GMP is pleased to announce that the long awaited return of stock car racing to the Cowdenbeath Racewall will start on Saturday September 19, writes our Racewall reporter Jim Turner who also looks back at one of Harry Burgoyne's great successes more than 20 years ago.

At this stage the race format for this meeting and the remainder of the season is under review.

This follows a recent announcement from the Scottish Government that sports stadia will be able to open with a limited capacity and have enhanced safety measures in place. Remember also social distancing must be adhered to!

There is another planned practice session on this Saturday, the week before the racing gets going and again drivers are requested to book in for this event.

Look for announcements on the GMP website regarding race format, spectator capacity and booking in arrangements.

Again going back – this time to 1998 do you remember the Saloon World Final in August 1998 when GMP staged it at the Cowdenbeath Racewall? It turned out to be an exciting race with the fans lifting the roof when Harry Burgoyne came through to win.

The Saloon World Championship has always been a very special race and has had various set ups ranging from drawn out of a hat for seeded drivers from various tracks with the remainder of the grid open to drivers who wished to qualify on the Saturday night.

Now drivers race at specified meeting where they gain World Ranking points with the top twenty four drivers seeded into the World Final with the grid decided on the points they have scored over the year. There are usually another six places available at the back of the grid for those not in the top twenty four and that can be quite an exciting race.

Back to 1998 though and Saloon races were very much a Scotland v England affair and there was usually quite a bit of team racing involved. It was not uncommon to see a car a lap down trying to delay the leader to allow one of his fellow countrymen to close the gap. If it was a visiting driver holding up a home driver you could hear and almost feel the wrath of the fans over the engine noise! Partisan to say the least!

The Racewall staged a three day meeting and after an amazing extravaganza of non-stop action it just proved that there is no place better than to stage a Championship than at Cowdenbeath!

There was plenty of action on the Friday evening and on Saturday the cars continued in the same vein with Alan Stirling winning the last chance qualifying race.

On the Sunday the pits were buzzing and the fans were flocking to the stadium in their droves where drivers were making last minute checks to their cars.

After a few preliminary races the crowd hushed as it came the time for the World Final. The drivers emerged on their parade lap to be welcomed by a crescendo of noise from the fans with the decibels rising even more when a Scottish driver appeared. Each driver received a memento to mark the occasion and then moved around to their grid position.

The front row was shared between Diggy Smith, who won the World at the Racewall in 2019, and Gordon Alexander with Willie Barnes and Nick Houghton behind. Harry Burgoyne (Kincardine) was on row 5 whilst directly behind him were Kenny Purdie and Neil Williamson.

Harry had been caught up in a shunt some weeks prior and was still troubled by rib and a foot problem but there was no way that was that going to stop him from racing!

After the grid was formed to a big cheer the cars set off on their warm up lap and when the green flag dropped Smith was the first to show with Alexander dropping back as Barnes moved into second. Bob Jones was squeezed wide and into a marker tyre. Mark McKinstry was struggling whilst Mark Mills, who spun Pete Shaw, was then collected by the charging pack. The race was suspended and the grid reformed as the track was cleared and to check that the drivers were alright!

On the restart Smith again led but as Alexander headed for the inside line he was punted into the wall by Barnes. This let Phil Morgan move into second but it the race was soon to be suspended again after Kev Gooding was shunted into the wall and collected by the cars that were running in close order.

The inside of the grid was almost intact but the outside line had suffered badly promoting Mark Whybra, Harry Burgoyne and Kenny Purdie into the top three, which proved to be a bonus to a couple of the home drivers.

When the race restarted Smith again led from Barnes and Morgan with Burgoyne in fourth but by then Russ Williams’ car shed a wheel after being involved with Jock Maxwell and Lindsay Wilson, and the race was suspended again. Barnes had been sent spinning by Burgoyne but it was deemed just after the race suspension and he was allowed back into second place.

On the restart Burgoyne lost ground as he experienced problems getting rid of Barnes but there after a couple of laps there was another stoppage after David Aldous’ car shed a wheel.

After a false start Smith was again the leader but Neil Williamson, who had benefitted by the action and had moved into second, made his bid for the lead edging Smith wide on the pit bend. Smith recovered but on the turnstile bend was sent crashing out by Burgoyne.

Williamson was then sent wide on the pit bend allowing Burgoyne to take over the lead spot as Whybra sent Morgan spinning on the back straight. Barnes, who was now a back marker, was just ahead of Burgoyne and seemed intent on spoiling Burgoyne’s race. Williamson began to close; Purdie was now third but being caught by Wilson with the Scots filling the top four places.

There was a gasp from the crowd as the spun Barnes did a three point turn in the lay-by and restarted in front of the leader with three laps to run but then retired before Burgoyne caught him. It looked as if Burgoyne was on his way to win when he drifted wide and clipped the wall with the rear of the car.

Williamson closed right up but then Burgoyne managed to ease away slightly to open up a small gap. The expected Williamson’s lunge didn’t really materialise and with hand out of the window Burgoyne went through to win from Williamson and Lindsay Wilson, as the crowd lifted the stand roof.

Harry jumped onto the roof of his car in celebration and danced a jig of delight before he was mobbed by his family and well wishers. There were wild scenes as he received his trophy and then holding it aloft. He then had enough time to throw his helmet into the air and somehow it managed to bounce off my head as I moved to take more photographs!

The home crowd was ecstatic as the three Scottish drivers headed onto the pace car before starting a rowdy victory lap.