Hassington was never part of ‘The Big Circuit’ when I was growing up. This gruelling five-mile cycle, created by my dad, traversed the lanes north of our house instead.
That often saddened seven-year-old me – and not just because an alternate route would have avoided the never-ending Elwartlaw hill. But because of one modest-looking place that was home to some of the most advanced rally cars in the world.
Dom Buckley Motorsport.
Every time we drove past, I’d nervously look over my shoulder to see if I could catch a glimpse of something. Anything. Often, I wouldn’t. But I knew what was going on inside, and that was enough to make me smile.
To this day, I’m yet to settle that score. It’s almost like hallowed turf that I’m too scared to explore in case it doesn’t meet up to my childhood expectations. But now, 25 years old, it’s first on my to-do-list on my next day off. I owe it to the man that’s suddenly left a gaping hole in our world.
Wednesday November 9, 2022 will forever be remembered as the day rallying lost a legend – and I promise I’m not being parochial in saying that.
Dominic Buckley Snr was a rally winner in his own right. As many British competitors did in the ’70s, he found great comfort and success behind the wheel of a Ford Escort. Buckley was always a formidable force whenever his name appeared on the entry list.
But it’s the work he did helping others on their way to victory that makes his loss so sorely felt.
Throw a dart anywhere on a world map, and Buckley most likely has been there with his rally team. The UK of course, Europe, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Oman, Africa, the Caribbean… he did them all. And he did them all in his ultra-professional and ultra-helpful style.
You need only look at the outpour of emotion from the rallying community when we all received the news yesterday to understand just how much Buckley did for the passion he made his livelihood.
“A more helpful man you’d struggle to meet.”
“A real gent and 100% a rally man.”
“An incredible engineer, he had time for everyone.”
“He built credibility in his business and his driving ability through rallying and autocross and progressed his business to a global status from humble beginnings.”
These are just some of the hundreds of tribute messages posted to a man that didn’t just strive for success for himself, but success for others. A man everyone’s got a story about or learnt a trick or two from. It doesn’t feel hyperbolic to call him a genius.
That’s why it will be impossible for the rallying world to forget Dominic Buckley Snr. Although he was no longer in control, the family business still stands strong today and ran a car to victory as recently as last weekend in the UK. With or without him, the show will go on, but it certainly won’t be the same.
Dom Snr, I regret that I never got to meet you. You’re the one that started it all. To your family, I want to send you my condolences. However much pain or sadness we’re all feeling, we know it’s so much harder for you.
But I trust you’ll find peace in the impact Dom Snr has had and will continue to have. It’s the Jim Clark Rally on my doorstep and the exploits of Colin McRae and Richard Burns on the global stage that brought rallying to me, but Dom Buckley Motorsport was more than just somewhere I longed to visit or cycle past.
This is quite the admission for the internet, but my brother and I would often create make-believe rally championships on computer games, and Dom Buckley Motorsport was one of the teams involved. That’s the regard we held it in, and the real rally world agreed.
I’ll leave the final thoughts to Claire Mole, another Scottish Borders local who’s found global success rallying as a co-driver. Her brief words do Dom Snr far more justice than mine ever could.
“A font of knowledge. A proper gent. A caring friend. A huge hole in our rally family appeared today.
“RIP Dom… and thank you so much.”