With the Group AGM just under two weeks away, it is hard to believe it’s two years since I first wrote this column.
In truth, I wrote the first one over 10 years ago, but was interrupted by an unexpected chairmanship of the Guild of Motoring Writers. I couldn’t do something as demanding as that, work as a freelance and be an effective Western Group Chairman, so I had to finish my term as Western Group Chair a year early.
A lot has changed for the group since then. More of us were freelance then than 10 years before that, but we had not yet witnessed the near collapse of the regional press. Most regional papers have now dispensed with their own motoring correspondents and editors.
Payment for freelance contributions is not enough to keep anyone gainfully employed in most cases now.
In many respects, the need for our regional groups is greater than ever, but at the same time, the pool of local writers that ensured a good supply of new members is much reduced. It is still possible to earn a living as a freelance motoring writer, but a diversity of outlets is needed and it always helps if you can write about things that most writers are not attracted to. In other words, if you want to earn a living, writing solely about new car launches simply isn’t going to pay the bills.
I moved to the Western Group area thanks to another Western Group member, John Kerswill, who recruited me to edit Diesel Car back in 1997.
Economy driving has always been a Diesel Car theme and John’s regular economy runs, back then with eco-driving expert Stuart Bladon, were early ingredients of the Fleet World MPG Marathon, organised by Western Group member Ross Durkin.
John and I have been regular participants in most of the Marathons, with our respective co-drivers and this year we both topped 100mpg – John in a Mazda2 1.5 diesel and me in a Citroen C4 Cactus BlueHDi 100.
Former racing driver Mick Linford won the 2015 Marathon for the fourth time with 104.50mpg driving a Peugeot 208 BlueHDi 75, with John and I close behind.
Not for the first time John beat me by a thimble full, this time on 103.42mpg, with me on 103.28mpg. John also came third in the best percentage improvement over EU combined cycle fuel consumption with a 24.45 per cent improvement to our 24.29 per cent. We will just have to do it all again next year.
Best of luck to my successor as chairman. The job has its moments but plenty of rewards too.
John Kendall | Chairman WGMW