… Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally, Saturday 22nd March …
… Rd02 (of 8), ARR Craib Scottish Championship .. .
Last year’s Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally was a one-off, or so we thought. This year, it started snowing on Friday night before the rally and it was snowing again on Saturday morning as the cars lined up in Abbey Place in Jedburgh. Oh shit, here we go again.
It didn’t, and there was a fair fought fight at the front for supremacy, but victory was never in doubt. With four fastest times out of five stages, David Bogie and Kevin Rae were back on imperious form to score their first victory of the 2014 ARR Craib Scottish Championship season after their Snowman disappointment. The runner-up position was in doubt till the clocks stopped at the end of Stage 5, Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson managing to hang on to the runner-up position, by just 4 seconds from Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton.
SS1, Riccarton, 8.95 mls – 4 inches of snow for 4 mile stretch, and thick fog in places
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 8m 55s
2, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe, 9m 04s
3, Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson, 9m 05s
4, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 9m 07s
5, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 9m 12s
6= Dougal Brown/Lewis Rochford, 9m 21s
6=John Rintoul/Ross Hynd, 9m 21s
Having cleared the road the for the ‘big boys’ the 2WD contingent headed deeper into Kielder with first driver on the road Steve Bannister heaving a big sigh of relief that he had survived the opening test: “There was 4 inches of snow most of the way through and really thick fog in places. I was so slow it felt like I had lost a gear!”
Behind them the total traction brigade were ready for action, but conditions had improved. Although the falling snow was lying on the ground, it was pretty wet, so the snow wasn’t packing and polishing. That meant there were two black lines pretty much the whole way through.
Setting the fastest time was the reigning Champion. “It was just a question of keeping it tidy,” said Bogie, “I got all my braking done before the corners then just drove round them. You couldn’t afford to get a wheel on the snow – or you’d be gone!”
Nine seconds behind the Focus was the orange and black Impreza. “It was all down to positive thinking,” said Jock Armstrong, “I haven’t got past the opening stage on this event since 2009. Anything from now on is a bonus.”
Stephen Petch was third quickest in the 08 Focus WRC a second behind Jock with Euan Thorburn a further 2 seconds behind that with a slow puncture as he crossed the stop line, but the treacherous conditions had already claimed their first victims. Chris Collie had beached his rebuilt Lancer Evo6. No damage, but stuck in the snow, and Dale Robertson had suffered a repeat of his Snowman troubles when the Lancer fractured a brake pipe.
Somewhat luckier were Quintin Milne, Mike Faulkner and Donnie MacDonald. Quintin had walloped Martin’s door against the first chicane in the stage and both Mike and Donnie followed suit giving Andrew and Peter a strong smell of wet hay. No, they hadn’t ‘dropped one’, the chicane was made from those large round bales – that don’t move much when hit! Although Barry Groundwater noted that: “After Quintin and the others had been through there was virtually no chicane left.” Peter Taylor missed the chicane (or maybe it had gone completely by this time, who knows?) but was hampered with having no intercom in the Fiesta.
SS2, Bewshaugh, 8.99 mls – snowing, but little on the ground
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 9m 01s
2, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 9m 07s
3, Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 9m 18s
4, Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson, 9m 05s
5, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe, 9m 25s
6, Peter Taylor/Paul Hughes, 9m 26s
It was Bogie again in the second stage by 6 seconds from Thorburn with last year’s winner Milne third quickest ahead of Petch. “I picked the wrong tyres this morning,” said Petch, “I was on K6s when it should have been KMs – like everyone else!”
Jock Armstrong was fifth quickest this time and looking awe bit despondent at service “There were lots of stones in that last one. It wasn’t enjoyable. There was a fast bit at the end and we were hitting the stones at speed maybe 70 or 80 mph.” Taylor was only a second adrift this time, first time out in the S2000 car, but there was worse news to come. He was a handed a one minute penalty for a jump start, and that cost him a possible top six finish.
Barry Groundwater was a little off the pace, but was happy enough (he nearly smiled when I approached) with progress, despite saying: “I’m too cautious. The repair bill from last year is still too vivid in my mind!”
Conditions here were marginally better than the first stage and although there was little snow lying on the ground, snow was falling as the cars sped through. It was John Rintoul’s turn to be caught out this time, beaching the Hyundai Accent WRC. Again no damage, but stuck in a boggy ditch.
SS3, The Dodd, 8.98 mls
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 8m 26s
2, Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson, 8m 34s
3, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 8m 35s
4, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe, 8m 42s
5, Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 8m 46s
6, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 8m 47s
Apart from occasional squally showers, conditions improved in the afternoon with Bogie continuing to lead the way. He was fastest by 8 seconds through The Dodd from Petch having changed tyres, but that wasn’t the only reason for his added pace: “I pulled the finger out,” he explained succinctly. Thorburn was only a second behind: “The car’s moving about, I don’t whether it’s conditions or setup, but I just don’t have the confidence to push at the moment.” Armstrong was still the best of the rest with Milne fifth quickest and Faulkner just a second behind Q.
The 2WD lead changed in here when Matthew Robinson slid off into a ditch losing over two minutes. “At the start of the stage, Steve Bannister said there was a tricky bit and he’d leave me a line”, explained a laughing Robinson, “and guess where I slid off?”
SS4, Burnt Tom, 7.61 mls
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 7m 21s
2, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe, 7m 29s
3, Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson, 7m 30s
4= Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 7m 39s
4= Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 7m 39s
5, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 7m 43s
6, Andrew Gallacher/Phil Sandham, 7m 44s
In the fourth test it was Bogie again from Armstrong and Petch with Thorburn fifth quickest: “I overshot a junction and it stalled,” said Thorburn, “and then it took ages to start.” Rounding off the top half dozen fastest times, was the Group N Lancer of Andrew Gallacher: “The new car wasn’t quite right at the Snowman,” said Andrew, “but we got it properly mapped ahead of this one and now it’s as good as will be.” Donnie MacDonald was out, the Lancer falling victim to the conditions and sliding off. Again no damage, but stuck.
SS5, Buck Fell, 9.63 mls
1, Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson, 9m 39s
2, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 9m 40s
3, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 9m 42s
4, Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 9m 47s
5, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe, 10m 03s
6, Andrew Gallacher/Phil Sandham, 10m 08s
Stephen Petch took fastest time on the final stage by one second from Bogie with Thorburn securing third place: “I changed the suspension set-up for the last stage,” said Euan, “and it was better” but he was still 3 seconds down on Petch’s time.
Milne was fourth quickest and a tad lucky too: “The new Reiger suspension feels OK,” said Quintin, “but it’s a bit too tail happy. We got into a ditch at one point, and were so far in we couldn’t see through the windscreen for tree branches, but I kept the foot in and luckily the car came out in one piece.”
Armstrong backed off but was still fifth quickest: “There were quite a few loose rocks in there, I wasn’t taking any chances,” said Armstrong, but he still managed to “trash a bumper.” But the rally wasn’t done with the top seeds yet. Mike Faulkner went into the final stage holding sixth place, and didn’t come out. The Lancer had slid off and straddled a ditch and juts no way of getting it back on the road.
That left Andrew Gallacher to take sixth and finish top Group N car: “I’m happy enough with that,” said Gallacher, “it’s all bigger cars that finished in front of me, that’s as good as I could get.”
Rounding off the top ten were Barry Groundwater, Brendan Cumiskey and Peter Taylor, with Bruce McCombie limping home with a burst exhaust manifold in the Lancer to take tenth place.
But Bogie was lucky too: “The oil light was flickering in that last stage. I think it’s just the oil filter, it does that sometimes – I hope it’s just the oil filter!” As for Euan: “I usually the start the year quite badly, so no difference there.”
And now for the Granite – let the battle resume.