chevette was one of the cars I remember to do well that day. We also did clocks at the Setmurthy stage which I think was part of the Lakeland stages, now the Malcolm Wilson rally where Dougie Watson-Clark was in his newly built Sierra Cosworth.

Jim Dent – Moresby Pit

We spectated at the Scottish rally later that year, a very hot dusty, midge bitten day that was worth it purely for the sound of the 3 door Sierra’s wastegates chattering through the forest, surely that sound should return to the BRC ! It was then I chose my rallying hero, and still to this day I have so much admiration for Jimmy McRae who after speaking to him briefly on 2 occasions seems so down to earth and friendly.

Back in 1988 the RAC was a grueling event compared to now, and I am sure the older generation of club members will tell me that previous to that it was a marathon rather than a rally, and we took the time off work to go and spectate on the Sunday ‘Mickey Mouse stages’ where the rally could be lost but never won.

Setting off from Carlisle at stupid o’clock to get to Lightwater Valley to see the best drivers in the world battle it out, Mazda 323’s, the last of the 3 door Sierras and Lancias and the Mitsibushi Gallant ( forerunner to the Evo range) were all to do battle. From there we headed to the packed Trentham Gardens stage where I was disappointed to hear the Jimmy McRae was out of the rally in his Toyota Celica due to engine difficulties, the star of the rally at this point was an unknown driver to me at the time, Armin Schwarz in a huge Audi Quattro 200 that really looked like it had no place rallying !

When the rally came to our neck of the woods we marshaled with Spadeadam in Kielder, the stage was either Wauchope or Raw hill , my main memory of that was SNOW-and lots of it! Stood in the middle of the forest and no exaggeration when I say the snow was deep, there was talk of cancelling the stage. We were stood on a 90 left watching the Swedish/Finnish drivers going round the corner like it was a straight and surprising we only had one car off , an Irish crew in the old AE86 rwd Corolla which we failed to get back on the road. And signing off the Rac rally with doing the parc ferme at the Carlisle Lanes car park.

So that I think was the time I was hooked on rallying, whenever I hear any song by REO Speedwagon it reminds me of them few days ( it was played for the duration of the rally on tape as I slid around in the back of the Audi!)

So I would like to say a huge thank you to Dave Love for introducing me to the sport, a true gentleman and still out there marshalling and probably listening to that tape (although along with the Audi 90 Quattro has probably been replaced -with a CD!).

Since then I have had the privilege of doing some co-driving for Richard Clark (another man I have a lot of respect for), most memorable outing was finishing 3rd on the Kames trophy in the old dog box Gp1 Escort which we were leading up to damaging a radiator after a heavy landing in the quarry stage and the night in the Black Bull pub! A few outings in an Astra with Alan Holmes, one of which saw him with a crushed vertebrae on Otterburn and ending up being airlifted to Hexham.

Richard Clark – Flookburgh

As a driver I have never been quick but always enjoyed the sport, I won the upto 1300 class of the JG Thompson championship in 1991 in a Talbot Samba (my favorite car by far.) As well as driving MK1 and Mk2 Escorts, a rwd Corolla, Mk 2 Astra and more recently a few outings in a Skoda Felicia.

©Frank Love / Race & Rally
On the Greystoke Stages, 2014

I have also worked on a few rally cars over the years, working for Mike Little preparations between 1993 and 1996 as a spray painter I got to work on new escort Cosworth body shells direct from Boreham as MLP where running the Ford works team for the British championship, as well as Gregiore De Mevius’s European car and many other privately funded escorts that were expertly built and looked after by the mechanics including another long time club member and now of CA1 fame Martin Wilkinson.

Before I hung up the spraygun a couple of years ago I also did a lot of work for Darren and Jamie at JD motorsport at Longtown , really nice guys and sell and hire rally cars out if you fancy a crack behind the wheel !

Well sorry for boring you, but its nice to share some memories of my 25 years of spectating, marshalling and competing and hopefully the next 25 years – and I’m pretty sure my 6 month old son will be forced into my footsteps in years to come.

(Images © B. Lindsay / F. Love / Spadeadam Motor Club 2014)