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The 70s was a decade that saw an explosion in the profile and participation in rallying – especially in the UK. Manufacturers increasingly began developing competion versions of their everyday cars as the race for sales, fueled by high marketing budgets and the ability to use rallying to advertise the cars and components saw a dramatic increase in works and private professional teams.

Such a situation also led to increasing numbers of professional rally drivers appearing and being employed by such teams – the best commanding high fees for their driving skills.

Britain was seen as a primary market to sell cars, and with developments of the sport in the UK having moved towards excellent stage events, numerous UK based international rallies started to appear. Developing communication technology and marketing sophistication meant that the UK could promote cars and sponsors brands not only in the home market but across the world.

The Snowman Rally would also be influenced in the 70s by such developments –an event offering some of the best and most challenging drivers' stages in the country – the Snowman was a unique and well-organized rally,  with conditions that sometimes resembled more the stages that the worlds leading Scandinavian drivers  - ‘The Rally Gods’ would apply their skills to spectacularly.

The UK and Scotland itself however was producing some exceptional drivers also – and on some of the 70s Snowman Rallies they would battle it out on the Highland stages to the delight of the many spectators who flocked to see them.

In 1970 the Snowman was still an overnight event, the rally used Culbin Forest on the way east and was to re-use the stage on the return towards Inverness – unfortunately, the soft roads in the forest cut up so badly that the second run through was cancelled.      The competitors were held at a control at Cloddymoss at about 4am on a frosty morning for the requisite amount of time before continuing.    So far, so good.       Nigel Hollier had to affect some suspension repairs on his Alpine A110 Berlinetta at Findhorn Bridge, arrived at the control with mere seconds left before going OTL by speeding past many stationary rally cars on the narrow road (if anyone had opened their door, the fibre-glassed bodied Alpine would have disintegrated).  

He got his time and shot off along the road – the Alpine was fitted with an exhaust cut-out which improved performance but “raised the decibels” ever so slightly! The Alpine could be heard changing down for the road to Brodie some three miles away, down through the box for the A96 junction, accelerating along the A96 to Auldearn then the left turn up into the hills around Lethen!! How the glorious sound of the Alpine carried on that frosty night.

On the first run through Culbin, John Heppenstal made the classic error at a Y fork and took the centre line, hitting a tree head on and finishing with the car sitting at an angle of about 45 degrees in what might be termed as a “serious state of disrepair”.   At the rally finish he was offering the car for immediate sale…….as seen!!

In 1972 there were three classes in the Snowman Rally­ up to 1000cc; 1001 to 1300cc; and over 1300cc. Total mileage was 300 with 100 miles of timed stages.

The start was in Fort William at 9pm and the finish was at the Royal Stuart Motor Hotel, Inverness (Drumossie) at 7am on Sunday morning.

By now the entry fee had increased to £12. Service cars were allowed but had to have pre-glued stickers fixed to the inside of the driver's rear passenger window. And as an indication as to how things have changed, the programme advertised a new 2.0-litre BMW for £2,197.

The Rally itself however was controversial – Andy Dawson who competed that year with Pauline Gullick commented on the event during his recent interview – Ah the illegal Snowman! – describing it as a ‘flat out road race; he also talked of some drivers using ‘very creative tyre choices’!

The reason for the controversy was due to some very tight timed road sections.

Neil Moir recalls  – only a few co drivers realised how tight it was and it was impossible to service on the road sections without being penalised.

Mid way through the event the penalties were scrubbed … big arguments being the result from those who incurred no penalties.

In the end the results of the event were declared provisional before a RAC tribunal met to decide the outcome of the rally.

There was one notable retirement from the event – Roger Clark rolled out in a rare accident!.

The provisional winner Drew Gallagher would continue to be successful on the Snowman Rally and become one of its most frequent winners.

In 1973 the Snowman was firmly established as  part of the RAC British Rally Championship, the rally attracted the country’s top drivers and befitting,  as the previous year’s British Rally Champion,  the event was won by Roger Clark in the factory entered Escort RS1600 sponsored by Esso Uniflow, he started from a low seeding of 5 as a result of the previous years indiscretion.

The late All Mackay, the Club’s Competition Secretary in 1971/2, had entered his wife’s Austin Healey Sprite and was seen to be ydriving with his usual verve.     

At the finish Ally bumped into Roger Clark and after some rally chit-chat, Clark commented “Aah, so you are the madman in that Sprite!” The highest seeded locals were A. Martin and Fiona Kennedy at 37 in an Imp; Vince Finlayson and Hector Munro, both also in Imps, were seeded 42 and 50; Terry Glendinning was in car 54 in a BMW and Dougie Riach was in car 58, a Ford Escort . Wilson Girvan was entered at 102 in another Escort. The rally attracted a full entry of 120 plus seven reserves

In third was the flying Kiwi Mike Marshall who beat Clark by some 42 seconds in the fast Port Clair stage……

as one spectator was heard to comment, “….that Kiwi is going faster than s**t off a hot shovel!”. 

Surely Mike Marshall has been the furthest travelled driver ever to come to the Snowman Rally?   

Irishman Robin Eyre-Maunsell drove his Imp Sport to 6th overall with Roy Fidler in 10th spot in the Withers of Winsford ex Sheka Mehta Datsun 240Z.

Cal Withers himself coming north to oversee the entry, still fondly recalls the event and the car to this day speaking from his base in Lugano, Italy.

Sadly - on the cars next visit to Scotland on the Scottish International – it came to a upside down ending.

By this time in rallying, service cars were becoming very much “the norm” and depending on one’s finances (or sponsors generosity), they ranged from tatty Tranny vans to fully equipped factory barges …….. but Paul Faulkner outdid them all in 1973 – his rally service vehicle was his Rolls Royce Silver Shadow!

The finish of the 1973 Snowman was in the Caledonian Hotel and the chef had prepared a very eye catching buffet for the competitors, the centrepiece of which was an enormous ham, surrounded by silverside and in the shape of the Club shield with “Highland Car Club” spelt out on top with anchovies!

The 1973 event marked the Club’s first running of the Snowman in daylight hours and it was also the first rally in the UK to be run with the newly permitted 60mph average target speed in the forests.

In 1972 there were three classes in the Snowman Rally­ up to 1000cc; 1001 to 1300cc; and over 1300cc. Total mileage was 300 with 100 miles of timed stages.

The start was in Fort William at 9pm and the finish was at the Royal Stuart Motor Hotel, Inverness (Drumossie) at 7am on Sunday morning.

By now the entry fee had increased to £12. Service cars were allowed but had to have pre-glued stickers fixed to the inside of the driver's rear passenger window. And as an indication as to how things have changed, the programme advertised a new 2.0-litre BMW for £2,197.

The Rally itself however was controversial – Andy Dawson who competed that year with Pauline Gullick commented on the event during his recent interview – Ah the illegal Snowman! – describing it as a ‘flat out road race; he also talked of some drivers using ‘very creative tyre choices’!

1975s Snowman Rally was eagerly awaited by Andy Dawson. In the last two and a half years Dawson had not lost in his class driving Imps and the Clan Crusader and had finished twice in second place overall – only beaten by Roger Clark.

He had tested his new Datsun Violet – a Kleber scholarship car worth 7000 pounds with a top speed of 112mph, which came with an unlimited supply of tyres and compounds for the events he chose to do. His entry had been funded by the local Datsun dealer and  co driver for the event was David Richards – a young aspiring co driver who like Dawson would go onto the World stage in only a few years time.

At number 14 another future star was entered.. Jimmy McRae, and at 30 one of his future co drivers Mike Nicholson..

The 300-mile event started in Fort William at 7am and finished in Inverness at 5pm at the Drumossie Hotel.

Despite all of this Dawson was after two stages feeling concerned that the car was not fast enough – however despite its lack of power – he recorded a victory on the event – improving on his 3rd place in 72. A result that would begin a long career as driver then team principle for Datsun in future years.

1976 was the final year that the Snowman Rally featured as part of the British Rally Championship

This year's event arguably brought the finest entry ever to the event – with a top 20 that boasted some of the worlds leading drivers, rally winners and works cars.

The event is especially memorable for the appearance to two young Finish drivers who would impress in their future careers.

Two future world champions would take part in the event – but this would not be the last time such talent destined for ultimate glory would appear on the Snowman.

The Snowman was sponsored for the first time in 1976 by the Mercury Motor Inn (Thistle Hotel). Now in its 29th year of Snowman sponsorship, Highland Car Club are extremely grateful for the company's assistance over one of the longest period of sponsorship in rallying. Imagine clearing up after 29 Snowman parties!

These events together suggested that it was a time for change in the world of rallying – the aptly titled film made of this very special Snowman.

The 87-stage mile rally boasted a strong entry of 110 cars including 7 Highland Car Club members and was the first Snowman to start from the Mercury Hotel which went on to be a long-term base and sponsor of the event for 29 years – sponsorship for this year's event was by Cordiners Cars.

The following pages and film will tell the story from regulations to results better than any current day writer can, and we are fortunate to have the archives from the event and unique never before seen photos from the event – our thanks to Ormond Smith, David Bremmer, Peter Barratt and Peter Alexander for their contributions to this article and for helping share the record of the last BRC Snowman so well.

Although it was the last time the event ran at this level – there was a RAC observer present to review the event and a proposal to join the Snowman and Granite City Rally together as a two-day international event to run during September containing 200 stage miles and a 500-mile route.

The idea of an International Snowman was sadly never realised, and the days of BRC drivers came to an end.