THE National Hot Rod World Championship started in 1972 and up and till now has tended to be dominated by drivers from England and Ireland until 2019 when for the first ever time it headed to Scotland, writes our Cowdenbeath Racewall reporter Jim Turner.

It has taken a mere 47 years for it to do so but it wasn’t for the want of trying with the Scottish drivers doing their best to bring the title to Scotland.

After a couple of seasons being pipped at the post for the fastest lap and therefore having to start from the outside of the front row of the grid Armadale’s Robert McDonald finally claimed pole position at Ipswich Raceway this year in his Tigra

“I was around a tenth of a second quicker than David Casey during the times trials with Chris Haird just a shade slower,” he recalled when I spoke with him.

“I was in good company with Haird, a three times World Champion, whilst Casey had been the runner-up on a couple of occasions. I had only a third to my name.

"I couldn’t fault the car in the time trials in any way – it was right on the button. We had worked hard to get the set up of the car to our liking and everything had been checked and double checked.

"I keep the car in the garage at Armadale and my mechanics, Stuart Farrell, Alex Hunter, Robert Gallagher, Rodney Wallace, Isaac Halliday, Scott Watson and Kevin Rist, help but I can always call on Wayne Lee and Matt Simpson for help if need if needed. I have been in the hot rods for around seven seasons and whilst in 2017/18 I chose to qualify for the World through the Scottish series I prefer to race down in England.”

He added: “The travelling is a bit of a problem with Hednesford my nearest track and that is a four and a half hour trip whilst Ipswich takes around seven hours just to get there! Then there is the return journey. "It is not too bad if you win but if you have a lot of damage then it takes forever! You get fed up with the travelling at times!

“In Scotland you can be racing in a field of ten whereas south of the border I can be amongst up to 30 cars. You need the experience where you are constantly racing with other drivers and you are soon in traffic, lapping cars and being able to defend your place whilst working your way through the field.

"It builds up your confidence of being able to do that and win and that is what is needed if you want to win the World.

“I was quite relaxed between the time trials and the World Final although it was the first time I had started from pole. I wasn’t fazed with the situation on race day after all this wasn’t my first World Final and what was going to happen would happen!

“I knew when the race started I would have to fight off Casey and Haird, they had been at the top for a long time but I was relaxed about it. When the hype was over and the race started I went straight into the lead and was running just ahead of Haird. "At the half distance I was still ahead of Haird and decided to change gear but the tyres didn’t seem to like that so after a couple of laps I changed back down. I had to pass a lot of back markers and they generally know you are coming and let you through. "Towards the end I had a small gap over Haird but he was always there for the complete 75 laps! The car was faultless. It never missed a beat the tyres were still good when I crossed the line. Mind you I ruined them doing donuts at the end to celebrate my win!"

Robert reflected: “It didn’t come into my mind that I was the first Scotsman to with the Hot Rod World Final – I could now call myself a World Champion. It was one of the titles I had never won when I raced in the Stock Rods.

“I was invited over to the track in Johannesburg, South Africa to race as a result from Neville Loosemore. It was a great experience. I was provided with a car and after a few changes we went out to practice where I was much quicker than the other drivers. I broke down in the first heat, missed heat two and started the final from the outside of row 2. I ended up in second place in the final. Enjoyed the experience.

“I won the National Championship at Hednesford later in the year and had a race at the Racewall towards the end of the season. The Touring cars were racing at Knockhill that weekend so I was driven around the track by Matt Simpson who has turned into a close friend. I got a good reception from the fans as I showed them my trophy".

On asking how he got into stock car racing he told me: “I started racing in ministox with my cousin John Sibbald and liked it. I won the Scottish Championship in 2000.

"When I was too old for the Minis I moved into the Stock Rods which like the Hot Rods is a non contact form of stock car racing.

“I had a great career in the stock rods and enjoyed my racing although it was only when Tam McGarva started helping me that it really took off. Over that time I won the European Championship in 2010, the 'Scottish' in 2005,6,7,9 and 10, the Nationals in 2006 and 10, the track points in 2006 and 6, raced with the silver roof from 2005 to 2010. During that time I had many a good dice with Chris Lattka.”

He added: “I was over it Tipperary with my Stock Rod for a competition when Ricky Hunn offered me a run in his National Hot Rod. What an experience that was! So fast compared to my Stock Rod.

"We went to Australia in 2011 but were only there for a year. I worked in a gold mine doing 12 hour shifts. My mum became unwell so I had to come home. Unfortunately she passed away and by that time we had a daughter so it was decided that we would stay in Scotland. I must admit I loved every minute when we were in Australia.

“I ended up selling all my Stock Rod cars and spares. I hadn’t intended to go back racing as I was looking to get my garage business up and running. Davy Forrest, of Dechmont Forklift Trucks, stepped in to sponsor me and I ended up getting the ex-Steve Thompson car that Ian McGuigan had been racing in 2012.

“I did three meetings before the World Final that year and decided that if I wanted to get to the top in the Hot Rods then I would have to race in the big fields of cars south of the border. I began to get some good results and in 2015 ended up buying the car that Willie Hardie had been using. That is when I started to be even more competitive and the rest is history".

When I asked about his plans for the 2020 season Robert said: “I am well through the qualifying rounds for the World Final and at this stage I am but eighth in the points. Hopefully by the time the World comes round in July I will be in the top three. "However, without the help from Dechmont Forklift Trucks and PC Paints & Components that car wouldn’t be there and I will never forget what they did for me. I have managed to pick up a lot of good sponsors during my time and amongst them are Simpson Race Exhausts, MST and Alex Hunter Motorsport.

"Without their assistance and the help from my other sponsors I wouldn’t be racing Hot Rods and would never have achieved my dream of becoming World Champion. It is greatly appreciated for their and my mechanics assistance.”