If there has been a speed record to break, a race to be won or a challenge to meet, Scotland has been at the vanguard throughout the sport’s history. Despite the country’s size, it is the fifth most successful nation in the world for producing Formula One World Champions.
The late, great Jim Clark enjoyed a glittering 12-year racing career, which delivered two Formula One world championships in 1963 and 1965. But it all began in the humble surroundings of Crimond Airfield near Aberdeen in 1956 and he honed his skills on the quiet country roads and forest tracks of the Scottish Borders. The roads had long straights, smooth surfaces and snaky curves with sudden changes of direction and unlike most of the English roads; they were not limited in forward view by hedgerows.
Clark went on to deliver his greatest victories for Colin Chapman’s Lotus team, winning 25 Grands Prix from 72 starts, claiming two Formula One titles, and also taking the Indianapolis 500 in 1965.
Signalling the start of a new more flamboyant era, Jackie Stewart was three times World Drivers Champion, runner-up twice and won 27 of his 99 Grands Prix. Like Clark, Stewart was prodigiously accomplished in a wide variety of cars, best illustrated in 1964 when he competed in 53 races in 26 different cars including Formulas 2 and 3 and Le Mans, and won 23 of them.
Clark and Stewart may be seen as the trailblazers of Scottish success in Formula One, but of course Innes Ireland had preceded both of them, the Dumfries man winning Lotus’ first Grand Prix, at Watkins Glen in 1961. Many more male, and female, racers were to follow in their revered footsteps cementing Scotland’s place as a fertile breeding ground for motor racing talent.
After 15 seasons in Formula One, David Coulthard has now become a TV celebrity, but the man from Twynholm notched up 13 Grand Prix wins in an illustrious career with McLaren and Red Bull, finishing as world championship runner-up in 2001.
Allan McNish may only have spent one season in the unreliable Toyota in Formula One, but he has thrived before and afterwards, becoming one of the all-time greats in the gruelling world of sportscar racing, winning the Le Mans 24 Hours twice and finishing on the podium on no fewer than six further occasions.
Bathgate boy Dario Franchitti moved to America, married a Hollywood superstar, and has become one of the most successful drivers in the history of US single-seater racing, winning the IndyCar Series championship four times and claiming the prestigious Indy 500 three times.
Franchitti’s cousin, Paul Di Resta, won the DTM (German Touring Car Championship) for Mercedes in 2010, helping to propel the West Lothian racer into Formula One with Force India, where he continues to make a great impression at the highest level.
Meanwhile Dario’s brother, Marino, is himself an accomplished sportscar racer and in 2012 was confirmed as the first driver of Nissan’s innovative Delta Wing as an unclassified entrant at Le Mans.
Away from the track, Scotland has always enjoyed a distinguished pedigree in stage rallying.
The McRae name is perhaps one of Scotland’s most famous exports, with Colin winning the World Rally Championship in 1995. His ‘flat-out’ driving style earned him millions of fans around the world and he enjoyed cult status during his 15 year career at the top of the sport. Colin was the son of 5-time British Rally Champion, Jimmy McRae, and brother of Alistair who continues to enjoy success in the world of international rallying.
McRae and his co-driver, fellow Scot Derek Ringer, enjoyed a great rivalry with England’s Richard Burns for many years in the World Rally Championship. Burns’ co-driver, however, was Perthshire’s own Robert Reid, so when the world championship title returned to the UK in 2001 with Burns and Reid, Scotland was able to crown yet another world champion at the highest level.
Scotland’s rally lineage, however, was arguably started by Andrew Cowan. Brought up in Duns and great friends with Jim Clark, Cowan won the 1962 Scottish Rally, before embarking on a career that brought victories in five consecutive Southern Cross rallies (1972-76), the world’s longest rally, the 20,000-mile South American Marathon in 1978 and the London-Sydney marathons of 1968 and 1977, the former at the wheel of a Scottish built Hillman Hunter with a bit of help from friends including fellow-Scot Brian Coyle.
Throughout the 1980s a number of Scottish rally drivers made their mark on the sport, including Louise Aitken-Walker, Britain’s most successful female rally driver of all time, who claimed the Ladies World Rally Championship in 1990.
The latest generation is headed by 4-time Scottish Rally Champion, David Bogie, the first Scot to claim the Scottish and British Championships in the same year and the youngest driver to win the Scottish title since Colin McRae.
Back on the track, Ryan Dalziel’s performances in the FIA World Endurance Championship have added his name to Scotland’s international role of honour as 2012 LMP2 world champion.
One of the most enduring stories from the world of Scottish motor sport is that of the legendary Ecurie Ecosse racing team. From a humble back-street mews garage in Merchiston, Edinburgh, the team stunned the motor racing world by beating household names such as Porsche and Ferrari. In 1956, David Murray’s team won the famous Le Mans 24 hour race with a privately entered D-type Jaguar, driven by proud Scotsmen Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson.
The Ecurie Ecosse team went on to win a total of 68 races with such drivers as Jackie Stewart, Innes Ireland and Roy Salvadori and earned its place in Scottish sporting history, but they eventually struggled to compete with the financial clout of the big teams and sadly folded in 1971.
The team name was revived in the 1980s by enthusiast and driver Hugh McCaig. In 1986 the team won the C2 class of the World Sportscar Championship; they had been runners-up the previous year. They also entered Vauxhall Cavaliers in the British Touring Car Championship with some success in 1992 and 1993, including a win at Thruxton in 1993 for Dumfrieshire driver David Leslie.
Another of Ecurie Ecosse’s drivers was a young Tom Walkinshaw whose long list of achievements was later to include building and running the Le Mans winning Jaguar team in 1988 and 1990, winning multiple British Touring Car Championships before taking control of the Arrows F1 team.
Away from the international stage, the Scots have carved their names with pride on much heavyweight British silverware including twice British Touring Car Champion John Cleland, Anthony Reid, David Leslie and Gerry Birrell and most recently 2012 BTCC champion Gordon Shedden.
Meanwhile, if there is one name which fires the Scots’ passion for speed, daring and determination, it is Richard Noble. Not only the fastest man on earth, but builder and driving force behind the fastest machines on earth.
In motor cycling, the legends continue. Jock Taylor took the sidecar world championship in 1980 and Jimmy Guthrie and Bob McIntyre both set the standard for Scottish motorcycle competitors on either side of the war. Jackie Stewart cites Bob McIntyre as one of his inspirations.
In the 1980s and 90s, it was Niall MacKenzie and Steve Hislop who led the way. Mackenzie competed in the 500cc Grand Prix championship (now MotoGP) for nine years from 1986 to 1994, only twice finishing outside the top ten. He went on to win the British Superbike Championship no less than three times.
Borders man Steve “Hizzy” Hislop won the British Superbike Championship in 1995 although was better known as the undisputed king of the Isle of Man TT races, winning no less than eleven TTs. Keith Amor, Iain Duffus and Jim Moodie also had good records on the Isle of Man, while the fastest newcomer on the Island in 2012 was Scots rider Jimmy Storrar, who also competes in British Superstock 1000s.
In recent years Stuart Easton continues the charge for Scotland in the British Superbikes, while John McPhee and Rory Skinner promote the Scots abroad, running in the highly competitive World Moto 3 and Spanish Moto 3 Championships respectively.
The Scottish off road motorcycling scene has not only launched four wheel stars such as Colin McRae and Robbie Head but numerous British Enduro and Motocross champions, most recently Richard Hay in the British Enduro Veteran Class. Euan McConnell contested the World Enduro Championship from 2001 to 2007. In 2009 and 2010 teams from Scotland competed to medal results in the International Six Days Enduro and in each of the same years Scottish riders successfully finished the gruelling Dakar Rally as the first Scots to do so. Scotland can even claim a World Champion in motorcycle stunt riding with Kevin Carmichael taking the title in 2002.
Even away from the heat of competition, still Scottish ingenuity knows no bounds and today the brothers Ian and Moray Callum are at the forefront of world car design. It was Ian who designed the drop-dead gorgeous Aston Martin and is now Design Director for Jaguar, while Moray was previously responsible for Mazda’s cutting-edge designs before moving to become Design Director for Ford’s North American fleet.
And next time you jump into an Aston, a Scottish-designed Jaguar, or many other luxury automotive brands such as Rolls Royce and Bentley, you will be instantly cosseted and comforted by the upholstered results of Jonathan Muirhead’s Bridge of Weir Leather Company which is desired and specified by luxury car makers the world over.
Scotland’s automotive and motor sporting heritage is like haggis: rich, proud and memorable.