UTS Cheviot Keith Knox Stages Rally, 04 November 2012 ….
At the end of the first stage of Sunday’s UTS Cheviot Keith Knox Stages Rally at Otterburn, the eventual winners were lying in 33rd place. What followed next provided a veritable feast of spins, rolls, breakages and blow-ups, tinged with equal measures of exultation and disappointment on this final round of the REIS Get Connected Asphalt Championship. As ever, the Ranges lived up to their fearsome reputation, but for one crew it was what dreams were made of.
Going into the final stage, John Indri and Steve Hartley were 63 seconds behind the rally leaders, Simon Chapman and Michael Calvert in their Metro 6R4, and 9 seconds behind second placed Barry and Michael Lindsay in the wee Peugeot 106. With a 14.5 mile final stage, second place was a realistic target for the Darrian crew, but outright victory? Surely not?
Most of Saturday’s snow had disappeared come Sunday morning, but in its place, great swathes of black ice clung to the tarmac roads. Even the service area was treacherous underfoot, as some crews found to their cost trying to walk across it. The organisers wisely decided to delay the start by half an hour to allow the rising sun time to soften the worst of it, but it never disappeared entirely.
Fastest over the first two tests was the number 19 seed, Richard Clews in his Subaru from the number 25 seed, John Baird in his Lancer, the later runners having some benefit of seeing where others had gone off ahead!
Amongst them was John Indri: “The car’s too light and it’s got too much power. You don’t often hear a driver complaining of too much power, but I couldn’t touch the throttle in there.” Most folk spun or had some excursion, but George Mackey smacked a fence post with the Subaru and he was out. So too was John Stone, the Skoda Fabia trying to select two gears at a time, Mark Jasper’s Metro was out with a malfunctioning sequential gearbox: “The gearbox itself is OK,” said Stone, “It’s one of the actuators which is faulty”, and Steve Simpson retired his Subaru when the turbo blew a pipe off in the first stage and was leaking oil in the second.
Things weren’t much better over the next two tests. Just when drivers were thinking there was more grip about, stubborn patches of ice indicated there wasn’t. “99% of it is fine,” said Barry Lindsay, “it’s the other 1% you have to worry about.” And that one per cent accounted for Bob Grant who spun on the ice and smacked the front and rear corner while ripping the exhaust off. He wasn’t alone, there were quite a few others in the same place, but Bob went off further and there was no grip to get back out and on the move again. Ex-patriot Alistair Tough was back in action – then he wasn’t, parking the Escort in the river on the fourth test!
Jim Sharp didn’t last much longer either retiring on the next stage. He was back in the rebuilt white Subaru (having used the yellow car at Crail) but was having serious brake problems.
He was lying third after four stages ahead of Richard Cook and young Sean Robson in fifth place in his Fiesta, but out in the lead, on his second visit to Otterburn was Simon Chapman, from Peter Taylor having his first run out in his new Citroen DS3. As for Richard Clews, he had departed the fray in the third test courtesy of black ice approaching the Flying Finish. Bob Grant retired his Subaru here too after smacking a front and rear corner and Dave Seed parked his Escort in a ditch.
Fortunately, a sense of sanity, or self-preservation, descended over the ranges during the mid day stages but as temperatures plummeted again later in the afternoon, crews were seriously debating whether to attack or consolidate.
Chapman was still leading after 7 stages: “We spun and stalled on the first stage and wiped off the front spoiler,” said Chapman, “I reckon that set me up for the day and why I’m still here!” but his service crew were gingerly picking the remains of a shredded pheasant out of the front radiator.
Lindsay was holding a remarkable second place overall, but Robson had lost out big time with a puncture. Taylor was third ahead of Baird, but Indri was already back up to fifth place overall, and the final two stages were each 14.5 miles long.
Indri was quickest over the penultimate test by 10 seconds from Richard Cook (“And I thought Mishnish Lochs was slippy” he was heard to mutter) while Chapman was third quickest, but 21 seconds off Indri’s pace.
Which set the scene for the final stage. Indri was going to have a go and Chapman was going to try and consolidate: “I was fourth in Jersey, but otherwise the car has only completed about 30 miles in the last 8 events,” he explained.
The Darrian set off like a Baumgartner hellbent on breaking the sound barrier, but then the crew had to wait till the Metro appeared over the Finish line. Indri’s time was 12m 44s compared to Chapman’s 13m 51s. He had been too cautious. Indri had snatched victory by 4 seconds.
Lindsay hung on to third while Taylor was pleased with fourth first time out in the Citroen, while Chapman was bitterly disappointed yet still pleased with second place which was more than he had dared hope for at the start. As for the winner, his celebratory jig would have put Dads dancing at a wedding to shame!
Top 2WD runner on the day was Barry Lindsay: “The car’s too slow to go any quicker, rain or shine, I run at the same pace. When others back off, I just keep going.” Whatever he’s on, if it could be bottled he’d make a fortune! Sean Robson in the Fiesta ST was keeping the Lindsay Peugeot in sight until a puncture: “It was a front puncture we HAD to stop and change it,” said Robson, but he still finished inside the top twenty. After two stages Kev Monaghan was inside the top ten places overall but failed to make an impact on Class B10 when the Nova’s engine expired on SS7.
With Lindsay excluded from the Class awards (because he was third overall), Kevin Tappin won Class B10 in his MkII Escort, but only after a furious day long battle with David Coley in his BRM engined Hillman Avenger. “I’ll get him next time,” said Conley, looking at the 35 second time difference. James Thomson finished sixth in class in the Peugeot: “I came here today looking for a finish,” he said, “we’ve had such bad luck over recent events I was getting seek.” He did have a clutch problem on the day but Dangerous Des and the gang were determined to get the wee car to the finish. And they did.
Ricky Wheeler finished second 2WD car in his Escort MkII and won Class B11 from Kevin Knox in the Sierra. Wheeler was running in the top ten all day but a lurid spin on the penultimate test dropped him out and behind Knox. “We just missed a huge rock in the grass by inches,” recalled Wheeler, “that would have ended it but we were lucky. There was no choice but to go for it.” Knox opted for a consolidation run; “I’m not risking it at this stage.” Wheeler was quicker by 22 seconds to take the class by 10 seconds. Tim Daltry was only half a minute behind these two in his wee Peugeot with Lachlan Cowan fourth in class in the Fiesta and Alex McClelland fifth in the Chevette.
Top 1400 runner on the day was Stuart Spyer in his Corsa from the Nissan Micra of Stephen Brown who was left cursing his big spin in the first stage and an even bigger one on the second, as the two finished 19 seconds apart. Sian Beaty was more relieved than delighted with third in class, as the Ford Ka was having problems starting, and for the last half of the rally had to keep the engine running, even in service.
Following this final round of the REIS Get Connected MSA Asphalt Championship there were no changes at the very top. Damien Cole has already won this year’s title from Steve Simpson, but Chris Jones and Ashley Trimble in the Ford Focus scored enough points to take third place overall displacing Rob Tout who wasn’t at Otterburn.
UTS Cheviot Keith Knox Stages Rally 2012
1, John Indri/Steve Hartley (Darrian T90 GTR) 1hr 26m 00s
2, Simon Chapman/Michael Calvert (MG Metro 6R4) 1hr 26m 04s
3, Barry Lindsay/Michael Lindsay (Peugeot 106 Gti) 1hr 26m 43s
4, Peter Taylor/Stephen McAuley (Citroen DS3 R3T) 1hr 27m 05s
5, Richard Cook/Edwin Cook (Subaru Impreza) 1h3 27m 32s
6, John Baird/Stan Quirk (Mitsubishi Evo 9) 1hr 28m 03s
7, Mark Borthwick/Phil Boyle (Mitsubishi Evo) 1hr 28m 55s
8, Adrian Spencer/Mark Hewitt (Subaru Impreza) 1hr 29m 40s
9, Ricky Wheeler/Robin Laird (Ford Escort MkII) 1hr 29m 43s
10, Ashley Field/Michael Curry (Darrian T90) 1hr 29m 48s
N3, Sean Robson/Iain Robson (Ford Fiesta ST) 1h 33m 20s
N4, Richard Cook/Edwin Cook (Subaru Impreza) 1h 27m 32s
A6, Alex Laffey/Jack Morton (Ford Fiesta R2) 1h 34m 29s
A7, Peter Taylor/Stephen McAuley (Citroen DS3 R3T) 1h 27m 05s
B9, Stuart Spyer/Peter Williams (Vauxhall Corsa) 1h 41m 17s
B10, Kevin Tappin/Charles Tappin (Ford Escort MkII) 1h 31m 55s
B11, Ricky Wheeler/Robin Laird (Ford Escort MkII) 1h 29m 43s
B12, Ashley Field/Michael Curry (Darrian T90) 1h 29m 48s
B13, Mark Borthwick/Phil Boyle (Mitsubishi Evo) 1h 28m 55s