JIM Clark Rally organisers are looking at the possibility of making Kelso the main centre for the prestigious motorsport competition, but there could be some uproar from Berwickshire if this move goes ahead.
Kelso traders were due to be canvassed last week on a proposal from organisers of the world-famous event who want to look at a controversial closing of the centre of the town for the whole three days of future events.
This year’s event will see the 41st staging of the Jim Clark Rally and will be run over the closed roads of Berwickshire on the spring bank holiday weekend at the end of May 27-29.
The event forms round four of the seven-event Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship for 2011 and is also a counter in this year’s Scottish Rally Championship.
The rally will see the return, after a year’s absence, of the World Rally Cars of the Citroen Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.
While being staged on Berwickshire roads, the event will again make use of Kelso Racecourse for a maintenance and headquarters area.
Last year’s event saw the start and finish in Duns. In the past, however, the centre of Kelso has also hosted these elements of the popular rally which attracts worldwide media coverage.
Rally organisers have met with representatives of Kelso Community Council and say that while they still had a shred of hope this year’s event could be centred on Kelso, it was looking increasingly unlikely that there was enough time left to clinch a deal to allow that and efforts are expected to now focus on getting an agreement in place for the 2012 meeting.
There has also been some talk that with parties interested in Edinburgh, the event could even be lost to the Borders altogether, with only a token presence in Berwickshire as a tribute to the world champion driver from Chirnside, who the rally is named after.
However, rally manager Colin Pagan wouldn’t be drawn on this suggestion.
One person who is definitely keen to see Duns remain as the focal point of the rally is mid-Berwickshire Councillor, Frances Renton who herself has a long-standing history with the event, most recently engineering a series of public meetings between rally organisers and members of the public.
She commented: “I know there are a few grumbles from people in the Duns about the town hosting the rally but overall it has been very well received and I would be bitterly disappointed to see it taken away from us again, especially after all the excitement its return generated.
“I suppose rather than lose it to Edinburgh, Kelso would be the preferred option but Jim has such strong connections with Duns that it seems fitting to have the start and finish in the town.
“During the weekend of the rally there was so much interest and investment in Duns and to lose this to the bigger town of Kelso would be frustrating.
“Having the Border Union Showground and various other venues, Kelso already gets a lot of events that Duns doesn’t and I don’t think anyone would want to see the Jim Clark Rally go the same way.
“I worked as an entry secretary for the rally many years ago when it was still run through forests rather than on roads and when I was elected to Scottish Borders Council I initiated public meetings about the rally to help build up more of an understanding about it and a relationship between the organisers and the public.”
The next of these public meetings will be held in the Council Chambers, Duns at 7pm on Monday, February 28.