Martin Holmes 1940–2020

Rallying journalist and competitor, long-standing GOMW member Martin Holmes died earlier this month aged 80. His GOMW colleague Maurice Selden looks back at his career.

I first met Martin around 1975 when I was a staff photographer at LAT.  He became for me a constant presence in the world rally championship together with Hugh Bishop, who I often spent a lot of time with. So, when Martin suggested I join Martin Holmes Rallying in 1987, I jumped at the chance, as by then rallying had also become my first love. We also both lived in Woking and it seemed perfect for us: he wanted a full-time photographer and I wanted to specialise in rallying.

It was clear to Martin at that time that rallying was going through a change after the madness of the Group B era and that Group A would attract more teams and manufacturers into the sport. This would bring an increase in work opportunities for journalists and photographers. This proved to be the case and I was privileged to be a part of an amazing time in rallying.

I was soon impressed by Martin’s professionalism and his clinical attention to detail, probably stemming from his legal background. He would never send out a story without first verifying all the facts from his extensive archive. Martin, Ursula (his PA) and I became a well-honed team during my time with him in Pyrford. Every event was organised to the last detail.

In the early days, Martin and I would both photograph stages but gradually he left the photographic side to me while he concentrated on fact finding and conversations with competitors, team personnel and organisers in the service area and press rooms. From then on Martin used a compact camera for his detail pictures and candid shots.

Meals were merely pit-stops as far as Martin was concerned. Everywhere we went around the world the joke was that he would always order a soup and a steak, devour them as quickly as possible before rushing back to the Press Office to continue working, while I preferred to relax over a leisurely meal with friends and colleagues, unwinding after a busy day.

Martin (left) with Sir Stirling Moss (Photo Jeff Bloxham)

Martin’s work and the World Rallying Annuals that he produced for 33 years are highly respected by everybody in the sport and are used as a primary reference. I am proud of my contribution to each edition from 1987 onwards; we mostly agreed on the photographic content. He was also author and co-author of many other books, including Rally Navigation, A History of the New Zealand Rally and the Rally Encyclopaedia in Estonia.  The final book he was involved with was in 2019 – The Great British Rally with Graham Robson. His rally reports and feature stories were published in magazines throughout the world.

Martin was interested in all forms of motorsport as well as aviation and engineering. We had some great experiences together, (I won’t mention his driving…), we often used private planes in Kenya and helicopters in other countries. He hired a helicopter from Fairoaks for me once so that I could practise using a hand held GPS system before our first attempt on a rally. Such was his attention to detail that on many rallies, he would ask me to go to the event a month before it was held to recce all the stages and take GPS co-ordinates for suitable helicopter landing places on the stages. We were once both invited to a glorious day at the Fangio Museum in Balcarce in Argentina where we were given unprecedented access to the treasures and memorabilia this excellent museum has to offer. I remember taking outside solid gold trophies to photograph, which shows the respect that the curators had for Martin’s reputation. One of my favourite memories.

I will miss him and all his idiosyncrasies. He was one of a kind and I was fortunate that we joined forces at the right time for us to work together so successfully for so long.

A well-known figure in the world of rallying as a reporter, photographer, author and competitor, Martin Holmes was a regular contributor to publications across the world as well as the author of Rally Navigation and publisher of the Pirelli World Rally Annuals.

His rally co-driving career included professional drives with Vauxhall, Datsun, Toyota, Ford, Lancia, Skoda, Chrysler and Renault.

He won the GOMW Timo Makinen Trophy in 1978 and the GOMW Rootes Gold Cup in 1981 as well as the Fleet Street RAC Rally award in 1980 and 1981.

The Guild sends its deepest condolences to his son Jim and his family.

Rev for Martin on 01 July is an initiative to celebrate the life of Martin Holmes. The idea comes from his son Jim who says that as numbers will be limited at the funeral it will be a way for his friends and colleagues to remember him and be involved in the day.

Jim is inviting all those who knew Martin to get into a vehicle at 1pm on 01 July (the time of his funeral service) and rev the engine in his memory. There will be a memorial event for Martin once the current Covid-19 situation has eased.

Martin’s grand-daughter Florence has set-up a Facebook page where people can upload photographs and videos.

Main photo: Martin co-driving for Timo Makinen on route to finishing sixth on the 1980 RAC Rally  (courtesy Guy Loveridge)