WITH the benefit of a town centre shop to help Lewis Car Club promote Rally Hebrides 09, rally fever descended on Stornoway during July and August.
With the tremendous co-operation and support from the authorities, many businesses and individuals, Lewis Car Club had put together this non-competitive charity event to raise funds this year in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support (Western Isles).
The CalMac ferry MV Isle of Lewis arrived on Friday carrying the last of the highly powered rally cars taking part in the rally.
They were arriving in time for scrutineering that evening at the Island Road premises of road haulier DR Macleod. This was the start of a high octane weekend bringing another taste of Special Stage Rallying to Lewis.
At scrutineering, spectators were talked through the stringent noise test and checking process, which every car has to go through before being allowed to start a rally.
A large crowd gathered for the ceremonial start on Saturday morning in Percival Square, the rally cars were flagged away, to be escorted to the re-group and service area at the CnES car park by Northern Constabulary traffic motorcycles brought over especially for the event.
The sport of rallying is exciting, colourful, spectacular – and unpredictable, and Rally Hebrides was no different both before and during the event, the unpredictable element unfortunately leaving the event with a final entry which differed to that submitted almost three weeks earlier for printing in the programme.
Lewis Car Club (LCC) were notified on Friday that Scottish Rally Champion Jimmy Girvan would be unable to take part in his Subaru – the coveted number 1 left vacant by LCC in his absence. This meant the loss of two entries – the same Subaru was to have been driven by Iain MacDonald.
Other changes were Donnie Macdonald arriving in Stornoway with his Subaru Impreza N10 in place of his Lancer – badly damaged on the Speyside Rally two weeks earlier. Stan Bradley still took his Escort Cosworth to Stornoway for display after major engine problems on the previous week’s Richard Burns Memorial event in England, and Skye Hotelier Donald Macleod was unable to participate in the Subaru.John Allan had to withdraw due to ill health, and John MacKenzie’s Metro simply refused to start on the Thursday; Mackenzie was still trying to trace an electronic glitch in the engine management on Friday morning. With no car available to him, Alasdair Graham was also a non-starter. Brian Watson arrived with his Lancer Evo 9 after an oil pressure problem damaged the engine of his Quattro S1.
There were many other stories of the midnight oil being burned by some to ready their cars for Stornoway.
The organisers managed to summon reserves to fill some of the vacant places – Alan Gardiner (Biggar) bringing his 2.4 litre Escort Mk2, Alasdair Reid (Muir of Ord) with his Ford Sierra Cosworth, Alan MacKay (Brora) in his smart (and quick) Ford Anglia ‘WRC’, and Sandy Morrison (Dunvegan) completing a father and son team on the event in his three litre Ford Sierra.
A team from 63 Car Club (Elgin) travelled to Lewis, playing a vital role in assisting Lewis Car Club with the running of the event – Special Stage rallying being held for the second time in the Western Isles.
With the hordes of spectators badly affected by the midges on the Castle Grounds, many began making their way out of the stage during a short break before the running of Stage 4. With spectator safety being a concern, the organisers took the decision to cancel the running of Stage 4, and John Morrison helped to arrange with some drivers to do extra runs at the karting Centre Stage to ensure that all the paying ‘co-drivers’ got a run.
Incidents on the event involving Calum MacKenzie’s Escort Mk2 and Alasdair Reid’s Ford Sierra Cosworth were quickly dealt with by the marshalls to allow the event to continue.
Rally Hebrides was again run as a non-competitive event which offered the public the chance to buy a co-driver ride in a variety of rally cars. It is rare for anyone outside the sport to get the opportunity to experience the thrill of rallying in this way – some on their return asking if they could buy another run!
The non-competitive event did not prevent all the drivers from showcasing the sport and their driving abilities to the crowds of spectators attending the spectacular fundraiser, all putting on a fantastic display of car control and commitment on all the Special Stages.
Again, drivers’ tyre choices for the karting circuit proved interesting, some drivers electing to stay on gravel tyres while others fitted wide racing tyres. All the drivers were very entertaining round the karting circuit. Yet again Rally Hebrides has been hailed as a resounding success despite the incidents, and a major attraction which is benefiting local charities and the Island economy.
The organisers are indebted to all the drivers/teams for coming over to participate in this spectacular fundraiser, most of them interrupting their preparations for the penultimate round of the Scottish Championship in Newton Stewart on Saturday, September 5.
And a big thank you is also extended to the numerous marshals, the teams who assisted with setting up the venues, and clearing up afterwards.
Rally Hebrides was run with the full co-operation and support of the following organisations, companies and individuals:
Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar
Duncan Mackay andSons
Mackenzie family (Melbost Farm)
Home Improvement Centre
Lewis Car Rentals
Lewis Karting Centre
Stornoway Fire Brigade
63 Car Club (Elgin) Ltd
Scottish Ambulance Service
Norman L Macdonald
Lews Castle College
Woody’s Express Parcels
Have a look at the Forum for additional details of what went on.