First Scot to race a motorcycle in the Dakar Rally;
Born: June 21, 1941; Died: August 14, 2013.
Robbie Allan, who has died aged 72, was an ambassador for motorcycle sport in Scotland. An accomplished racing motorcyclist, he was responsible for creating the Scottish Motor Cycle Show and was one of the foremost administrators in the sport's governing body, working to improve training facilities for competition riders.
Born in the Aberdeenshire village of Garlogie, where his father was a competitive horse ploughman, Robert Carnie Allan was one of three brothers, each of whom went on to make their mark in motorcycle racing. Explaining how his interest in motorcycles began as a boy, he said. "I was cycling when a car towing a racing motorcycle passed me. I followed it and found the owner practising on a main road and the sight, sound and smell thrilled me".
On leaving school he worked as a bus mechanic before becoming a forestry ploughman; the day job supporting his racing, which began at a local scramble near his home. Unable to understand why none of the championship rounds was held north of Perth, he involved himself in the sport's governing body, the Scottish Auto Cycle Union (SACU), and soon after, the first northerly round was held at Cullerlie, Aberdeenshire, on ground he had secured. He continued in scrambles, taking runner-up spot or third place in the Scottish Championships on 12 occasions, before concentrating on road racing.
During his road racing career, he competed all over the UK and in 1992 took up the first of two invitations to race at some fast tracks in Australia and New Zealand. He was equally at home on purpose-built courses or on closed public roads circuits, saying that he liked both equally but naming the Isle of Man circuit, on which he raced for more than 20 years, among his favourites.
He had the ability to adapt to various forms of motorbike racing, seamlessly switching from scrambles to road racing whilst also making his mark in grass track racing, hill-climbs and trials and competing in the Scottish Six Days Trial.
His involvement in the SACU increased and when Scotland hosted its only International Motocross Grand Prix at Kilmartin, Argyllshire in 1978, the Clerk of the Course was Robbie Allan, now the holder of a Federation Certificate. The event was a family affair - the name Allan appearing four times in the official programme; younger brother Vic represented Scotland in the GP races, older brother Jim featured in the supporting races and Robbie's wife Margaret was secretary of the event.
It was whilst juggling racing commitments, administrative duties and working at his day job with the Forestry Commission, that he decided to take on the promotion of a Scottish Motor Cycle Show, stating he did so for two reasons. He needed extra money to continue competing and he reckoned that Scotland should have its own show. The first was held in 1977 at Glasgow's McLellan Galleries and was such a success that it soon moved to larger premises and Mr Allan, having established that the east of the country had a greater number of new motorbike registrations than the heavier populated west, took it to Musselburgh. When the show outgrew that venue, the Royal Highland Centre at Ingliston became its home and was attracting 24,000 visitors and 200 exhibitors when in 2001 he sold the ownership.
He always acknowledged that he couldn't have achieved what he did without the enthusiastic help of his childhood sweetheart Margaret: they first met when they were youngsters at Skene School and married in 1965. "Margaret has supported me in everything I've done throughout the years," he said, "and that includes doing all the paperwork for the 25 Scottish Motorcycle Shows".
Teaming up with brother Vic, he next embarked on long distance endurance racing and in 2003 won the UK Endurance Championship and taking runner-up spot in the two years that followed.
In 2006, aged 65, he took on his most exciting challenge - the Dakar Rally - the first Scot to ride in the motorcycle class and in his own words by far the oldest in the event. But having trained for a year, he had the stamina to cover 450 grueling miles each day over hostile terrain, but in Mauritania on the eighth day, mechanical failure forced him to retire. He intended returning the following year but his entry was refused on the grounds that at 66 he was too old, even though he had passed the physical tests and had been elected one of Eurosport TV's Legends of the Dakar.
Conscious that a number of novice motocross riders were sustaining injury when practising without supervision, he set up Tinto Park Moto, a large park area given over to training riders wishing to develop their skills under the supervision of certified motocross trainers. The facility now attracts riders from all over Scotland.
He had been involved with the SACU for more than 50 years and as president, was active in this year's 100th anniversary of the organisation, working tirelessly to mark the occasion despite being diagnosed with lung cancer at the beginning of the year. He was completing a commemorative DVD covering the history of the SACU when he died at his home in Boghead, Lanarkshire.
He is survived by his wife Margaret, their children Robbie, Jennifer and Olive, seven grandchildren, and his brothers Jim and Vic.
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