In the autumn of 2000 the late Ross Finlay and Jimmy McInnes were reminiscing on past motor sport experiences. In addition to having been a well known motoring correspondent in the Glasgow Herald, Ross Finlay had been a leading navigator in the Scottish Rallying circuit during the ’60s and ’70s. Jimmy McInnes was equally well known as a driver, mainly in rallying, but also later as the resident commentator at the Ingliston Motor Racing Circuit and later at the Knockhill Racing Circuit. They struck on an idea of holding a reunion of people who were no longer actively involved in Motor Sport, but still hankered after the camaraderie they had enjoyed during their active motor sport days! They felt that there must be many people like themselves who would welcome such an opportunity. So a plan was hatched to hold a reunion of such like minded people. It didn’t take long to gather a few “veterans” who agreed to put such a venture together. The first of these reunions was held on Saturday 21st April, 2001 in the Royal Scottish Automobile Club in Glasgow when over 200 of drivers, co-drivers, mechanics, marshals and organisers from all over Scotland, gathered to have an evening of reminiscing. As a result of the success of that first reunion, it was agreed that similar events should be held in future, and that an organisation should be formed to ensure that such events would continue to be held every so often. Eventually the Veterans of Scottish Motorsport Association was formed in 2006. We were delighted to welcome the Earl of Elgin & Kincardine as our patron, Sir Jackie Stewart as our Honorary President and Andrew Cowan as our Honorary Vice-President. Each of these gentlemen have been extremely supportive of our venture. Reunions have been held every two to three years since the inaugural one in 2001, unfortunately not in the RSAC building.
Apart from organising Reunions and other non-competitive motoring events, the Association keeps a database of its individual members involvement in Motor Sport, both past and present!
Any mention of the Veterans of Scottish Motorsport Association would not be complete without a history of the sport as it meant to our members. There follows such a history albeit, brief!
Although Motor Sport in Scotland dates back to the early part of the twentieth century, only a few of the Motorsport Veterans and other lovers of the sport would be able to recall anything before the nineteen-forties. In the Photograph Gallery a few images taken in the 1940s, after WWII, show the type of motor sport activities with which members became involved. Sadly most of the competitors competing during those years are no longer with us.
After the deprivations of the second world war, the fifties saw a big change in Scottish motor sport. Prior to the war there were only a few car clubs in Scotland and these were primarily for the enthusiasts who were happy, and could afford, to build their own home made “specials”. These were used mainly in trials, hill climbs, autotests and racing. By the 1950s Motor manufactures were beginning to produce cars which would appeal to the “man in the street” – being more affordable and more reliable. As a result more car clubs were formed which catered for people who were keen to try their hand at motor sport. This saw the upsurge of road rallies and autotests which were designed for everyday road cars. People could compete, and still use their cars to get to work the next day! However, people were still building specials or modifying their road cars for other types of events such as hill climbs, sprints and racing. Charterhall, an old airfield site in the Scottish Borders, had been developed by a few enthusiasts into a racing circuit, where several future champions were to cut their teeth! As yet the motor manufacturers hadn’t jumped on the bandwagon of motor sport which was still confined to local Club events and a few National events. This was to change over the following decades.
The sixties saw a continuing increase in motor sport in Scotland. In rallying, Clubs still ran road events for their own members which were very popular, competitive and very social! Larger National events were also popular, where crews could match their skills with others across Scotland. Rallies, Club and National were confined to the public highway and involved navigational skills (and of course a good navigator) as well autotest skills. Autotests would be interspersed throughout an event. A “good” rally would be one which tested the skills of both driver and navigator. Invariably rallies would finish at a hotel or hostelry where many lifelong friendships (and marriages) were formed! Rallying in those days was very sociable indeed! The sixties saw the advent of “off-the-road” rallies or Stage Events as they would be called. These were held mainly on Forestry Commission roads and required substantial modifications to the competing vehicles. The days of using your daily transport for motor sport events had almost gone. Cars for Stage Events were highly protected with internal roll cages, lightened body-work and engines became highly tuned. Obviously all these changes required to be within the rules laid down by the Motor Sport department of the RAC (now known as the MSA). Around this time the Manufactures began to see the advantage of rallying to promote their vehicles. This saw the beginning of Works Cars and Works Teams. At local level however clubs still ran other events such as autotests, autocross (two cars competing against each other on an unsurfaced track – usually a farmers field) or pure speed events such as hill climbs, sprints and racing. Speed events tended to be organised by only a few clubs in Scotland such as the Scottish Sporting Car Club and the Scottish Motor Racing Club.
On the racing side there were only a few circuits in Scotland, Charterhall being the most well known. It was still being used but was to be replaced in 1964 with the excellent circuit at Ingliston. The latter provided excellent facilities for both competitors and spectators alike, and as a result motor racing became a much more popular activity with the general public in Scotland. Racing cars too were becoming very much more specialised with formulae being introduced for the many different vehicles taking part, such as Formula Ford, etc. By the mid-1970s a circuit at Knockhill had been built which gave Scotland two purpose built venues for speed events. Unfortunately the facility at Ingliston, due to various problems, was not to last and by 1992 the Knockhill Racing Circuit remained the only purpose-built racing venue in Scotland. It is still in use today.
One type of event which also has had its ups and downs (excuse the pun) was hill climbing. The two main venues in the early years were ‘The Rest and Be Thankful’ and Bo’ness Hill Climb. Both were very popular and used regularly for club and National events. The “Rest” was stopped being used as a hill climb venue for safety reasons in the 1960s but continued to be used for some years as a Rally Special Stage. “Bo’ness” suffered from encroachment of house building in the 1960s and ceased functioning as a venue. However, in 2007, with the help of the Local Authority and several very dedicated enthusiasts “Bo’ness” was resurrected A new club was formed called the “Bo’ness Hill Climb Revival” which hopefully will be able to restore “Bo’ness” to its former fame. We certainly wish it well.
The biggest innovation to come to Scottish Motor Sport has been Karting, which started here in the late fifties. This attracted a completely new and younger support. It was relatively inexpensive to become involved (in the beginning most people built their own Karts) and circuits could be constructed on small brown-field sites. It was also much safer compared with the established speed events. Soon youngsters as young as 10 were taking part and it was not long before National events were being organised. Today there is probably not one of the F1 drivers who did not start their career at the wheel of a Kart!
Motor Sport has seen a lot of changes in the past 100 years. Vehicles have gone from being home built “Specials” costing a few pounds, to todays F1 cars and World Cup Works Rally cars costing upwards of what you would pay for a good sized house! Fortunately at Club level the costs are not so astronomic – events such as karting, autotests, Formula racing and Classic events are still as popular as ever. It is to be hoped that this will continue and future generations will be able to enjoy the thrill of competing, and enjoy the long lasting friendship they are sure to find in Motor Sport events.