Maurice Selden is one of the worlds leading and most widely respected rally photographers – his style combines the high drama of rallying with the beautiful and atmospheric scenery that accompany the sport.
With a career spanning 450 WRC events, he has photographed and witnessed at first hand most of the world’s leading drivers on events across the world.
Now retired, Maurice looks back to 1976 and shares with us his memories when he was ‘sent’ to photograph the Snowman Rally and capture the leading Ford team drivers taking part that year.
Little did he know that during the event he would take one of his most iconic photographs ever, and one that was to be widely printed in the press in the days following the event. A photograph that to this day remains one of his own personal favourites from a distinguished and long career.
The photograph in question was of a new and flamboyant young Finnish driver whose speed and style was set to put his mark on the world of rallying for ever as a rally legend and world champion - and in doing so, inspire a certain young Scottish driver who would go on to also compete on the Snowman in an Escort Mk 2, and latterly join him as a teammate and as another true rally legend and world champion in his own right.
How did it come to be that one day you're photographing the Monte Carlo rally, and the next you're in Inverness and equally cold for the Snowman Rally?
In 1976 I had been at LAT for 4 years (who were the official photo agency of Motorsport and Motoring news). LAT had a contract from Ford to supply images from all sorts of motorsports. From 1973 I was delighted to be covering both the WRC and BRC events – and that’s how I came to be covering the Snowman that year as it was a BRC event.
The Snowman Rally was a BRC event in 1971, 1973; was it a rally with stages that you knew well?
The 1976 Snowman was the only time I came to the event. I had no knowledge of the stages and took pot luck and usually walked in from the finish or any other access road which is how I came to be at ‘this’ corner.
There was a joke with photographers that we should take a few steps back when Vatanen was due because he always used more of the road than other drivers.
True to form I heard a car coming – with a lot more revs, it appeared to be going much faster than the previous cars, and I was convinced he was not going to make the corner.
I took the picture just as the rear wheel was on the edge of the ditch, but Ari did not lift off!, but still kept it out of the ditch. I knew before the film was developed that it was going to be a good shot.
It must have been one of the final stages of the day because I decided to use a flash to throw some extra light into the car!
You had a career retrospective show in 2018 that was hosted by Howard Davies and Phil Mills – in a supporting interview you listed your top 10 favourite photographs from your career, and I noticed Ari Vatanen appears in two of these?
This shot of the Peugeot 205 T16 was taken on the 1985 WRC Swedish Rally, and shows the winners, Ari Vatanen and Terry Harryman, on a stage that was ploughed out on a frozen lake!
Gradually these cars evolved even further and became faster and more exciting to watch. On rallies such as Portugal, Corsica and San Remo, the enthusiastic spectators would often stand on the very edge of the stages. To get clear, uncluttered shots of the cars meant that I would be forced to stand just in front of the spectators, pushing me further into the road. In some ways, I was relieved when the FIA banned the Group B cars.
And other than the Snowman Rally of course, what is your favourite rally in the world?
People often ask me that. I usually say that it was the Safari Rally in Kenya, and certainly it was the one that I always looked forward to each year. It was unique and was always an adventure, and a little dangerous.
Maurice has kindly signed and donated three exclusive and original 12’’x 8’’ prints for a blind auction to help raise funds for the Virtual Snowman 2021 charities.
There are two original prints of Ari Vatanen on the 1976 Snowman Rally and one original print of Colin McRae from his debut 1993 WRC win in New Zealand. Bids should be made by e mail to naming the print desired and the bid offered. Winners will be announced at the Flying finish closing event.
The Highland Car Club would like to thank Maurice for his generous support to the event, and for sharing his unique Snowman Story.