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Recovery Tow Show | December 14, 2018

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Letter: When ambition exceeds ability!

James Baylis

Allan Martin writes in reply to a recent article published in issue 190 of Professional Recovery magazine.

Dear Editor

I write with regard to an article in Professional Recovery issue 190 reference flexible wire towing eyes and their use in recovering rally cars. I apologise for being tardy in responding to this article but receive my copies of your magazine from those very nice guys at Chisholms Recovery in Inverness when they have finished with them.

Perhaps I should start by outlining my experience in the world of recovery, I first went on recovery tasks in a LWB Land Rover with the traditional Harvey Frost crane in 1961 since when I have gained experience recovering everything from motorcycles to main battle tanks in REME so I can claim to have a fairly wide range of experience.
For the last 25 plus years I have operated a Motor Sport Recovery Unit as Stag Recovery based in the North of Scotland. I am licensed with the MSA as a recovery operator and undertake annual training/assessment with AMRO (Association of Motor Sport Recovery Operators). I routinely attend Forest Stage Rallies throughout Scotland using a 110 Land Rover with a much modified Harvey Frost crane complete with a Warn 9000I winch used over the crane and a Superwinch 9000 on the front. I also have air bags fitted in the rear suspension to allow for any extra load which may be imposed in the recovery.
We operate for expenses only so do not take work from the retail trade, recovering the cars after their ambition exceeds their ability. We often have to extract cars from steep drops, wrong side of rocks and amongst trees with occasional visits to water hazards.
Having regard to the above, I took great exception to the implication in your magazines article that we might not know what we are doing in the use of suitable attachment of strops etc., prior to winching out competitor’s cars.
The towing eyes referred to in the article are the ones passed at scrutineering prior to the car being allowed to start so are assessed as fit for purpose by the MSA scrutineers. The potential injury  to others by the protruding tow eye can easily be addressed by using detachable ‘screw-in’ types only fitted in the event of need. They are NOT intended for recovery or winching duties although there is an ongoing debate reference this.
The wire tow strops referred to in the article may be fine in themselves but will be only as good as the strength of the fitment on the car. They will also be of little use where the casualty vehicle has suffered brake failure requiring use of a rigid bar! I personally use chain brothers with ‘J’ hooks which are rated well in excess of any anticipated load for winching duties and a rigid bar for brake failures.
Competitors are NOT obliged to use our services, although there is no charge by us for what we do, the event organisers pay us our expenses. The competitors are free to use anyone they wish who might have a strop and an old shackle, at the end of the day it is their car! If they are not happy with my plan they are welcome apply their own solution.
As anyone who has undergone professional recovery training will know, prior to laying out any tackle one should work out the estimated pull, STRESS ASSESS the layout and use shackles, slings etc., appropriate to the load to be expected at each point in the layout. At some point in the layout the maximum load will be felt. I wonder how much experience of recovery one gains as a rally driver before ‘turning his hand’ to recovery as an occupation.
I spent some 22 years as a vehicle examiner with VOSA during which time I routinely attended many serious and fatal RTC’s on both main and minor roads at all hours of the day and night with the Police, witnessing some fine recovery operations and some which were frankly frightening due to the standards exhibited by the recovery crews involved. I also found the vehicle maintenance standards applied by some recovery operators to be dubious at best while others were very high indeed!

Allan Martin