Stonehaven rally driver and long-serving member of Stonehaven and District Motor Club, Andrew Ritchie, is shortly to be celebrating the 30th anniversary of his first foray into forest rallying.
It was on the 8th of August 1981 when Andrew lined up for the Arbroath Stages Rally in his distinctive orange Hillman Imp. With Banchory co-driver Brian Duncan, who had become proud father to a baby girl only the night before (and was still suffering from lack of sleep), they tackled the forest roads of Angus and Kincardineshire to be rewarded with a very satisfying Class win.
Thirty years on the memories of the preparations for the event and the trepidations on the start line are still clearly remembered.
Andrew reflects: “It was all an unknown - how the car would behave, how the roads would be and how fast we could go. The day was sunny and hot and some of the roads were really rough. Drumtochty and Durris seemed huge stages to drive. We didn’t have notes in those days and drove ‘blind’- I couldn’t have heard Brian anyway over the noise of the engine at 10,000 rpm!
There’s a Human League song which was just out back then and it must have been in my head all day as each time I hear it I’m taken back to that day.”
It is fitting that on the 6th of August 2011, Andrew and his co-driving brother Gordon will take part in the Speyside Stages Rally, starting in Elgin and using forest stages around Fochabers and Huntly. This Scottish Rally Championship event is always well attended and last year had over 120 entries.
“We first competed in this event in 1997, it’s inaugural year, when we came 9th overall. Since then it’s become more popular and we’ve never managed to repeat the top-ten finish!
“It’s such a friendly event - the organisers are great and there’s a ‘buzz’ from the spectators and competitors. The first two stages are on tarmac, around the Cooper park in Elgin, and though they are short they get you heated up for the forests ahead.”
Andrew’s current car is a Ford Escort RS which dates from 1977. After many memorable events in the Imp (which he still owns and is planning to rally again), Andrew moved on to compete in a Talbot Sunbeam in 1988, then to the Escort Mk2 in 1997.
“It was strange to rally a car that had not been built in a factory in Scotland,” jokes Andrew. “But this Ford has long history of Scottish competition in other hands. It’s got to be the car with the biggest tally of Scottish Championship events to it’s credit and it’s still got the original shell.”
After a very competitive class result on the Granite City Rally in April sponsorship, has been provided by AMC Engineering Ltd of Findon, near Aberdeen. This much-welcomed deal will allow the Ritchie brothers to tackle some of the remaining events in the Scottish calendar. The car has now been re-liveried with AMC prominent on all sides and their signature logo ‘Torque Solutions’ clearly emblazoned.
Andrew praised his new associates: “At a time when the costs to compete at a competitive level are higher than ever, it’s great that AMC have stepped in to help.
“On the Granite City we suffered severely from tyre wear - new tyres put on at the start were bald after 22 miles of forest roads. A combination of rough stages, soft-compound tyres and the sheer torque of the Cosworth engine just wore them out. So it’s actually quite apt for us to have ‘Torque Solutions’ on the car now - we can buy better tyres!”
AMC Engineering Ltd’s Managing Director Andrew Polson is delighted to help. Explaining their background he added: “AMC Engineering is an internationally recognised manufacturer of Torque Equipment.
“Our market leading equipment is in operation around the world with most of the major Oil and Gas service companies in Africa, North and South America, Canada, Europe, Far East, Middle East and Russia.
“AMC Engineering has been delivering Torque Solutions to the market for over 20 years with every unit being designed and manufactured to meet and exceed our customers requirements. We have just received a ‘Highly Commended Business’ award at the recent Grampian Business Awards ceremony.
“And I’ve told Andrew Ritchie that I want some results from him too!”
Andrew says: “I can’t thank AMC enough for their help. It’s great to be able to compete in these events and do well in a car which is 35 years old and can still beat more modern ones.
“We’re proud to fly their flag for them and it’s great to know it will be seen. The Escort Mk2’s are the best the ones to watch - unless there’s an Imp!”