Armstrong undecided on appeal over ‘moonie’ rally ban

Group National Editor
@jackbenyon

Scottish rally driver Jock Armstrong is undecided on whether he will appeal his six-month ban from the sport for mooning a fellow competitor on August’s Solway Coast Rally, even if the censure rules him out of the start of next year’s Scottish Championship.

Armstrong, 47, was marshalling on the Solway Coast Rally on August 5/6 when he exposed himself to a competitor, Niall Cowan, who is a good friend of Armstrong; he sponsors Cowan’s MG ZR.

Photographer Eddie Kelly took an image of the incident for what Armstrong thought was a private joke, although Kelly posted the shot on Facebook, which the driver later confirmed he was “OK” with.

Armstrong received a six-month ban and a £1000 fine at the Motor Sports Council National Court last week. It means he will miss the Snowman (February 10) and the Border Counties (March 10) rallies, unless he successfully appeals. The ban starts from the date of the court judgement, October 3.

“This week makes me more famous for that than winning the Scottish Rally Championship two years in a row!” said Armstrong. “I fully understand they have to take action as I was wearing an MSA tabard.

“Eddie put the picture on [Facebook], he didn’t ask my permission, but I was OK with that as it was a harmless picture, I’m not doing anything wrong. 

“The event was short of marshals, so I went to help out. The Solway Car Club have done a lot for me over the years, I sponsor the Galloway Hills Rally [a round of the SRC] and they organise that event and they do a good job. I thought I’d put something back in when I got the chance and I did that weekend.

“To get knocked over with a £1000 fine: they’ve made an example of me. I’ve come away and not said anything further. I’m just gathering my thoughts and [will] see what I can do. I haven’t made my mind up yet whether it’s worthwhile to appeal. I don’t know the appeal process. The funny thing is, I can go out and marshal tomorrow if I wanted to!”

Armstrong may appeal his six-month ban. Pic: Writtle Photographic

Armstrong claims that Cowan didn’t even see him, as the competitor wasn’t at competitive rally speed after hitting a bale just before the incident took place, damaging the car.

The photographer who posted the picture, Kelly, added: “I’m obviously disappointed for Jock and what was, at the time, a lighthearted moment in the sun on a local event, has been scrutinised in a very public manner and is subject to a wide range of opinion. 

“I believe that there was never any intention to cause offence and Jock was in no danger from where he was standing. 

“A long lens compressed the perspective making him look closer to the road than he may have appeared. There were no spectators in the area and this was intended as a private joke between Jock and the competitor. 

“The irony is that posting the image was intended to highlight the positive contribution a prominent Scottish competitor was making to rallying by turning out to marshal for the weekend. 

“Jock is a colourful character in the sport in Scotland and the support he has received online and in person in the last week, has shown that many are disappointed at the outcome of this incident.”

Punishment doesn’t fit?

The issue has caused an outcry in the rallying community against the level of punishment issued. The Motor Sports Association, responsible for governing motorsport in the UK, referred the incident to the National Court, which is independent of the MSA as is its judgements.

The Scottish Rally Championship also issued a statement: “The SRC and its supporters are saddened to hear the news that Jock Armstrong will not be able to compete in the opening rounds of the 2018 Scottish Rally Championship. 

“We are disappointed at the length of licence suspension, as Jock Armstrong is an asset to Scottish rallying and we look forward to him rejoining the championship at the earliest possible date.”

The National Court sat on October 3, with David Munro, Peter Riches and John Felix on the panel.

The ruling read: “The court views this type of behaviour as highly detrimental to the interests of motorsport and regards it as creating a real risk of danger.

“It cannot be excused.

“Mr Armstrong was acting as a marshal at the time and was under a duty to promote safety rather than to cause any risk to anyone.

“Offences of this type must incur substantial penalties, and accordingly the court suspends Mr Armstrong’s competition license for a period of 6 months and orders that he makes a contribution towards costs of £1000.”

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