What Has Happened To Rallying?

By George Rutherford

45 years ago, while an active rally driver I was involved in the setting up of the Galloway Hills Rally which ran on the first weekend of December as an end of season fun event where drivers could bring Sponsors, mechanics and wives as a thank you for their contribution to another season. Unlike most Scottish events we had the party the night before the event, as running on a Sunday ferries were very limited for the many Irish crews getting back in time for work on Monday. Other Scottish events had their prize giving/party at the end of the event and virtually all competitors attended. normally having changed into more suitable attire.

This year for the first time in many years I attended the Hills when I ran chase/management car for 80s winner Stanley Orr and was totally disheartened by how Scottish Championship Rallying has deteriorated. Running from Threave Gardens there was little atmosphere at the start, the event ran well but the finish!!! Again at Threave Gardens the competitors came in to the finish line get their photo taken and received any award they were due then they disappeared off home – no prize giving ceremony, none of the traditional awards appeared to be given such as the marque awards or the International Team Award and absolutely no atmosphere whatever, and this was on a Saturday when a proper party/awards presentation would have been in order, now this may be the “New Rallying”, but what a loss to the sport.

Why would anyone want to be involved in sponsorship either of crew or event as there is no camaraderie, no chance to meet the “stars,” no meeting of the ace mechanics or networking amongst sponsors. I remember the Burmah Rally where Murray Grierson helped Norman Masters out and made a very useful friendship which got him a lot of great info in the running of LVX and future Fords. The parties were also great for the Marshals to feel a real worthwhile part of the event. Years ago, I got to know many competitors and sponsors at parties and subsequently did a lot of business, out with rallying, with them and to my mind this is an important and enjoyable part of the sport. I left Castle Douglas about 5.30pm totally disillusioned at the end of an event which had promised so much – yes it was well run, results were very quickly available – yet gave little pleasure other than an outstanding drive by my crew.

If this is where Rallying is going then I fear for its future, from a sport, which had a certain something to set it apart with a high adrenalin rush for competitors and spectators followed by a civilised prize giving with some speeches thanking sponsors, marshals and local dignitaries giving experience of public speaking, to now being similar to a football final where awards are dished out to the great unwashed. Let’s get back to some level of decent standards and bring back the glamour and publicity value of the sport.