“In sport we can show empathy”
The events in Brussels last week were truly appalling. The murder of innocent people going about their daily business was a stark reminder of the troubled age in which we live.
I consider myself fortunate to have come to know some Belgian folk through motorsport. Without exception, they are good and decent people with a fine sense of humour and a deep passion for our shared sport. I know that one or two of them were very close to last week’s bombings.
International politics and security issues should have no place in our sport, but through sport we can show empathy and support for those more closely touched by these dreadful acts.
On a personal level, some of my best motorsport memories stem from Belgium. From historic racing at the peerless SpaFrancorchamps to the snow and ice of the incredible Boucles Rally and historic rallying in Flanders, I’ve had some great times in Belgium. And I will continue to do so. Frites and mayo waiting for the historic crews to arrive as the sun set over the service park in Roeselare is a special memory.
It has been regularly said by informed commentators that we should not allow the terrorists to change our lives. We should carry on doing what we do and enjoy the things we choose to do with our spare time. For an awful lot of Belgians, that means rallying. I well remember the incredible atmosphere at the bridge at Stoumont as night fell on the Boucles de Spa and a huge crowd, fuelled by crates of Jupiler, watched the action. Noisy, enthusiastic and good natured; these were people enjoying their sport.
Many British rally crews, including a strong contingent of historics, do a lot of rallying in Belgium. For anyone based in the south east, it is an easier journey than Wales. I sincerely hope that they will continue to head into Belgian for closed-road rallying.
To do anything else would be to allow the terrorists to realise their twisted ambitions.
In less than a month, the new R.A.C. Historic Asphalt Championship will have its second round in Belgium on Rally Salamandre, south of Charleroi and close to the French border. The event has drawn a fabulous entry from both sides of the channel and will be a glorious advert for historic asphalt rallying.
The organisers have bent over backwards to accommodate UK crews in the past. It will be a brilliant rally and the perfect way to demonstrate support for the people of Belgium at a dark time in the country’s history.
James How maintained a perfect score in the South Western Road Rally Championship when he followed up his win on round one, the festival, with victory on The Devil’s Tour. On this occasion he was partnered by Ross Whittock, who managed to end his winless streak on the event.
The pair had only been in 10th place after the nine rain-soaked afternoon tests. They moved to sixth following the short Jogularity section that opened the night leg. However, as everyone knew, the event would be decided on the third part of the rally, the run over infamous tracks of Salisbury Plain.
So it proved. The winners stormed through the plain and emerged with a winning margin of over half a minute. Phil Harris/ Liam Burns, who had been in the top four all day, took the runner-up spot, but had Gavin Rogers/carrie Rogers three seconds behind.
Simon Heywood steered his Honda Civic to fourth, while Kevin Willis rounded out the top five in the plucky Peugeot 206.
Tim Owen/jake Ramsden went out when they hit a tree on their second visit to Keevil in the afternoon.
Belgium is a hotbed for historic rallying