The rock, the rally and the buzz of the biz

DirtFish rallies editor Jon Scoltock enjoyed his first taste of Rally Portugal


Scotland’s greatest export? You might be thinking whisky. But Villa Pouca doesn’t do a good single malt. It does McRae’s rock.

Raised in Lanark and enjoyed the world over, but especially in Portugal. It’s Colin McRae. The rock is a towering tribute to the 1995 world champion. It dominates the vista, the Saltire proudly emblazoned with the words “McRae’s land.” History hangs heavy in the air, you can almost hear the cheers of the fans floating on the wind. This was a moment to take off the journalism cap and just soak it all in.

I’m Jon Scoltock, DirtFish’s new rallies editor.

While I’ve been to plenty of rallies over the years, Portugal was the first time in a decade I’ve been to one with a media pass around my neck. Biggest moment of my journalistic career? I should say so.

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Fafe was rocking on the Sunday of Rally Portugal, but there was time for a trip down memory lane before the rally got underway

Back to Fafe. With Wednesday’s recce interviews wrapped up we headed for the hills for my first taste of an event from the DirtFish Media perspective.

Portugal is up there with Monte Carlo and Finland when it comes to history and, of all the stages that make up this legendary rally, Fafe is the one with fever by the bucketload. Heading north-east from the small town of Ruivães, we took our own pilgrimage through this mighty stage to capture some of its most iconic locations on film.

Passing the tree stump that ended Kris Meeke’s rally in 2019, seeing the landscape change as the eucalyptus trees are gradually replaced by enormous rocks, it isn’t long before we’ve passed through Villa Pouca and are approaching the rock.

What a place. Our journey continued until we reached the famous Fafe jump itself. Such is the draw of this spot; spectators were already setting up camp as we passed through, just the four days before the rally cars arrived.

We didn’t just want footage however. We wanted to understand exactly what makes Fafe so special. For that, we needed people that knew all about it. How about Michèle Mouton and Andrea Adamo? That will do nicely.

One of the more nerve-wracking moments of the weekend came when DirtFish head of video  Eliot Barnard thrust a microphone into my hand and told me it was time to record my first end of day review video with Colin [Clark]. It was a lot of fun. I started in this business as a writer, but I love the additional freedom of expression that video brings.

It was then time for another first, seeing a Rally1 car at full chat through the Figueira da Foz super special. I’m going to be honest and admit I’m not a huge fan of the spaceframe concept that underpins the current regulations, but there is no denying these cars are deeply impressive machines, and the sport is as spectacular as it has ever been.

Friday was an early start, heading south of Porto to get stuck into what I believe is some of the best content DirtFish produces, the morning interviews. Watching as the drivers complete their pre-stage rituals, as co-drivers check tire pressures and have one last glance at their pacenotes is fascinating for me. It helps to build a real sense of anticipation for what’s to come.

There was more filming later that day, when Elfyn Evans ran into trouble on the second pass of the Góis stage. The Toyota driver struggled all weekend but Scott Martin misplacing his pacenotes and a puncture all within a few miles was far from ideal.

On an unusually quiet Friday, this was one for us. We tracked the Toyota crew and caught them working on the car and generally gathering their thoughts after a tough stage. Being back in the thick of the action reminded me how much I love the buzz of this sport and this job.


Does any other motorsport allow the fans to get closer to the action? Jon Scoltock doesn't think so

Saturday and Sunday were based out of the media center for me, time with all three team principals was as insightful as it was intriguing.

Trying to think of a favorite moment from the rally seems impossible, but my overriding memory is of the connection between the fans and competitors. You just don’t get that level of access in any other motorsport. It’s what makes rallying so unique.

As part of the DirtFish team, bringing you more of that is very much part of my remit. The human stories are part of what make sport so thrilling, and I’m sure there’s space to share so much more of that in our sport.

There it is, my first event done. I’m already looking forward to the next one.