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In the company of rallyings foremost family
Apr 12, 2006

“Between the Lines”, as appeared in Motorsport News 12/4/06 written by Jim Holder

A dinner suit and black tie aren’t the natural habitat for a rally fan, nor is the lavish Royal Automobile Club in London’s Pall Mall or a room full of insurance brokers. But this was an extra special night for the assembled guests, almost all of them members of the exclusive Lloyd’s Motor Club (hence the insurance connection).

Each year the keenest car fans among the brokers assemble for a lavish dinner to celebrate their own successes – members include British Rally Championship drivers John Lloyd and Andrew Barnes, Porsche Carrera Cup racer Richard Williams – and revel in an evening’s entertainment. This year the theme was rallying and the star-studded guest list included Paddy Hopkirk, Tony Fall, David Richards and the entire McRae clan.

Needless to say, rallying’s most famous family took to the stage to round off the evening. I’d never seen Jimmy, Alister and Colin interviewed in the same place at the same time, and they didn’t disappoint. With the questions thrown in by expert compere and ex-Radio 5 Live and ITV Formula One commentator Simon Taylor, the trio were soon tackling topics from the state of modern rallying to the state of Colin’s shoes.

“Let me start by saying that I have done many things for my sons, buying the clothes, school books and cars, but there is no way I am taking responsibility for those,” joked Jimmy as Colin waved a pair of extra-long cream shoes in the air which he later –unconvincingly –claimed were made from possum hides.

Alister recounted his recent victory on the Shanghai Rally, a round of the Chinese Rally Championship. Co-driven by Gordon Noble for the first time, he admitted to getting a few frights when he turned round to find long-time co-driver David Senior had sprouted a beard and developed an Irish accent. He was also grateful for a fair proportion of China’s 1.3 billion inhabitants when a driveshaft popped out at the end of a stage. “We limped back to service and they swarmed over the car like ants,” he said. “I’ve never seen so many people working on a car – but, boy, did they get it fixed fast.”

Colin recounted how he got started in motorsport, first watching his dad, then racing his brother on motocross bikes (Alister insists he has yet to be beaten by his older brother) and then in autotests. “I was a teenager when I started autotesting – I should be good at going round hairpins by now!” he joked. Taylor asked Colin for the highlight of his career, pointing him in the direction of his world title in 1995. There was a pause and everyone expected a long answer. Instead, he just smiled and said: “Yeah, for now.” The room burst into a spontaneous round of applause.

The final words went to Jimmy, though. Asked what advice he would give the father of any motorsport-mad sons he started to talk about how he helped Colin and then Alister build their own cars, then rebuild them, and then rebuild them again. He smiled at the memories of funding the rallying through their success, as they picked up award after award and bits and pieces of prize money that went some way to covering their costs. He lamented the rising costs of the sport and how some aspects of it have changed for the worse. His advice, then? “”To have deep pockets.”

 • 

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