Michael relishing return of Clark rally

Michael Binnie (picture by John Fife)
Michael Binnie (picture by John Fife)

The countdown is continuing in the Borders to the Jim Clark Rally, which takes place on Friday and Saturday, November 8-9.

These include Cornhill on Tweed farmer, Michael Binnie.

He finished third overall in this year’s Scottish Rally Championship, behind triple Scottish Champion Euan Thorburn and twice Scottish champion Jock Armstrong.

However, his appearance on the final round of this national series was in doubt, as he was mid-harvest at the time and much was made in the motor sporting press of his pre-rally preparation – driving a combine harvester for many days and nights over a period of weeks!

It was no surprise that former rugby player Michael turned to motor sport as soon as he was of age, as his dad, Cameron Binnie, was a former multiple Scottish motor racing champion. But it was his uncle, Garry Wilson, who introduced him to rallying.

“I was still at college when I saw the Jim Clark Rally in 2014 with my pals,” said Michael.

“Since then, it has been a life ambition to actually compete on the rally itself. I’m also quite apprehensive. It will be my first tarmac rally in the Mitsubishi Lancer, which I used this year and last on the Scottish Championship forest rally series.”

Michael’s first memory of the rally was some time earlier: “I was about four years old when my family and another friend’s family went to watch the ‘Moon & Stars’ stage.

“It was around two in the morning and it was pouring with rain. We walked for miles but I’ll never forget it.”

“The rally coming back will be good for the area.

“We notice an increase in traffic even around here at rally time.

“It will put us back on the map,” added Michael.

“There’s nothing to beat the excited atmosphere in Duns Square when the rally comes to town.”

Claire Mole, from Kelso, is a former professional rally co-driver but, these days, spends more time in her Kelso-based business ‘The Mole House’.

However, rallying is still very much to the fore in her life, as she is Michael Binnie’s regular co-driver.

Over the years, the sport has taken Claire to events as far afield as Sweden and China, Finland and Monte Carlo. Spain and the USA, France and New Zealand and many more, where she has co-driven for some of the biggest names in the sport.

These days, she’s more of a ‘home’ person but a visit to her shop just off the Square in Kelso provides a huge contrast to her other ‘interest’.

The Mole House is a haven of colour, light and sparkle as Claire sells a huge range of objects and artefacts for the home, hotel and function.

“My dad dragged me round rallies,” she recalled.

“He drove and I navigated. I suppose that’s what started it.

“My summer holidays were spent watching the Scottish Rally and we slept in the car as we followed the event round Scotland.”

“The rally has also generated a lot of interest, with people in the shop asking questions.

“There is a lot of local interest but I also work with ‘Visit Kelso’ and this event helps to attract more visitors and tourists, so it’s good for the area and for business.”

But come the second weekend in November, the farmer and the shopkeeper will join forces once again to participate in one of the Scottish Borders’ biggest sporting events and, hopefully, bring a little more glory to this quiet corner of Scotland.