This year’s Jim Clark Rally is set to venture further afield than ever before as plans have been revealed for it to head west into the central Borders.
The event, held in honour of Fife-born racing driver Clark, took place annually on closed roads in Berwickshire and at Kelso from 1996 to 2014, but tragedy struck six years ago when three spectators died after being hit by a rally car near Swinton.
That led to the event, estimated to generate £2.5m a time for the Borders economy, being cancelled for the following four years to allow action to be taken to ensure there was no repeat of those fatalities.
It made a comeback, in scaled-back form, in Berwickshire last November after that five-year hiatus, and now its organiser, the Jim Clark Memorial Motor Club, is planning a repeat on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, May 30 and May 31, with the intention of going further west than previously, into Cheviot and Eildon.
The proposed first stage is around Westruther, the second stage is from Redpath to Scott’s View and Clintmains, with stage three at Eccles, followed by a repeat of the Westruther and Scott’s View stages and onto Eccles and two further stages at Longformacus.
Sunday’s racing will be at Edrom, Ayton and Whitsome.
It is also intended to stage a trial run for competitors on Friday, May 29, south of Mellerstain Mill, near Smailholm.
In an effort to ensure this year’s event goes off without any hitches, Scottish Borders Council is carrying out an online consultation process accessible at scotborders.citizenspace.com
The rally’s organisers will also be contacting residents of the routes being lined up directly by visiting their homesand arranging letter-drops.
They say they will also consult and inform all the community councils affected by meeting them face to face.
On top of that, they will provide pre-event information on the status of the rally and on-the-day information through their website and social media outlets, as well as operating a helpline.
At a meeting of the council’s executive committee today, January 21, members agreed to launch a consultation process and prepare reports for the three area partnerships covering routes the rally is scheduled to pass through.
Mid-Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley welcomed the consultation process and the decision to extend its economic benefits further outwith Berwickshire, saying: “I welcome this high level of detailed information being put in the public domain.
“It was widely acknowledged that last year’s rally was organised professionally and with more rigorous methods adopted.
“There was a problem with parking, but that was flagged up on social media channels.”
Galashiels councillor Euan Jardine reminded fellow councillors that the event coincided with the TweedLove Bike Festival being staged the same weekend, adding: “The rally is a major sporting event that brings with it significant economic benefits.
“It coincides with the 10th annual TweedLove in what promises to be a great weekend for the Borders.”