Craigvinean forest, high above the high road to the Highlands. On a crisp autumn morning. With an even crisper engine note barking its way through the woods, all naturally aspirated noisiness. Is there a better way to start a Saturday?
For the second year in succession, the Rally of Scotland delivered a fantastic event. And, once again, the competitors stayed away in their droves. This year's event was 15 cars down on last year. And last year the starting flag was only used 36 times...
What is it about this event that people don't get? Granted, it's at the wrong end of the season, when already-tight budgets are already spent, and then there's Rally GB coming up. But, trust me, it's worth sacrificing one run around Wales for these woods. As much as I love Hafren and the like, I'm definitely more a Drummond Hill man at the moment.
Leaning against the bar after the finish, Kris Meeke admitted he was disappointed for the organisers as well.
Kris Meeke is a big fan of the Rally of Scotland
"Where," he asked rhetorically, "are the Craig Breens, the Alastair Fishers, the Adam Goulds, the Elfyn Evans and the like? Why aren't they doing this event? They should be. This is the IRC, it's a damned good place to come and measure yourself. It's the only way a young driver is going to progress.
"Guy [Wilks] and I had to do it; we had to step outside of our comfort zone and go and measure ourselves up against the boys in the World Rally Championship, well those guys should be coming and having a pop at us here."
Meeke's commons sense continued when he pointed to the significant live television coverage which had been committed by Eurosport and was probably brightening the Saturday and Sunday afternoon of many a team manager across Europe. Airtime went begging for the heroes of tomorrow in Scotland last weekend.
The other problem is the sheer number of rallies in Britain. I'm told there are 500 permits for events annually - how ludicrous is that! The Rally of Scotland clashed with another feversome pilgrimage of mine to Llandudno. Fortunately, I'll get my chance to re-live my childhood RAC memories of the Great Orme (and to eat a bag of chips on the seafront) at the end of this month, when Rallyfest takes over the town.
That's not the point.
The point is, two cracking rallies such as the Cambrian and Scotland shouldn't be anywhere near each other. There should be breathing space in the calendar which allows the best of events to succeed and prosper. The MSA's root and branch consideration of our sport in our country can not come soon enough.
David Bogie was one of the new local competitors who turned out for Scotland
In admiring and endorsing Rally of Scotland, I'm in danger of flying in the face of my own argument. Prior to the Perth-based event, Britain only handed out 499 permits. Was there any need for the 500th?
There's a brilliant event in the Perth area which runs around the same time of the year, you might have heard of it: the Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally. It's always an absolute belter and just as well organised as the Rally of Scotland, courtesy of the Coltness Car Club. I know this, because it's the one and only rally I have ever done. And I did it slowly, so as to appreciate the professionalism involved. Very slowly.
The difference with Rally of Scotland is that the funding for the event, put together by the commercial arm of British motorsport comes via Perth and Kinross Council and their neighbours, Stirlingshire Council. That means the event has to stretch across the two counties and run over two days. That meant a bespoke event. And a 500th permit.
I firmly believe, however, that there is room in the calendar for two events close together in close geographical proximity. The McRae is a well-supported and popular Scottish Rally Championship round - and Rally of Scotland has to become a round of the British Rally Championship.
It has to.
One of the reasons I was given for Scotland's absence from the BRC calendar is the question mark over its sustainability. That sustainability would be a given if the BRC would simply commit to the best rally in the country. And, remind me, how many other rallies have a three-year agreement with a government body - Event Scotland - and two county councils? Not many, believe me.
I have to say, I find it all rather odd that, having spoken to some of the powers-that-be within our governing body, there's no potential for the MSA to strong-arm the BRC into taking Scotland. Surely, the championship belongs to the MSA and it can do what it wants. I realise it's, perhaps, not wholly ethical but in this case, the MSA is losing money out a hole in one of its pockets, while it leaves a needle and thread redundant in the other pocket.
There's also an argument that the BRC organisers don't want to come and be overshadowed by the IRC in their own backyard. Isn't that called cutting off your nose...
The BRC needs an influx of fever. I must admit, I'm on slightly shakey ground here as I haven't been to every round this year, not even nearly, but I have been to some and I have spoken to colleagues who have been everywhere. And, while importing Rallye Sunseeker will give a degree of added marketing clout, it's not going to solve all of the series' ills.
And neither would adding Rally of Scotland, but it would offer crews a run through the best stages in the world - Kris Meeke's words, not mine - and a chance to pit themselves against the best of the IRC.
IRC general co-ordinator Xavier Gavory was, once again, delighted with Rally of Scotland. He talks of the event in the same breath as Monte Carlo, yet the apparent zenith for the BRC is a run along the south coast.
Now, before Rallye Sunseeker supreme Rick Smith starts his email to me (I fear I may already be too late for that...) I've always been a fan of Sunseeker, but as well marketed as it is, it's no match for the likes of Loch Ard.
Gavory said: "These stages are the full of the legend of Scotland. They are incredible places to come and look at the backdrop, the landscape is just incredible. This event is magical and it is part of the bedrock of our series."
Guy Wilks in action in Scotland
And, if that's not enough, here are a couple more reasons why the event should be highlighted as a stroke of organisation and sporting genius: the marshals in Errochty; from the Pitlochry Round Table. They were professional, well-mannered, courteous, mostly in their early to mid-70s and, in many cases, wearing collar and tie. Their cheerful disposition set the tone for a hugely friendly and well-received event.
And the second reason is Iain Campbell, Scotland clerk of the course. 'Skunner', as he is known, is the same as all clerks of the course: hugely diligent and massively under-appreciated. Faced with a stricter than strict budget for this year's event, there simply wasn't the cash around the put a PA system in the service park in Perth. So, 'Skunner' got out his chequebook and paid the £800 plus VAT out of his own account. Don't get him wrong, he sells cars in Inverness for a living, he's certainly not made of money.
But that's Rally of Scotland for you. It gets under your skin and you can't help wanting the best for it.
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