Obituary: Jimmy Girvan 29 | 09 | 2010

    DOUBLE SCOTTISH RALLY champion Jimmy Girvan, who was killed when his Subaru Impreza crashed into trees during the second stage — Griffin, east of Aberfeldy — of the Colin McRae Stages Rally on Saturday, September 25, was one of Scotland's most ebullient, smiley and simply likeable guys.

    Never one to see life's occasional hiccups and challenges as a glass half-empty, the North Kessock-based driver preferred to view the present and the future from a perspective of a glass brim full to overflowing. Jimmy was a delight and a pleasure to be around and his youthful, almost ever-present grin ensured those in his company suddenly saw their lives in a different light.

    That he should die in the final round of the 2010 Hankook Scottish Rally Championship bearing the name of his friend, former world rally champion Colin McRae, is unnerving. I remember speaking with Jimmy after McRae himself was killed in a helicopter crash just over three years ago. His words, always honest and stripped of any sense of clutter, ring true again now.

    "We live in world where we never know what lies ahead," Jimmy said back in September 2007 on the eve of the emotionally charged Colin McRae Stages Rally. "If we're honest, we know everytime we strap ourselves into a rally car we're entering a world of uncertainty and the unknown. All we can do is put our faith in our ability and good fortune to ensure we reach the end of the stage.

    "Life can be over in a split second. We all know it, everyone who competes in rallying and motorsport knows it, but we never allow ourselves to think about it. We do what we do knowing the risks and dangers, but we do it simply because we love it."

    There is no doubt Jimmy loved his rallying; but he loved his family even more. His wife Fiona, and daughter Caitlin, were his first loves. But they too knew of the delight he took from hurtling through Scotland's forests in his rally car.

    Jimmy — who grew up on a farm at Glenmoriston and ran a petrol station at Fort Augustus with his brother Wilson — was crowned Scottish champion for the first time in 1990, but the success could easily have come 12 months earlier when. Entering the final stage of the final round in the Trossachs, Jimmy was on course to lift the title when his Toyota Celica GT4 punctured a tyre. The problem cost him 30-seconds, dropped him to eighth on the event and allowed Andrew Wood to finish second overall and take the championship.

    Fuelled by his burning desire to succeed, Jimmy returned in 1990 in the Celica and co-driven by Campbell Roy — who went on to manage McRae and still steers the Colin McRae Vision Charity — dominated the championship to lift his first title.

    That success came five years after Jimmy had taken the wheel of the Weldex Ford Escort RS1800 and made his debut in the Inverness-based Snowman Rally. Seeded 104 in the 117-car entry, and having previously co-driven for his brother Wilson, Jimmy finished 51st; and that was despite going off on Hill of Cairnty and rolling the Escort in Whiteash.

    "The car landed on my side and naturally Jimmy stood on me to get out," co-driver Neil Moir remembered. "We pushed the car back on to its wheels with the help of a couple of spectators and carried on, finishing the rally without a clutch, but he made quite an impression on me that day.”

    The following month Jimmy tackled the Hackle Rally in Perthshire and finished eighth. His natural talent continued to shine and he was 10th on the John Wilson, seventh in Argyll, 19th on the Border Rally, and sixth on both the Autumn Stages and Trossachs rallies.

    Jimmy started 1986 with sixth in the Snowman, having by now commandeered the more powerful Toyota Celica 2200 from big brother Wilson, and rattled off another series of top 10 finishes. He chose to drive a 1600 Toyota Corolla for 1987 but then took some time out before returning with the Celica GT in 1989 in which he so narrowly lost out to Wood in the final rally.

    After his 1990 title, Jimmy notched a number of podium finishes in the English-based Ancro Series before he hung up his helmet to spend time with Fiona — who he had met when he opened a filling station at Fort William — and Caitlin. It was during this time he also built up his successful restaurant business, Girvan's and Riva, in Inverness.

    The lure of the Scottish forest stages though continued to claw at him and he returned to action in 2004 behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Lancer, then finished ninth in the Scottish Championship in 2006 before switching to a Subaru Impreza for 2007.

    Having mastered his Impreza, he and co-driver Kirsty Riddick, from Haugh of Urr, swept all before them in 2008 to take his second Scottish title as the duo took three wins, three seconds and a third.

    At the age of 56, Jimmy still retained a burning desire and it's one which was present on Saturday even before he drove his new TEG Sport Subaru Impreza N15. Having been Scottish Rally Champion in 1990 and 2008, he wanted to achieve a rare hat-trick of titles, this time with co-driver Mike Ramsay from Findhorn, chief executive of Forres-based Scotland Electronics International and who was injured in Saturday's crash.

    "I’ve won the Scottish Championship twice in two decades and the aim is to make it three titles in three decades,” Jimmy said before he left the event's Perth HQ on Saturday morning. “This event, and RallyScotland in October, is a shakedown for next season, but if I don’t win the title next year, I’ll definitely win it in 2012.”

    Fate, of course, has denied Jimmy the chance to realise his ambition, but such was the high degree of natural talent and car control he was blessed with that, allied to his boundless levels of optimism, very few people would have questioned the probability of him capturing his third Scottish Rally Championship.

    Jim McGill

User Comments

Login or register to post comments.