Jim Clark Rally: organisers confirm special forest stage

The Jim Clark Rally won't be a closed-roads event this year.
The Jim Clark Rally won't be a closed-roads event this year.

Organisers of the annual Jim Clark Rally have confirmed that they will run a special stage rally in Kielder Forest this year on Sunday May 31.

However, this year’s Jim Clark Reivers Rally will be rather different from recent events. It will not take place over closed public roads in Berwickshire, as has been the case for the past 15 years. This year’s event will revert to the format first run in 1970 when the organisers used private Forestry Commission roads.

The route has yet to be confirmed, although the rally will be based in Kelso, from where competitors will drive over the border to contest a number of special stages in the giant Kielder Forest.

Scottish Borders Council announced in November that the 2015 rally had been cancelled, following discussion with Police Scotland and other groups.

The decision was made following the death of three spectators at the 2014 Jim Clark Rally last May and a number of subsequent investigations.

The council’s decision means organisers were unable to plan for a closed-roads event this year. But they are pressing ahead with plans to stage the 2015 event under a different format.

Clerk of the Course Colin Smith explained in a statement: “We wanted to maintain the continuity of an annual motor sports event in the Borders and following Borders Regional Council’s (sic) decision to withdraw permission for a closed road event, this was our only option. The Forestry Commission have been very helpful and we are looking at a route with around 45 miles of forest road tests.”

Meanwhile, plans are well underway for the 2016 Jim Clark Rally.

Clerk of the Course for this two-day closed road event, Russel Blood, said: “Over the past few months the team had been continuing with preparations for a two-day closed road rally event this year, but that is not going to happen so we will now concentrate our efforts on the 2016 event.

“Current plans are that this will comprise a two-day Jim Clark Rally (Friday/Saturday) followed by the one-day (Sunday) Jim Clark Reivers Rally.”

This new plan has already received the backing of many of the UK’s top rally championships. There will be no official ‘MSA British Rally Championship’ this year as the Motor Sports Association, motor sport’s governing body, are in the throes of a major re-organisation of Britain’s top rally championship series and is planning to launch a completely new premier British rally championship competition in 2016.

The two-day Jim Clark Rally will play an integral role in this.

Both the national Scottish Rally Championship and Scottish Tarmack Rally Championship are supporting the Jim Clark Rally and Reivers organising teams as is the British Asphalt Rally Championship plus local national and regional championship competitions.

“It’s not only the competitors, clubs, championships and rally fans who are offering encouragement,” said Jim Clark Rally chairman Dan Wright, “but local businesses and local people have rallied round to support the continuation of this major sporting event. We have also received tremendous support from both Mr John Lamont MSP (member for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) and Michael Moore MP (member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk). Having such support allows us to plan ahead with growing confidence.”