… Merrick Class Roundup …
Scott MacBeth won the 1450cc class in his Nova by 4 minutes from the similar car of Angus Lawrie. It wouldn’t have been such a big gap for the winner had Lawrie not punctured a tyre in the final stage but MacBeth was lucky too: “We caught a car in the last stage and I couldn’t see for dust. Danny (his co-driver) told me there was a square right at the end of a 400 yard straight. I still haven’t seen it. That was the scariest run yet.” Linzi Henderson finished third in her MG ZR while front runner Derek Connel’s Corsa retired on the first stage with a broken crankshaft pulley. In fourth place was the Peugeot 206 of Paul Sharp who had a front puncture on the third stage and was lucky to survive another incident: “Michael (co-driver) called a Left 7 ‘Don’t Cut’ – and guess what? I cut!”
Charles Blair won the 8v 165occ class and was top Peugeot 205 ahead of Blair Brown with Iain Haining relegated to third place in his Nova after stopping to change a punctured tyre in the second stage. Blair was luckier, when he punctured on the third test but managed to drive out and Brown was puzzled by an incident on one stage where he encountered a car with its door open (and no ‘OK’ board showing) and stopped to investigate, only for the car to pull out and drive off leaving him in its dust. Andy Chalmers in his 205 actually tied with third placed Haining but lost out due to a faster time on the first stage. Donald Peacock was fifth in his 205 but chuffed to beat ‘the boy’ Scott, although Scott had a problem on the second stage losing 10 minutes when a wire broke behind the master Switch: “If I had a screwdriver in the car, in could have fixed it in seconds, but it took ages with no tools.” Simon Hay was sixth in class despite breaking a bottom balljoint on the third stage while Adrian Stewart was seventh although the Peugeot was less of a car at the finish than it was at stage having left some bodywork behind: “We went looking for lucky white heather in the second stage,” explained Adrian, “and bashed the front wing.” Scott Peacock finished eighth and first time out in his ‘new’ 205 Thaarique Fazal was the final finisher after some “teething difficulties”.
Alasdair S Graham had an unusual rally in his 1650 16v class winning Corsa. It was troublefree. The perplexed driver said at the finish: “We didn’t put a spanner on it all day.” Greg McKnight was second in his Escort MkII after a troubled morning run: “We had an alternator and ECU problem and the clutch was acting up, but it was all sorted and the afternoon was great.” Kieran Renton was third in his Fiesta R200 although Grant Inglis lost out when the Honda Civic struck a log hidden in long grass. Alex Curran was fourth in his Corsa after two punctures and one ditch excursion while Duncan Campbell was fifth in the Honda after a fuel problem which he still hasn’t got to the bottom of. Iain Wilson failed to finish when he retired in Balloch, probably because of damaged incurred earlier when the Nova picked up a puncture and he drove out on it for 5 miles. Jim Robertson’s Citroen retired in the final stage but rather than approach him to ask what happened – wiser counsel and a sense of self preservation prevailed. Makes you wonder if Haynes do French manuals as well, eh?
David Cameron won the class and was the only finisher in his 2 litre 8v MkII despite clutch problems over the first two stages but following adjustment at service, it was fine again. Then on the third stage: “If it had been wet, we wouldn’t have come out of there,” said David, “I got the tail well into a ditch at the hairpin in Stage 3.”
Steve Bannister in the top 2WD car also won the Historic class from the Mk1 Escort of Steven Smith, but Steven was lucky to finish: “At service we realised an axle bearing was getting very worn but we didn’t have any spares, so it was fingers crossed and carry on. It got really noisy through the final stage but we finished.”
Donald Carslaw ‘borrowed’ daughter Caroline’s Fiesta ST for a rare outing, but was more relieved rather than pleased to have got it round in one piece – without marking the car! Only 24 seconds behind at the finish was the Fiesta ST of Callum Atkinson losing out on the class win when he punctured the front left tyre in the final stage: “I didn’t see anything, I don’t think I hit anything,” said a disappointed Callum.
Robert Harkness won the RWD over 2050cc class in his BMW 316i, but was very lucky: “We went off in the last stage,” he chuckled, “it stepped out under braking for a Right 4, and was in the ditch on one side of the road, then on the other, and back again, but we got away with it.” Billy McClelland finished second first time out in the ex-Steve Magson Opel Kadett and was lucky to finish as the rear diff was breaking up by the end. Colin Aitchison finished third in the Chevette but was having trouble with brake fade. “We lost all brakes by the end of SS2,” said Colin, ” but fortunately we went into service after that and then lost them all again on the final stage. I don’t think there’s a real problem, it’s just brake fade.”
Dale Robertson was the Group N winner but Fraser Wilson was only 16 seconds behind at the finish. Andrew Gallacher lost out on second place and a finish when the car failed post event scrutineering due to a lack of catalytic converter in the Lancer Evo9. The moral of this story is that homologation papers must be strictly adhered to, even if similar previous models of the same car differ in technical spec.
The first seven cars in the unlimited class all finished inside the top ten with Lee Hastings ‘best of the rest’ in eighth place and 11th overall. “All I wanted was a steady run today,” said Lee, “because I’ve got the Pendragon Stages tomorrow and I need the ‘Five of Clubs’ (championship) points.” Calum MacLeod finished ninth in class after a busy week under the fluorescent lamps with the MG but the hard work was rewarded with a faultless performance (from the car!) on the rally. Rounding off the top ten was Alasdair Anderson in his Subaru. First time out in a ‘new’ Evo, Jim Sharp was 11th ahead of Fraser McNicol who had a puncture in the second stage and spent the rest of the day with a spongey brake pedal in the Evo6. Geoff Goudie’s Impreza lost its brakes on the fifth stage and finished the rally by “throwing the car sideways at corners just to slow it down.” First time out in a new Lancer (after a Subaru), Ellya Gold was pleased to finish although he had a puncture in the first stage and Jan Budge (from Berkshire in Englandland) on his first visit to this part of the world thoroughly enjoyed the experience although he does think that our Forestry bridges are a bit narrow. And making it a clean sweep for the McCombie clan, Scott didn’t finish either, his Lancer going down with electrical disease in the third stage while Nick Taylor retired his Subaru in the fourth test:” We lost all power in the second stage when an intercooler hose came off,” said Nick, “and then had more trouble in the fourth.”