21 Jun: Summer Stages blethers

… Summer Stages Rally, Saturday 14 June 2014 …

Summer Stages Junior Rally

At the Summer Stages Junior Rally at Crail, Alex Vassallo continued his domination of the series with another win in his Citroen C1. Consistency as much as sheer pace keeps Vassallo at the top of the class although Dylan O’Donnell was losing out on the faster sections in his Nissan Micra. On that basis, the next round at Kames might just give young O’Donnell more hope where the agility of the Micra should close the gap. Another improving driver is Michael Dickie, his Toyota Aygo just 10 seconds adrift of O’Donnell after four stages. Michael Robertson was fourth, but learned a costly lesson. Those large, course-marker, one tonne round bales don’t give way to small Toyota Aygos!


CrailSpectatorMindful of recent events, the organisers of this year’s Summer Stages had introduced a few changes this year, primarily to spectator control. Spectators were restricted to two areas beside the service park which were well marked and taped and there was no access to the infield. Fortunately the two areas included the bankings which provided a good view of the action and reduced the need for folks to go elsewhere to watch. That also meant chopping down the long grass, thistles and nettles to make the areas habitable for those wearing shorts as there were plenty of bare legs on show. Also, at the urging of the MSA, a new yellow flag procedure had been adopted for this multi-use venue type event. It seemed to work well and rescue units were dispatched promptly when Scott Grant’s Lancer needed a dousing.

Some of you are wondering why I call Alistair Inglis’ daughter ‘George’. Simple really, her name is Gillian. That’s Gillian with a ‘G’ and not Jillian with a ‘J’. It’s just my way of remembering to spell her name correctly and the George has just kind of stuck. Tell you what though, she’s some girl. I wouldn’t have sat beside her Dad on that last stage, and she stepped out as cool as a cucumber.

Speaking of daughters, cheapskate rallying came to mind when I met Martin Page’s 14 year old daughter Emily. She had celebrated her 14th birthday two days before Crail and instead of her Dad buying her a proper birthday present, he strapped her into the MINI to co-drive for him. Seriously though, he couldn’t have bought her a better present, she’s been a rally fan since she can remember and this was just the best ever. There were a couple of hiccups on the first stage, less on the second and after that she didn’t put a foot (or a note?) wrong. Dad was impressed and Emily was delighted: “I really enjoyed it,” she said, “I was a bit nervous at the start, then it got a bit serious in the middle, but really started to enjoy it after that.” There was just one discordant note at the finish though when Emily offered her opinion on her driver: “He’s not bad – for an old man!” Just call it work in progress.

At the other end of the age scale was Joe Pringle. Despite being in the ‘bus-pass’ age group, this was his first ever stage rally as a driver. Way back in the dim and distant past Joe had been involved with Coltness Car Club in the days of navigational rallying but had never progressed to the rough stuff. However, when his son Ross expressed an interest in the sport, it re-ignited a somewhat dormant passion. So as a reward for all his evening and weekend work building and preparing the Corsa, Ross let Joe have a go at Crail. Bad move. Not only did he finish, and finish without a mark on the bodywork, he was second in class. That means he’s now got a 100% finishing record and more trophies than Ross – plus bragging and slagging rights till the next event!

Here’s a worrying thought. When Scott Grant’s car went on fire his fire extinguisher plus others from those who had stopped failed to extinguish the blaze until someone appeared with an old ‘blue’ extinguisher and put the fire out. Isn’t it about time the MSA re-looked at this issue?

Bill Hamilton’s retirement at Crail was caused by a leaking crankshaft oil seal. Not wanting to risk the engine or drop oil on the track, Bill retired the Kadett to fix and fight another day.

Kieran O’Kane’s lurid lines at Crail were explained by a recalcitrant sequential shift. At one point when Kieran was in third and wanted fourth, it selected first! Thereafter he switched to manual mode and used the clutch, hence his excuse that he was just getting his eye in again. Rubbish, he just loves the smell of burning rubber.

On his first ever rally Erle Strachan finished 37th o/a in his Evo6. On the first stage he caught and passed a couple of cars so he got his eye in quickly.Then on the seocn dstage he thought his rally was run when he lost the bottom end power at one of the chicanes. Colin Telfer diagnosed the problem as the ‘R clip’ which had popped off the turbo actuator and fixed it. And had it not been for catching and getting past slower cars, a top 30 finish might well have been on. Still, he got highest improvement on seeding – 49 places!

You have to marvel at the sheer tenacity of some rallyists. By the time he got to Crail last weekend, Kenneth McRae was on his fourth engine in the Peugeot. When he got the car, the first engine failed, then a new rebuilt engine was installed and it had a cracked block. Mid way through the rebuild of a third engine he found another cracked block – the result of storage with water still inside it during a cold winter! So he took the engine out of his previous 309 and installed it in the 205. He finished 40th o/a and 20th in class. And the exhaust fell off!

Speaking of tenacity, Murray Coulthard was at it again. On the Wednesday night before Crail, he announced to the boys the car was prepped and he was rarin’ to go – then the clutch broke. Nothing is ever simple in young Coulthard’s life though, is it? Apparently he still uses a Vauxhall clutch in his Suzuki engined Nova, but the only way it fits is by taking a grinder to it and making it fit. This mod usually works well but it only lasted 3 stages last weekend.

Suffering for his sport at the weekend was John Paterson. He started well enough in the MkII lying third in the early stages but then started dropping back. he wasn’t making any excuses but when I saw him stripping off the top half of his race suit (in the sunshine!) and saw the kevlar body protection biker’s brace I asked him what was up. Seemingly he had a tumble off his bike at Knockhill the week before the Isle of Man TT. “I haven’t been on the bike for a wee while so I went up for a track day at Knockhill just to get road ready ahead of my weekend off, and I had a wee tumble. ” He broke two ribs, hence the brace. “It only hurts when I sneeze or laugh,” he said, after all the boys had rallied round offering him lumps of hay to sniff and telling him lots of evil jokes. It’s nice to have your friends offer such unselfish support in times of need, eh?

Here’s another true story. Honest you couldn’t make this up. When Roy Millar’s Astra broke its gearbox, he changed it and carried on. Simple wee story I thought, until I asked him how long it took to the change the ‘box. It was like pulling teeth, but eventually I got it all. When the gearbox broke on the first stage, he did Stage 2 with second gear only while one of the boys was despatched back to Leven to get the spare ‘box. During the interval between S2 and 3, the old cluster was pulled out of the casing and the new cluster installed. Realisation struck after they had bolted everything back in place – they had no cans of oil in the van, so they sieved the old oil. Using an old pillow case which had already done duty as an oil rag, they sieved the original drained oil through it and then poured it all back in the ‘box and carried on. Roy and Alistair finished 22nd overall and 8th in class. Ya beezer.

And finally …

She may just be a slip of a girl, but I’d rather take on a biker gang than mess with Kathryn Forgan. She punched a frisky horse on the nose and walked away with a broken pinkie. OK, so that’s not quite how she described it, but I still wouldn’t pick a fight with her. When she appeared at Crail with her pinkie in splints (and nail varnish intact!) I asked her what had happened. Apparently she had been working with a horse which had turned a wee bit carnaptious with Kathryn hanging on to its mane. This resulted in a her pinkie getting twisted and damaging tendons, hence the splint. But how did she manage to calm the horse down? I’ll let you figure it out, but I will add that no animal was injured during the re-telling of this story – that’s if the RSPCA are reading it. The moral of this story? Animals are more dangerous than rally cars.