06 Aug: Speyside Rally main report

… McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages Rally, Saturday 2nd August 2014 …
… Rd05 (of 8) – ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship …


After five stages on last weekend’s McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages Rally, David Bogie and Euan Thorburn were level pegging on identical total times. There was nothing in it. It was an absolute dead heat between the Ford Fiesta R5+ and the Ford Focus WRC. So when David and Kevin Rae and Euan and Paul Beaton left final service they had just three stages to determine the outcome. In other words the previous five had counted for nowt, the race for victory was now on with a vengeance.

In the end the winner’s advantage was 13 seconds as David sped to his second straight victory in the new car while Euan was surprisingly upbeat. A puncture had determined the outcome this time, nothing mechanical or driver inflicted. But what a battle.

If the fight for the lead was fierce, the battle for third was nerve wracking. After eight stages, a mere seven seconds separated Jock Armstrong and Paula Swinscoe from Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy, That’s less than a second per stage. And despite a late push by the Lancer driver, the Impreza rocketeer was having none of it.

The air was dry, the ground was damp and the stages were slippery as the 104 car field left Elgin at the start of this fifth round of the ARR Craib Scottish Championship, but the weather held – for most of the day. As the last cars left the final stage, it started to rain.

SS1, Heatcare Rosarie, 2.79 mls
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 3m 10s
2, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 3m 11s
3, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe, 3m 20s
4, Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts, 3m 22s
5, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 3m 23s
6, Barry Groundwater/Sean Donnelly 3m 25s
7, Dougal Brown/Lewis Rochford, 3m 26s

The front runners therefore found the slippery bits first. “The stages are very changeable,” said David, “you just didn’t know what to expect over each crest – glaury, dry or regraded!” Even so, he beat Thorburn by ONE second. That was close, but the next five places were covered by six seconds. Jock Armstrong managed a two second gap between himself and Bruce McCombie with Mike Faulkner another second behind, but Faulkner was lucky. As he pulled up to the Arrival Control and yanked on the handbrake, the lever came away in his hand. That meant no helping handbrake through the first stage. Donnie MacDonald was even luckier: “I thought it was all over in the first stage. No-one goes off in fifth gear, hits the trees and gets back on. But we did. We hit the trees square-on and managed to reverse out. No damage.” Barry Groundwater was on the case too rounding off the top six fastest drivers through the opening test.

SS2, Coltel Knock More, 7.16 mls
1= Bogie, 6m 46s
1= Thorburn, 6m 46s
3, Armstrong, 7m 04s
4, Faulkner, 7m 06s
5= McCombie, 7m 16s
5= Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer, 7m 16s
7, Brown, 7m 21s

There was no let up in the duel at the front on the second stage where Bogie and Thorburn tied on identical stages times! So there was still, a single solitary second between them after 10 miles of flat-out driving. Armstrong was 8 seconds over the Bogey but crucially, two seconds clear of Faulkner. Mike had managed to ‘fix’ his handbrake between stages: “The nut holding the lever on the mechanism had stripped, so we wrapped some tape around it, and put the nut back on!” Setting fifth equal fastest times were the two most improved drivers of the season so far, Donnie MacDonald tying with Bruce McCombie, who had to stop on the next road section to tie up his exhaust. Bruce is much happier with the Lancer than his previous Impreza and it shows while Donnie is getting quicker all the time when he concentrates on the job, especially after his wee jaunt on the opening stage. And speaking of improved drivers, Dougal Brown is getting faster all the time just outside the top six over the first two tests. Missing from the fastest times was Quintin Milne. Back at the wheel of a MkII after his short Focus adventure, he was 6 seconds behind Calum MacKenzie on the first stage, but failed to finish the second when a stub axle sheared. There was a bad compression after a jump and maybe Calum would have suffered a similar fate had he not backed off a touch when he saw Martin Forrest wheezing hard, and legging it back up the road with his warning triangle. Less chips and more spinach methinks, Martin!

SS3, Billy Miller Contractors Meikle Balloch 5.34 mls
1= Bogie, 4m 56s
1= Thorburn, 4m 56s
3, Faulkner, 5m 03s
4, Armstrong, 5m 04s
5, MacDonald, 5m 08s
6= Groundwater, 5m 16s
6= Andy Horne/Alison Horne, 5m 16s
8, McCombie, 5m 17s

There was one second between the leaders in the third stage, again in Bogie’s favour but it didn’t count. Both David and Euan ‘cleaned’ the test so no advantage gained, or lost. So that was another 5 miles of indecisive derring-do. Faulkner was quickest this time from Armstrong, but Jock had a wee excuse: “I’m almost embarrassed to admit it,” he said, “I had a first gear off! It was a fast entry into a tightening right hander and I nearly got round it. I was looking at the tracks in the road, David (Bogie) was braking way later than me. I couldn’t match it, and just slid a wee bit too far.” Mind you he wasn’t alone, Thorburn admitted to a similar error and still cleaned the stage, while Dougal Brown admitted he too had a wee off: “And I was running brand new front tyres,” he said. MacDonald was fifth quickest through here ahead of Groundwater tying on the same time as Andy Horne in the Focus, now beginning to get his ‘eye in’ after years in the Metro.

SS4, Station Garage Whitehaugh, 7.34 mls
1= Bogie, 6m 47s
1= Thorburn, 6m 47s
3, Armstrong, 6m 54s
4, Faulkner, 6m 58s
5= McCombie, 7m 06s
5= MacDonald, 7m 06s
7, Brown 7m 16s

There was no let up in the drama at the front after the fourth test. Both Bogie and Thorburn cleaned this one as well. Had the actual times counted then the rally might well have had a new leader. As it was, there was still one second between them. Rather than try and match the Fiesta’s braking again in the fourth stage, Armstrong opted for a safe and sensible run clearing the stage 4 seconds ahead of Faulkner. McCombie punctured a rear tyre in here, but it didn’t cost too much time as he tied with MacDonald (again) while Brown was just a wee shade down on the pace in this one.

SS5, McDonald & Munro Gartly Moor, 4.92 mls
1, Thorburn, 4m 43s
2, Bogie, 4m 44s
3, Armstrong, 4m 58s
4, Faulkner, 4m 59s
5, MacDonald, 5m 03s
6, McCombie, 5m 08s
7, Brown, 5m 09s

At least they didn’t clean the fifth test, but there was only a second in it. This time in Thorburn’s favour. All tied after five stages, how close is that? Mind you, they were both starting to take a few risks here and there and it showed in the times, Armstrong was 14 seconds down on the leaders over 5 miles. Faulkner was a further second behind, but putting some air between himself and the battling McCombie/MacDonald punch-up, and Brown was just a second adrift no doubt hoping to benefit when the shrapnel started flying.

At service, Bogie said: “I had nothing left in there,” with Kevin adding: “The wee 1600 was screaming for mercy!” Far from being pleased with that, Thorburn’s face showed concern as he pulled into service: “It started misfiring on the road section on the way here,” he said, “we’ve changed the coil pack and it seems OK. It’s done it before.”

SS6, Pipeline Technique Balloch, 5.33 mls
1, Thorburn, 4m 57s
2, Bogie, 5m 00s
3, Faulkner, 5m 11s
4, Armstrong, 5m 13s
5, MacDonald, 5m 16s
6= Groundwater, 5m 19s
6= Horne, 5m 19s

This time there was clear between them, Thorburn taking 3 seconds out of Bogie over the second run at Balloch. Lying 9 seconds behind Armstrong going into this one Faulkner said: “I gave it a good go in here but only managed to take 2 back”, taking 2 seconds out of Armstrong followed by MacDonald and Groundwater tying with Horne.

SS7, Coltest Ben Aigan, 6.01 mls
1, Bogie, 5m 48s
2, Thorburn, 6m 02s
3, Faulkner, 6m 07s
4, Armstrong, 6m 09s
5, McCombie, 6m 18s
6, Groundwater, 6m 20s
7, Brown, 6m 22s

The outcome was actually decided on the 7th out of 8 stages. “On the way to the stage I felt the rear end a bit loose,” said Euan, “so we pulled over and looked at the rear tyres and checked the pressures. Everything seemed OK, so into the stage we went.” By the end of the stage, the tyre was on the rim and Euan had dropped 14 seconds to David. Game over. There was no obvious puncture, perhaps it was seated badly on the rim. Whatever, it was flat by the finish. Faulkner took another two seconds out of Armstrong leaving the gap at 5 seconds as they headed for the final 4 mile thrash through Teindland Forest. A big ask. McCombie was next up ahead of Groundwater beating MacDonald who appeared on the finish line with a flat front tyre.

SS8, Jack Carmichael Flooring Findlay’s Seat, 4.14 mls
1, Bogie, 4m 10s
2, Thorburn, 4m 12s
3, Armstrong, 4m 24s
4, Faulkner, 4m 26s
5, McCombie, 4m 28s
6= Groundwater, 4m 32s
6= Brown, 4m 32s
8, Mark McCulloch/James Haugh, 4m 36s

In rallying, anything can happen, and just as Lady Luck kicked Euan in the goolies on the previous stage, so she could have done the same to David in the final stage. In other words, they both had to have a go in the final test. This time David was 2 seconds quicker than Euan, confirming his sixth Speyside Rally victory. Armstrong made sure of third overall with a time two seconds quicker than Faulkner and Mcombie right on his tail. Groundwater and Brown tied on sixth fastest with Mark McCulloch getting a quick one in after a slow start. Understandable given his re-shell job after his big bump on the Scottish. And after his puncture on the previous test, MacDonald went into the final test: “With my petted lip on,” said Donnie, “and I spun!”

That meant McCombie clinched fifth overall from Groundwater with MacDonald finishing in seventh place ahead of Brown. Rounding off the top ten were Andy Horne, and John Rintoul now getting a bit closer to the top times with his Hyundai.

At the finish, Thorburn was surprisingly upbeat despite his disappointment: “We were right on the pace today, we know the Focus is a match for the Fiesta.” It was a point echoed by the victor: “We were both right on the limit, that was a quick pace today. We were both cutting corners, we both took risks, it was so close. It happened to Euan, but it could just as easily have happened to me. That’s rallying.”

Now for the Merrick, are Scottish hearts ready for the next gripping instalment?

Final Results:
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae (Ford Fiesta R5+) 41m 21s
2, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Ford Focus WRC) 41m 34s
3, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) 43m 06s
4, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9) 43m 13s
5, Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts (Mitsubishi EVO) 44m 18s
6, Barry Groundwater/Sean Donnelly (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9) 44m 42s
7, Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9) 44m 50s
8, Dougal Brown/Lewis Rochford (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9) 44m 53s
9, Andy Horne/Alison Horne (Ford Focus WRC) 45m 14s
10, John Rintoul/Ross Hynd (Hyundai Accent WRC) 45m 37s

11, Dale Robertson/Paul McGuire (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9) 45m 57s
12, Mark McCulloch/James Haugh (Subaru Impreza) 45m 57s
13, John Morrison/Peter Carstairs (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9) 46m 07s
14, Craig McMiken/Craig Wallace (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 46m 08s
15, Andrew Gallacher/Neil Ewing (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 46m 13s
16, Calum MacKenzie/Robbie Mitchell (Ford Escort MkII) 46m 24s
17, Fraser Wilson/Jane Nicol (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 47m 06s
18, Brian Stephen/Barry Stephen (Mitsubishi Evo 9) 47m 07s
19, Martin Scott/Mark Fisher (Mitsubishi Evo 6) 47m 09s
20, Brian Watson/Caroline Will (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8) 47m35s
21, Freddie Milne/Stephen O’hanlon (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7) 47m 44s
22, Richard Ramsay/Garry Ramsay (Subaru Impreza) 48m 03s
23, Scott McCombie/Kevin Sim (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8) 48m 18s
24, Robert Harkness/Mike Curry (BMW 316i) 48m 33s
25, Alasdair Anderson/Richard Sutherland (Subaru Impreza) 48m 41s
26, Greg McKnight/Chris McKnight (Ford Escort MkII) 58m 44s
27, Alasdair S Graham/Laura Stuart (Vauxhall Corsa) 48m 46s
28, Callum Atkinson/David Wilson (Ford Fiesta) 48m 56s
29, Garry Wilson/Hollie Wilson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 5) 49m 00s
30, Kieran Renton/Dave Robson (Ford Fiesta R200) 49m 04s

Class Results:
2, Scott MacBeth/ (Vauxhall Nova) 50m 24s
3, Charles Blair/ (Peugeot 205 GTI) 51m 10s
4, Greg McKnight/Chris McKnight (Ford Escort MkII) 48m 44s
5, Duncan MacDonald/ (Ford Escort MkII) 49m 47s
6, Steven Smith/ (Ford Escort MkI) 50m 51s
7, Callum Atkinson/David Wilson (Ford Fiesta ST) 48m 56s
8, Calum MacKenzie/Robbie Mitchell (Ford Escort MkII) 46m 24s
9, Robert Harkness/Mike Curry (BMW 316i) 48m 33s
10, Dale Robertson/Paul McGuire (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9) 45m 57s
12, David Bogie/Kevin Rae (Ford Fiesta R5+) 41m 21s