Border Reivers

When Scottish motor racing is mentioned the mind immediately turns to “Ecurie Ecosse,” but another Scottish motor-racing team was formed a year before Ecurie Ecosse came into being in 1952. The name Border Reivers was chosen for a team formed by two Formula 3 drivers, Jock McBain and David Swan. The word “Reivers” stems from the wild Borderers who used to make forays across the Cheviot hills and return with illicit imports of cattle and sheep. Colin Clark, Cie Mauritzen and Keith Hall joined the team with their 500s and were quickly followed by the Somervail  brothers with the ex-Bira E.R.A.  Following the impressive debut of the Cooper-Bristol, Border Reivers placed an order for one, and in the hands of Keith Hall gained several successes all over the country.

The cars have always been prepared by John McBain & Son Ltd. and for one winter Alf Francis was chief mechanic. The present mechanics are Bobby Hattle, Ian Matheson and Ian Deans.

In 1956 the team was re-arranged, and only Jock McBain and the Somervail brothers were left of the old group, but they were joined by Alistair Birrell, the Edinburgh driver. The team consisted of an Austin-Healey 100S and a Lotus Eleven Le Mans but no particular successes were gained with either car. For 1957 a Formula 2 Lotus was ordered, but owing to development snags the car was never delivered: Alistair Birrell decided to withdraw from the team, and, in fact, they almost decided to disband until Jock McBain announced that he was going to buy a D-type Jaguar. He eventually purchased the Murkett Bros. car which had been driven successfully in 1957 by Henry Taylor. As team driver he engaged the promising young Jim Clark, who had shown his potential at the end of the 1957 season when driving Ian Scott Watson’s Porsche 1600 Super. This Porsche was also incorporated into the team as its owner was by now the Racing Manager of the team. Jimmy Somervail was also a team driver.

The first race of the team for 1958 was at Full Sutton on Easter Monday, when Jim Clark won both of his races in the D-type and was doing well with the Porsche until the brakes failed. The Jaguar was entered for the Aintree 200 but a missed gear during testing bent something and the car could not be repaired in time.

The first “big” race of the équipe was the Spa Grand Prix. The car was towed over on a  “Progress Chariot,” a neat tubular car trailer made by the makers of the Lotus chassis frame. The towing vehicle was a peacock-blue Ford Thames 15-cwt. van emblazoned with the Reivers “rider-on-horseback” insignia. This combination provided excellent transportation and on one occasion Jim and Ian averaged 42 m.p.h. for over 250 miles! The D-type ran well at Spa and provided Jim Clark with much valuable experience and a creditable eighth place: he also gained fifth place in the G.T. race, behind the A.C. Ace-Bristols of the Rudd Racing Team but in front of all the Carreras.

There then followed a number of Scottish speed events, with the cars gaining many successes at Crimond, the Rest-and-be-Thankful hill-climbs and Charterhall. The team then went back to Full Sutton, where Jim Clark scored another hat-trick of wins. In his race with the D-type he had a 75-sec. lead over second-place man Jonathan Sieff’s D-type in only a 14-lap race. The cars had required no attention so far and on August Bank holiday both cars ran at Mallory Park, where Jim came first in the over 1,500-c.c. sports event and second in the Formule Libre event.

Jim Clark, being a farmer, cannot spare the time to race during harvest, so the final race of the season for the team was at Charterhall, where their friendly rivals Ecurie Ecosse brought along the Tojeiro-Jaguar and the D-type to be driven by lnnes Ireland and Ron Flockhart. Although not having the 3.8-litre engine, Clark kept in front of Ron Flockhart until he was eased on to some loose surface by a slower car. However, a second and third in the Jaguar and third in the Porsche were creditable results.

In December the D-type was sold and a Lotus Elite purchased. This was collected on Boxing Day already run-in, and at the Brands Hatch meeting Jim stayed in front of Colin Chapman until he was  baulked by a spinning Austin-Healey Sprite. So ended the 1958 season, the most successful in the short history of the team. From 41 events entered 35 awards were gained, 20 of them being first places. The acquisition of Jim Clark has put new life into the team and it is a source of pride to them that only once did a team car fail to finish a race, and that was due to a puncture! 

For 1959 Border Reivers will have the Elite and the Porsche, together with a Formula 2 car of, as yet, unspecified make. They hope to include one or two Continental events, including a works-sponsored Lotus Elite entry at Le Mans. Jim Clark won by a very large margin the 1958 Scottish Speed Championship, and it looks as if he stands a good chance of retaining the beautiful “Scottish Clubs Speed Trophy” in 1959.