Report: Milne wins McRae

Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally, Saturday 6 October ….
Round 8 (of 8) – Scottish Rally Championship ….

You can always tell when Quintin Milne is happy. He’s about as quiet and emotional as a Meerkat in a butcher’s shop, so there was no disguising his and Martin Forrest’s delight at winning the Colin McRae Forest Stages rally. They led after two stages, and got it back after five holding it through six to take Quintin’s first ever outright victory. And what an event to choose. His dad Donald had been helpful in the early days of Colin McRae’s career, and Colin was very  helpful to Quintin when he was starting out. As he said at the finish: ”To win this event with Colin’s name on it. That is truly special.”

It was with some trepidation that the Bears went to bed on Friday night. After a day of setting up the stages in brilliant sunshine on Friday, it rained on Friday night. But instead of the torrential downpours which greeted competitors last year, it was the sunshine that peeked over the horizon at dawn on Saturday morning. Yes, there were a few wee showers during the day, but this is Scotland and this was October. Sunglasses and rain hats were the order of the day!

SS1, Craigvinean, 5.20 mls – wet and slippery, but quick in places.

It was raised eyebrows all round when Quintin Milne and Martin Forrest topped the time sheets (4m 19.5s) at the end of the first test. He was 3 seconds quicker than Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy (4m 22.0s) who commented: “We backed off over the last mile, it felt a bit loose at the back end and we thought we had a puncture. Then we started to smell hot rubber, but it was Euan’s rubber we were smelling!”

Euan’s rubber? As it turned out, Euan Thorburn was half a minute down. “It was my own fault,” said Euan, “it was a long right hander, and half way round the low sun just caught my eyes. I didn’t even see the rock. We hit it, and bent the front tie-rod and steering arm and punctured the tyre.” With another stage to do before service, the crew tried to effect repairs at the stage finish but went OTL.

Only two hundredths of a second behind Faulkner were Dave Weston Jnr /Dave Robson and Chris Collie/Lisa Watson (4m 22.2s). Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks were on the case as usual (4m 28.7s) with three 2WD cars all right on their tails – Calum MacKenzie/Alan Clark (4m 29.9s) from Keith Robathan/Ian Nicoll (4m 32.2s) and a fabulous run from Ken and Gordon Wood in the Dolomite on 4m 32.9s.

Another with a puncture, but no other damage, was David Bogie, first time on gravel in a rear wheel drive car: “It was probably me, I’m still trying to find grip levels and spending too much time sideways.” Fraser Loudon punctured too but finished the stage OK.

SS2, Griffin, 4.00 mls – wet and stoney.

It was Faulkner (3m 57.8s) by two seconds from Milne (3m 58.1s) in the next one at Griffin, with Collie (3m 59.5s) again showing well just a second behind the rally leaders. Fourth fastest through here were the irrepressible John McClory and David Hood (4m 01.6s): “I must have been trying,” smirked John, “I’ve done in another front bumper, although that was probably down to the front puncture I had in the first stage.”

Apart from his braking problems, Milne had another issue to contend with at service when they found the ‘nut-gun’ had come loose in the boot and damaged the diff pump. Fortunately Wayne Sisson had a spare and it was fitted with time to spare.

Weston was obviously beginning to get the hang of the RHD S11 (4m 03.8s) with David Bogie and Kevin Rae ominously getting on the top six time sheets with 4m 04.9s. And Stephen Bailie didn’t. He dunted a bridge parapet with the Subaru but was lucky as the bumper took the brunt of it and there was no mechanical damage. Not so lucky was Gordon Murray parking the Subaru in the undergrowth: “Something broke or was loose at the rear end. It stepped out on a bend on the co-driver’s side, I corrected it, then it went the other way quite violently and slid off the road sideways into a tree.” The impact winded Gordon but David O’Brien was OK.

SS3, Errochty, 13.20 mls – hard, fast and mostly dry.

Sadly, Chris Collie’s spirited run came to an end in Erochty: “A stone punctured the oil filter,” said Chris, “and the car dumped all of its oil. That’s us out!”

This was where Weston (12m 58.1s) displaced Milne (13m 23.6s) for the lead with Faulkner second fastest (13m 13.5s). “We cracked a brake disc on the first stage and it exploded into bits on the second,” said Quintin, “but we’re still having a braking problem.” Groundwater was still busy (13m 27.6s), but fifth quickest over the mountain was the yellow MkII of Bogie(13m 34.4s), two seconds quicker than that man McClory (13m 36.8s). “I’m getting the hang of it now,” said Bogie, “I had a puncture on the first test.”

Dougal Brown was just outside the top ten times, but a puncture with eight stage miles to go forced them to stop and change it and they dropped to 47th place fighting back to 18th by the finish. Malcolm Buchanan was hoping to make more of an impact on the 2WD battle but a bent prop shaft was giving cause for concern. Martin Craik finished the stage on the key when the throttle jammed after hitting a big stone.

SS4, Kindrogan Wood, 3.95 mls – good but some rough shaley stretches.

Weston (4m 34.4s) took another 8 seconds out of Milne (4m 42.3s) followed by McClory having  a really good run (4m 46.8s), or maybe not, it would appear from the timesheets that Alasdair S Graham was fourth fastest (4m 44.7s) in his Corsa! Whatever, Groundwater (4m 49.9s) was next followed by Donnie MacDonald and Andrew Falconer (4m 50.0s) in the top six for the first time today: “I spun and stalled on the first stage,” said Donnie, “so that left me coming from behind today.” In the 2WD battle, MacKenzie (4m 58.7s) managed to pull some time back on Bogie (4m 59.0s) – three hundredths of a second!

SS5, Blackcraig, 7.6 mls – dry and fast.

Then came the Blackcraig test and the lead changed back. Two miles from the end, rally leader Weston was out: “We spun on a slippery downhill bend and got stuck, beached on the edge of the road. There were no spectators about. That was it, no damage, but we were out.”  He was followed by Mike Faulkner: “We got through the stage OK, but lost the brakes. We managed to fix them at the end of the stage, then when we went to fire up the car – it was dead. By the time we had found the electrical problem we were OTL. It wasn’t the fuel pump that was faulty, it was simply a broken wire.”

Milne (7m 33.0s) was now back in the lead with Bogie a committed second fastest (7m 38.8s) in the Escort. Groundwater was third quickest (7m 40.2s) with MacDonald only two hundredths of a second slower (7m 40.4s). Mark McCulloch and Elliott Edmondson made the top six times for the first time (7m 57.4s) ahead of MacKenzie (7m 58.9s) and Martin Craik/Steven Brown half a second slower on 7m 59.4s.

SS6, Craigvinean 2, 11.00 mls – better the second time through but still slippy.

With fingers crossed, and a few other things as well, Milne launched the Lancer into the dark depths of Craigvinean. No mistakes this time, but he wasn’t quickest. Setting a stunning time (11m 43.3s), to the delight of the huge crowds, was Bogie, four seconds quicker than Barry Groundwater (11m 47.8s) and John McClory (11m 48.4s) with Milne next up on 11m 50.5s.

Milne’s fourth quickest was enough to clinch his first outright rally victory: “I’ve been here before, leading a rally, and then blowing it on the final stage,” said Quinton, “but not this time!” Mind you he was really, really lucky: “I did another brake pipe in there and finished with no brakes!”

MacKenzie finished with a flourish (12m 01.9s) from MacDonald (12m 09.5s): “I spun twice in there. I was trying to take time out of Bogie and finish third, and ended up finishing fifth behind McClory!” Back in an Impreza, McCulloch rounded off a good day on another top time 12m 09.2s and was mildly disappointed: “I kept wanting to push, but the steering felt funny and I didn’t want to risk it, so I was happy enough with that.”

Groundwater’s excellent run into second place and John McClory’s equally excellent fourth place enabled them to move ahead of the luckless Thorburn in the Scottish Championship final positions. Faulkner was confirmed as the 2012 Championship runner-up ahead of McClory, Groundwater and Thorburn who dropped to fifth.

In the final rally results, Calum MacKenzie finished second 2WD in sixth place, with Malcolm Buchanan eighth, and shaking his head at Bogie’s pace: “Still, that’s a One-Two in Class 8 for the boys from (the Isle of) Lewis,” said Buchanan.

In between those two was Mark McCulloch, with Martin Craik finishing ninth despite a panic mid way through the final stage when the throttle stuck, again, and Fraser Wilson rounded off the top ten looking a bit bedraggled: “I hit a puddle with my window open, and got soaked,” he laughed.

And so ended the 2012 Scottish Rally Championship. David Bogie had previously assured himself of his record fourth consecutive title, but as his prowess in the MkII showed, the boy can drive just about anything with an engine in it. Still, the grass will need cutting before winter comes in, how will he go with a lawnmower?