Motorsport: Doug Niven takes a nostalgic tour round Ingliston

Doug Niven, Allan McNish and Sir Jackie Stewart at the Jim Clark weekend on Sunday. Celebrating fifty years of Jim Clark winning his second Formula One World Championship, his famous Indianapolis 500 victory, Formula 2 Championship and Tasman Championship, all in 1965.
Doug Niven, Allan McNish and Sir Jackie Stewart at the Jim Clark weekend on Sunday. Celebrating fifty years of Jim Clark winning his second Formula One World Championship, his famous Indianapolis 500 victory, Formula 2 Championship and Tasman Championship, all in 1965.

The news that Ingliston will hold a second revival meeting later this year will delight those who appreciate a bit of motor sport nostalgia.

Home to the Royal Highland Showground, Ingliston was transformed in 1964 when the showground roads were tarmacked.

Farmer and racing enthusiast Ian Scott Watson proposed the new roads include a race track to boost revenue. An agreement was quickly reached, £20,000 raised and by May of the following year Ingliston held its first race meeting.

Local farmer and retired racing driver Doug Niven knows his way around Ingliston better than most. He comes from a generation where motor sport and farming were intrinsically linked. Over the years he has developed a genuine fondness for the place.

His own racing career started in 1969 just a year after the tragic death of his cousin, Formula One great Jim Clark.

“There was some resistance from the family but I had to get it out of my system. I was running the family farm and couldn’t get insured to drive a single seater. Saloon cars were considered safer,” explained Doug.

His first race was at Ingliston. Driving a Ford Anglia he finished third. Supported by the Border Reivers motor sport team Doug clinched the first of three Scottish Saloon Car championships the following year driving the EX Graham Birrell twin cam escort.

Graham and Jenny Birrell from Wylies Garage in Glasgow, Bill Dryden from Edinburgh, Cardenden butcher Walter Robertson in his F1 DFV engine VW were some of Doug’s great rivals.

Doug competed in a few of the early Jim Clark Memorial Rally but continued to concentrate on saloons. In 1977 he bought Mick Hill’s mighty 5-litre Chevrolet powered VW Beetle. It proved to be a masterstroke. Doug dominated the Scottish scene for the next two years. He won 45 races and held lap records at six separate tracks.

In July 1980 Barry Sheene had gone from two to four wheel racing in order to take part in the BMW Challenge race. Sheene, still suffering pain from a recently amputated finger, held off the challenge from fellow Londoner Nick Whiting with Doug in third.

Doug’s last race at Ingliston was in October 1981. He bid farewell to the Edinburgh track with a stirring second place behind Lochgilphead joiner Jim McGaughay,

Since retiring Doug has remained a committed supporter of Scottish motorsport. As a Jim Clark Trustee he is heavily involved in plans to transform the trophy room in Duns into a state of the art museum. Last year his achievements were recognised when he was inducted into the Scottish Borders Sports Hall of Fame. That night after receiving his award he was quick to point out the importance of Ingliston.

“It was like driving in a gold fish bowl,” he recalled. “Tight corners. A bit like Monaco No room for error.”

Doug’s success behind the wheel suggests he made few of those.