11 Sept: Thorburn wins Merrick

GWF Energy Merrick Stages Rally, 7th Sept. …
ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship, Rd 6 (of 8) …

It was make or break time for Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton at the GWF Energy Merrick Stages. With only one win this year from five rounds in the ARR Craib Scottish Championship, they needed to win this one. Second place would be no good, David Bogie and Kevin Rae had three victories so far. In fact, a fourth one and the resultant 30 points would have pushed them beyond reach, clinching a record fifth consecutive Scottish Championship title.

Few would have bet against Bogie as the man on form, but Thorburn is on form too, only he’s on form down south. He’s currently doing well in the BTRDA Championship but bad luck has dogged his wheeltracks on home soil. In fact a poor result on the Merrick might well have made him forsake Scotland and concentrate on BTRDA. Looks like he’s going to be a busy boy over the next few weeks!

In third place, the firecracker funster and his sensible team mate team from the north east were the best of the rest, Quintin Milne and Martin Forrest finishing third. Despite the excellence of the result, any title hopes they may yet have entertained have now evaporated.

The bad news was the that event got a very poor entry with only 57 cars and crews gathering in Wigtown, but the good news was that they put on a veritable feast of entertainment for the spectators. No doubt the McRae and Galloway organisers are now concerned about entries for their own events!

SS1, Moorfield Motor Services Craignell, 8.50 mls
1, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 8m 02s
2, Jock Armstrong. Kirsty Riddick, 8m 14s
3, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 8m 23s
4, Dave Weston/Dave Robson, 8m 31s
5, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 8m 32s
6, Chris Collie/Mark Fisher, 8m 34s

Normally, Bogie bangs in a banker on the first stage and then takes a look around to see what everyone else is doing before deciding on pace and tactics for the day. Not this time. “We spun in there, and I couldn’t get reverse gear,” said David, “I had to switch everything off, re-set it, wait, and then fire it up again. It all cost 20 seconds.” The orange Focus emerged from Craignell already 21 seconds down on Thorburn. Not only that, Jock Armstrong had blasted through the woods some 9 seconds quicker than Bogie so he was only third quickest after his trouble.

Dave Weston was ruing his missed opportunity of the day before. “If I had managed to attend the test day yesterday, I might not have that mistake in the first stage,” said Dave, “I nearly hit a log in there. If I’d got it, that would have been my big ‘phuk-off’ moment – it was a fifth gear corner. I was really slow after that, every corner looked the same!”

Heaving a big sigh of relief at the end of it was Mike Faulkner. One stage done, and the car had behaved, only four more to go, while Chris Collie was going well setting the sixth fastest time despite a rear puncture near the end, 2 seconds clear of Quintin Milne: “We got a puncture for the last 3 miles of the stage,” said Quintin, “it was so slippery it was hard to tell at first, but then we smelled the rubber.” Another with a puncture was Andrew Gallacher, the Group N runner puncturing a rear tyre with just 2 miles to go.

SS2, Motorwise Dallash, 3.10 mls
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 3m 29s
2, Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 3m 34s
3, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 3m 39s
4, Dave Weston/Dave Robson, 3m 40s
5, Chris Collie/Mark Fisher, 3m 41s
6, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 3m 43s

Bogie made up for it with a mad dash through Dallash, 10 seconds quicker than Thorburn who commented: “We were nearly off at a right hander in there. We went too quickly into a tight Right and just touched the grass on the left. We were lucky.”

Not so lucky was Jock Armstrong, the Subaru slid off the road in the glaur and ended up embedded in bushes at the foot of a banking, with no way back. No injuries and Kirsty was quickly out and scrambling up the banking with the ‘OK’ board. This time, Milne split the top two, just 5 seconds off Bogie’s pace and 5 clear of Thorburn. The Lancer man hadn’t given up quite yet.

Weston was fourth quickest again but just 1 second clear of a surprised Chris Collie, surprised because: “We snapped a bottom arm on the front suspension in there, but it was so slippery we didn’t notice it till we got to the road section.” A good job the bobbies were looking the other way, eh.

More relief for Faulkner, another clean run and sixth quickest, but Dougal Brown had a wee panic: “The throttle jammed wide open at the end of the stage,” he explained, but the crew were able to fix it at service. Fraser Wilson was cursing his luck too: “We overshot on the first stage, then we did it again on the second – just trying too hard after being off on the first!” Doooohh!

SS3, TYREbookers.com Glentrool, 12.92 mls
1= David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 11m 56s
1= Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 11m 56s
3, Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 12m 11s
4, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 12m 15s
5, Dave Weston/Dave Robson, 12m 17s
6= Chris Collie/Mark Fisher, 12m 22s
6= Mark McCulloch/ Stewart Merry, 12m 22s

Most folk loved Glentrool. Here was the chance to use top gear and press pedal to metal and ‘hing oan for dear life’. Prior to the rally start, ‘the chat’ suggested that the fourth test was ‘cleanable’ so no-one was expecting that this third test was too. In fact both leaders blasted the Bogey by well over 20 seconds.

“That was crazy. We pushed really hard in Glentrool trying to take time out of Euan,” said David, “and got nothing for it.” Thorburn added, “I didn’t expect that, they really needed chicanes in there, but there were none.”

Even so, Milne was a further 15 seconds off the Bogey time as the top two World Cars stretched their advantage with Faulkner up to fourth fastest ahead of Weston. Chris Collie tied for sixth fastest time with Mark McCulloch once again showing he’s a tidy wee driver in a very basic Subaru.

SS4, J&B Print Arroch Hill, 5.72 mls
1, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 5m 17s
2, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 5m 18s
3, Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 5m 30s
4, Chris Collie/Mark Fisher, 5m 33s
5, Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer, 5m 38s
6, Dave Weston/Dave Robson, 5m 39s

And then came Arroch Hill. Expecting it to be cleanable, the leaders just eased the pace a little with Thorburn judging it better than Bogie. He was 2 seconds under the Bogey while Bogie was 1 second over. Still, what’s a second between friends?

Milne was unable to close the gap, slowed by another puncture, and a further 12 seconds behind Bogie with Collie fourth quickest ahead of Donnie MacDonald. Weston could only manage sixth quickest, and was initially reluctant to explain why: “I pressed the ‘Launch’ button on the Start line and then when Dave shouted ‘Go’ I realised I hadn’t selected a gear.” Bad enough, but worse was to follow after a flurry of on-board activity to get the Focus off the line: “When I eventually got to the first corner, I realised I hadn’t switched the diffs on!” Double dooooohhh!

No Faulkner in the top six this time, and then the reason became instantly apparent. As the Lancer appeared in service, the front wheels were pointing in opposite directions. “A tyre went down and we hit a rock on the final bend of the last stage,” said Mike, “we were lucky service was just a few hundred yards down the road – and no Police about!” The front n/s suspension was rebuilt, steering repaired, driveshaft replaced and bodywork modified just in time for the crew to get out of service and on their way to the final stage.

SS5, Auchinleck, 13.87 mls
1, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 13m 28s
2, Dave Weston/Dave Robson, 13m 53s
3, Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 13m 55s
4, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 13m 56s
5, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 14m 00s
6, Jon Burn/Alan Stark, 14m 15s

This final 13 mile thrash caused more than a few problems. Jonny Greer punctured the Citroen DS3, Alistair Inglis broke the gear linkage in his Evo5 and Barry Groundwater crashed out in his Evo9. Alistair Inglis was lucky to finish though. When the gear linkage broke at the start of this final stage he had to put his arm through the bulkhead to change gear – and no, I didn’t ask for a demonstration, it would be like watching a vet putting his arm up a coo’s backside. And Fraser Wilson lost out on a good result when he got a puncture in the final stage. He stopped to change it, then got another one!

Fortunately, Faulkner finished with a flourish, rewarding his team’s sterling efforts by re-taking fifth place in the final stage. This time it was Collie who emerged from Auchinleck with a wheel askew. He had banged the rear end of his Lancer on a log which dropped him out of the top ten.

Quintin Milne was lucky though: “The ABS sensors failed in that last stage. It was seriously slidey, and we burst a brake pipe,” he said, but survived to claim third place overall.

With 12 seconds separating the top two, and 13 miles to go, there was still all to play for. Bogie could clinch his fifth title, and Thorburn could yet stop him.

But when the orange Ford Focus appeared – it was minus it’s front bumper. “I pushed so hard in there,” said David, “then with 8 miles to go I punctured, but kept pushing, then just over a crest into a Right hander the front went away and we spun right across the road. That’s where I lost the bumper!”

That surely was it, all Thorburn had to do was get through safely, but when the blue and white Focus appeared at the finish line, Thorburn thought he had blown it: “The windscreen steamed up. I couldn’t see. I didn’t know if we had done enough or not.”

He had. Victory was his. He now has 2 maximum point scores to Bogie’s three, and there’s two rounds to go. The fight for the 2013 ARR Craib Scottish Championship title will resume in Aberfeldy.

Final Results:
1, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Ford Focus WRC) 01, 42m 22s
2, David Bogie/Kevin Rae (Ford Focus WRC) 43m 06s
3, Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9) 43m 46s
4, Dave Weston/Dave Robson (Ford Focus WRC) 44m 00s
5, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO4) 44m 09s
6, Jon Burn/Alan Stark (Subaru WRC) 45m 18s
7, Alistair Inglis/Colin Inglis (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO5) 45m 39s
8, Andrew Gallacher/Phil Sandham (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9) 46m 07s
9, Craig McMiken/Craig Wallace (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9) 46m 25s
10, Dougal Brown/Lewis Rochford (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9) 46m 31s

Full results at: www.flyingfinish.co.uk