In the latest instalment of the BRC crew features, rallying brothers Steve and Tony Graham are in the spotlight. The team that has come to prominence recently after a switch to diesel power also has a mascot and his story is included. Driver ...
In the latest instalment of the BRC crew features, rallying brothers Steve and Tony Graham are in the spotlight. The team that has come to prominence recently after a switch to diesel power also has a mascot and his story is included.
Driver Stephen Graham
Lives Mere, Cheshire
Car Vauxhall Astra RallyD
Co-driver Tony Graham
Lives Coleorton, Leicestershire
Steve Graham took "life begins" to mean "rallying begins" and only started competing at the tender age of 40.
He is co-driven by his brother, contesting the Bloodhound stages as his first event in 2004. To date he states he has no notable rallying achievements, but despite this claim, has finished Rally GB, was 2nd in class on the Roger Albert Clark Rally in 2005 and achieved his first class win on Rally Yorkshire in 2006.
The pair has contested the RAC Rally every year, winning the class and the Spirit of the Rally award in 2007 for perseverance in the face of many problems, in their Keith Bird Motorsport prepared 1970 Lancia Fulvia.
Steve has successfully rallied a 1400cc Group N MGZR, taking 2nd overall in the MGZR Championship and 3rd overall in the 2006 Stars of the Future series. He moved up to the Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship in 2007, planning to contest the entire season in the Rally 1 class.
By mid way through 2007 he had ensured he had enough points to take the R1 class in the MG and decided a change was in order. He bought a Triple Eight Race Engineering-built Astra RallyD and set about the revived Diesel Cup.
The plan was to contest the Ulster Rally in the new car, then return to the MG for Yorkshire, before attempting the gravel of Rally GB in the Astra again. But the plan changed and despite a minor off in Ireland, he contested all three events, winning the inaugural International Rally Drivers Club (IRDC) Performance Improvement Award in the process. He and brother Tony also lifted the BRC Privateer title in 2007, adding to their haul at the awards ceremony in January this year.
Steve's chances of Diesel Cup Victory were hampered by an off on the last stage in Yorkshire. However he was rescued by his main rival Fin McCaul, who stopped to tow him on the road section back to the service area. This was after Steve and Tony had earlier stopped to try the same thing for another competitor.
In the few years he has been competing he and his much more experienced brother Tony have been dubbed gentlemen within the sport. This does not however, prevent competitiveness and determination to succeed when it counts, a point proved by the acquisition of several trophies along the way.
The car was the star on Wales Rally GB though, being chosen as the "Art Car", which had a colour scheme designed by a twelve year old schoolboy as part of an MSA schools competition. The national initiative was designed to increase awareness of environmentally sympathetic alternatives to conventional fuels in motorsport.
The efforts of the diesel crews on Rally GB were rewarded when they collected the Club Team Challenge Trophy, along with Fin McCaul/Neil Burgess and Gavin Cox/Tim Hobbs, competing under the IRDC banner.
Co-driving brother Tony has plenty of experience to balance the SPG Rally Team. He began road rallying in the late 1970s, trying his hand on road and stage events in the '80s, eventually sampling the Dukeries as his first stage rally. By the early '90s he contested his first International event and took the 1995 Peugeot Masters title.
He has more impressive statistics to add to the Graham archive too. Overall winner of both the Tour of Lincs and Midland National rallies, he also had a fourth place overall on Rallye Madrid, as well as pipping his brother (who finished second driver), to take the BRC Diesel Cup co-driver's title in 2007.
The decision to use the bio-diesel powered Astra has since kindled the pair's determination to promote "green" motorsport and they plan to field a two car team in 2008, having bought a second Astra diesel. "We are talking to a couple of people," said Steve, "but the second car is still available at the moment."
A profile on the team would not be complete without a mention of the hamster. Not Top Gear's diminutive presenter, but the mascot that adorns the roof of their rally car. The story behind the (thankfully) stuffed toy stems from the desire for a team mascot and the brother's memories of an anarchic BBC TV show from the 80s. Anyone old enough to remember "The Young Ones" may recall Vyvyan's pet hamster, but you would need a very good memory to remember its name; Special Patrol Group, or SPG, Steve's initials.