10 Jul: Machrihanish musings

… News & Gossip from Kintyre …

A late entry for last weekend’s Mach1 Stages Rally came from Germany, but no Germans turned up. Instead, Ruary MacLeod appeared with Cammy Fair in Calum’s Honda Civic R3. Apparently the car has suffered niggly problems on its last three outings in Germany so a complete change of wiring loom was called for. The car was duly dispatched to Colin Telfer’s home for sick rally cars in Dumfries where the new loom was fitted. Rather than incur the expense of shipping the car back to Germany and suffering any more niggles, Calum thought it would be a good idea for Ruary to give the car a through test and shakedown at Machrihanish. With service after each stage, it would be ideal for Colin and Iain to work their witchcraft on the car should it be needed. It wasn’t. The car performed faultlessly, not so the driver. According to Ruary the Honda has around 100 bhp more than his R2 Fiesta and he had never driven it before, he hadn’t even sat in it. Also, the car arrived with one set of worn tyres. Ruary was also under threat from Faither not to bend it. To be truthful, he didn’t actually bend it, but there were a few additional scuffs and creases on the car by the end of the day and that was down to a combination of well worn tyres, wet and slippery conditions, tight chicanes and rather large bales. On that basis I thought 15th overall in such rapid company was pretty damn good.

On a separate note, Calum (MacLeod) reported that his MG S2000 is almost ready after a full mechanical rebuild and it has a new paint job. Plans for a Speyside re-debut are dependent on a test soon at which Calum plans to invite last year’s top SRC Junior, Callum Atkinson.

Things were looking good for Lee Hastings at the halfway point on Saturday afternoon till the Subaru developed a gearbox fault when lying in third place overall. No problem, just change the ‘box, after all, they had all night to do it. Err, there was just one wee problem, the spare gearbox was 215 miles away in Dumfries! And so a telephone call was made to Mark McCulloch who drove 50 miles to Dumfries, picked up the gearbox then drove north to Tarbert where he was met by the boys who then drove back to Machrihanish where a kindly local farmer had opened up his barn (the airbase was locked for the night) for the mechanical surgery. By first light everything was hunky dory and off Lee set in flying form – till the second stage of the morning, when the engine failed. This puzzled Colin and Iain, but a telephone call from the stranded Subaru went as follows:
Lee: “The car has stopped”
Colin: “What happened?”
Lee: “The engine just cut out”
Colin (thinking it was an ECU problem): “Were you heavy braking at the time?”
Lee: “No, we were going backwards at the time”
Colin: “Backwards?”
The response: “Into a bale!”
Apparently, the gearbox is still in perfect working order!

You know something, when the north east squadron get together, they should sell tickets. I reckon rally fans the length and breadth of the country would turn up to listen in. Barry Groundwater’s Lancer gearbox is away for surgery at present and so too is Quintin Milne’s Focus ‘box. That left them both without a car as The Sheriff had loaned the ex-Q Escort to Shaun Sinclair for the event. However, Brian had bought a Subaru Impreza in Ireland a couple of months back and hadn’t yet collected it, so Barry said he would nab that and drive it and set off to collect it. Meantime, Q had purchased a Lancer in Ireland on behalf of a rally-school client so he set off to bring that back and give it a shakedown at Machrihanish, as all three were keen to support the organisers. Naturally, none of this discussion was conducted in business-like manner and the gripes and groans continued throughout the weekend with Q running out of brakes and Barry unable to find any! Neither of them finished the rally, leaving a very smug Sheriff boasting to one and all that he beat both Q and Baz on the event. My ears are still sore.

Speaking of local folks helping out. When Colvin Howie struck trouble with the Avenger he didn’t have the right tools to fix it. Although it was a new engine it was suffering low oil pressure, but Colin reckoned it was the pressure switch in the block which was faulty. But he couldn’t extract the switch. A local spectator asked what was wrong and when Colin told him, the guy said he knew a bloke who could fix it. So he phoned his mate who was working on his boat at the time, who promptly packed up his tools, came up to the airfield, extracted the switch and then went back to his boat. And he wouldn’t take a penny for his time. Nice one Campbeltown.

After he had cowped the Chevette on the RSAC Scottish, Tony Thompson from Yorkshire was all set to do the Mach1 in his Escort MkII, but had to withdraw his entry. He had dislocated his thumb and a finger in the Scottish incident and had his hand and wrist strapped up. Did he get out his pipe and slippers? Did he heck. He and the Missus drove the 300 miles to Machrihanish to marshal and then drove home again afterwards. How many other rally drivers would do such a thing, eh? Nice one you two.

Speaking of injuries, Eddie O’Donnell Snr was a surprise visitor to Machrihanish: “I’m here to collect Steven (O’Donnell) and take him to hospital in Glasgow.” Apparently Steven had fallen off a ladder in the early hours and broken his wrist. Eddie got the call at 1.30 am and caught the first ferry over on Saturday morning to drive down to Campbeltown to collect the wayward wean and cart him off. So how did it happen? Details are still sketchy at present, but we know a ladder was involved. We also know that the ladder was being used to scale the side of a tepee where the team was staying! We also believe that strong drink was involved somewhere along the line.

As for O’Donnell Jnr, no expense had been spared in his attempts to support this new Kintyre initiative. With the Escort engine away for some TLC and not yet back, Eddie had bought a Toyota Celica with a cage in it. To say it was a rally car is a bit short of the mark so he had to fit his own seats, belts and sundry other bits and ‘finish off’ this project. After numerous adventures, he ended up 49th overall and was quite pleased with that: “Not bad for four road tyres – 3 Kumhos and a Continental!”

Nick Runcie was leading Class 2 after 3 stages in his Saxo when a diff bearing collapsed and there was no chance of fixing it: “It’s a ‘strip the box’ job,” said Nick, “it’s full of bits and filings.”

Great plumes of smoke trailing across the airfield raised concerns at one point with some observers thinking a car was on fire. It wasn’t. It was just James MacGillivray indulging in some ultra high speed do’nuts when the Escort ran out of brakes at one point. Honestly it looked like a Red Arrows fly past there was that much smoke.

One of the earliest retirements was Ian Shiells’ Honda engined BMW. “I think there was more damage done on the Jim Clark than I first thought,” said Ian, “I noticed puffs of smoke trailing the car when changing down into the chicanes. At first I thought it was locked wheels, but the up-changes were accompanied by more puffs of smoke and then it started losing power – so I switched it off!”

Kevin Ronaldson didn’t get far in the Metro either, and was spotted plugging the laptop into the diagnostics: “I don’t know what’s up, but it seems that cylinders 1 and 4 are shutting down. It felt like the plugs were oiling up,” said Kevin, “it could be something to do with the crank sensor.” Whatever, it was an early bath for Kevin.

Also in attendance was Steven Ronaldson. The car wasn’t there though, after chipping some teeth in the gearbox at the Granite, but he reckons the Metro will be fit for the Speyside.

The 3 Stooges were in Kintyre on Saturday evening. At least to the inmates and customers of a Campbeltown hostelry it looked like it, as the trio sprachled about on the pavement outside watched all the while by those inside. No-one knows what the argument was about and no-one is saying, but the antics provided the highlight of the local population’s summer festival of sport and outdoor entertainment. At least one of the trio should have known better, but that will teach him to mix with ‘bad’ company.

A strong candidate for a Scottish version of ‘Celebrity Chef’ must be Allan MacKay. He was spotted on Saturday afternoon with a tray of disgusting looking sandwiches to feed the troops. This called for investigation, so Allan peeled back the top half of a roll to reveal a slab of lasagne – lasagne sandwiches! The best of Italian cuisine mated with the staple diet of a true Scotsman, a buttered roll. Now, what could be more exotic than that?

… and finally …

Another true story. As mentioned earlier, Eddie O’Donnell Jnr had acquired a half finished (half started?) rally car project called a Toyota Celica just for this event: “It was cheap.” But when he got to scrutineering he was told the turbo would need a restrictor. Not being used to such new-fangled rally weaponry, the thought had never entered Eddie’s head. He thought his rally was over before it had started so they repaired to the pub on Friday night. Having applied some lubrication to the seriously overworked grey matter with little success, doubts were beginning to set in, until Auld Hamish came up with the brainwave of the century. On the basis that the solution didn’t need to be permanent and as long as it was undersized rather than oversized, absolute precision was not a requirement. All that needed to be done was restrict the flow of air to a technically acceptable and measureable level. Anyway, Hamish came up with the simplest of solutions – cut the circular top off one of the marker cones at the venue and stick it in the orifice. Job done. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t neat and it reduced the intake diameter to the Scroots’ satisfaction! Ya beezer. Just don’t tell Lord Sugar or one of his apprentices otherwise there will be a shortage of cones and Dingbro will be out of business.