Rally Report (partially lost BBC Two television series; 1984-2001)
Rally Report was the name given to British television channel BBC Two's coverage of the British RAC Rally, then held as the final event of the World Rally Championship. For each of the five days that the event was held, Rally Report would provide daily (sometimes bi-daily) updates on how each of the rally's competitors were faring. It was spun-off of Top Gear, which had previously dedicated episodes to the famous race from as early as 1981. From 1981 - 1983, when it was aired as part of Top Gear, and then from 1984 to 1991, Rally Report was perhaps most famously presented by William Woollard for its first eight series, the esteemed and erudite host of Top Gear at the time.
During the early 1980s, rally racing was rapidly increasing in popularity, thanks in part to the introduction of "Group B" specification cars, which were frightfully powerful and attracted audiences which were larger than those of Formula 1. During this time, the final event of the calendar, the RAC Rally of Great Britain, which often decided the outcome for the entire championship, was considered the most prestigious event of the whole year. In particular, the 1985 showing of the RAC attracted over 155 competitors. As the BBC had been presenting its own coverage of the event for a number of years by this point, in 1984 the decision was made to spin-off from Top Gear into its own show: Top Gear Rally Report.
Episodes varied greatly in length, ranging from around 10 minutes to over an hour for live stages typically held on the opening morning of the rally, with the episode length largely depending on how eventful the preceding day/night had been. The production of each episode was one of immediacy, where Woollard or the other hosts were occasionally given slips of paper live on-air detailing events which had occurred since the start of transmission, as Ford Transits drove around the country obtaining the latest information on the stages in question. Each episode would typically pull in around 3 million viewers.
For the 1985 event, the BBC sent out four separate film crews in Range Rovers to capture as much of the action as possible. 1986 would mark the final time which Group B cars would appear in the event, or any WRC event for that matter, largely due to the incidents in Portugal where 3 spectators were killed and in Corsica, where driver Henri Toivonen and his co-driver Sergio Cresto perished in a fiery explosion after plunging down a ravine. Both of these events had also previously been discussed by Woollard on episodes of Top Gear earlier that year. It is also this year where its most famous theme tune, "Jewelled" by Propaganda, would see its first usage. Jewelled would last as the show's theme tune until the end of 1998.
In spite of the aforementioned tragedies and the sport's necessitated downscaling, rallying retained a respectable amount of popularity during the successive "Group A" era and broadcast of Rally Report resumed as usual. It is during the late 1980s in which the show gained arguably its most iconic introductory sequence, where live action footage of a rally car's cockpit was superimposed on to a 3D, computer-generated model of the Rally Report logo as though it were a rally stage, with a 3D rendered stopwatch ticking throughout. It is also the same time period when race-winning rally co-driver Tony Mason joined Top Gear, and partook in several memorable moments such as asking General Motors' team boss Tony Fall to give the then-18 year old Colin McRae money to enter his first rally, as well as interviewing 1992 race winners Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya for over 2 and a half minutes in an interview that was also broadcast live.
After 1991, when Woollard left Top Gear, he also chose not to remain as host for Rally Report, his role taken over by sports commentator Steve Lee for the next 3 years. Lee would then be replaced by John Leslie for the 1996 event, and Steve Rider from 1997 - 2000. Leigh Diffey would take over for the final 2001 series, although Rider would return as host of Sunday Grandstand to present the final edition of the BBC's Rally GB coverage.
After 1998 the Rally Report name was dropped, in addition to its connection to Top Gear, but coverage of the event maintained its well-known presentation format as it was rolled into the BBC's coverage of the World Rally Championship. Familiar faces of Top Gear such as Tiff Needell would remain in their position as commentator. The theme tune during these final years was a techno remix of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain", which harkened back to a time when the BBC also held coverage rights of Formula One.
The 2001 Rally of Great Britain would turn out to be the final time the BBC would air footage of the rally, as the BBC lost coverage rights to the event as well as the World Rally Championship as a whole, which went to Channel 4 from 2002 onwards.
Despite Wikipedia and what other sources might suggest otherwise, there were 109 episodes which aired on a yearly basis from 1984 - 1998, with 12 specials at the end of most of these series. After the transition from its own program to part of the BBC's World Rally Championship coverage, an additional 14 episodes and 3 specials aired, totaling in 138 different programs.
|1||1984||William Woollard||6||No||Available in full, uploaded to YouTube by user VHS Rallies in 2020.|
|2||1985||William Woollard||7||Yes||Available in full, uploaded to YouTube by user VHS Rallies in 2020.|
|3||1986||William Woollard||8||Yes||Available in full, uploaded to YouTube by user Ivalio Ivanov in 2011, and then again by VHS Rallies in 2020.|
|4||1987||William Woollard||8||Yes||A live stage was uploaded in late 2019 by billyboy205gti, and the special was first uploaded in September 2018 by Leslie Evans. The rest of Series 4 was uploaded in May 2020 by VHS Rallies.|
|5||1988||William Woollard||11||Yes||Five of the 11 episodes survive; 1 of these in an incomplete form. The special was uploaded to YouTube in 2016 alongside the aforementioned episodes by Leslie Evans.|
|6||1989||William Woollard||9||Yes||Available in full, uploaded to YouTube by user VHS Rallies in 2020.|
|7||1990||William Woollard||0||Yes||Featured in Top Gear that year, hence no episodes. Special is present and accounted for.|
|8||1991||William Woollard||9||Yes||Four of the 9 episodes survive; 1 of these in an incomplete form by YouTube user LiveSteamMad in 2010. The special was once uploaded to YouTube, albeit in poor quality, but has since been removed.|
|9||1992||Steve Lee||8||Yes||No episodes are presently known to survive.|
|10||1993||Steve Lee||8||Yes||Three of the 8 episodes survive; 1 of these in an incomplete form by YouTube user LiveSteamMad in 2009. An hour-long series compilation was also posted by user Daren Patient in 2014.|
|11||1994||Steve Lee||8||Yes||A two hour-long compilation of the first two days was uploaded to YouTUbe by RetroClubXYZ in late 2019. The special was uploaded to YouTube at one point in time, but has since been removed.|
|12||1995||Steve Lee||7||No||Only a 5 minute segment of the second episode was uploaded to YouTube by the Prodrive YouTube account in 2015, focusing on the Subaru team.|
|13||1996||John Leslie||5||No||No episodes are presently known to survive.|
|14||1997||Steve Rider||5||Yes||The entire 1997 series, apart from the final few minutes, was uploaded to YouTube by user Harrie SukkyYakky in 2014. The final episode was uploaded by hbaken in 2015, in addition to the special which aired afterwards.|
|15||1998||Steve Rider||5||Yes||Four of the 5 episodes survive, uploaded to YouTube at one point in time though have since been removed. The special is still missing.|
|"16"||1999||Steve Rider||5||Yes||All 5 episodes survive, but the first and last of these are missing audio. Uploaded to YouTube by the same uploader as 1998, but have since been removed. The special is still missing.|
|"17"||2000||Steve Rider||5||Yes||All 5 episodes survive, uploaded to YouTube by user Matthew Hyndman in 2012. The special is still missing.|
|"18"||2001||Leigh Diffey||4||Yes||No episodes are presently known to survive.|
More than half of the 138 programs presently survive, most of which were included as part of LMW user AlexGRFan97's "Top Gear Ultimate Pack v4.0", a torrent released in April 2020.
- Buckland, D., 2015. Top Gear; 1977 - 2015. Lulu.com.
- BBC Genome listing for Series 6, Episode 4 of Top Gear. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- Scotland Herald - Rallying hit top gear with William Woollard's poise and pose. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- BBC Four program entry for "Madness on Wheels" documentary. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- ViaRetro article on the 1985 RAC Rally, which also details "Rally Report" coverage. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- Motorsport Magazine - William Woollard: Rally GB Hero. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- British Film Institute page for a 1985 episode of Rally Report. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- CarThrottle article on the death of Group B rally racing. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- Top Gear - The Corner That Killed Group B. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- BBC Genome listing for Series 15, Episode 1 of Top Gear. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- BBC Genome listing for Series 15, Episode 9 of Top Gear. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- YouTube - Rally Report BBC Theme. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- Mason, T., 2013. Mason's Motoring Mayhem. Poundbury: Veloce Publishing Ltd., p.193.
- Mason, T., 2013. Mason's Motoring Mayhem. Poundbury: Veloce Publishing Ltd., p.194.
- BBC Genome listing for Series 24, Episode 10 of Top Gear. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- BBC Genome listing for Rally Report '90. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- LinkedIn account for Steve Lee. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- Archive.org - The Times for the 25th of November, 1996, which talks negatively about Rally Report. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- BBC Genome listing for the first Rally Report episode of 1998. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- BBC Genome listing for the 2001 Rally of Great Britain Preview. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- YouTube - 2000 Network Q Rally of Great Britain - Leg Two Report. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- Crash - article on WRC coverage moving to Channel 4. Retrieved 30 Apr '20
- Reddit - Top Gear Ultimate Pack v4.0. Retrieved 15 Apr '20