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Review sparks rally fears
New ruling likely to keep classics from forest stages | by Paul Lawrence

The future of Category 1 cars in gravel rallying is in doubt, following an MSA ruling that rally fields can no longer be split into more than one group.

Traditionally, the pre-1968 cars in Category 1 have run first on the road in gravel rallies to ensure they enjoy the best stage conditions, before more powerful machines cut up the surface. However, one of the outcomes from the Scottish government’s review on motor sport safety is that there should be no gaps in the field and that the fastest cars should always run first. The review followed fatalities to spectators and onlookers on events in Scotland and comes at a time when the Forestry Commission is scrutinising safety records.

Faced with running towards the end of the rally, behind more than 100 other cars, many Category 1 drivers are unwilling to risk damage to increasingly rare and valuable cars.

“Clearly the future of forest rallying would be at stake if nothing was done following the safety review,” said Ian Beveridge, who campaigns a 52-year-old Volvo PV544. “It does, however, seem to have been a hasty reaction. It will surely lead to the demise of Category 1 as I don’t think many people will want to drive 50-year-old cars over rough roads.”

Porsche 911 driver Rikki Proffitt, winner of Category 1 on the opening two rounds of this year’s Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship, has similar views. “I’ve no plans to do any more gravel rallies,” he said. “I’m sure that will go for the majority of competitors. It will be the ruination of Category 1.”

Fellow Porsche 911 driver Dessie Nutt is likely to switch to asphalt events while Graham Waite (Volvo Amazon) and Clive King (Mini Cooper) have both indicated that they are unlikely to continue with gravel rallies.

When Motor Sport asked the MSA for a response, a spokesman said: “The withdrawal of dispensation – and it was only ever dispensation – to run multiple fields in stage rallying addresses a safety concern at a time when enhancing safety is right at the top of the sport’s agenda and essential to securing its future. As stated in our announcement of this withdrawal, ‘We will of course monitor the effect of this decision so as to ensure that the perceived safety benefits are actually achieved’.”

Rossi heads for Goodwood

Valentino Rossi, the most successful MotoGP racer of all time, will make his Goodwood Festival of Speed debut this year (June 25-28) to mark Yamaha’s 60th anniversary.

The Italian legend will be the star attraction at the 23rd Festival and has not ruled out driving up the hill, as well as riding his Yamaha YZRM1. Rossi will compete in the Dutch TT at Assen on Saturday and then fly to Goodwood for Sunday.

“This will be my first time at Goodwood, but I know the event pretty well,” Rossi said. “I have read so many stories about the Festival and I have also seen many videos. The atmosphere looks gorgeous. I’ll ride my Yamaha but might also drive a few cars.”

Five Grand Prix teams – Mercedes, Red Bull, Williams, Ferrari and McLaren – will all be in action, while other features include seven Mercedes-Benz 300 SLRs marking the 60th anniversary of Sir Stirling Moss’s 1955 Mille Miglia victory. The racing career of local hero Derek Bell will be celebrated with a special class of at least 12 cars, including a Mirage GR8 from his first Le Mans win in 1975.

Barilla back to Formula 1

Le Mans winner and 1990 Minardi Grand Prix racer Paolo Barilla has joined the FIA Masters Historic Formula 1 Championship field with a Williams FW07C.

The 53-year-old has raced a Martini Mk34 Classic F3 car in recent seasons and has stepped up to the ex-Alan Jones Williams, although his debut at the Barcelona series opener in April was scuppered in testing by a blown engine.

The Italian won Le Mans in 1985 at the wheel of a Joest Porsche 956 and retired from full-time racing at the end of 1990.

Ex-Fisher Sierra returns

The FIA’s move to admit cars from up to 1990 into historic rallying continues to gather momentum in Ireland, where the new category has been adopted for the Irish Historic Rally Championship.

US-based Irishman Frank Cunningham has acquired the Ford Sierra Cosworth made famous by local rally legend Bertie Fisher. Elsewhere, Englishman Nick Whale has had a BMW M3 rebuilt to period rally trim.

“When the FIA allowed a car like this into the FIA Historic Championship I made a short-list of cars,” said Cunningham. “A Ford Sierra Cosworth was at the top.”

Maki set to race again

The Japanese-built Maki F101, crashed by Howden Ganley during the 1974 German Grand Prix, could race again following a total rebuild by Richard Taylor at Autotune.

Following the accident at the Nürburgring, which left Ganley with leg injuries, the team withdrew to Japan and returned briefly the following season. The crashed car remained in Europe and passed through several owners before Taylor and his father Anthony acquired the project. “The eventual plan is to race it,” Richard said. Another Maki chassis resides at the Spa museum in Belgium.

Late-era demos for Classic

High-speed demonstration sessions for 1990s and early 2000s Grand Prix cars will be a new feature of the Silverstone Classic (July 24-26), which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. A group of pre-2004 F1 cars, including the ex-Michael Schumacher Benetton of Lorina McLaughlin, will be demonstrated each day.

In contrast, the oldest cars in action will contest the Kidston Trophy for Pre-War Sports Cars. Named in memory of 1920s Bentley boy and pioneer aviator Glen Kidston, winner of Le Mans in 1930, the race is attracting extensive interest as the pre-war cars return to the event after a six-year break.

* Frank Lyons has been elected as new chairman of the Historic Sports Car Club. Lyons is a well-known racer and has been particularly involved in promotion of the Formula 5000 class. Lyons, who also races in Historic F1 and Group C, takes over from Chris Sharples, who spent almost a decade at the helm.

* An MGB that contested the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon is being restored by the MG Car Club’s MGB Register after it was found in a scrap yard in Southampton. UMD 534F finished 42nd in the hands of Jean Denton and Tom Boyce and was the only sports car to complete the 10,000-mile rally.

* Northern Ireland race car manufacturer John Crosslé MBE will be remembered by the naming of the John Crosslé Chicane at his local Kirkistown track. Crosslé died at the age of 83 last August, but the company continues to build and restore cars under the guidance of marque enthusiast Paul McMorran.

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