08 Aug: Speyside News & Blethers

… Speyside News and Nonsense …

Although entered in a Ford Focus WRC, Quintin Milne appeared at the Speyside with a Ford Escort MkII. “I’ve sold the Focus,” he said, “it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t relax and drive it as hard as I wanted to because I kept thinking about the price of parts. Fabulous car, but not for me. So I bought this. It’s a MkII with a John Reid 2 litre engine, Tractive gearbox and wide track rear axle. It’s not as good a spec as my own MkII which I sold, but if I break anything tomorrow, I won’t worry about it.” As ever, it was a last minute affair with Q: “Within an hour of advertising the Focus it was sold, and that left me looking around for something else. I found this Escort in Ireland on the Thursday before the rally and just went and collected it and brought it straight here.” He was 6 seconds slower than Calum MacKenzie on the opening test, but a stub axle sheared on the second.

Speaking of the Hebridean Hurricane, Calum MacKenzie had a new co-driver for the Speyside: “Alan (Clark) had booked a holiday for that weekend and Robbie Mitchell, who normally co-drives for Mike Horne, agreed to sit in with me.” The rally started well with a 9th fastest and two 11th fastest times overall behind a strong 4WD entry, but there was a bit of a shock in store for Calum: “There have been a few moments today though that have caused shock especially when Robbie did the tyre pressures before one of the stages – the only time I see Alan out of his seat is to get a sandwich when we get back to service!” Stage 4, Whitehaugh had not been used since 2006 (last time Calum was in it was with a Metro 6R4 in 1998!) and had some green grassy sections which saw the Escort struggle for traction although Stage 5, Gartly had the best surface condition of the day and was a pleasure to drive. Stage 6 was back to Balloch and was going well until: “We spun at a double chicane towards the end of the stage. It probably cost us 8-10 seconds by the time we spun, reversed and got momentum again – rookie error!” In stage 7 a front left tyre was sliced right down to the canvas on the side wall, so they were lucky to get away with that one. The final result of the day was big smiles all round, 16th overall and top 2WD by over 2 minutes. “We had an absolute hoolie today and thoroughly enjoyed it – over the last 3 years we have not done much rallying so it’s nice to know we still have some pace and I’m sure with more mileage we could get back some more! Robbie was spot on with the Notes and the boys did a good job keeping the car in order.”

There was no repeat of the fourth overall result on the Scottish for Andy Horne at the Speyside, but he was delighted with ninth overall at the finish. That wasn’t entirely due to the car because daughter Alison was co-driving for Dad for the first time: “She did very well,” said Andy, “a bit hesitant at first but soon into the way of it.” Howie the Bunnet was also on hand to offer advice in the morning and admitted he was almost redundant by the end of the day. However, Andy was lucky to make the rally start. At the pre-event VIP day the Focus stripped the power steering pump belt and he didn’t have a spare. A couple of phone calls later and Jim Howie was dispatched to Moffat to meet Paul Benn (from Cockermouth) and collect a belt and some more of the ‘fancy’ power steering fluid. He nearly didn’t recognise him. Paul was on his way to a wedding and was dressed in all his fancy finery – as opposed to his more usual ovies and tacketty boots.

Speaking of Paul Benn, it was his idea to approach Euan Thorburn to drive Course Car duties for last month’s Greystoke Rally which was sponsored by his rally prep firm and garage, P&R Benn. Paul helps out with the prep for Euan’s Focus so Euan was happy to oblige – until he got another phone call. Apparently the Focus would not be needed because Paul wanted to know if he would like to drive his Fiesta R5. Stupid question really. Naturally, this being a Cumbrian gesture there was more to it than that. A certain chap by the name of Malcolm had asked if Paul could test some new works parts on the car, hence the offer to Euan. “I didn’t need to be asked twice,” said Euan, “it’s not as quick as the Focus and you need to be in the right gear at the right time all the time. It brakes superbly and handles really well, but if you brake too late and turn in abruptly, it can bog down trying to get the power down. That’s why you always need to be in the right gear. The Fiesta R5+ would be better and probably just as quick as the Focus, but I really enjoyed it.” Asked if this was an astute move by Paul to see if it was a ‘try before you buy’ offer, he replied: “Aye it might have been, but I’m not in the market for one!”

Iain Haining appeared at Speyside with his latest rally weapon after his Scottish roll. “I had a K reg Nova in the back of the garage, so my Dad and me collected a roll-cage kit and plates from Pro-Tec and did a month’s welding in 2 days! Then I went to Lanzarote on holiday, intending to get it finished when I got back,” said Iain, “but while I was away a lot of friends came into help, including Chuck Blair who is my biggest class rival in the Championship, to get on with the work. Then I got a phone call while I was away from Mike and Keith Riddick asking me what colour I wanted the car painted. They have never painted a car before, but that wasn’t the question. So I just said my usual shade of green and off they went. Not a bad job, eh? There was still quite a bit to do when I got back but we got it finished. The only original parts are the engine and gearbox, even the back axle and struts were bent in the accident.” As for the paint job, it looks brilliant, if you’re wearing dark glasses and not too close.

Another driver with a sweat rainbow over the garage since the Scottish was Mark McCulloch who re-shelled his battered two door Subaru into a four door shell in time for Speyside. It was a fairly big bump at the time, and when asked at first service on the Speyside how he was doing, said: “I was cacking it over the first couple of stages and it took me a wee while to get back into it.”

Poacher turned gamekeeper? Dave Weston Snr was spotted with an official looking badge at the Speyside. He was actually Assistant Clerk of the Course: “I’m taking on the role of CofC for next year’s Granite City Rally, so I thought I’d better get some hand-on experience this weekend.” Nice one Dave.

Amongst the TegSport boys at Speyside was young Aaron Newby, but he had the working ovies (as opposed to the racing ovies) on: “We’re too busy at work with customer cars, so I’m not getting out much myself,” said Aaron, “but I’m doing Mull. I’ve never been before, even to watch, but it was all Rob Fagg’s idea. I’ve seen a lot of in-car footage and I’ve done the Isle of Man so I really quite fancy it. I know it will be completely different to anything I’ve done before.” I’ll tell you what though, he’s ambitious is this boy. He’s hoping for a top ten finish.

It was hardly ‘Comeback Kid Carty’ who rolled into Elgin for the Speyside. Jim Carty needed to give the Subaru a run out before everything seized solid so offered to run Course Car duties. An ambitious offer, but well meant I’m sure, since the last outing was Rally of Scotland 3 years ago. The Subaru had other ideas, and so did the tow car. On the way up pulling the trailer, the temperature gauge on the Toyota Colorado shot up. Nothing serious, but who had forgotten to check the water level before the trip? Luckily they stopped beside a Highland burn. Jim took one look at the deep, rushing, crystal clear, ice cold waatter and dispatched long suffering wife Frances with the flask to get water to top up the radiator. That lady has the patience of a saint, the temperance of a nun and the tolerance of a statue.

Lucky White Heather club. Chapter Umpteen. Sandy Arbuthnott. Who else? The Metro appeared at the VIP test day before the Speyside and didn’t miss a beat all morning. It ran up and down that stage like a clockwork mouse. Mission accomplished. Then on the way home it ran a big end bearing shell. Undaunted Sandy and Ian and the rest of boys set to, stripping the engine down, replacing the shells and rebuilding it again, ready for the rally start just 18 hours away. They were still cheery as they set off from Elgin for the forests, until they got to Gartly when the Metro did its stubborn donkey impression refusing to play any more. Later on that evening, Sandy was heard muttering: “I’ll get that Escort oot again.”

Boy Scout club. Charles Blair and Mark Roberts and the Peugeot 205 team run a pretty spartan outfit on a very tight budget, so they thought they would buy a tent and camp out at Speyside to save on B&B costs. When they got to the campsite it was dark – and they had never put a tent up before. How hard can it be? Typical blokes, they ended up with bendy poles, bits of nylon and curse words flying everywhere. Eventually, they got a couple of branches off a tree, stuck them in the ground and draped the tent over them. Air beds blown up, shoved inside and sleeping bags followed. In the morning, it was the noise that woke them. Either it was a low flying aircraft in trouble or a VW beetle was ticking over nearby. It was neither, it was a big black pussy cat which had crawled in and hunkered down between all the sleeping bags. So how did it get in? When they boys awoke in daylight, there was an 8 inch gap between the ground and the tent all round.

A final word from Barry Den on the recent Mach 1 Stages Rally at Campbeltown. Looking out across Machrihanish Bay, the DenSport boss was heard to utter: “If I can see my house from here, how come it took 12 hours to get here?” The point was well made, Barry’s place is near the coast on the north eastern tip of Northern Ireland which is just 12 miles across the waatter as the gulls fly, so maybe that’s a question for CalMac, eh?

And finally …

Now I think I’m fairly safe here, because his parents are far too sensible to read this drivel, but Jaggy managed to embarrass young Ross Jarrett at the Speyside after spotting him arriving in Elgin on the Friday afternoon. He got a call at mid day on Friday to co-drive for Andy Chalmers who was stuck. Not only did Ross turn up to the save day but he didn’t arrive empty handed. The wee silver babe magnet Corsa bowled into the car park later that afternoon with Ross at the wheel and no less than FOUR burds aboard. When challenged, he had the grace to blush and clarified the situation: “Yes, that’s true, but one was my girlfriend – and the other three are her pals!” So that’s alright then, eh.

And finally, finally …

A serious challenge lies ahead. I’ve found a rival for Rhona Dickie’s tablet. Mark McCulloch’s Mum brought some of hers to the Speyside. I reckon they’ll both be at the Solway Coast this weekend. That poses either a dilemma or a challenge. Someone with taste, fortitude, an enquiring mind and an unquestionable desire to search for truth and justice will be needed to conduct a great Scottish ‘Tablet Taste-Off’. Does anyone know any one, man or woman enough, to take this on?

Notes to self:
Stock up with Irn Bru for the Sunday morning, after the Saturday night Bar&BQ.
Be sure the coo was deid before spitting and roasting.
Be suspicious of strangers offering tempting beverages and nippy sweeties.
Don’t confuse Cost del Solway with Costa del Sol – it’s not that some folks will be talking funny or foreign, they’ll just be happily convivial!