DO you remember the 1997 Scottish Championship at the Cowdenbeath Racewall? It turned out to be a cliff hanger with Fifer Lindsay Wilson earning the right to race with the saltire on the car’s roof!, writes our Racewall scribe Jim Turner

Do you remember the 1997 Scottish Saloon Championship at the Cowdenbeath Racewall and its winner? A certain Lindsay Wilson, from Comrie, does with pride after leading, then losing out to Harry Burgoyne but then taking advantage when the latter’s gearbox packed up within sight of the chequer flag.

That year the Saloon Scottish Championship turned out to be one of the better ones and treated the fans to some exciting racing with the lead swapping hands quite often. There was hard luck and joyous shouts at the end of the race and as usual with these championship races the crowd played its part in bringing an electrifying atmosphere as the race unfurled.

Lindsay Wilson, with a sterling drive went on to a late win and earned the right to display the Saltire on the roof of his car for a year.

“I was racing a Sierra, one of the few to do so, but had built it around the “Shovit” chassis that was so popular. The car had been going well and it worked well for me. The car was reliable and I was on form and had picked up a lot of good results. The week before the Scottish I had checked the car over but had not replaced anything. If the car is going alright, leave it alone was my motto.

“When we arrived at the track there was the usual buzz that was associated to a 90s Saloon meeting, especially a big one. We all wanted to win the Scottish and with the likes of Harry and Ernie Burgoyne and Gordon Alexander racing you knew it would be a show and a very hard race. In these days the draw was in graded order.”

There were 30 cars on the grid and included the return of Barry Jones who was using the car of Jock Maxwell. Jim Bell appeared in the ex-Leask car whilst David Ross was having his first outing of the season, his first in over a year - and it was the Scottish!

“I can’t remember exactly where I was on the grid but I knew that I had to survive the early laps and if you got to the half distance unscathed then you were in with a chance.”

As is usual the drivers who had qualified for the Scottish lined up at the front of the grid whilst those who hadn’t were at the back. However, all those who raced picked up World Championship qualifying points.

When the flag dropped Bell was the first to show but his time at the front didn’t last long before the action happened. Willie Campbell was spun and hit a marker tyre whilst Ray McManus was spun before being collected by a few cars that were running in close order. The race was suspended to clear the track and already six cars were on the sidelines.

“At the first stoppage I had missed the shunt and my car was running alright.”

Bell again led the field away with Neil Williamson and Paul Ford coming together with the latter having to retire. On the next lap Steven Clark took over at the front of the pack leading from Derek Taylor with Raymond Gunn not that far adrift but had Lindsay Wilson reeling him in.

Bell drifted wide with Kenny Purdie retiring with a broken drive shaft, and just managed to limp into retirement. Gunn moved into second, Ross spun whilst Sandy Allen was forced wide and into the wall

“It was heart in the mouth time when I took the lead, the adrenalin was pumping and I was beginning to think that a win could be on the cards. Then the yellow flags appeared...!

"I had Harry then Ernie Burgoyne behind me. I thought my chances of a win were gone and was thinking that a third would be a good result. I had built my own engine but it wasn’t as powerful as those of the Burgoyne’s.”

The cars lined up behind Wilson who now had Harry Burgoyne, Graham Leask, Ernie Burgoyne and Gordon Alexander next in line. When the race started Leask was sent straight on into the wall and had to retire as Ernie Burgoyne moved into third place. Wilson came under pressure from Harry Burgoyne although it took him a couple of laps before the lead changed hands. Just after the half distance Ernie Burgoyne sent Wilson wide and down into third making it a Burgoyne 1-2.

“The race hadn’t long restarted when I was shunted wide and lost the lead and then Ernie moved me over and by the time I got back onto the racing line I was third. My car was still good so I just hung in there hoping that the two ahead would start dicing and I could close the gap.”

Ernie began to close the gap to his brother Harry and soon they were nose to tail with the latter having to withstand a few hard challenges but managed each time to hold onto the lead. Whilst they were fighting for the lead Wilson was able make up ground and began to close the gap. With the laps beginning to dwindle the leading duo began to encounter back markers and this allowed the lead to change hands but only momentarily. Harry responded by clipping the tail of Ernie’s car to send him wide and he nipped through to retake the lead. Wilson also benefitted from the action ahead and he eased his way through into second spot as Ernie struggled to regain control.

“I had been able to close as the Burgoyne brothers scrapped over the lead and when Ernie was sent wide I moved into second place and was not that far behind Harry.”

Alexander, who was still in fourth place, retired from the fray during the closing stages of the race and it looked as if the 68 car was heading to victory. Suddenly Harry encountered gearbox troubles on the turnstile bend and in a flash Wilson dived through to lead. Once there he eased away before charging through to take the chequered flag and his first and only Scottish Championship with his Sierra. Ernie got ahead of a coasting Harry Burgoyne to pick up the runners up spot finishing ahead Harry with Bob Jones in fourth place ahead of Williamson, Alex Taylor, Barry Jones and John Baird.

“When I saw Harry slowing it dawned on me that he had a problem. I caught him quickly and had to make a quick decision which way to pass him. In the end I chose to hit him on the side and sent him wide. Ernie clipped the back of me and I was able to break free. It was just a case of getting to the finish line. When the chequer dropped I was over the moon.

"In these days there was no one better to beat than the Burgoynes. It was an absolute fantastic feeling to have won the Scottish Championship and the grin on my face must have said it all. I think I grinned even more when I received the trophy and took the applause on the victory lap. It certainly was a night I will always remember!"