Farmer and rally driver

Born: December 12, 1936;

Died: October 15, 2019

ANDREW COWAN, who has died aged 82, is seldom mentioned in the same breath as his great friend and near-neighbour Jim Clark, Sir Jackie Stewart or Colin McRae among the ranks of motor sports “Flying Scotsmen,” but a look at his exceptional record as driver and team principal should deem him worthy of such exalted company.

Formula One, where Clark and Stewart excelled, is of course, the pinnacle of motor sport, while unlike Clark, Stewart and McRae, Cowan never carried the title World Champion, but, behind the wheel he was a magician.

The Clarks farmed at Chirnside, the Cowans at Duns, so Jimmy and Andrew were friends, competing against each other in local events, but, while Clark's stellar talents quickly took him onto the international scene, Cowan remained local. He raced at Charterhall, and actually competed in the opening meet at Ingliston in 1965, but, by then, he was gravitating more towards rallying, where, driving his own Sunbeam Rapier, he had won the International Scottish Rally in 1962 and 1963 and been elevated to the official Rootes works team.

Cowan became an Ecurie Ecosse driver, and turned down an offer from Colin Chapman to race a factory Formula Three Lotus. Cowan realised he perhaps lacked the outright pace necessary to shine on the track and opted to concentrate on rallying, which was then changing to become more forest and off-road orientated.

With his then regular co-driver, Glaswegian Brian Coyle, and English rally driver Colin Malkin, Cowan became famous away from rallying in 1968, when they won the London to Sydney Marathon, driving a somewhat overweight and under-powered Hillman Hunter. And just to prove his win was no fluke, he repeated the victory, with Malkin and Mike Broad in 1977, driving a Mercedes 280E.

He became something of an expert in really long-distance rallies, able to nurse cars over distinctly rough terrain, while, after Rootes pulled out of rallying, he enjoyed success with BMC and Ford. He won the Tour de France in a Ford Mustang, and the Monte Carlo Rally in a Sunbeam Tiger.

Cowan also had his off-road moments, such as the time in South America, when, chasing another car through a veritable dust storm, Cowan and Coyle, in their Triumph 2.5 pi, sailed straight over a cliff, to land on their roof. Cowan emerged from that crash with a broken neck. In all, he competed in 90 World Rally Championship events, winning an impressive 15.

He joined Mitsubishi in 1972, enjoying considerable success, such as winning five consecutive Southern Cross Rallies, the Ivory Coast Rally in 1977 and, the following year, the world's longest rally – the 20,000 kilometre South American Marathon. He also had top four finishes in the Safari Rally, and finished second in the Paris-Dakar.

Such was his relationship with the Japanese Corporation that in 1983, when they decided they needed a European base for their rally programme, they invited Cowan to set it up and run it. Andrew Cowan Motorsport, in time became Mitsubishi Motorsport, with Cowan running the show at their Rugby headquarters up until he retired, aged 69, in 2005.

As a team principal, he guided star driver Tommi Mäkinen to four consecutive World Rally Championships between 1986 and 1989 and Mitsubishi to 22 WRC rally wins.

He returned to his beloved Borders, to run a 700-acre farm near Berwick-on-Tweed, where he enjoyed a contented retirement, laden with honours. In 1977 alone he was awarded the British Guild of Motoring Writers' 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 “outstanding success by a British driver.”

Unfortunately, his later years were bedevilled by illness, including a stroke, but, he was able, not so long ago, to attend the opening of the enlarged Jim Clark Museum, where he was in good spirits.

Andrew Cowan is survived by Linda. With his death, Scotland has lost one of its finest and least-lauded sporting superstars.