If you go down to the woods today… you will find some disgruntled historic rally competitors. Tension has flared between the historic rally community and the Motor Sports Association (MSA), the sport’s governing body. The row has resulted in many crews, including at least one former champion, abandoning gravel events while other competitors claim the sport in its current form is being seriously damaged.
The dispute centres on rules introduced by the MSA in the wake of an accident on the 2014 Jim Clark Rally, in which three people died. In response, the MSA implemented a wide-ranging safety review. One of the subsequent directives was that all cars must run in one block, seeded in order of anticipated performance.
The effect has been that owners of older Category 1 (pre-1968) cars almost inevitably find themselves running at the back of the field. Previously Category 1 cars, which do less damage to the surface, would tackle stages first, thus getting the best road conditions on the forest events.
The change means older historics are now running on roads damaged by as many as 50 modern four-wheel-drive cars that have passed through beforehand.
Despite strenuous lobbying, the MSA has stated that there will be no change to the rules or running order in the foreseeable future. The new system was designed to allow the event’s MSA safety delegate the chance to assess spectator safety ahead of the fastest competing cars.
The change is blamed by many top competitors for the drastic drop in the number of historic entries over the opening rallies of 2017 – with numbers down to as few as 30, compared to a peak of almost 100 a few years ago.
Some competitors believe that the only way around the impasse is to organise rallies for two-wheel-drive cars only – effectively boycotting current events.
“I think there would be a lot of support for that,” said Dessie Nutt, a former MSA British Historic Rally champion, adding that his 1966 Porsche 911 will not return to forest rallying under the current system.
Period BTCC star Karl Jones hopes to return to the wheel a Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth at the Silverstone Classic… 28 years after he last raced a car of this type. Jones is due to drive the ex-Manuel Reuter Eggenberger RS500 on behalf of owner Paul Linfoot after demonstrating it at the Goodwood Members’ Meeting.
Former Lotus Grand Prix driver Martin Donnelly will contest the Austin A35 race at the Silverstone Classic in July, sharing the car of Ray Low in a deal arranged by the car’s preparer and Donnelly’s friend Jonathan Lewis. The celebrity drivers will compete on Saturday and owners will take over for a race on Sunday.
The Beast of Turin headlined the second Bromyard Speed Festival as Duncan Pittaway demonstrated the mighty Fiat S76 land speed-record car on the circuit around the centre of the Herefordshire town. A huge crowd packed into the town to see the 1911 flame-spitting Fiat along with 150 other classic and competition cars.
Keen as mustard
GT racer Phil Keen scooped one of the big victories at the Goodwood Members’ Meeting when he beat a quality field to win the Scott Brown Trophy for Lister sports-racing cars.
At the wheel of Jon Minshaw’s ex-Carroll Shelby 1959 Lister Jaguar, Keen qualified second fastest to
Martin Stretton but was able to work clear of the pack to win by nearly 10sec and average more than 100mph for the 15-lap race.
“It was a last-minute thing for me to drive the car. Jon had other commitments that weekend and asked me to do it,” said Keen, who partners Minshaw in British GT racing. “The Lister Knobbly is one of my favourite cars from Jon’s collection and it is very enjoyable to drive. I wish I’d been 18 back in the era of Archie Scott Brown!
“The guys at Valley Motor Sport do a great job and that makes my life a lot easier. They prepared a fantastic car and it was just my job to bring it home. You’re only as good as your equipment and if you’ve got the right car you can do the job. It was a very strong grid. The Goodwood meetings are great events and it’s very special to be part of it. I had a lot of fun.
“I was confident that we had the pace. We had a few issues in testing and so qualifying at Goodwood was really a shakedown to bed the brakes in and make sure the car was all right. So we took it easy in qualifying but knew we’d be okay in the race.”
The Lister race was one of the highlights of the Members’ Meeting and also represented something of a first for the event: according to George Lister Engineering, the company that builds continuation models of the brand, it was the first time that Lord March has agreed to allow official continuation cars to compete at the event. The change will be seen as good news for owners of modern recreations of historic racers who want to compete in future.