The Great British Rally – 75 Years; RAC to Rally GB – The Complete Story
velocebooks.com – £35 – ISBN 978-1-787113-68-8
Memories of attending RAC Rallys and subsequent Rally GB events in England and Wales over past decades came flooding back upon reading this fine hardback jointly written by expert duo of Graham Robson and Martin Holmes.
But this book travels back before the 21st Century recording the full history of international status events in Britain. It all began in 1932 where 1,000 miles of roads through varied and challenging quality awaited the well-heeled participants. While the early years, the Rallys were more like social occasions, a symbol of influence and grandeur.
By the 1960s, loose surface special stages similar to Scandinavian ‘specials’ were held which led to World Championship status by 1973. As the years passed so too did the in-car technology progress with the meagre 50 horsepower revving on to over 500hp with 4WD.
As Prodrive’s founder David Richard reminded us in the Foreword, his childhood memories transcended to competing in rallys and eventually running the all-conquering Subaru World Rally Team. In mentioning two former world champions Richard Burns and Colin McRae, their style was quite contrasting but none the less entertaining as they ripped through the Welsh forests. Those were the heydays for me, seeing these two great heros in action. And when away from the gravel, the BBC TV kept us informed with live coverage. The unforgettable 1998 Rally GB saw Burns win his fifth home international event is recalled but is best remembered by the Sainz/Moya helmet ‘smashing’ incident as their Toyota Corolla frustratingly broke down 500 yards from the finish and a sure bet to win.
Other recollections of interest and note is the numerous father, son and brother participation with the McRae, Evans, Wilson, Fisher names to mention a few. Then there’s the Irish element with Paddy Hopkirk, leading the way to be followed with some degrees of success. Names familiar to us include Billy Coleman/Ronan McNamee, Rosemary Smith, Michael Orr, Fred Gallagher, Keith Cronin and Craig Breen, all regular participants past and present. 224 pages of rapturous reminiscing awaits the rally ‘anorak’ or those new to the sport, well presented and blended with a vast selection of black and white and colour photos right up to 2018, the year before the event marks 75 years. Buy it and keep it forever more! Jarlath Sweeney