March has arrived and with it not just new lambs in the fields but Met Office weather warnings for SNOW!! Stunning wintery landscapes were to provide the backdrop for the British Rally Championship return to Cumbria. Round 1, the Malcolm Wilson Rally with some classic forests stages await….
I was shooting the rally for my client, Omologato Watches. My brief was to capture the atmosphere and action from around the rally, while including their Red O logo. The weather leading up to the rally, meant this was going to be challenging in the muddy forests. I decided to leave early on Friday morning & drive the 300 miles to Scrutineering at the M-Sport HQ, Cockermouth. Bank some clean logo shots while I had the chance!!!
Here in the UK, the Forestry Commission do not allow studded tyres to be used. Whereas these are permitted on Winter rallies like the Monte Carlo or Rally Sweden in the World Rally Championship. Around Scrutineering I overheard stories that some of the stages were impassable for the rally cars on their recce earlier. ‘Clean’ logos shots safely in the bag, I headed off to do my locations prep for the next morning’s SS1.
The Hobcarton Stage is run through the forest just off the B5292 Whinlatter Pass. A proper winter wonderland greeted me as slithered into the car park. My ‘Apple’ snow gauge indicated 12 cms (almost 5″ in old money) of snow on the track at Stage Arrival.
Pretty sure in my mind that SS1 would be cancelled, I made my way to the hotel for the night. Settled in and awaited the update bulletin from the rally organisers. Over a tasty fish pie and a well earned local beer in The Coledale Inn, I put together Plan B. Before long the news came through, the first 3 stages of the rally had been cancelled due to the depth of snow.
The original rally’s 8 stages had been cut to 5, now only visiting 2 forests. SS1 was now Greystoke. SS2/3 held in Grizedale North and South, followed by Greystoke repeated 2 more times. I decided to go straight to Service in the morning. Hope being the cars wouldn’t have had chance to get too muddy before the tracks thawed out.
As the rally cars were going through SS2 and SS3 in Grizedale Forest, I made my way to Greystoke Forest. In a car park outside the forest tracks, gather all my camera kit together and set off to walk in. I had a good 2 hours to walk into the stage and try out a few locations for SS4. Eventually I decided on a spot near junction 2 that would allow several different images from one location. 6.5 miles, I certainly got my steps in!
While the cars returned to Service, I trudged my way through the trees. Heading to a tight Hairpin Right at junction 7. Ready for SS5, their last run through the forest.
A Malcolm Wilson Rally highlight for me was a chance to see one of the new breed of WRC hybrid rally cars. Built in the M-Sport factory in Cockermouth, a Ford Puma Rally1 in UK forests.
So that’s it, the Malcolm Wilson Rally is done and the BRC is underway. Now we have to wait until the end of May for Round 2. The exciting and very different night-time ‘closed road’ tarmac rallying on the Jim Clark in the Scottish Borders.
Anybody need a photographer ???