25 March: Milne Wins Icy Border

Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally, Saturday 23rd March
Round 1 (of 8) – Scottish Rally Championship ….

Chilling with Milne ….

Quintin Milne finished off his season last year with a win on the Colin McRae Stages and opened up his season this year with a win on the Brick & Steel Border Counties. For an extrovert who finds finishing a rally quite an achievement, it’s a bit early to predict a winning streak, but if the boy can cap his enthusiasm and Martin Forrest can reign him in, then who knows what will happen next. A case of watch this space, perhaps?

And speaking of Martin, anyone who witnessed Quintin’s ice-puck chasing hockey charge through the penultimate test must also have marvelled at Martin’s composure. In the face of such an epic high speed assault on ice covered ice, how could he be so cool, calm and in control? More iced tea Martin?

It wasn’t just cold in Kielder for this opening round of the 2013 ARR Craib Scottish Championship, it was f-f-f-freezing. Snow covered the high ground and temperatures failed to rise above freezing, but it was the wind chill factor which was worst of all.  It had an edge like cold steel. Cold? There were no Eskimo tourists in Jedburgh last weekend. They had all fled home to warmer climes.

The test day on the Friday had been abandoned due to conditions and with more snow forecast overnight, the organisers had a decision to make, go ahead or cancel. Instead they chose to reverse the running order. That meant the 4WD brigade would run ahead of the 2WD cars on the Saturday. Naturally there were fears that they would only polish the snow, but at least they had a chance of getting through and allowing the 2WD runners a fighting chance. This decision reluctantly made on the information available and with regard to safety – and they can’t be blamed for that.

SS1, Hyndlee, 7.24 miles – ice with gravel poking through in places

With the benefit of hindsight, the first test of the day at Hyndlee was the best of the bunch, which says something about conditions on the rest of them. This treacherous ribbon of gravel was slabbered with thick ice, but there were chunks of gravel showing through in places. Sufficient to offer enough grip for Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton to set the pace in the Focus. Their 8 minute 28 second time was 9 seconds quicker than Dale Robertson/Paul McGuire (8m 37s) who were just 13 seconds up on the day’s biggest surprise, young Oliver Mellors/Reg Smith in the Proton Satria. Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy were was fourth fastest in the EVO9 (8m 56s) a further 6 seconds behind, but 3 seconds ahead of the Focus of David Bogie/Kevin Rae (8m 59s).

Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks were seventh fastest and Milne wasn’t even in the top ten. “You have to drive it as you see it,” said Barry, “and don’t be savage on the brakes. If you brake off-line, you get grip. If you try to brake on-line, there’s no grip!”

At least they made it. Jock Armstrong and Alistair Inglis didn’t. Armstrong’s Impreza buried itself in a snowbank and Inglis’ EVO5 executed a rather too perfect double axel and ended up in the trees.

SS2, Wauchope, 8.99 miles – ice and hard packed snow

Worse followed in Wauchope. Bladed the day before, the frozen surface glinted malevolently in the wintry gloom. “I was a minute off the pace on the first stage,” said Milne, “so I was determined to get some of it back in here.” And he did. His Lancer was the only car under 11 minutes for the 9 mile test. His 10m 34s some 27 seconds quicker than the EVO9 of Barry Groundwater (11m 01s). Third quickest was the EVO9 of Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (11m 09s), 8 seconds behind Groundwater. Mellors was still on the case too (11m 24s) ahead of Bogie (11m 40s) and Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer (11m 43s). Mind you, Mellors was lucky. He appeared at the Stage Finish with a tattered front end and claimed he had been in a ditch. It was a spectator (reliable source!) who informed me that he had spun at the Flying Finish and crossed the Finish line backwards using more than just a ditch.

Robertson was only 4 seconds adrift: “I was telling Paul to call the 100 metre signs at 300 metres and we were still struggling to get slowed down on the ice!” Faulkner lost out too: “We did most of that stage with a rear puncture. More worrying was the fact that the starter motor had failed at the start of SS1 and we had to bump start it, so I was worried about stalling and re-starting.”

But where was the rally leader after the first stage, Euan Thorburn? “I half spun on a second gear corner, and I couldn’t get reverse. It took ages to get around and get going,” said Euan, “we’ve just had the gearbox rebuilt but we even had trouble trying to get reverse to get it off the trailer this morning.

David Bogie commented: “It’s all about tyres today. I had snow tyres on for the first stage and they should have been gravel, then I put gravel tyres on for the second, and they should have been snow!”

At first Service in Hawick, the crews were informed that the third test at Craik had been cancelled as the Marshals were unable to gain access to the forest because of huge snowdrifts. At least this would get the rally back on time (well, nearly) as the first stage had been delayed too while Marshals fought to get on site.

SS3, Craik, 8.99 miles – Cancelled, deep snow

So with two stages gone and two to go, Barry Groundwater (20m 01s) led Quintin Milne (20m 11s) by 10 seconds while in third place was the Proton Satria of youngster Oliver Mellors (20m 14s), on only his fourth rally, a further 3 seconds behind. Dale Robertson was fourth ((20m 24s) from Stephen Petch (20m 30s) and David Bogie (20m 39s).

SS4, Bewshaugh, 8.99 miles – snow and polished snow

This was the only test on the English side of the Border, and the only one that hadn’t been snowploughed! Was it something we said, or are they taking Wee Eck’s independence declaration a bit too prematurely?

Anyway, having been beaten by Groundwater by 37 seconds on the first stage, and only managed to claw 27 back on the second, there was a twinkle in Milne’s eye as he left service for the 9 mile Bewshaugh test. With a liberal covering of snow there was grip to be had, but only for the brave – or the foolhardy!

Quintin set a stunning 10m 19s, a full minute and 21 seconds quicker than Groundwater (11m 30s): “I was behind him in SS4 and could see his wheeltracks,” said Barry. “He was up bankings, down ditches and across firebreaks. He was off the road more than he was on it.” Barry’s time was only good enough for ninth fastest: “My ice tyres were starting to disintegrate after two stages so I was saving them for the final stage, and put gravel tyres on for here.”

Like Milne, Bogie had switched back to snow tyres for this penultimate test, and it showed. David (10m 33s) was only 14 seconds behind the Mitsubishi tearaway with Petch again showing well (10m 50s), “My Dad bought me some tyres!” just 17 seconds behind the Focus.

Speaking of tearaways, Chris Collie/Lisa Watson were fourth fastest ((11m 06s) ahead of MacDonald sharing 11m 21s with the old stagers themselves, Andy Horne/Jim Howie in the Dam (Metro!) and Dougal Brown/Lewis Rochford, while sixth fastest was Fraser Wilson and Steven Broll who revealed their secret for better times in the afternoon than in the morning: “We turned the anti-lag off. There was no point in these conditions!”

Sadly Mellors came a cropper: “I braked on a crest into a Sq.R, and it didn’t stop,” said Oliver, “I tried to spin it, but it just slid off and smacked a tree.” Fortunately the damage was mostly cosmetic and the crew lost only 5 minutes, but any chance of their first victory was now gone. Thorburn’s luck went from bad to worse too: “We were having moments at 20 mph! But we slid off at one point and go the back wheels in a ditch and the front wheels in the air, but at least the back wheels had some grip and we managed to get it out.”

SS5, Riccarton, 6.9 miles – ice and hard packed snow

The last stage at Riccarton had been shortened by a  couple of miles because of ice on the fast finish, and the word ‘treacherous’ really didn’t do actual conditions justice.

Now in the lead of the rally, it could so easily have gone all pear-shaped for the Quicksilver Kid, but somehow the exuberance levels didn’t quite boil over (Martin’s calming influence?) and he set the fastest time again, the only driver to break the 8 minute barrier (7m 57s). Back on his ice tyres, Barry Groundwater was second quickest (8m 03s) from Mellors with no windscreen (8m 08s), Petch (8m 23s) and Faulkner (8m 39s) after which there was a string of drivers on 8m 56s.

This was primarily down to the fact that Peter Stephenson inadvertently got wedged across the road and held up four following crews who were given ‘notional’ times, one of whom crucially, was David Bogie. He had been lying second to Milne going into the last stage but 42 seconds behind. Surely not?

As for Milne: “I really wanted to mix it with the World Cars today. The conditions gave me that chance.” And he took it, with both hands. Lucky white heather anyone?

Final Results:
1. Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest (Mitsubishi Evo 9) 38mins 27 secs
2. Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 39m 34s
3. Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Mitsubishi Evo 9) 39m 43s
4. David Bogie/Kevin Rae (Ford Focus WRC) 40m 08s
5. Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer (Mitsubishi Evo 9) 41m 05s
6. Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 41m 30s
7. John McClory/David Hood (Subaru Impreza N15) 41m 55s
8. Chris Collie/Lisa Watson (Mitsubishi Evo 6) 42m 05s
9. Dougal Brown/Lewis Rochford (Mitsubishi Evo 9) 42m 06s
10. Andy Horne/Jim Howie (Dam 4100gti) 42m 27s

Full Results at: