2021 Highland Thistle Rally: Epic Roads, Stiff Competition and Fine Highland Hospitality

Photo: Gerard Brown

Thirty-five crews assembled on September 2 at the Fairmont Hotel in St. Andrews for the following day’s scheduled start of the Highland Thistle Rally, Rally the Globe’s longest event since Spring 2020’s Southern Cross Safari.

Ahead lay five days of epic roads, perfectly timed competition, and some fine highland hospitality. There were tests galore, dramatic elevation changes against spectacular Scottish countryside backdrops, the daily events chronicled in a spectacular flip-book on the rallytheglobe.com web site.
East coast to west coast and back again, then a push north, will most days as full as this one. The flip-book details the tail end of Day 4:

Photo: Gerard Brown

The pace picked up again as soon as we left the Crofters Kitchen and we were straight into another map based Regularity through Knockarthur. The crews had to plot, and then follow, the shortest route through the section based on a series of given spot heights. The next two Tests were straightforward in comparison. Two laps of a track in the beachside town of Littleferry gave the rally a chance to shake off any cobwebs.

As the afternoon drew to a close, and the night halt drew ever closer, there was another Regularity to get through – again with maps – and a quick Test through the Dalmore Distillery complex. Only then could the crews take their foot off the gas and set the cruise control for Achnagairn and enjoy a couple of less serious night sections which the Organisers had laid on.

Photo: Gerard Brown

An educational visit from the good folk at the Dalmore distillery, complete with plenty of samples, proved to be a popular and tasty pre-prandial distraction. Dinner itself was a hog roast BBQ in the formal garden after which the crews enjoyed a little highland fling as they threw themselves wholeheartedly into a cèilidh complete with a live band in the ballroom. Willie, Tom and Irene supplied the music and called the moves. It proved to be quite the party for the birthday boy John Pyle.

And, finally, the finish, back in St. Andrews on Day 5:

The sense of the finish line was closing in on us now. The roads were getting bigger, wider and faster as we approached Dundee and the Firth of Tay crossing, before pulling into the last Test of the event around the Rhynd, on the fringes of Tentsmuir Forest.

Photo: Gerard Brown

St Andrews was now within touching distance and some of the crews, driving the last short section along the coastal road and through its ancient streets, admitted to feeling a mixture of pride, relief and excitement at having completed a very challenging event. The sight of the Fairmont finishing arch was therefore a most welcome one, especially for those crews who had friends and family waiting for them. For the overall and category winners it gave then a chance to bask in the warm glow of some late summer sun and of their achievement…

Mike and Lorna Harrison were crowned as overall winners aboard their Triumph TR3A, while Graham and Marina Goodwin took the honorrs in the pre- war category aboard a Bentley 4 1⁄2 Le Mans.

Photo: Gerard Brown

As well as the class and overall awards, there were two discretionary prizes handed out: The Spirit of the Rally award went to the novice crew of Paul Taylor and Paul Haslam (Ford Escort RS2000) who displayed great good humor and fun throughout. The Against all Odds trophy was awarded to Otakar Chládek and Zdenka Holečková for their efforts in keeping their Mercedes on the right road despite knowing very few words of English and having limited rally experience.

Next up for the Rally The Globe regulars: October’s Carrera Italia. For more information, log on to rallytheglobe.com.

Photo: Gerard Brown