Carbon Positive Motorsport had a chat with Bob Irvine ahead of the McRae Stages this weekend.
Bob Irvine is one of the most enthusiastic people involved in our sport, a regular promoter of the clubman competitor on social media with rally magazines, rally shows and host of the irreverent ‘Pondys Tache’.
As a true enthusiast in the sport and supporter of our initiative, where we provide carbon offsetting of his travel related fuel use, we speak with Bob ahead of the McRae Rally Challenge – one of the sport's highlights of the year - about all things rallying, and why he is positive about motorsport.
CPM: Bob, it is a pleasure to have you join us as an ambassador for the McRae rally challenge, where you will be filming your next rally show – what are you looking forward to most on this year’s event?
BI: As on most events, the people. It’s the people that make the sport. Of course, this event is a bit special, I look forward to seeing the older cars and regressing back to my youth when I watched them in action. There was a terrific atmosphere at the last McRae event at the circuit and I’m sure that will be replicated this time round. Walking past Stig Blomqvist is not something I do every day so I can’t wait to see my old heroes.
CPM: What are your favourite McRae moments?
BI: So many. Colin's effort in the 6R4 as Course Car on the McRae Stages was incredible. He transformed the sport and brought thousands of new fans to the table. My favourite memory is probably when I sneaked out of work and jumped in my car to get an update from Rally NZ mid-90s, he came through Motu and absolutely destroyed the competition, I was shouting in the car and punching the roof. Alister beating Tapio Laukkinen on a final stage shootout on the Scottish, and Jimmy winning Ypres were also great. I have many more!
On the other hand, I have had many disappointments following them, Jimmy losing the 87 Scottish after leading for so long was a tough one, Colin losing the title to Richard was also hard to swallow. Jimmy retiring from the '87 San Remo when I was certain he would win a FISA A seeding was another let down, luckily, he finished third on the RAC to achieve the status.
CPM: You are known for your enthusiasm for our sport, and you have over the years been very active in various media you’re involved in - sharing news and views in a very different way to others. What is it that motivates you and your involvement in the sport?
BI: It’s not a stretch to say that the sport altered my life, I had a challenging upbringing and rallying took me down a path which was far more beneficial than the path I could have taken. Since then, rallying has become part of me. My motivation comes from how little the sport is promoted in Scotland. I enjoy interviewing people from both ends of the entry list, from the R5 driver to the 1300 Nova driver, or indeed navigators. If drivers get very little exposure, then the navigator gets even less. Even when I used to take pictures, I would give them to the competitors for free, all that entertainment I was getting for no cost, the least I could do was give them material to promote themselves. The sport really needs to up its game in the promotion stakes. I have a few ideas that I will be putting into practice that will hopefully give competitors more exposure.
CPM: You’re also heavily involved with Glenrothes Motors Sport club, which has been very active over the last year with lots of new initiatives. What has the club been focusing on?
BI: Like most clubs, the pandemic hit hard, I ran club quizzes as well as interclub quizzes. We also helped run some test days not long ago. We now run the Scottish Single Venue Rally Championship which is basically a budget championship that uses existing rallies. We initially hoped for 20 registrations so were delighted to receive over 60. It’s great that there is still an appetite for a clubman championship as not everyone can afford to compete on closed road events. The club also gave a large donation of food to a local food bank and of course we run two Single Venue events at Crail throughout the year.
CPM: How do you view the challenges the sport faces today for competitors, spectators, and events in general?
BI: Obviously costs, fuel and tyres are costing a fortune these days, Car Club Committee members are getting older, organisers are becoming a bit thin on the ground. There are also far too many events in Scotland and a lot of them are congested, some are basically cutting each other’s throats. The sport needs to adapt to the environmental issues and become more progressive. Spectator numbers are down in recent years but the onset of events such as the Argyll can only help attract more fans. Take the sport to the fans and they will want more.
CPM: Final question - and it's looking to the future - do you see another future WRC champion ever coming from Scotland?
BI: No, sadly. Not only do you need fantastic talent but also a fantastic bank balance to get in the WRC playground. I interviewed Malcolm Wilson and he told me that if someone wants it bad enough, they will find a way. I don’t subscribe to that theory. Never has the WRC been so elitist, the UK not having a WRC round certainly doesn’t help the situation. There are a lot of talented drivers in Scotland but none of the level required to win a WRC. We need investment in the sport, we need a structure, a ladder to the top.
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