08 August: Speyside main report

McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages Rally, Saturday 3rd August …

Duel in the Sun …

David Bogie and Kevin Rae sped to their third victory in this year’s ARR Craib Scottish Championship as the duo look towards a record-topping fifth consecutive national championship title. Or maybe not. Only 17 seconds behind after 44 miles of forest roads on the McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages Rally were Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton, but they had their troubles. Without them, the gap would have been much closer.

The third place battle was closer still with 4 seconds separating Quintin Milne and Martin Forrest from Jock Armstrong and Kirsty Riddick and it wasn’t decided till the final stage while behind then a rather more personal fight ensued between the Westons, faither and son in different cars.

And as the crews rolled in to Elgin at the rally finish, it was smiles all round. Good weather, good stages, and good crack was had by one and all.

SS1, Jack Carmichael Flooring Teindland, 4.05 mls
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 3m 43s
2, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 3m 45s
3, Dave Weston/Dave Robson, 3m 52s
4, Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 3m 54s
5, Dave Weston/Phil Clarke, 3m 56s
6, Chris Collie/Lisa Watson, 3m 57s

David Bogie set the pace over the opening stage of the day and reckoned that the early runners would ‘clean up’ the loose and dusty surface for those following. As things turned out, the later runners didn’t necessarily agree. Conditions remained tricky throughout the day. Only two seconds behind the Bogie Man was Thorburn, but already in trouble. “The flat-shift isn’t working,” said Euan, “but I can cope with that, it’s not a problem.” Dave Weston was quick out the box too, having done four runs in the Focus at the previous day’s Test/Media session, after which he climbed out of the WRC 02 car and gave the Paul Benn lads the thumbs up. “I instantly feel comfortable in that car,” said Dave, “It just suits me down to the ground.”

Quintin Milne was the first of the non-WRC cars just a couple of seconds behind Weston, but more importantly to him, he was 7 seconds up on Jock Armstrong: “I had two silly wee offs in there,” said Jock, “it was just so loose and slippery. My own fault.” Even so, Milne had a wee problem: “We ripped a rear brake pipe off in there, and had to crimp the pipe closed at the finish.” That meant three wheel braking till he got to service for proper repairs.

Bruc e McCombie was just outside the top six times in that first one, but nearly didn’t get there. “When I started the Subaru up this morning, it had a misfire, and it didn’t clear itself on the way down to the start line, said Bruce, “I thought, ‘oh no, here we go’ but we stopped on the road section to the first stage, changed a plug and it was fine. Phew!”

Not so lucky was Dougal Brown: “Disaster struck just one mile into the first stage when the wheel studs on the front left hub sheared and we lost the wheel.” There was worse. The only space he could get parked up to keep the road clear was on the outside of a bend, with the result that the Lancer got shot blasted and had its windscreen broken!

SS2, Gleaner Oil & Gas Ben Aigan, 5.92 mls
1= David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 5m 35s
1= Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 5m 35s
2, Dave Weston/Dave Robson, 5m 47s
3, Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 5m 48s
4, Jock Armstrong/Kirsty Riddick, 5m 50s
5, Mark McCulloch/Elliott Edmondson, 5m 52s
6, Chris Collie/Lisa Watson, 5m 53s

Bogie and Thorburn tied in the second stage, with Weston a good 12 seconds off the pace. Milne and Armstrong were right on his tail though and also posting a damn good time was young Mark McCulloch. “All I want to do is to beat Jock (Armstrong) on one stage, on any rally,” beamed Mark, “I don’t care about the result, I just want to beat a Jock time!”

Chris Collie wasn’t as sharp as he would like to have been. “I keep missing gears,” he said, “the gearstick doesn’t feel right.” At least he was still going, Steve Bannister was parking the MkII with a broken propshaft: “That’s the first one I’ve broken since 1992!”

Ian Paterson’s run of ‘luck’ hasn’t changed this year, and the Speyside was no exception. An intercooler hose in the Subaru burst, and he was out.

SS3, Heatcare Tauchers Wood, 2.64 mls
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 2m 52s
2, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 2m 53s
3= Dave Weston/Dave Robson, 3m 01s
3= Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 3m 01s
3= Jock Armstrong/Kirsty Riddick, 3m 01s
4, Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts, 3m 05s
5, Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer, 3m 06s
6, Dave Weston/Phil Clarke, 3m 07s

It was Bogie by a second from Thorburn in the third test, but there was a look of concern on Euan’s face: “The front n/s strut is stiffening up,” he said, “and the car just wants to push on. We’ll have a look at it at service.”

Three drivers shared third fastest – Weston, Milne and Armstrong with a four cylinder McCombie Subaru on their tail. It was McCulloch’s turn to strike trouble: “We started the stage with a puncture,” said Mark, “I thought we had a problem with the tracking, but the further we went through the stage I knew it was a rear puncture. We also had to pull over and let someone past.”

After setting two top ten times in the first two stages, Andy Horne was out in the third. According to Jim Howie: “Its arse was in a ditch with its nose in the air!” The Metro had just got on to the loose stuff at the edge of a corner and drifted off the road: “There was absolutely no damage,” said Andy, “it just beached itself and no amount of pushing was going to shift it. Full marks to the one spectator who was there, he tried his hardest to push, and then set off looking for help. When a crowd turned up they got us out but we were way over time.”

Barry Groundwater was luckier: “We just missed a log pile in there,” he said, “it was either the same log pile as last year or a new log pile in the same place. We hit it last year, but missed it this year. We’d have looked bloody stupid if we had it twice.”

SS4, McDonald & Munro Gartly Wood 1, 4.81 mls
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 4m 41s
2, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 4m 43s
3, Jock Armstrong/Kirsty Riddick, 4m 50s
4= Dave Weston/Dave Robson, 4m 53s
4= Mark McCulloch/Elliott Edmondson, 4m 53s
5, Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 4m 54s
6= Dave Weston/Phil Clarke, 4m 57s
6= Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 4m 57s

It was Bogie again in Gartly with Thorburn only two seconds adrift but in no position to fight: “We don’t have a spare strut, and I don’t think we can fix it, but we’ll keep going.”

Armstrong was third ahead of Weston tying with McCulloch, but there was a wee bit of disappointment in Weston’s voice when he said: “I really like that stage, but we spun in there. We had a problem with the diff. It wasn’t working. At least I beat Junior though!”

SS5, Station Garage Mitsubishi Cats Craig, 3.88 mls
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 3m 53s
2, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 3m 57s
3= Jock Armstrong/Kirsty Riddick, 4m 02s
3= Mark McCulloch/Elliott Edmondson, 4m 02s
4, Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 4m 03s
5, Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts, 4m 04s
6, Dave Weston/Dave Robson, 4m 05s

Bogie’s progress was relentless, another 4 seconds up on Thorburn over Cats Craig (another name for Clashindarrcoh!) with McCullloch almost achieving a boyhood dream, but not quite. He equalled Jock Amstrong’s third fastest stage time here with Milne only a second behind.

McCombie was fifth quickest and Weston, still with his diff problem, could only manage a sixth fastest stage time.

SS6, Cransmill Hill, 5.05 mls
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 5m 05s
2, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 5m 09s
3= Jock Armstrong/Kirsty Riddick, 5m 11s
3= Dave Weston/Phil Clarke, 5m 11s
4, Chris Collie/Lisa Watson, 5m 12s
5, Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer, 5m 13s
6, Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 5m 16s

Sharing a common start with Cats Craig, competitors had to remember which way they wanted to go when they reached the split in Cransmill Hill, but there were to be no mistakes here. Bogie quickest again by another 4 seconds from Thorburn. “The front strut has seized solid now,” said Euan, “the car just keeps wanting to understeer on right handers. You just have no confidence in the car when it’s like this.”

There was another tie behind the top two, Armstrong again, but this time with Weston Snr and Milne only sixth quickest: “The sensor which controls the ABS failed and I also lost FWD,” said Quintin, “but Wayne (Sissons) has a spare so we should be OK after service.” Sadly, Mark McCulloch’s excellent run took another knock in here: “We broke a driveshaft on the start line!”

Groundwater was in trouble with logs again, but this time he hit one which took out the headlamp and crumpled the front corner. There was no mechanical damage, but in gentlemanly and sportsmanlike fashion , Barry blamed the co-driver: “It was a late call from Dan, and we just locked up and slid into the log. If it wasn’t for such skilful driving, it could have been much worse.” Yeah, right.

A subdued Mike Faulkner was just looking for a quiet, confidence building run today, and his wee heart must have skipped a few beats as he drove into service: “There was a horrible noise from the back end after that last stage, but it was just a rock trapped between the calliper and the wheel,” said Mike with a more than a touch of relief!

Another driver relieved to reach service was Donnie MacDonald: “It was nothing serious. We banged a log in a ditch and bent a rear arm.” So it was easily fixed.

SS7, McDonald & Munro Gartly Wood 2, 4.81 mls
1, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 4m 34s
2, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 4m 40s
3= Jock Armstrong/Kirsty Riddick, 4m 43s
3= Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 4m 43s
4, Dave Weston/Dave Robson, 4m 44s
5= Dave Weston/Phil Clarke, 4m 46s
5= Mark McCulloch/Elliott Edmondson, 4m 46s
6= Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer, 4m 51s
6=Chris Collie/Lisa Watson, 4m 51s

In the high speed terrain that makes up Gartly, Thorburn got his nose in front for the first time. He was 6 seconds to the good over Bogie, making a dent in the leader’s margin. Behind them the competition couldn’t be closer, Armstrong tied with Milne for third quickest with Weston ahead of Weston, but Jnr had to share fifth quickest time with McCulloch proving his earlier times were no fluke.

Even with his sixth fastest time, Chris Collie looked a bit sheepish at the end: “I hit the chicanes in there,” he admitted when questioned about the front end damage. But of more concern to him was that he had lost first gear early on and was now losing second too.

SS8, John Lawrie Group Balloch, 7.97 mls
1, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 7m 27s
2, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 7m 28s
3= Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 7m 49s
3= Dave Weston/Phil Clarke, 7m 49s
4, Jock Armstrong/Kirsty Riddick, 7m 52s
5, Dave Weston/Dave Robson, 7m 56s
6, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 8m 02s

Thorburn eked out another second on Bogie on the penultimate test while Milne shared third quickest with Weston but Armstrong was only 3 seconds adrift. McCombie was dropping back by this time, but still going: “I don’t know what’s wrong but the gearbox is stiffening up. It’s hard to get gears.”

As if he didn’t have enough to contend with, Collie’s gearbox lost second gear and was now losing fourth and a possible top ten finish was fast disappearing.

SS9, Billy Miller Contractor Whiteash, 4.81 mls
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 4m 28s
2, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 4m 39s
3, Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 4m 41s
4, Jock Armstrong/Kirsty Riddick, 4m 43s
5, Dave Weston/Dave Robson, 4m 44s
6, Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts, 4m 49s
6, Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer, 4m 54s

Going into the final stage, Bogie had 6 seconds on Thorburn, Milne had 2 on Armstrong, and Weston Snr had one over Weston Jnr. What a finish, 5 miles of soft and sandy Whiteash. He who chickens first, loses.

With tension amongst the top seeds running high, Thorburn rolled up to the start line, and the countdown – and stalled the Focus on the start line. The result was a time 11 seconds slower than the leader. “That was tougher than it looked,” said Bogie afterwards, “we were sitting behind Euan when he stalled, and something like that can play tricks with your mind. I knew we had the lead but I nearly went off twice in there. Just making silly mistakes!”

Behind them, the two banter merchants were indulging in their own private verbal warfare as they waited their turn. At the end of it, two seconds separated their final stage times, with Martin Forrest’s already white hair turning a whiter shade of white at the end of it. Milne had secured third place by 4 seconds from Armstrong. How close is that?

If that battle had been close, there was one second separating father and son. At the end of that final stage, the gap had grown to 20 seconds, the Subaru had stalled on the starline. When asked prior to the event if there had been a bet between father and son, Senior said: “If he beats me both times in Gartly, I’ll hang up my helmet – I like Gartly.” On the basis of the final result, helmet hanging-up time is still very far off.

Donnie MacDonald finished a fighting seventh overall: “We had 16 seconds on the others going into that last stage, so no heroics,” he said, while Mike Faulkner was a much relieved eighth. “That’s the first event this year we haven’t had to put a spanner on the car. We were taking it steady then had a bit of a push on the last stage – and spun at the hairpin!”

Bruce McCombie just made it into the top ten in ninth place, despite his troublesome gearbox and Barry Groundwater rounded off the top ten.

Top 2WD runner was Calum MacKenzie finishing in a rather lonely 14th place in his Escort MkII. Steve Bannister had earlier departed the fray with a burst propshaft and Matthew Robinson was giving MacKenzie a serious fight until his MkII developed a mechanical fault in the penultimate test. That meant the second 2WD car home was the V6 Dolomite of Ken Wood: “That’s the first finish this year,” he harrumphed. Robert Harkness was third in the BMW 316i, but might have made more of a fight of it had it not been for a puncture in the long Balloch test, and then “the dashboard fell off.”

Bogie now has three wins compared to Thorburn and Milne with one each, but Dave Weston Snr dropped a bombshell at the rally start: “I’ve registered for the Championship, and I’ll be out on the Merrick, McRae and Galloway Hills.” Game on.

Top Ten Results:
1 David Bogie/Kevin Rae (Ford Focus WRC) 42m 25s
2 Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Ford Focus WRC) 42m 42s
3 Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 44m 09s
4 Jock Armstrong/Kirsty Riddick (Subaru Impreza) 44m 13s
5 Dave Weston/Dave Robson (Ford Focus WRC 02) 44m 23s
6 Dave Weston Jnr/Phil Clarke (Subaru Impreza S11 WRC) 44m 43s
7 Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 45m 14s
8 Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 45m 35s
9 Bruce Mccombie/Michael Coutts (Subaru Impreza) 45m 38s
10 Barry Groundwater/Daniel Paterson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 46m 05s