09 Jul: Mach1 Stages Rally report

… Mach1 Stages Rally, 5/6 July 2014 …

Tommy Morris and Colin Harkness won the inaugural Mach1 Stages Rally at the former Machrihanish airbase near Campbeltown at the weekend. This was the fourth round of the BLUE Scottish Tarmack Championship, but the real star of the show was the new venue. Dunfermline Car Club and friends had made a mighty effort to put on a good show. And they succeeded. Yes there were a couple of lengthy delays at the change-round, but given the scale of the place and the amount of work needed to define the route that was understandable and forgiveable at this first attempt. The organising team learned a lot too and if we get invited back next year, what’s the betting it will be a lot more slick?

The big talking point during the two days, especially the first day, was tyres. The first two stages on Saturday were bathed in sunshine and the tarmac was hot to the touch, then it rained. Big drops of waatter fell during the final two runs and yet the tarmac was still warm. It was back to sunshine on Sunday – just ask anyone who was going a bit thin on top!

Over 8 stages, Tommy Morris was never headed. The Metro didn’t miss a beat all weekend and apart from a slight oil leak from the gearbox didn’t cause him any concern – till the final stage. Going into the last test, Morris had 24 seconds on the Mitsubishi Lancer of Alistair Inglis and David Coutts. Surely that was enough? It nearly wasn’t.

Morris caught Ross Marshall going for the same bend after the Merge: “I took my eye off the ball,” said Tom, “I was watching Ross instead of watching myself. I just missed my braking point, hit a super single and launched the Metro up on 2 wheels. It tore the inner wing off and broke the Pro-Flex canister off its mount. Turned out what I thought was steam from the radiator was smoke from the oil in the canister!” Just for good measure, the pursuing Lancer hit the same tyre and the result was confirmed in Morris’ favour.

Alistair had been harrying the Metro all weekend and set fastest time on Stage 7: “The car wasn’t right on Saturday, the ear end was constantly trying to overtake the front under braking” said Alistair, “so we had a ‘committee meeting’ on Saturday evening. It was unanimously decided to check the tracking on Sunday morning, so we borrowed Alan Gardiner’s equipment. It was better, but there was no way we were going to get near Tommy.”

Behind them there was a serious scrap for top 2WD honours with four DEN Motorsport built Escorts filling the next four places. Gary Adam came out on top of that one hotly pursued by Ross Marshall driving his Dad’s 2.5 litre MkII for the first time. Gary nearly didn’t finish the first stage though. A huge tummy churner of a spin had the red escort lost in the deep undergrowth and by the time he regained the road, Morris was just blasting past, so that was 30 seconds down right away. At the half way distance, Ross Marshall was lying tenth but on Sunday he was wringing the big car’s neck and pulled back up to finish fourth. He too nearly didn’t finish: “We were flat out on the longest straight yesterday afternoon when I went for the brakes. Nothing. That was the biggest moment of my life.” With no brakes all he could do was spin it until it stopped.

Alan Gardiner in the mighty MkI finished fifth just ahead of the 2 litre car of Barry McKenna who had survived a huge aquaplaning moment and smacked the Escort’s nose. As things turned out, Alan didn’t use his secret weapon: “I brought a set of drop gears with me in case I needed to raise the gearing. It’s currently geared for 120 mph, but if I changed the gears I would get 130 mph out of it.” Whether he decided he didn’t need them , or just chickened out, who knows!

Colin Gemmell had a big fright too, dropping from fifth to seventh on the penultimate test when he missed his braking, shot on to the grass and slid 200 yards coming to rest within millimetres of a stone wall. “We didn’t even crack the number plate,” grinned Colin. And first time out for nearly two years, Steven Lockhart was pleased with eighth using this event as a shakedown for Mull in October.

The biggest surprise was a top ten finish for Brian Watson in ninth place ‘beating’ both Quintin Milne and Barry Groundwater. Of more importance to The Sheriff was that this will give him bragging rights over the rest of the crew for the next couple of weeks till the Speyside. Milne had been shaking down a Lancer “bought for a client” and collected from Troon on Friday and Groundwater had been driving an Impreza as his Lancer was being refettled after the Scottish.

Rounding off the top ten was Ian Paterson in his Subaru after breaking a driveshaft on the sixth test and puncturing a tyre. He finished just 11 seconds clear of the Ford Ka of the Forgan family which lost out big time on the fast sections to the more powerful turbo cars. Driving the boy’s 1600 Escort, John Marshall was 12th overall: “It’s actually easier to drive than the Millington,” said John, “It’s just an animal!”

Stuart Paterson was delighted with 13th place: “We broke a diff and didn’t have a spare, but we managed to build one using cobbled together parts from two separate diffs.” Allan MacKay was 14th in the Anglia and it was a treat to watch on the faster corners as it got itself into some weird and wonderful angles at times with Subaru driver Ian Paterson commenting at one point: “It was highly entertaining to follow the flying teacake at 100mph!”

Ruary Macleod had his first run out in his father’s Honda Civic R3. This was purely a shakedown to iron out any electrical gremlins that might have been lurking in the machine and Ruary finished 15th. Admittedly he did wipe the car’s nose on one the bales – but it will polish out. Stephen Thomson finished 16th after the throttle jammed open on SS4 and he got pushed from the stage finish into service.

Kieran O’Kane finished 17th without a mark on the car, Freddie Milne was 18th, Ross MacDonald 19th and Craig Teasdale rounded off the top 20.

Donnie MacDonald was in the top six at the halfway distance, till the engine failed and Lee Hastings was lying third when he changed the Subaru’s gearbox overnight then had an engine problem on the second stage on Sunday morning. John Morrison was out o Saturday night and Stuart Walker broke a driveshaft on the very first stage of the rally.

Murray Coulthard won Class 1 in his Nova and hardly laid a spanner on it all day and on only his second event, Darren Thompson was second in another Nova. On only his first event, 61 year old local bus mechanic, Alan Ross was third in a home-brewed Rover Metro. Mark Runciman was fourth but the Nova completely lost its rear brakes on Sunday and Robert May was the final class finisher in his Micra.

Allan Brodie won the 1600 class, but as an example of just how quick the stages were he was way down in 24th place at the finish when he is normally much higher. Only 13 seconds behind him was the rapid wee Citroen C2R2 of Alan McLaughlin. This was his second run out in the car and he was delighted: “It’s unmarked but I’ve lost the lower part of the grille somewhere!” Fergus Barlow was third in the Saxo ahead of the Peugeot 205 of Danny Sutherland. Greg Inglis and Duncan Maclean rounded off the top six.

Final Results:
1, Tom Morris/Colin Harkness (MG Metro 6R4) 74m 22s
2, Alastair Inglis/David Coutts (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo5) 74m 53s
3, Gary Adam/Gordon Adam (Ford Escort MkII) 76m 12s
4, Ross Marshall/Dave Robson (Ford Escort MkII) 77m 03s
5, Alan Gardiner/Robin Nicolson (Ford Escort MkI) 77m 19s
6, Barry McKenna/David Turkington (Ford Escort MkII) 77m 39s
7, Colin Gemmell/Christopher Hunter (Subaru Impreza) 77m 49s
8, Stephen Lockhart/Kevin Lockhart (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo7) 78m 25s
9, Brian Watson/Caroline Will (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 79m 36s
10, Ian Paterson/Helen Brown (Subaru Impreza) 80m 09s

Class 1:
1, Murray Coulthard/Harry Marchbank (Vauxhall Nova) 84m 49s
2, Darren Thompson/Larry Higton (Vauxhall Nova) 86m 08s
3, Alan Ross/Aaron Harvey (Rover Metro) 93m 01s

Class 2:
1, Allan Brodie/Cameron Fairbairn (Ford Escort MkII) 83m 30s
2, Alan McLaughlin/Iain Hamill (Citroen C2R2) 83m 43s
3, Fergus Barlow/Alasdair MacCrone (Citroen Saxo VTS) 84m 26s

Class 3:
1, Barry McKenna/David Turkington (Ford Escort MkII) 77m 39s
2, Ian Forgan/Kathryn Forgan (Ford Ka) 80m 20s
3, John Marshall/Scott Crawford (Ford Escort ) 80m 22s

Class 4:
1, Gary Adam/Gordon Adam (Ford Escort MkII) 76m 12s
2, Ross Marshall/Dave Robson (Ford Escort) 77m 03s
3, Alan Gardiner/Robin Nicolson (Ford Escort MkI) 77m 19s

Class 5:
1, Tom Morris/Colin Harkness (MG Metro 6R4) 74m 22s
2, Alistair Inglis/David Coutts (Mitsubishi Evo 5) 74m 53s
3, Colin Gemmell/Christopher Hunter (Subaru Impreza) 77m 49s