Rangers V Celtic, Sales Vs Marketing, Racing Vs Rallying- it has always been the same- the debates ensue endlessly. Racing drivers think rally drivers are from the country, slightly wild, drive Mk2s and don’t shave. Rallyists, on the other hand, think race drivers drive round and round in a boring circle a few times and then go home…..
I have always been involved in motor racing. From never missing a race meeting with Dad back in the day, to starting karting as soon as I could afford it and then racing in about 10 different classes, luckily with some success along the way. About 15 years ago, having done a few voiceovers for RPM when they covered various Mondello meetings, I joined their team to cover rally events. This was proper hard work. Up at 6:30, split into teams, head to parc ferme to interview crews, then off out to a stage, walk down the stage to a pre arranged spot, then stand with one hand on the cameraman’s jacket to pull him clear in case of an incident, and take notes if anything of worth happened (to help the editing process). On some stages, time would dictate that we could only cover the first 20 crews, then we had to leave, either to get to another stage, or to get back to service. The stage now being live, this meant we had to cross fences, fields etc to get back to our vehicle- carrying a camera or a tripod. Sounds like torture, and in bad weather it was, but the thing is- the RPM crew, as well as rally drivers, teams and fans, know how to party! The craic was always good- far better, even though it pained me to admit it, than at a race meeting, bar possibly the Phoenix Park, which was always a bit on the wild side.
Anyway, bar a one off Endurance Trial a few years back, which I loved, I have absolutely no experience of rallying. Recently I decided to come out of retirement and have a go at some form of motorsport. My Mondello TV and commentary commitments effectively prevent me from going back racing so I looked elsewhere. About ten years back, I bought a Post Historic rally car. A 1972 Fiat 124 Special T, it came with all the papers, a 1600cc twin cam and a limo! When the Imp rebuild began to soak up the funds, the Fiat had to go, but recently I was offered it back. Unfortunately when I went to see it, a few years outdoors had effectively ended its days so I turned my attention, as we all do from time to time, to donedeal!
I had decided to start with something relatively low powered so I looked at Ford Kas, Suzuki Swifts and other sub 1400cc machines. When a Series 1 106 Rallye appeared in my search though, I was on it like a flash. I always liked them, the combination of low power and light weight, those distinctive white steel wheels and the fact that there were only 1000 rhd examples produced meant I was sold before I even saw the car. The owner Tommy Flanagan, was quite a character and after a bit of haggling, a cup of tea and a bun, a deal was struck.
I brought the car home just before Christmas and as most of you know, I am useless mechanically so the checkover/prep was entrusted to Murphy Motorsport, double 8v Stockhatch Champion Ciaran “Bugle” Murphy being somewhat of a Peugeot expert. Clane Motor Factors came up trumps with a service kit and a heap of other spares so it would seem I am relatively well prepared for my rally debut in 2017. First job though, is to locate a set of the iconic steel rims that the Rallye wore when new, as these have been replaced by XSi rims at some stage. Also, it is missing a rear arch, and it seems that S1 Rallye arches are as common as the proverbial hen’s choppers!
The dilema therefore, is what to do first. I would like to play myself in gently, before entering a rally proper, so maybe a lanes event, an Endurance trial, or even a Rallysprint. Art McCarrick though, says “none of your pussyfooting around, just get her out there and do a proper rally!!” Maybe he’s right! I will get the car to a test somewhere early in the new year anyway and get a feel for it, before making any decisions! Regardless of what I decide to do, I am looking forward to getting back behind the wheel again- although I don’t think you will hear me roaring “Flatstick” or “Drive her straight sideways” anytime soon……
To be continued……..