Report: Record Breakers

Ian Broll Merrick Stages Rally, Saturday 1st September ….
Round 7 (of 8) – Scottish Rally Championship ….

David Bogie and Kevin Rae carved another notch on the gearstick of life at the weekend when they won the Ian Broll Merrick Stages Rally. This was the penultimate round of the National Scottish Rally Championship and with competitors counting their best 6 scores from the 8 round series, Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton needed a win to keep their title hopes alive. Even so, Bogie and Rae needed only a first or second place to secure sufficient points to claim their fourth title. So no pressure then.

Given the close nature of this contest at the top, others could affect the outcome by denying points to the other two. And with the likes of last year’s Merrick winner Mike Faulkner, Jock Armstrong and Barry Groundwater all capable of mixing it with the best of them, any pre-event predictions would be as safe as a sherry trifle at an alcoholic anorexic’s banquet.

As Euan Thorburn remarked before the rally started: “The rally will be won or lost in the long one, the 20 mile Glentrool test.” Crikey, he’ll be reading tea leaves next.

SS1, Stewartry Tyres Craignell, 8.83 mls – dry gravel with slittery patches between log piles.

Earlier in the week the Forestry boys had been logging in the first stage on the far side of Black Loch, and between the piles of logs was slittery, black mud, otherwise the surface was surprisingly good, but it was still tricky.

Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton were on fire. They beat the stage Bogey by 3 seconds (8m 07s) but had to settle for the stage target of 8m 10s. They were lucky though: “We nearly landed in Black Loch itself,” said Euan, “I misheard a R6 into L6 and took the first one flat – at 100 mph. We had all four wheels off the road at one point.”

David Bogie and Kevin Rae were second quickest on 8m 16s, but that meant they were actually 9 seconds slower than Thorburn and Beaton over a 9 mile test, that’s quite a difference, although David admitted: “We got all locked up and out of shape in one muddy downhill section between the log piles and had to back right out of it.”

Nine seconds down on the leader was Jock Armstrong and Kirsty Riddick (8m 19s): “We smacked a log pile in there, about fifth corner in,” said Jock, “didn’t lose much time but lost a bit of confidence to push. It was really muddy in places.”

The last time David Wright was here was in 2010 and he got as far as the first stage when the fuel pump packed up, but he was back with lightweight Lancer to do battle with Galloway: “It was either the Merrick or the Woodpecker,” explained David, “they are both about as far away as each other from where I live near Lancaster and since I can’t do anything about the BTRDA championship this year, I thought I’d come up here.” With young Michael Wilkinson on the Notes, their 8m 24s wasn’t too shabby in such exalted company amid unfamiliar terrain.

Fifth quickest were Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy (8m 32s) but only after Peter had legged it up to the Results caravan at first service to get their first stage time checked out, otherwise they’d have been given a 10 second slower time! See, it pays to have a co-driver who is on the ball.

Rounding off the top six quickest were Donnie MacDonald and Andrew Falconer on 8m 36s, a good run from the consistently improving Lancer pilot.

Barry Groundwater was the first to falter. The Lancer’s run came to an end in a ditch just over a crest. The nose took the brunt of the impact and BG was out. Quintin Milne was a shade luckier getting all out of shape on the twisting approach to a narrow bridge. The Lancer’s rear wheel caught the parapet a glancing blow and for a few seconds, Quintin thought he was going over: “I actually shouted at Martin to ‘hang on’, but we got away with it,” he grinned.

Chris Collie wasn’t far off the pace but noted: “There were some big boulders in places, just getting pulled out by the cars in front, but my biggest problem is I’m braking too early for everything.”

Fraser Wilson was suffering from a long brake pedal so discs and pads were changed at first service and Bruce McCombie picked up a puncture in the Subaru. The dirt streaked cars returned to first service ahead of the 19 miler in Glentrool where all the talk was of tyres, compounds and punctures.

SS2, GWF Energy Glentrool, 19.19 mls – Smooth on top but rubbly at the edges.

If Nurgburging is the ‘Green Hell’ then 19 miles in Glentrool must be the ‘Green Hellishly worse than anything Germany has got!’ Whatever, Thorburn was on a mission. Half way through this high speed test of courage and stamina, the Focus WRC was well inside the Bogey time according to Paul’s watch. Then, with 3 miles to go, the car jammed itself in 6th gear. “There was oil p*sh*ng out everywhere,” said Thorburn, “we had to finish the test stuck in sixth.”

He was still quickest though (17m 56s) four seconds under the 18 minute barrier. That was quick. Bogie (18m 06s) limped out with a puncture and a hole the size of a fist punched through the alloy rim: “That was lucky, when the tyre went down, the rest of the stage was mostly straightish, so it didn’t fray or tatter. We came over a crest flat in fifth, at 120 plus or whatever it’s geared for, and there was a rock lying in the road. There was no way we could miss it and the back wheel just landed right on it.”

Third quickest was Armstrong (18m 13s) but the Impreza was down on power: “We know what it is, we’ve had it before and thought we had fixed it,” said Jock, “a wire beside the gearbox gets hot and melts, fusing with other wires and sending the wrong messages to the ECU.”

Mike Faulkner was fourth quickest (18m 21s) from Donnie MacDonald (18m 46s) and Alick Kerr and Claire Mole who were sixth quickest (18m 53) but Alick was concerned: “It jumped out of fifth gear a couple of times,” said Alick, thinking back to his gearbox troubles on the Scottish, “so I’m just hoping it’s going to last.”

David Wright had stopped early in the stage to change a punctured tyre in his EVO9: “We reckon we were up on David (Bogie) at the time so it was good to be on that pace, but we just caught a rock that had been pulled out, and that was it,” said a disappointed, but not too unhappy with his pace, David. As for Quintin Milne, the Lancer was parked up to its axles in a boggy hole: “Once the closing Land Rover came through we were out in a jiffy and drove back to the finish.”

Liam Regan’s 4WD Peugeot broke a rear wishbone and then punctured a tyre, although he got out of the test and got it fixed. Dougla Brown had a puncture in the Lancer for the last 7 miles of the test while Craig McMiken had a recurrence of an old problem: “It cut out in the first stage and we fixed it, then we hit a bump in there and it cut out again.”

Tristan Pye was another spotted changing a wheel mid-stage, but it was his Dad who explained why he had pulled over: “He’s driving my car,” said Pye Snr, “and he knows he’s not to drive it on a puncture!”

As Thorburn pulled into service there were worried looks all round. The problem was a fractured hydraulic pipe above the gearbox, but tucked tightly under the transmission tunnel. In other words, impossible to get at and fix properly within the half hour service.

SS3, Motorwise Drigmorn, 4.72 mls – twisty with good surface.

A severe does of skinned knuckles later, the Focus edged out of service and on its way to Drigmorn. Bogie was quickest (5m 06s) but by only two seconds from Armstrong (5m 08s) with Faulkner a further six seconds adrift (5m 14s). Chris Collie and Lisa Watson shared 5m 20s with Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts but a further two seconds back was Thorburn (5m 22s). David Wright punctured again, so any hopes of a result in Scotland had gone.

SS4, J&B Print Poultrybuie Hill, 8.83 mls – dry but rubbly where cars had been braking earlier.

Which left things poised for a climactic finish. Going into the final stage, Thorburn and Bogie were tied on 31m 28s with Armstrong a further 12 seconds adrift, only Thorburn didn’t make it. The Focus was forced to pull over on the road section and park up. Any further and the gearbox was mince.

Armstrong was quickest through the final test (8m 10s) but by only a second from Bogie (8m 11s) so it wasn’t going to affect the final outcome. Faulkner was third quickest (8m 21s) ahead of McCombie (8m 42s) saying: “That was probably the best stage of the day, even though it had been used the other way this morning.”

John McCory and David Hood made the top six fastest times (8m 44s) and as if to prove it wasn’t a rough event, the Impreza emerged from the forests with its front bumper intact. Now is that a first for 2012? Donnie MacDonald rounded off another good day with 8m 45s and sixth fastest.

Dougal Brown’s times were good during the day but another puncture on the final test kept him outside the top ten alongside Brian Watson: “I had a puncture in there,” said Brian, “but it felt loose at the end of the third stage so maybe that was the start of a slow puncture.”

At the finish in Wigtown, Donnie MacDonald was the best of the rest yet again, fourth ahead of Chris Collie who was delighted: “That’s my best finish yet on a Scottish Championship event yet.” John McClory was a canny sixth ahead of Bruce McCombie, Alick Kerr, Craig McMiken and Jimmy Christie, who just managed to displace the top 2WD car of Keith Robathan for tenth place by two seconds.

At the finish, a clearly delighted David Bogie said: “It just feels so good. To make history in whatever you do is good. Euan and Jock were pushing hard, but we kept to the plan, and the middle of the road. It was a pity about Euan’s gearbox, but that’s rallying, we had a gearbox problem on the Jim Clark. We needed a second today, but got the win.”

More than that, they got the record. Four consecutive Scottish Championship titles is a feat never before achieved. For sure Drew Gallacher had four, but his tally consisted of a hat-trick in 1978,’79, and 1980 added to his first title in 1973.

But will David be content with four?

1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 39m 39s
2, Jock Armstrong/Kirsty Riddick (Subaru Impreza) 39m 50s
3, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6) 40m 28s
4, Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 41m 23s
5, Chris Collie/Lisa Watson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) 42m 36s
6, John McClory/David Hood (Subaru Impreza N15) 42m 41s
7, Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts (Subaru Impreza) 42m 54s
8, Alick Kerr/Claire Mole (Subaru Impreza) 42m 58s
9, Craig McMiken/Craig Wallace (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 43m 25s
10, Jimmy Christie/Iain Thorburn (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6) 43m 29s


Full Results: