First published October 2015.
A MATTER OF TIME – book review by Nigel Raeburn
Mick Briant, three times Motoring News Champion driver, has recently published the third of his trilogy of books about road rallying in the 60s, 70s and early 80s. This third book, ‘A Matter of Time’, is twice the size of each of the earlier books and comes in two large volumes. Totalling about 800 pages and with many hundreds of photographs, it is a magnificent piece of work documenting a period of rallying the like of which will never be repeated. It is printed to a high standard and the quality of the photographs is excellent – and many are now in colour as colour photography advanced during this period.
Mick, assisted by his wife Sue and son Ben, has put in a huge effort to trace all the material – rally reports, results, photographs and especially locating and going round the country gathering reminiscences from many of the key personalities of the time. There are detailed interviews with key people in the world of road rallying such as Stuart Turner, John Brown, David Skeffington, Randal Morgan, Don Barrow and Dave Kirkham. There are also short interviews with many of the drivers and navigators of the period.
The first volume mainly contains the interviews and background articles recreating the atmosphere and excitement of these great night time road rallies – plus extensive collections of photos. There are also pieces in memory of some champions who are no longer with us – Tony Fisher, George Hill and Keith Wood. Lesser known drivers and navigators are not forgotten and many of the photos feature ‘back markers’ without whom these events would not have been viable. There are some good photos of unusual (by today’s standards) rally cars too – an ex-GPO van, a Minivan, Simca 1000, Austin A30 etc.. The organising and marshalling sides are covered too and together with some map copies with routes marked up, route cards, press cuttings and reproductions of other paperwork it makes a superb record of the period.
The second volume focuses on Mick’s own experiences in the years 1976 to 1980, with accounts of many of the rallies he competed in (and often won) in these years. There is also a further selection of interviews with key competitors.
Mick has retained the high standard he set himself with his first two books. The first was ‘Do You Have To Drive Like That?’ which was based around Mick’s rallying in the years 1969 to 1975 which was around 400 pages and the second was ‘If The Lanes Could Talk’ which ran to 560 pages and included extensive pieces about 14 key drivers, organisers and navigators from the 60s, 70s and 80s.
All these books are so large you are unlikely to sit and read them from cover to cover in one go but are more likely to dip into them to savour the images and memories which they evoke so well for anyone who was there at the time or indeed has heard or read about those terrific rallies when the roads were so much quieter and high speed rallying on public roads was accepted by the general public in a way which is inconceivable today. Factories entered works cars and even policemen and royalty took part – it was a different era! Thank you Mick for your magnificent efforts in putting it all down on paper for posterity.