This past weekend I made it up to my second rally, the McRae stages in Scotland...not competing, but getting a chance to watch my rally heroes from my childhood dust of the old helmets (or leathers for the really old ones ;)), bring back their old cars, and have one last go at rallying in honor of Colin McRae.
My local motor club came to my rescue as far as getting to the event. Two of the members were going up to marshall the rally, and they were happy to bring me along to help them marshall and pay for fuel. We embarked on what is a "long" journey for the English from Manchester to Perth, Scotland. During our journey, we drove up nearly half the country north-south, and across the entire country east-west through areas such as the Lakes District, Lancaster, Glasgow, and Edinburgh...and through this epic journey, we travelled a total of 270 miles, hah! That's like going to my backyard in the US!
We arrived at Perth Racecourse, and immediately I was greeted by American (and Canadian) rallyists who had all made the trip. Kyle Sarasin came to spectate with Whiskers, and then I ran into Antoine L'Estage and Nathalie before finally finding Travis, Ken, and the rest of the team signing autographs for eager fans. I was really blown away by how excited the spectators were to meet my team members from the US...I really didn't think they paid that much attention to what we do over here as far as rallying is concerned.
We didn't have tickets for the interviewing session Friday night, so we watched on the big screen outside. It was a bit drawn out taking about 2 hours to interview all the celebrities with me standing outside in the cold, BUT all the interviews were top notch and gave fantastic insight into the rally legends that came out to run. I was just delighted to be there to see it happen.
While Perth was booked as far as hotels were concerned, we found a decent place out in Dundee to stay. In classic rally form, we went to bed at midnight and woke up before the sun came up to make it our to our marshall point, Junction 11 on Stage 2. Despite the stage not being started until 10:45am, we still saw thousands of spectators walking their way onto the stage at 7:30am. In classic, old-school rally style, people walked their way in from the finish, found their corner, and camped out until all the cars made it through.
We blocked our intersection about 9 miles into the Errochty stage, and made out our own little spectating area. In our marshall goodie bag, they printed us genuine McRae Stages 2008 T-Shirts and yellow marshall vests with McRae Stage 2008 on the back. Certainly, a proud piece of memorabilia I will hang on the wall for as long as I live.
I scoped out my spot near the intersection. The cars came up a medium left, up over the crest to the medium right I was standing at, and then down the straight away to a hard right. First on the road was Ari Vatanen in a Mk2 Escort all done up in Rothman's livery. Spectacular. Vatanen was obviously not quite the same mad man he once was, but he was still going on all right. Buffum comes by in a beautiful Porsche and looks right on par with all the former world rally champs. Not bad for an old man! Then Alister McRae and Meeke come through and really show how these cars were meant to be driven. I'm a converted RWD rallying fan now. Seeing those cars powering through every corner, absolutely on the limit and completely sideways was something you just don't see these days. Truely a showcase in skill, car control, and speed.
We stayed at our position and watched the locals go by who were actually quite spectacular themselves...then waited for the long gap to the 4wd cars where Matthew Wilson was completely on it in the older Focus WRC. Braking ungodly late, sideways, and on the limit...if only the world rally cars this year were as spectacular!
We returned to Perth for the ceremonial finish, which really had the feel of an old WRC event with all the classic drivers and cars lined up inside the gates along the crowded street. Buffum was still on a high from his performance, and Ken and Travis got their cars to the end and had a great time. I wanted to get my marshall's vest signed by the legends, but I ended up only getting my team as Vatanen and Waldegard were already leaving by the time I found a marker...oh, and they all signed it upside down! Still a piece of memorabilia I will keep, muddy with upside down signatures and all...
Even though I couldn't compete in the rally, I was very grateful to have haphazardly ended up marshalling it. This will certainly be a rally everyone will remember for ages, and at least I know I got to be a part of its running, not just a by-stander. It's always nice to see some people from home again, and get to see a little more of the country I'm new to. In the end, this was a priceless opportunity, and I couldn't have asked for anything more than maybe some more sunshine during the rally!
We drove all the way back to Manchester that night, just as soon as everyone was making their way out...*again* Classes have started for real this week, so everything has at least calmed down a bit, I'm getting a bit more settled in, and feeling ready to regroup to challenge myself with some faster rides in the next coming weeks. I won't be coming back to the US for Lake Superior, but fortunately, everything looks set for me to run Bulldog in 2 weeks! Wish me luck, and I guess I won't be seeing you all until Sno*Drift!