31 Oct: Galloway Hills report

Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally, Sunday 27 October …
ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship, Round 8 (of 8) …

There we were, all standing about the in the wind and rain waiting for the winners of the 2013 Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally. The TV crew and presenters were primed, the photographers had claimed their spots, the rally officials were poised, and the champagne had been gently shoogled, ready and waiting.

The runners up and third placed crews had positioned their cars leaving a space for the winners while the expectant crowd stood hushed in anticipation. And nothing happened

Then word filtered through, the fastest men over the seven stages would not make it back to the rally finish in Castle Douglas. Jock Armstrong and John Richardson were declared winners, Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy promoted to second place and Shaun Sinclair and Chris Hamill were hastily contacted to get the car off the trailer and round to the podium presentation for the champers shower.

So what happened?

SS1, C C Service Ltd Billson’s Link, 6.70 mls
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 7m 13s
2, Jock Armstrong/John Richardson, 7m 31s
3= Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 7m 38s
3= Chris Collie/Andrew Roughhead, 7m 38s
4, Shaun Sinclair/Chris Hamill, 7m 47s
5, Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer, 7m 54s
6= Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks, 8m 01s
6= Andrew Gallacher/Phil Sandham, 8m 01s

David Bogie set the pace over the opening test of the day by 18 seconds from Jock Armstrong with David commenting: “The surface was very loose and there was no flow,” but otherwise the two of them were pretty upbeat. Tying for third fastest were Mike Faulkner and Chris Collie while Shaun Sinclair first time out for 2 yrs and 1 month was looking pretty handy, fourth fastest in the Quintin Milne Evo9.

Unluckiest driver of the day was surely Fraser Wilson. 100 yards into the first stage, the Lancer rounded a hairpin and went ‘bang’. “We think it’s the input shaft,” said a forlorn Wilson who just had to park up and walk out. More fortunate was Liam Regan, the 4×4 Peugeot running out of brakes before the stage finish while Mark McCulloch did the whole stage with the windscreen misted up and reckoned he “crawled through”.

SS2, Jas P Wilson Forest Machines Dalbeattie 1, 7.40 mls
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 8m 41s
2, Jock Armstrong/John Richardson, 8m 55s
3, Shaun Sinclair/Chris Hamill, 8m 57s
4, Jon Burn/Alan Stark, 9m 05s
5= Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 9m 07s
5= Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer, 9m 07s
6, Craig McMiken/Craig Wallace, 9m 13s

Unfortunately, Dalbeattie Forest was in a particularly carnaptious state of mind. Always a technical stage, it was rain slicked and slippery to boot, plus there were some bits where repairs had been made days before the rally – and they were bit too rocky and rubbly for most folks.

It was Bogie again from Armstrong, by 14 seconds this time, while Sinclair was third fastest and the only other driver under 9 minutes. That was quite some achievement, “Just proves there’s life in the old dog yet,” said Shaun as he posted a time 8 seconds quicker than Jon Burn who was looking a but down. The o/s from corner of the Impreza looked a bit second hand after locking up on the greasy surface but at least he was still going (for the moment!) as Chris Collie and Alistair Inglis were going no further. Both Lancers were off and out in Dalbeattie, while Mike Faulkner was much luckier. He spun the Lancer, but stayed on!

Liam Regan’s troubles continued with a puncture as did Andrew Gallacher’s Lancer which emerged with a tattered tyre. Steve Bannister’s Escort punctured for 6 miles while Richard Dickson punctured both tyres on the driver’s side of the Subaru but crawled out without stopping: “We’re both too fat and too lazy to stop and get out and change the wheels,” chuckled Richard. Even more sadly, top seed Ivor Clark failed to emerge too, the Lancer sunk up to its axles in bog.

John McClory heaved a big sigh of relief at the finish: “We had our biggest moment – EVER – in there.” Barry Groundwater failed to make the top six: “I thought we were going well – till I saw everyone else’s times!”

SS3, The Armstrong Group Super Special 1, 1.50 mls
1, Jock Armstrong/John Richardson, 2m33s
2, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 2m 35s
3, Andrew Gallacher/Phil Sandham, 2m 40s
4, Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks, 2m 41s
5, Mark McCulloch / Elliott Edmondson, 2m 44s
6= Steve Bannister/Louise Sutherland, 2m 46s
6= Ian Paterson/Jim Haugh, 2m 46s

Fears that the Super Special upon which so much time and effort had been spent would have been ruined by the rain proved unfounded. Fort sure, it was tight and nadgery, and very soft and slippery but it was still a lot better than some of the Super Specials you see on WRC rounds. Jock was fastest by 2 from David this time but Andrew Gallacher having set a top six time on the first stage was up there again on this one, one second up on Groundwater.

Craig McMiken emerged a bit sheepish from the super special with the nose of Lancer looking like a Boxer dog: “I was just being an eedjit and drove into a tyre bale,” he said, “it’s just panel damage but it’s flattened the front against the radiators.”

SS4, James Haugh (Castle Douglas) Cairn Edward, 9.10 mls
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 9m 17s
2, Jock Armstrong/John Richardson, 9m 22s
3, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 9m 37s
4, Andrew Gallacher/Phil Sandham, 9m 49s
5= Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks, 9m 52s
5= Shaun Sinclair/Chris Hamill, 9m 52s
6, Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer, 9m 53s

Jock was only 5 seconds behind David in the fourth test at the fast and furious Cairn Edward having been a bit uncomfortable on the first Leg of the rally: “I couldn’t see over the crests, and nearly crashed on the first one, but we realised what was wrong at service, the seat was too low!” Bear in mind this was the first time Jock had sat in the car since it had been repaired at TEG Sport following his excursion on the Merrick. Cushion anyone?

Faulkner was third fastest (“that stage was fantastic” said Mike) from Gallacher, with Groundwater and Sinclair sharing fifth fastest, so apart from the top two, it was all pretty close behind, although Liam Regan had lost his brakes – again. As for McCulloch, he was going no further: “I was trying to make up time after our troubles earlier and was just going a bit too quick at a Right over Crest. The back wheel just caught the edge of a ditch, and we were in it!”

Out of it was Jon Burn. Having checked out the damage incurred in Dalbeattie in service, the yellow Subaru was going no further.

SS5, Stewartry Tyres Glengap, 8.55 mls
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 9m 35s
2, Jock Armstrong/John Richardson, 9m 48s
3, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 10m 10s
4, Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks, 10m 13s
5, Andrew Gallacher/Phil Sandham, 10m 17s
6, Shaun Sinclair/Chris Hamill, 10m 22s

Through Glengap it was Bogie again from Armstrong with Faulkner third and Groundwater fourth, but slightly concerned: “It went on to three cylinders on the run in here to service,” said Barry, “but I think it just needs a change of plugs.”

Gallacher was still on a charge, five seconds up on Sinclair, but MacDonald was looking a bit down: “It was too hard this morning and we keep softening it up. It’s now as soft as we can make it and we feel we’re getting somewhere, and we’re getting more bite, but I think there’s a problem with the dampers.” As for Regan, he had his second puncture of the day, fortunately, he’s a cheerful soul.

Dougal Brown was going well and inside the top ten times, but had an ABS sensor fault on the rear which was affecting the Lancer’s handling: “We had a similar problem on the McRae,” but of more concern was a one minute time penalty which was hanging over their heads. Easy done in horrible weather.

SS6, The Armstrong Group Super Special 2, 1.50 mls
1= David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 2m 30s
1= Jock Armstrong/John Richardson, 2m 30s
2, Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks, 2m 37s
3= Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 2m 40s
3= Liam Regan/Damien Duffin, 2m 40s
4, Andrew Gallacher/Phil Sandham, 2m 41s
5= Shaun Sinclair/Chris Hamill, 2m 43s
5= Dougal Brown/Lewis Rochford, 2m 43s
6, Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer, 2m 45s

David and Jock tied on the second run at the super special with Groundwater third ahead of a tying Faulkner and Regan, but Sinclair was struggling a wee bit although making no excuses: “We’ve got a problem with the intercom,” said Shaun, “I can just about hear Chris but there’s some sort of interference coming through and there is a high pitched squeal in the background – although Chris says it’s not him!”

SS7, Thistle Inn, Crossmichael, Dalbeattie 2, 7.15 mls
1, Jock Armstrong/John Richardson, 6m 41s
2, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 6m 52s
3, Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks, 6m 54s
4, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 6m 55s
5= Shaun Sinclair/Chris Hamill, 7m 01s
5= Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer, 7m 01s
5= Andrew Gallacher/Phil Sandham, 7m 01s
6= Andy Horne/Jim Howie, 7m 02s
6= Dougal Brown/Lewis Rochford, 7m 02s

The final stage featured a return to a slightly different run through Dalbeattie where Armstrong was quicker by 11 seconds from Bogie, but that still left David in control at the head of the field. Barry groundwater was third quickest but cursing slightly: “We just missed out on third place by 2 seconds from Shaun, but he drove well.” Faulkner was equally pleased with his fourth fastest time: “We were in the middle of the road all the way through that last one,” said Mike, “second today feels like we’ve achieved something.”

What was that? Mike second and Shaun third? And Jock had won?

“We had just come out of the stage on to the public road after the last stage and the oil light came on,” said the rally leader, “I killed the engine instantly. We’ve been having a little oil loss over recent events and been keeping an eye on it. So this wasn’t entirely unexpected.” Even so, he wasn’t sure what exactly was wrong, but suspects crankshaft failure – the same problem which afflicted Euan Thorburn when he exited the final stage of the Colin McRae Rally a month ago.

For Armstrong it came as a complete surprise: “I was happy with second place,” said Jock, “but then David hit his problem. He phoned me, but the signal was breaking up so we were all standing about in the rain at the Finish waiting for him to show up and he wasn’t going to make it. It’s a shame, but that’s rallying.”

Top Ten:
1, Jock Armstrong / John Richardson ( Subaru Impreza) 47m 20s
2, Mike Faulkner / Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 48m 45s
3, Shaun Sinclair / Chris Hamill (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 49m 30s
4, Barry Groundwater / Neil Shanks (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 49m 32s
5, Donnie MacDonald / Andrew Falconer (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 49m 59s
6, Andy Horne / Jim Howie (Dam 4100 GTi) 50m 31s
7, Andrew Gallacher / Phil Sandham (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 50m 41s
8, Craig McMiken / Craig Wallace (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 51m 12s
9, John McClory / David Hood (Subaru Impreza N15) 51m 26s
10, Dougal Brown / Lewis Rochford (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 51m 47s