Marathon rally specialist Andrew Cowan has died in hospital at the age of 82, writes Ken Davies.
He was born in December 1936 into a farming family in the Scottish border town of Duns, a friend and neighbour of future F1 world champion Jim Clark, who was the same age and also a farmer.
Very much an endurance rally specialist, perhaps Andrew’s most significant rally victories were on the first two London to Sydney Marathons 1968/77.
But he won 5 consecutive Southern Cross rallies, the 1977 Rallye Bandama Cote d’Ivoire and the world’s longest rally – at that time – the 1978 South American Marathon, with daunting 20,000-mile route. He was a top four finisher on four Safari rallies and finished second on the grueling 1985 Paris – Dakar Rally.
Andrew’s penchant for long-distance rallying came from his natural ability to balance speed with the essential mechanical sympathy to nurse a car to the finish. He was also a consummate team player and adept at nursing other people’s cars to the finish too.
Famously, Roger Clark would probably have missed out on his 1972 RAC Rally win had it not been for Andrew stopping to donate a wheel bearing from his own car to assist the Ford team leader’s RS1600 from the final stage to the finish in Harrogate.
After starting in a variety of competitive club events, Andrew took part in the 1960 RAC rally, finishing 43rdout of over 200 starters in a Sunbeam Rapier. This encouraged his father to buy him a newer, more powerful Rapier in which he won the 1962 Scottish rally and formed a pivotal moment in his career as Rootes invited him to join their works team. This led to several successes with both Rootes and later Mitsubishi, for whom he signed in 1972.
His achievements won him the Guild of Motoring Writers’ 1977 Driver of the Year Award, the Jim Clark Memorial Trophy for ‘outstanding achievement by a Scottish driver’, and the British Racing Drivers Club’s John Cobb Trophy for a British driver of outstanding success.
In 1983, Andrew was asked to establish a European base for Mitsubishi Motors to house their motorsport activities, and so he founded Andrew Cowan Motorsports [ACMS] based in Rugby Warwickshire, which would later morph into Mitsubishi Ralliart Europe.
It was this incarnation that would steer Tommi Makinen to his four consecutive WRC Driver’s titles 1996-1999, as well as winning Mitsubishi the manufacturers title in 1998.
In 2003, Mitsubishi Motors took over the business and renamed it Mitsubishi Motorsport, although Andrew remained as ‘Sporting Advisor’ for the next two years until his retirement aged 69.
In September 2008 at the age of 72 Andrew sportingly took part in the Colin McRae Forest Stages – a round of the Scottish Rally Championship – one of several former well-known rally drivers to take part in the event in memory of McRae.
A great conversationalist on almost any subject; salmon fishing to potato prices in the field, Andrew was always worth listening to and a warm-hearted and genuine man, always willing to give somebody an opportunity to further their own career.
Andrew died on 15 October and we offer our deepest sympathies to Andrew’s wife, Linda, along with his family, many friends and fans all around the world.
© Words Ken Davies & Images by WRC Images & R.MacKenzie