18 Sep: News and Blethers

… News from the MSA British Rally Championship …

Ross Hunter clinched the Champion Driver of the 2014 NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge Trophy on last weekend’s Rally Isle of Man.

On the Thursday and Friday, the penultimate round of the NGK BRCC, the 26 year old Borderer with Josh Davison alongside, had a titanic battle on their hands, never more than a handful of seconds separating them from Richard Sykes and Emma Morrison. Unfortunately, former champ Sykes had a 100 mph accident on the penultimate stage on Friday morning, handing Hunter and Davison the win and maximum points.

Following the Friday teatime restart for the final point scoring opportunity of the season, Hunter had the advantage in the title race and when Sykes broke a driveshaft early on, the Scot merely had to keep his head for the title. Hunter was running well up the overall leader board when he had a big spin on Saturday morning. This wake-up call, settled the pace and by the finish the venerable Peugeot 205 arrived in Douglas battered and bruised, but on the top step of the podium for the second time in the weekend.

Unlucky not to finish their first visit to the Isle of Man, fellow Scots Graeme Sherry and Cameron Fair were thankful of the local Renault dealer who made it possible for them to re-start round six, only to stop two stages from home.

The double win and Championship drivers’ title rounds off what was a difficult year for Hunter who saw Sykes have all the good luck until the Manx event.

Ross Hunter has therefore earned a place on the ‘Road to Wales’, a free entry given by the event as a prize to join the national section of the Wales Rally GB National Rally on 14-16 November.

Jim McRae and Pauline Gullick finished 7th overall in their Vauxhall Firenza Can-Am while Shaun Sinclair and Jane Nicol were fourth overall in an Escort MkII in the National event ahead of Brian Watson and Caroline Will who were 17th in their MkII.

Barry Groundwater and Neil Shanks failed to finish when their Mitsubishi Lancer E9 engine failed on SS9.


Other News and Blethers

Calum and Claudia MacLeod had an uneventful rally after a more than eventful week flying in from Germany. On Thursday before the rally, the MG S2000 developed an engine fault while testing in Wales and had to be rebuilt in Dumfries overnight and all day Friday. “The head was still being skimmed at 7 am on Friday morning,” said Calum. When completed and fired up, it wasn’t running right, and a cracked ignition lead was diagnosed. This was solved by ‘borrowing’ the ignition pack from Lee Hastings’ autocross MG ZR car which was parked in the same garage. As would appear to be the case these days, Lee wasn’t informed till afterwards. He’s such a kind and canny lad, eh.

One of the reasons that Calum MacLeod’s MG S2000 was in Wales was to give the 2013 Scottish Junior Rally Champion, Calum Atkinson a run out in the car with Mark Higgins as part of his championship winning prize. Sadly Calum only got a couple of drives and two runs with Higgins before the engine problem intervened, but was full of praise for the car and full of admiration for Higgins. As for the engine fault, no-one can actually be blamed. They were all having tea and sannies at mid day when they noticed water seeping out of the underside of the MG’s engine bay.

On the rally itself Calum Atkinson had the adrenaline pump working at full chat, especially in one stage where Keith Riddick called a ‘Left7’. Calum went into it at full chat, when Keith called ‘Left 7’ again: “I didn’t really twig at first,” said Calum, “but when he shouted Left7 for the third time I already had a rear wheel in the ditch and realised it was a L-O-N-G Left7! It was actually two Left7s joined togther.” Methinks the two nonsense makers need to concentrate harder.

NOTE: Just in case you’ve read the main Merrick Rally report and wondered what happened to Stage 4. There wasn’t one. It was dropped due to the low entry and additional costs, understandably

Those who didn’t make it, or bother to try and make it, they missed out on one of the big attractions of the Merrick event in Wigtown, Steven Cronnie’s pies. The local butcher had gone one better this year and had set up a rather large barbecue under the shopfront awning to dispense burgers and sausages at the rally finish. There was just one wee problem, the smell wafting across the Square. For those on a diet this was pure torture.

Speaking of pies, here’s the housekeeping tip of the week. When she went into her local supplier to buy pies for the Service Crew, the dead gallus Ann Bogie asked: “You know I always buy pies before we go on a rally, should I not get a discount for such a large and regular order?” It obviously worked: “I saved £8,” she beamed. Now we know how David could afford to buy the Fiesta – it must have been Ann who did the deal!

It was good to see Mark McKnight (Greg’s uncle) back in harness running Course Car duty in his ‘brand new’ Vauxhall engined MkII on the Merrick: “It’s my first time out in 8 years,” he admitted.

Stuart Newby of TegSport was looking a bit sheepish at first service: “I was backing the wee van into place beside the big van when I knocked over Joe (one of the service crew) over who was sitting there in his £4.99 canvas chair. Naturally he thought it was deliberate, but it was OK, there isn’t a mark on the van.”

Ahead of the Merrick, Fraser Wilson had a wee panic with the Lancer. “It was OK at the test yesterday,” said Fraser, “but on the way to the Start this morning it wouldn’t rev over 3000 rpm. So we took it back home and changed the fuel pump, then I took it for a wee run just to make sure it was OK – and encountered a herd of coos wandering about in the road.”

As ever, Jim McDowall was rushing about Wigtown like a Good Samaritan with a toolbox, but he did have time to stop and mention that he was doing Mull, but not in the Avenger: “I’m having trouble sourcing bits,” said Jim, “it’s got a broken camshaft and probably won’t be ready in time, but Derek Jobbs has offered me his Evo9. He owns a hotel in Creetown and I’ve done a few jobs for him over the years, so he offered me his car. I’m tempted – but I’ve also been looking at Subaru Impreza!”

Speaking of Mull, the on-event Results Team will be a man short, sorry, a woman short this year because Fiona Moir will be forsaking her Time Card admin for Pace Note duty. She will be teaming up with Brain ‘Beefy’ Fraser in the Hillman Avenger to contest her first full stage rally since 1981. Ever the gallant, I said surely not, it must be 1991? But no, she actually contested the 1981 Snowman Rally as a co-driver before husband Neil informed her she’d be much more valuable in the Results Team. Anyway, she’s already been over on the island with Brain and Neil practicing her Notes, but not at rally speeds. That challenge lies ahead.

Meanwhile, Neil Moir was causing a bit of consternation in the village of Glentrool at the Merrick. He’s the guy behind the ever-efficient on-event field results service and carries a laptop and printer in the car to dish out result sheets to the crews. Anyway, there was no phone signal at the Service Area in Glentrool so Neil jumped in the car every so often, drove down to the village where he had sussed out that some of the local houses had a BT wi-fi signal which he could access while sitting in his wee black car in the street, and then shot back up to the service area to print and hand out the sheets. This he did quite a few times during the day, but no-one dared to come out and question what he was up to, it was just the quivering curtains that gave the game away. Maybe they thought he was a social security snooper or unmarked Polis.

And finally …

Donald Carslaw assured me his daughter Caroline knew that he was borrowing her Ford Fiesta ST for a run out on the Merrick. The last time he was out was way back in 2003 when he hired a Honda Civic for the Scottish. Fortunately (for him) the car returned to the Wigtown finish in one piece with nary a scrape or dent on the bodywork. But where was Caroline? Apparently she is doing a Masters degree in mechanical engineering in Denmark. Which can only mean one thing – was she doing her practical work on those fiendishly complicated electronic Lego kits, eh?