Introduction - Who we are and what we do

Navigational Road Rallies 

So what’s that all about? Screaming through quiet country lanes in a Fiesta R5 with the spotlights bouncing off the hedges and buildings, hurtling through slippery tarmac bends, flat out against the clock?

No, it’s much more serious than that. It’s also much more affordable, much safer, much more challenging, and just as much fun. Yes you’re against the clock, but outright speed won’t win this race, this is about preparation, quick thinking, skilful driving and real teamwork, all whilst sticking rigidly to your time schedule.

Let’s take a standard hot-hatch or a mildly tuned classic and use it to plot and navigate an unknown Ordnance Survey map route at night, using cryptic and confusing route instructions over short sections between controls. Let’s then combine map reading (in the dark!) with clue-solving, junction-spotting and keeping our driver on the right route. And let’s drive to arrive exactly on time, avoiding penalties for arriving late, or worse, early. And let’s do it all at an average speed of…wait for it…30mph! Have we lost you with that bombshell: Only 30mph? That’s not motorsport, surely? Well, let’s look at a bit more detail. Consider the first section of the 2017 Guy Fawkes Rally. You’re sitting at the Start control outside Munlochy Village hall, and at your allotted time the Start Marshal hands you a small piece of paper with a jumble of words, numbers and other information. 

It’s a six-mile section, you have TWELVE minutes. GO GO GO! But where do you go to? The clock is running, you peer at the map features with your head torch, you know it’s Coloured Roads Only (no whites or tracks), so tell your driver to move slowly to the first junction. You’re already 30 seconds into your time. When you reach the first junction and stop at the roadside, you’ve found most of the map features to avoid, but it seems there are no viable roads left. You lose another 60 seconds double-checking the options before you see that spot height 41 is on a tiny side road, so the main road past is actually clear. Now you’re motoring, but you need to work out how to “Pass Through 297”. Grid lines? Road classifications? Cryptic “BIG” if you convert numbers to alphabet? No, it’s the total of a handful of Spot Heights marked on your map, and you take another two minutes to figure out the shortest correct route through 48, 76 and 173, totalling 297.

The rules insist that you stop at every Give Way junction, and each time you come to a halt you lose 15 seconds, so the three junctions here will lose you a further 45 seconds. Add to this the time lost accelerating to, and braking from, your optimum speed, you will waste up to 5 minutes of your 12-minute schedule. Now you have only 7 minutes to cover the six miles, so your average speed needs to be 51mph to avoid lateness. This calls for spirited and enthusiastic driving, especially if part of the route includes a built-up area with 30mph speed limit, where Judges of Fact will report speeding to the Clerk of Course. Naughty, you must comply with the Highway Code and respect speed limits from start to finish. That’s just the opening section – the Guy Fawkes ’17 had seven of them. Section 2 had boxes of herring, 3 was an arithmetical shaggy dog, 4 a string of numbers going in reverse, and things went rapidly downhill from there. The pressure’s on from start to finish, however there’s an enormous sense of satisfaction when your route works out and your driver gets you home in one piece. Road rallies run through the autumn and winter months to guarantee darkness, and typically vary from 50 to 100 miles. There will be between 6 and 16 sections to navigate, each using different and more devious clues as the event goes on, testing the brainpower as well as the horsepower of each crew. Events will finish at a village hall or a local hostelry, with a midnight feast awaiting survivors and marshals, where tales of overshooting, wrong-slotting and following tail-lights (thinking it’s another crew but finding out that it’s the district nurse on their way to a house-call) are exchanged into the small hours. Entry fee and fuel shouldn’t top £50 shared between driver and navigator, so it’s not an expensive night’s entertainment. How about your prospects of moving on from road navigation events to the next phase? Many of today’s top stage rally drivers and navigators cut their competitive teeth on road rallies, where they learned the craft of rally timekeeping and communication, and the finer points of car control. Highland Car Club legends Paul Beaton and Andrew Falconer have taken their navigation skills to the highest levels of Scottish and British Co-driving, and their competitive roots are firmly in road rallying. Virtual Rallying extends beyond the Snowman Rallython into online table-top navigation events. Our own Graham Watson’s Navigational Chatter has found followers from across the globe and provides a fascinating insight into the art of British and European navigation, and perhaps most usefully provides explanations and solutions. Check out the Chatter on Highland Car Club’s web site and have a go. The recent online Nicholson Digital Ltd Table-Top Rally Series was well supported, with triple-digit entries across four classes for each round. With A4 maps from the sponsor and a full week to work on every round, these events provided decent entertainment for navigators during the long nights of lockdown, and may yet become an annual championship in their own right. Want to try it for yourself? Check out www.highlandcarclub.co.uk and Facebook for the the post-covid 2021/22 calendar. Road Rallies: miles of smiles at 30mph.

Autotests

What is an Autotest? An Autotest involves manoeuvring your car through a pre-determined route usually with cones or marker poles set out to indicate any changes of direction along the course and it generally all takes place using first and reverse gears only, so no real high speed stuff, making it that bit safer. Occasional use of the handbrake can often help to turn the car in the tighter turns, letting you have a bit of fun sliding the car around and trying to learn how to control it, whilst in a safe environment. This all takes place against the clock and is usually run with one car out on a test at a time, so it’s just you and the car against the clock.

How are the results calculated? Different clubs run different formats, but one of the most commonly used consists of each competitor having two attempts at any one test, with only their quickest time achieved counting towards their overall time for the day. All your quickest times from all of your tests are added together and the quickest time for the day is the overall winner. Sounds simple right ? Maybe, however, there are penalties that are applied for any mistakes made during your run and these can be, having 5 seconds added to your time for every cone you touch or, if you go the wrong direction (WD), your time will equal, the quickest time achieved in your class, plus 20 seconds.

What type of car do I need to take part? To make it fairer, most clubs categorise the cars into different classes, ie. FWD, RWD, Specials, Road Cars etc and this means you are competing against others in your own class with similar cars and not necessarily against every car that turns up on the day.

In summary

The Autotest is a combined test of memory, manoeuvrability, car control and accuracy all carried out against the clock and most of all, it is absolutely great fun. All of the Scottish car clubs run Autotests and every single club will make you feel so welcome and puts on a really enjoyable days motorsport. Your local Highland Car Club is no different. We run several Autotests each year and being a very affordable way of introducing yourself to the world of Motorsport, this is something that everyone, of all abilities from the age of 14 years old can get involved in. However, be warned, Autotesting can become addictive .

Look forward to seeing you all at the next one

Classic Tours

During any normal year, Highland Car Club organise two touring events, mainly aimed at classic and interesting cars, though open to anything of a sporting nature.

The Spring Tour is run in April, which provides a fantastic opportunity to blow the cobwebs away from winter whilst enjoying the local scenery in some hopefully good weather, though we have had snow in the past! The spring tour usually attracts around 40-50 entries of various cars from Mini’s to Escorts and motorbike engine Hillman Imp’s. This event takes in around 150-250 miles in the Inverness area and often involves a lunch stop as well as an evening’s entertainment to help support those local businesses on the route.

La Crofterra Pandemonia is the main touring event at the club. This is a two day event, comprising around 400-500 miles across the highlands, with an overnight stay somewhere along the route. This event generally attracts a capacity entry of around 60 – 65 cars, usually of quite a varied nature ranging from the 1930’s right up to modern vehicles. This event has been around since 2005 and attracts entries from all over the UK. Overnight stays have included Tobermory, Thurso, Aberfeldy, Portree and Aboyne.

At these events there is also usually charitable fundraising via raffles and auctions which have been a great success and help to support local causes. We are all looking forward to running a touring event as soon as restrictions allow.

Home of the Highland Speed Championship

The Highland Speed Championship exists to promote sprinting and hillclimbing in the North of Scotland.

These two disciplines are referred to as speed events. In both cases the aim is for vehicles with driver only to cover a set course over tarmac, running singly, in the best time they can manage over several attempts at the course.

The vehicles run according to the regulations laid down by the governing body of motorsport in the UK (Motorsport UK) but you can take part in your everyday road car with a minimum of expenditure as many competitors do to start with, eventually moving on to more and more specialised competition cars. Cars are divided up into classes by body type eg. saloons or sports cars, engine size and how much modification has been carried out. There are also classes for specialised racing cars and some cars are homebuilt while some people have even developed their own Formula One engined racing cars. Each class has its own champion at the end of the season. It is almost certain that somewhere there is a class suitable for your car to take part.

Events in the championship begin with two rounds at Doune Hillclimb near Stirling in April and then two double header events at Golspie which is the most local venue for many of us in the Inverness area, Two double header events at Boyndie, two double header events at Fintray and a single event at Alford. These are spread out throughout the season from April to October. The calendar is available at

Training

Whenever an event like the Snowman takes place there are literally hundreds of people involved in the event on the day. However, it is worth thinking about how all these people know how to carry out their roles safely, what standards are expected and the level of competence which is expected of them.

When the club have applied to Motorsport UK for a Permit to run the event they need to be able to ensure that they meet the standards required in terms of organization and safety that will satisfy inspection before, during and after the rally. The way that they can do this is by ensuring that there has been sufficient training carried out to meet the need of them all.

Motorsport UK (the governing body of motorsport in the UK) provide the event with the Motorsport UK Steward and the Safety Delegate who between them scrutinize the preparation and organization of the event. They make many of their judgements on the competence of the organisers and their officials by reference to training that has been undertaken. Only if they are satisfied with the preparations for the event, stage setup, communications and Safety provisions, Spectator Safety etc will the event be allowed to start.

For example, the Clerk of the Course has undertaken a training program sometimes over two or three years followed by an assessment and supplemented by attendance at seminars every two years or so to maintain their License. This also helps the clerk to be confident and competent in their abilities and to keep up to date with current trends and changes in regulations.

Stage commanders, Sector Marshals, Radio Operators and other marshals can access training for their roles. This means that when the Chief Marshal is looking at where to locate marshals, they have an idea of the capabilities as well as the experience of those people. This is why Motorsport UK will only permit registered marshals who have undertaken some basic training in Safety and Spectator management and how to act if you are First Marshal on Scene to work independently on live stages. If someone just turns up on the day wanting to be a marshal but without any evidence of having the training and experience needed, they will have to be teamed up with other marshals with the requisite qualifications.

This is to protect everyone, ranging from organisers, marshals, competitors and their team members and spectators to members of the public in the vicinity of the event. If something amiss does happen then the Club and Motorsport UK are able to demonstrate and be confident that they had made sufficient and appropriate preparations for running the event as safely as possible while mitigating risks as much as could be expected.

Similarly, the timekeepers, radio controllers, radio operators, Rescue / Recovery crews and Scrutineers are regularly updated and trained in their role. The Rescue and Recovery crews having to demonstrate their capabilities and understanding at Specialised assessment and training weekends held regularly across the country. Stage commanders, Sector Marshals, Radio Operators and other marshals can access training for their roles. This means that when the Chief Marshal is looking at where to locate marshals, they have an idea of the capabilities as well as the experience of those people. This is why Motorsport UK will only permit registered marshals who have undertaken some basic training in Safety and Spectator management and how to act if you are First Marshal on Scene to work independently on live stages. If someone just turns up on the day wanting to be a marshal but without any evidence of having the training and experience needed, they will have to be teamed up with other marshals with the requisite qualifications.

This is to protect everyone, ranging from organisers, marshals, competitors and their team members and spectators to members of the public in the vicinity of the event. If something amiss does happen then the Club and Motorsport UK are able to demonstrate and be confident that they had made sufficient and appropriate preparations for running the event as safely as possible while mitigating risks as much as could be expected.

One of the reasons why motorsport in the United Kingdom is so respected worldwide is because of the quality and standard of training and training materials which are made available to organisers for their events by Motorsport UK who have a specialist Training Department coordinating the development of materials, providing online learning opportunities for enthusiasts and for training Licensed Training Instructors who can deliver the training across the UK. This means that there is a minimum level of knowledge, skill and understanding which the organisers can count on from the marshals and officials they deploy on their event.

In fact, so well regarded is the training delivered in the UK that the FIA have used British Training Instructors and materials to deliver training under their Regional Training Programme across the world over the last 10 years. The recent FIA Rally and Cross-Country training modules being delivered worldwide were developed by Motorsport UK Trainers and all organisers of European Hillclimbing have now got access to a new training package developed here in UK for their marshals and officials to engage with.

Training in the UK is funded by the governing body and by the Motorsport Training Trust which is a charitable organization covering many of the bills. Recently training has been impossible to deliver at a training day or evening as it normally is and so Licensed Trainers in Scotland have been running a series of webinars throughout the year and hosted by the Scottish Association of Motor Clubs and the Scottish Motorsport Marshals Club using the Zoom platform so that we have been able to maintain interest and engagement.

Motorsport UK have also been hosting Webinars for Licensed officials while face to face meetings are not possible and thus when we are finally released to engage in our sport once again by the Scottish and UK Governments, we won't be too out of touch with what to do and what is going on

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