Ryland James is, like every other sports person in Wales, waiting patiently for his 2020 season to get back on track. But when it does, unlike everyone else, this year will mark the seventh decade in which he’s been competing as he tells Paul Evans.
To be still going strong in a sport he began in 1969, you might be thinking that it must be something gentle like croquet or fishing.
But Ryland James’ sport of choice for the last 50 years has been the full-on, high speed, adrenalin-filled and distinctively hazardous sport of rallying.
So, is rallying a passion, an obsession, or an addiction? The proud grandfather from St Clears in Carmarthenshire gives the question some serious thought, before returning with an answer that suggests it’s perhaps a mixture of all three.
“If I decide to do something in life, I go into it as deeply as I can,” he says. “I’ve always done it that way. I just need to know everything there is to know about it and do it as well as I possibly can. I can’t be on the fringe.
“Rallying just seemed to slot in well with the rest of my life. I’d travel to a rally on a Friday afternoon, do an event on a Saturday and be back home in time for Sunday lunch, so I had to take a minimal amount of time off work.
“Rallying also allows you to get away from everyday life. A very good driver called Tony Davies asked me to do the Trackrod Rally in Yorkshire. I met him for the first time over dinner of the Friday night and we’d done half of the rally on the Saturday before there was a bit of a delay and we started talking about other things apart from rallying.
“It was only then that I asked him what he did for a living, and he said he was a chartered surveyor, which is what I did!
“It took us that long to ask about normal life, and had we not been sat in a parked rally car killing a bit of time, we would not have even had that conversation.”
Davies was one heck of a driver – aggressive, talented and spectacular. With most of the car’s weight on the rear, and such a short wheelbase, if you got a Metro 6R4 sideways it was essential that your instincts and common sense didn’t kick in and instead you kept your foot pressed hard on the throttle, otherwise you’d be spinning like a top.
Davies never eased off, and Ryland still remembers with considerable admiration some enormous high speed “tank slappers”.
You can read the full story of Ryland's amazing Rally Career here.