11 May: Thorburn wins Granite

… McCombie Builders Granite City Rally, Saturday 26 April …
… Rd03, ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship …

Euan Thorbun and Paul Beaton put their 2014 ARR Craib Scottish title hopes back on track after winning the McCombie Builders Granite City Rally. Jock Armstrong and Paula Swinscoe were back on top form too, taking second place ahead of the battling Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy.

Conditions were good for this year’s event, but there was one, tiny, wee flaw. You couldn’t see them. Even driving over the Cairn O’Mount road in the early hours on the way to Banchory service, progress was reduced to below 30 mph at times, due to a thick, in places impenetrable, damp Scotch mist. For the previous week the north east has been cloaked in a persistent North Sea haar which had extended inland towards the forests! In fact, from the Altens roundabout, passers-by couldn’t see the Rally HQ hotel.

But then, that’s what co-drivers and Route Notes are for, aren’t they? Who needs maps and clear air?

SS1, Durris, 7.75 mls
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 8m 16s
2, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 8m 21s
3, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 8m 35s
4, Jock Armstrong/Paul Swinscoe, 8m 37s
5, Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest, 8m 47s
6, Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts , 8m 50s

After a 25 minute delay (due to the pressure of spectators) the rally got underway at Durris where David Bogie set fastest time on the opening stage with Euan Thorburn five seconds down: “It was misty all the way through,” Euan, “at times I struggled to see 40 or 50 metres in places.” Mike Faulkner was third quickest, 14 seconds down on Thorburn with Armstrong’s Subaru just two seconds adrift of the Lancer. “That was my fault,” said Jock, “I c*cked up. We went straight on at a Right, luckily there was a firebreak, and I didn’t see the Arrows – if there were any! The mist was bad in places. It’s not nice when you’re doing 90 mph, go over a crest and suddenly can’t see a thing.”

Quintin Milne was fifth quickest: “That was treacherous,” he said, with Bruce McCombie rounding off the top six fastest. First time out in the new Focus WRC, Andy Horne was both relieved and delighted to have got through the first stage: “I made a right pig’s ear of that one – I was off in the first 100 yards!” Also relieved was Donnie MacDonald: “I couldn’t see feck all, even wearing glasses. I can’t see at the best of times even with glasses, that was the hardest stage I’ve ever done.”

Hoping for a good run out was Chris Collie but lost the brakes in the first test and John Rintoul was continuing his acclimatisation with the Hyundai WRC: “As if the fog wasn’t bad enough, the windscreen steamed up – then I switched on the screen heater! Dohhhhh.”

SS2, Swanley, 16.03 mls
1, E Thorburn, 15m 45s
2, J Armstrong, 15m 50s
3, M Faulkner, 16m 27s
4, Q Milne, 16m 31s
5, Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer, 16m 49s
6, Mark McCulloch/James Haugh, 16m 55s
7, A Horne/J Howie, 16m 59s

The mist was less patchy in the second 16 mile test at Swanley, but there were now signs of deepening gloom in the leading Focus. “We had trouble with the ignition pack earlier in the week,” said David, “we finished the stage and just pulled over to the side. The engine wasn’t right and we didn’t want to risk it.”

That left the way clear for Thorburn to hit the front, but only five seconds quicker than Armstrong who relishes the longer tests. “I didn’t put a foot wrong over the last 8 miles of that stage,” said Quintin Milne, “and I thought it would be a good time, but Jock took a chunk of time out of me – fair play to him.” Milne also had Faulkner to cope with, he was third quickest behind Armstrong and four seconds up on Milne, but for how long?

“I didn’t think we would make service,” said Faulkner, “I could smell oil.” However, a faulty diff pump was found to be the cause so it was isolated and the crew carried on with a rear wheel drive Lancer! Sixth quickest was Donnie MacDonald with Bruce McCombie losing out: “The turbo failed half way through that one,” said Bruce, “but we’re hoping we can fix it here at service.”

Collie’s trouble continued when the turbo came loose at the manifold and Dougal Brown was in trouble too, with a rear puncture in the Lancer. He pulled over to let Alistair Inglis go by, who also admitted to “a few offs” while Steven Ronaldson was lucky too. A brake pipe burst in the Metro 6R4, but was fixed at service.

SS3, Drumtochty, 6.45 mls
1, E Thorburn, 6m 25s
2, J Armstrong, 6m 26s
3, Q Milne, 6m 36s
4, B McCombie, 6m 42s
5, D MacDonald, 6m 44s
6= M Faulkner, 6m 45s
6= Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks, 6m 45s
6= Chris Collie/Mark Fisher, 6m 45s
9, A Horne, 6m 49s

It was Thorburn again by a second from Armstrong in the Drumtochty test and Milne third quickest: “I calmed down this afternoon,” said Jock, “Q knows the bad bits up here, and I’m too stupid to know!”

Faulkner was third quickest,m 9 seconds behind Milne, with Bruce McCombie fourth quickest after some sterling work in the service area: “We think the turbo is OK but all the bolts had worked loose, so we’ve clamped the whole thing up and tightened the bolts. Then we had to tighten the bolts at the end of this stage too, so we think it’s just the vibration that is making them work loose.”

Donnie MacDonald was fifth quickest with three runners all finishing on the same sixth fastest time, Faulkner, Barry Groundwater and Chris Collie. But here’s a thought, Andy Horne was only 4 seconds down on that unholy triumvirate.

SS4, Glenfarquhar, 13.47 mls
1, E Thorburn, 13m 31s
2, J Armstrong, 13m 46s
3, M Faulkner, 13m 57s
4, D MacDonald, 14m 09s
5, Q Milne, 14m 13s
6, M McCulloch, 14m 15s

The final stage at Glenfarquhar was another longish one at 14 miles, and Thorburn was fastest again from Armstrong. With nine seconds separating Milne from Faulkner at the end of the previous stage, the final podium place could have gone either way. “I threw it away,” chuckled Milne, “I saw big Hamish walking in and thought I’d put on a show. I was playing to the crowd – and nearly lost it.” Even so he was happy with fourth overall, and a bagful of points, behind Faulkner.

Donnie MacDonald finished a pleasing fifth after a fourth fastest time through the final test: “I’m just happy to be back on the score sheet,” he said after a dismal start to his season while Mark McCulloch rounded off the top half dozen overall by physically pushing his Subaru over the Finish Line. “She’s overheating,” said Mark, “the turbo is long overdue a change – but there’s no money in the budget.”

Barry Groundwater finished a subdued seventh ahead of Bruce McCombie now getting to grips with his Mitsubishi, and promising, “there’s more to come.”

Alistair Inglis was ninth and Andy Horne rounded off the top ten after a cautious run, first time out in his new Focus.

Chris Collie just missed out on a top ten finish when the Lancer punctured a front tyre in the final stage and top Group N car was Fraser Wilson’s Lancer in 12th place. In fact, this was the best fight of the day with nine seconds covering the top three Group N cars, Wilson just holding off Andrew Gallacher and Dale Robertson.

At the finish, a relaxed looking Thorburn commented: “We’ve made a few changes to the car and there’s more to come. The car feels and drives much better. In fact we only used one set of Pirellis all day and didn’t even change them round.”

Euan Thorburn now tops the 2014 ARR Craib Scottish points tables after three rounds with 88 points. In second place is Quintin Milne on 74 pts after a (mostly) controlled drive on the Granite: “I drove with my head today,” said Milne, “I was determined to get points to push me up the points tables, because most others have had a bad start to their season.” Barry Groundwater is third on 72 pts and Bruce McCombie has 67.

Final Results:
1, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Ford Focus WRC) 44m 02s
2, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) 44m 39s
3, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 4) 45m 44s
4, Quintin Milne/Martin Forrest (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 46m 07s
5, Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) 46m 40s
6, Mark McCulloch/James Haugh (Subaru Impreza) 47m 21s
7, Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 47m 28s
8, Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) 47m 40s
9, Alistair Inglis/Colin Inglis (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 47m 54s
10, Andy Horne/Jim Howie (Ford Focus WRC) 47m 57s

Class Winners:
1, Derek Connell/Laura Marshall (Vauxhall Corsa) 53m 21s
2, Iain Haining/Mairi Riddick (Vauxhall Nova) 53m 32s
4, John MacCrone/Peter MacCrone (Ford Fiesta R200) 50m 15s
5, Duncan MacDonald/Neil Ross (Ford Escort MkII) 53m 44s
6, Steve Bannister/Louise Sutherland (Ford Escort MkII) 50m 17s
7, Graeme Schoneville/Michael Hendry (Honda Civic Type R) 51m 16s
8, Alister Wait/Kevin MacIver (Ford Escort) 52m 19s
9, Ken Wood/Gordon Wood (Triumph Dolomite Sprint) 50m 35s
10, Fraser Wilson/Jane Nicol (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 48m 36s
12, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Ford Focus WRC) 44m 02s