Motor sport has some really awesome trophies. The winner of the Indy 500 gets the Borg Warner Trophy, a garish monstrosity nearly as high as – and much less dignified than – Allan McNish. When I was a student, my fellow Edinburgh Motor Sport Club members and I used to battle it out for such delights as the David Hale Memorial Trophy (a scale racing helmet on a solid silver base), the Wooden Spoon (a two-foot long wooden spoon), and a mysterious steel tankard by the name of Ken’s Third Mug.
But in my view, the event with some of the best trophies of all is the RSAC Scottish Rally. For instance, every year, the rally’s unsung hero receives the Pentti Airikkala Trophy, which started out life as the trophy intended for the winning driver of the 1990 ‘national’ rally. Finnish world championship-level driver Airikkala was fastest through the stages that year by a considerable margin but refused to accept the trophy on the grounds that he was essentially testing a high-powered prototype car for Ford, instead requesting that the trophy be given annually to a member of the organising committee who had gone beyond the call of duty ‘behind the scenes’ to make the event run. The Scotsman Trophy, awarded annually to the top-ranking female driver, is perhaps best known of all among the Scottish rally community on account of its shape, about which I shall say no more here in the interests of common decency.
It was thus with much delight that at the end of this year’s Scottish, I was asked to convey to Motoharu Kaseya and Kohei Izuno that they had been designated as the recipients of the 2013 Star of the Rally Award. The Japanese crew, for whom I had been coordinating media activities and interpreting all weekend long, had tackled the Dumfries and Galloway forest stages with good humour in the EuroRallye – K’s World Rally Team Honda Civic Type R, endearing themselves to officials, spectators and fellow competitors alike along the way. Taking into account that they had crossed continents, oceans and language barriers just to take part in the rally, Motoharu and Kohei’s solid drive to the finish was deemed the star performance of the day.
What I was most delighted about was the fact the K’s team would have their names engraved on one of the historical trophies I was talking about above. For in addition to the two shiny silver stars they received to take back to Narita Airport in their suitcases, Kaseya-san and Izuno-san would have their names permanently etched into the silver of the Bandeath Trophy. At the time of presentation, I didn’t know much about the provenance of this trophy, other than that due to its slight patina and gently battered nature it must have been a few years old. That fact alone was enough to make the entire Japanese contingent grin from ear to ear – niyaniya suru – photos of the team with the trophy appearing on all sorts of blogs and websites over the following days and weeks.
When I got back to the hotel that evening, I endeavoured to find out a bit more about the Bandeath Trophy in order to add a bit of colour to the press release. Onto Google I went, and was immediately confronted with a number of anti-capital punishment American websites. ‘Did you mean Ban Death?’ Google asked me in a somewhat patronising tone. ‘No I did not’, I answered sharply to the monitor as I repeated my search, this time placing quotation marks around the words.
This yielded a slightly better piece of information. It turned out that in 2011, the Bandeath Trophy had been awarded to the Armed Forces Rally Team, the heroes of land, sea and air who keep the crowds entertained year on year with physics-defying feats in their fleet of white Land Rovers. Given how excited Team Principal Kazuya Suzuki had been when he saw the Land Rovers flying through the stages earlier that day, this was rather poignant. Still, it didn’t tell the whole story of where the award came from, so out went the press release stating simply that the Scottish officials had given the pair the historic Star of the Rally Award. I shut down the laptop and flaked out in bed.
I may have collapsed with exhaustion, but despite having spent the best part of a week running an international rally, Clerk of the Course Jonathan Lord was still going strong right the way through Saturday night. I know this because when I turned my computer back on the next morning, an email from Jonathan – time-stamped with some ungodly hour – was waiting for me in my inbox. Not only was Jonathan conscious of my message coming in, he was also alert enough at 2am on Sunday to write me a potted history of the Bandeath Trophy.
The Bandeath Trophy was presented to the RSAC Scottish Rally by Jonathan’s late father Gordon Lord in 1977, to be awarded annually to the Star of the Rally. It was named after the Royal Naval Armament Depot Bandeath, a munitions store on the banks of the River Forth to the east of Stirling of which Gordon Lord was Officer in Charge. The name ‘Bandeath’ also refers to Bandeath Lodge, the house in which the Lord family lived.
Whilst the Bandeath Trophy itself stays with RSAC Motorsport, the winners each year are given an additional award to keep. Kaseya-san and Izuno-san apparently struggled to fit their personal Star of the Rally trophies, two big silver stars on plinths, into their suitcase. They may therefore be grateful to know they did not receive the rally’s more traditional Star of the Rally prize –sheepskin rugs. Two sheepskin rugs were traditionally provided by Jonathan’s parents for the winning crew, but with these kind of rugs going out of fashion in recent years it was decided to furnish the winners with trophies instead. I dread to imagine the scenes in the hotel room if a sheepskin rug had to be squeezed into the suitcase alongside a race suit, helmet and HANS device.
The next weekend, I found myself hit with a pang of disappointment whilst watching the conclusion of the German Grand Prix. For what Messrs Vettel, Raikkonen and Grosjean received for succeeding in one of Europe’s historic motor races were three copies of the Santander banking group logo bolted on to a bit of wood. Follow in the footsteps of Nuvolari, Rosemeyer and Fangio, and get a portable advertisement for financial services you don’t need. Sheepksin rugs for the Stars of the Scottish Rally, though. Now there’s a real touch of class.
Before the K’s World Rally Team came to Scotland, I told them that previous winners of the Scottish included Vatanen, Mikkola and McRae. Whilst the Scottish – and the whole rallying world – has changed drastically since those days, it was wonderful to see that Motoharu Kaseya and Kohei Izuno were able to return to Japan having added their own tiny footnote to the long and illustrious history of the RSAC Scottish Rally.