The first of the practice meetings scheduled for the Racewall takes place on Sunday, but this year it is a meeting with a difference.
Whilst part of the format will be the same, open to all new drivers to the sport it is also open to the white grade drivers but the main attraction will be a legends 2 litre National saloon meeting where drivers from the past are taking part in three races in aid of the Joan Purdie Cancer Appeal.
The gates are opening around noon and the racing starts at 1.30pm
It has certainly caught the imagination and at this stage booked into race are Diggy Smith John Halifax and Georgie Boult Snr from south of the Border whilst Ronnie Wright and Winston Weir are heading over from Northern Ireland.
However it is the Scottish line up which is attracting the most interest and is headed by multi championship winner Harry Burgoyne and even in a meeting such as this Harry will not be taking things easy.
Other Scots booked in are Stuart Shevill Snr, Kenny Purdie, David Archer, Gordon Alexander, Bill Auld, Brian Irvine, Bill Barrack, Jock Maxwell, Mike Robertson (Loanhead) and Jim Honeyman. Rumoured to be racing, but not as yet booked in, is Bob Jones another multi championship winner plus one or two more drivers who have as yet not confirmed their booking.
Burgoyne won his world Championships in 1994 and 98 whilst Smith won his in 1997 and 2000. Halifax won back to back titles in 1995 and 6. However if Jones does appear then he was the first to successfully defend his title and that was in 1986 and 87.
There have been plenty of “wild encounters” between the Scottish and English drivers, I am not so sure that the drivers will be going all out to win but rest assured the drivers will be looking to win.
Shevill Snr, Purdie, Alexander, Maxwell, Robertson and Burgoyne are saloon drivers who are not willing to give an inch and whilst they are now a bit older once they get behind the wheel of a saloon the red mist is going to descend especially if there is an English car ahead of them.
To start the meeting there is going to be a bit of nostalgia with an MG Magnette painted in the livery of “Diesel Jock” Robertson being driven around the track by Gordon Brown. Robertson and Brown were but two of the drivers who used this type of car and were doing so until late on in the 70s. Brown went on to become the first Scottish driver to win the World saloon Championship in 1983 but by that time he was racing an Escort.
There will be an admission fee for the practice meetings with all the proceeds going to the Joan Purdie Cancer Appeal.
The saloons look as if they are heading for another cracking and exciting year with bigger fields than usual and hopefully a few visiting drivers thrown in for good measure.
There is a lot of talk about drivers returning to the scene and we know that James Strath, Derek Duff, Chrissy Mack (Musselburgh) and Stevie Honeyman are scheduled to reappear, hopefully at the start to the season. Robin Copland only managed one race last year but he has intimated that he will be in action on a more regular basis.
There is also talk that James and Kevin Letford and Callum McIvor will be joining the saloon ranks and if this indeed the case then there are going to be very healthy saloon fields. Barry Glen has a brand new Grief built car which attracted a lot of attention at the Motor Show down at Birmingham and there is talk that Stuart Shevill Jnr will have a new car at his disposal.
Whilst the season commences at King’s Lynn with the Luke Grief Memorial meeting most of the saloon drivers will be looking towards the World Final at Skegness. It is imperative that the drivers who have a hankering to win he World Championship score well in the track points championships and attend all the major title races where they score World Ranking points which when added to their present tally will hopefully send them up the table and result in a better grid place for the final.
In April the first round of the Celtic Challenge takes place at Nutts Corner and this series of meetings is open to Scottish and Irish drivers only. The final format is still to be finalised.
On the 23 the English drivers contest their English Championship at King’s Lynn and then the following week it’s the second round of the Celtic Challenge at Cowdenbeath.
On the 14/ 15 May the saloon drivers will be heading to the Racewall for the British Championship.
Lee Sampson is the defending champion winning the title at Taunton last year, whilst Stuart Shevill Jnr won it at the Racewall. Incidentally Sampson was the defending champion that year.
Previous Scottish winners of this title are Gordon Alexander in 1997 and 2009, Luke Grief 2008, Shevill Jnr in 2006 whilst Harry Burgoyne won the title in 1993, ;95 and in 2000.
Will it be another Scottish name on the trophy this year?
The drivers then head to Nutts Corner in Northern Ireland for the Irish Masters then the following day for the Irish open on the 21/22 May. There is always plenty of action and incidents over this weekend.
The European Championship is staged at Taunton over the weekend of the 18/19 June where local driver Eddie Darby will defend having won the title at Cowdenbeath last year. The Scots don’t have a good record in this championship with Kenny Purdie the last to win it and that was back in 2005! Hopefully things will change this year.
The National Championship is held at Mildenhall over the weekend of the 23/24 July and then round 3 of the Celtic Challenge is at Cowdenbeath on the 30th.
14 August sees the Scottish drivers heading over to Northern Ireland for round 4 of the Celtic Challenge and then everyone’s attentions are focused on the World Final at Skegness on the 17 September.
Simon Welton is the defending champion and again the Scottish drivers will be hoping for a good result. Whilst Stuart Shevill Jnr won the title back in 2014 you have to go way back to 1998 when Harry Burgoyne became the World Champion.
The last month of the season looks to be a hectic one with the final of the Celtic Challenge at Cowdenbeath on 1st October, the Scottish on the 8th when Luke Grief will be out to defend his title and then the final of the white/yellow challenge the following week.
As usual the season comes to end with a championship and World ranking points meeting when Superbowl XXVIII is up for grabs whilst on the Sunday the Gordon Barclay memorial trophy has to be decided. Last year the season ended on a high for the home drivers with Paul Honeyman winning the Superbowl and then Stevie Honeyman won the Gordon Barclay and the Dash for the Cash.
What a season lies ahead for the 2 Litre National Saloon drivers and hopefully at the end of it quite a few titles residing north of the border.