The 2020 Snowman Rally decade fittingly begun with a tribute event to Highland Car Club icon – the late Coogie Urquhart – a very much missed member of the car club and Rallying community.
The event followed a rare Snowman cancellation of his named event in 2019 where icy conditions made running the event unsafe. It was therefore with great enthusiasm after a year's absence that the Snowman Rally once again roared into life.
However, the world was beginning to learn of a global pandemic which would devastate people across the world, and following the Snowman bring about widespread cancelation of all motorsport activity.
Therefore the 2020 Snowman Rally was to be the only Gravel Rally in Scotland that year, and amongst the very few to run in the UK.
The Highland Car Club had arranged a well attended rally night in advance of the event, to encourage local interest in motorsport, but also to help prepare competitors and officials in safety developments necessary for a safe competitive event.
The 2020 Snowman Rally was as usual an eagerly awaited event and was taking place now in March – one month later than its traditional date to minimize risks of further event cancellations – still there was snow in places!.
With a 101 strong entry of both SRC and HCC competitors, the rally was based at its new spiritual home of Fairways – several competitors also took to the adjacent Go Kart track to warm up, and the Rally featured a restart in Dingwall high street which was very popular.
After a hard days rallying the winner Michael Binnie co driven by Clare Mole was ‘shocked’ to have led the field home by 20 seconds and to have won his first rally. At only 27 years of age the popular winner is expected to be one of the sports front runners well into the 2020s!.
Another stand out performance and one to watch was Keir Beaton in his Escort Mk2 finishing 11th overall and winner of the SRC John Horton Star Driver Award. Keir was also awarded the Peter Beaton Trophy which is presented to the crew providing the most entertaining drive of the day. Given that the trophy was donated to the club in memory of Keir and Paul's Father, this was a special moment for him. This was awarded to him by a facetime call from his brother, and presented to him by his daughter.
With the global pandemic still raging and making motorsport events unable to run – it was an inevitable that the 2021 Snowman Rally would be cancelled.
When the HCC committee met to discuss the inevitable decision (online of course!), the decision was taken to not let the pandemic beat the Snowman!
Plans were soon made up to do something unique, that would add to the story of the event for years to come. The crazy idea was to run a virtual Snowman Rallython as a full day online event - celebrating more than six decades of the rally's history - all to raise funds for charity - something never tried by any rally before.
Low key enquiries were made to some of those who had appeared on the event before and the idea quickly gained momentum and support. Ari Vatanen himself replying instantly - that ‘he would love to support the event’ and that the purpose of the suggested charity T Shirt bearing his personal endorsement should ‘not be too discreet’. From that stage there was no turning back – the event would run!
Soon after many others followed the ‘Ari wants you message’ – and in doing so are contributing to make the rallython a real and unique celebration.
The rest after today will be history – a true one-off event, serving the purpose to support the local community, and in doing so give back to those who have supported the Snowman Rally over so many years.
How do you see the future developing for Rallying in the UK to address its challenges and remain a viable sport for clubman as well as the elite level?
Rallying faces many challenges at the moment and it’s hard to imagine how we can ever get back to that wonderful era in the 70s that the Snowman is celebrating.
We’ve got environmental challenges which we have to take very seriously and the major changes in technology that car manufacturers are focusing on today.
At Motorsport UK one of our main priorities is the grassroots and opening up the opportunities for youngsters to get their first experience of motorsport. To achieve this we have to break down the barriers of cost of participation and opportunity.
We need to support motor clubs like Highland Car Club with all the tools they require to put on events and give youngsters the opportunity to participate at a local level, after all that’s where we all started.
We’ve spent far too long concentrating on the top end of the sport to the detriment of local motor clubs and the grassroots of our sport and that’s what’s now required.
So, what of the future Snowman Rally's that will follow in the years to come?, and how will the challenges and changes that come with the sport make the Snowman Rally of the future look like?.
2025 will be another milestone in the events history – The Snowman will be 70 years old – a wonderful achievement. Some ideas are already underway how this special year can be marked.
The increase of closed road rallying made possible by changes in regulations could offer new ways for the Snowman to run in the future?. We are blessed in the Highlands not only to have fantastic forest stages, but also tarmac – so whatever way the future turns the Snowman will be able to offer a wonderful and challenging event.
With the advent of all electric cars and environmental concerns for the sport –there will be changes in this area to incorporate in the future – which will only help make the sport sustainable in more ways than one.
Since the loss of Rally GB as a World Championship event – there are ongoing discussions by Motorsport UK to find an alternative to securing a new format for Rally GB – it has been mentioned that the possibility of a tarmac event in Scotland being considered. Sounds crazy?.. Well possibly not – we offer great roads, ample reasonably priced accommodation out of season, support for tourism, a local community enthusiastic about rallying, and an international airport? – might not be such a crazy idea after all!.
One thing is for sure – the Snowman will continue as it always has – evolving with the sport and sometimes leading the way in making the changes which have affected the sport over the last six decades.
Whatever the future holds, the HCC Snowman Rally will remain an iconic part of rallying history.