Getting my first byline in Motoring News was a very big deal for me. Arguably, getting my first mention at the bottom of Rally News… was even bigger. For those of a certain age, the Patterson’s Rally News… bulletins were a lifeline for anybody hoping to stay ahead of what was going on in a rally.
And right at the heart of that operation was Brian Patterson. Brian sadly passed away at the weekend. In the words of his son Davy: “Cancer took a hold and wouldn’t let go.”
Brian knew rallies. Having competed as a driver at a high level in Ireland – see above that press-on style in a three-liter Capri on the Caragh Lake stage of the 1977 Circuit – he carried that knowledge forward into a business made great alongside his wife Liz.
Brian and Liz were cornerstones of the British and Irish rallying scene. As well as being the only source of news for fans out on the stages, BP knew those stages intimately, having completed a recce to make the route notes generations of drivers and co-drivers grew up on.
Brian turned note-making into an art form and brought light to what was once a dark art.
Out walking the dog each morning, he would test himself in estimating distances and gradients. He was always right. His notes were never wrong.
The Patterson work ethic was quite astonishing. For decades, Brian and Liz were never off the road, going from event to event to event weekend after weekend, up and down Ireland and across Britain. That constant contact with the sport ensured BP remained very firmly in the loop. Much of the time off the record, but very firmly in the loop.
On the record, his writing was sensational. His ability to bring a scene to life, to paint a picture with his words, superb. A bumpy road didn’t get bumpier, it turned ‘fierce bumpy.’ Brilliant.
Brian’s relationship with co-drivers was exceptional. He was one of them. And his time behind the wheel ensured he engendered the same relationship from the other side of the car. And that connection was as strong at the very bottom as it was right to the top of the World Rally Championship.
Once a year, Carlos Sainz, Juha Kankkunen and the rest would arrive in Britain for the RAC and, to a man, BP was remembered, respected and given the time he needed to tell their story.
It was a genuine privilege to be taken under the collected wing of Brian and Liz when I landed in Ireland for the first time in the late 90’s. They saw it as their duty to guide the Motoring News junior reporter through the finer points of Irish rallying. But the best of the best was saved until the evening. The table went off the record and the real stories started. And they were just genius.
It was late on Sunday when news of Brian’s passing arrived in Alba. Standing with Craig Breen, neither of us could take in what we’d just heard.
“Brian was the centrt point of my father’s [Ray Breen] rallying career,” said the Hyundai driver. “There really was no other way to stay up-to-date on an event.
“Brian and Liz would drive into a place with the bulletins stashed underneath the wipers on the windscreen and everybody would just descend on the car to find out what was going on. It’s incredibly sad. The whole Patterson family has been and still is synonymous with rallying. Brian will be very, very badly missed.”
I consider myself fortunate to have spent a while working with Brian. Not only was he one of the hardest-working fellas I ever met, he was also one of the smartest; I don’t think I ever saw him without a collar and tie beneath a dapper v-neck sweater.
There are no words for the loss Liz and sons, Michael, Chris, Davy and Jody are suffering right now. But if ever there’s been a time for this great community of ours to wrap its arms around family Patterson, it’s now in what’s already been a tragic 2020 for them.
It seems like just yesterday I was hammering a tired MN hire car across a corner of Ireland, desperately trying to keep up with the big red wagon. The Mercedes estate – fully loaded with kit, a photocopier and reams of paper – spent much of its time on its door-handles, cigarette butts being fired regularly from both side windows as news was pursued.
As well as being 50% of one of rallying’s most recognizable partnerships, Brian was a true gent who will, as Breen said, be very badly missed.
My heart goes out to Liz, Michael, Chris, Davy and Jody and the many, many friends BP had right around the world. Rest easy, BP.