06 Oct: Thorburn wins McRae

… Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally …

Scotland has a new rally champion and a new rally champion co-driver, but as last year’s Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally proved, nothing is ever certain in this game until the Final Time Card is stamped and collected. Last year, Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton were leading this penultimate round of the ARR Craib Scottish Championship as they approached the final stage, and it was the same again this year.

Last time they struck trouble, while Bogie and Rae didn’t and they went on to win the title, but would it be a case of history repeating itself this time, or would Lady Luck cast her fickle favours elsewhere?

It was all to play for after a day of swapping seconds and changing leaders, as the blue and white Focus WRC pulled up behind the green and white Fiesta R5+ at the start of the final Craigvinean test. Thorburn and Beaton had a 2 second advantage over arch rivals David Bogie and Kevin Rae. If Thorburn won today, he would clinch his first ever Scottish Championship title, if he didn’t, it would go to the final round in the Republic of Armstrongshire.

The Coltness bears are used to rain on their parade, although last year turned out to be pretty dry and sunny. Hopes were high again this year that the weather gods would favour their endeavours. They didn’t. The rain fell on Friday and fell again on Saturday morning. What had previously looked firm and fast in the Perthshire forests was overnight transformed into a mixture of damp, wet, guttery and glaury stages. Fortunately the rain stopped late morning and the sun peeked out from behind the leaden grey sky, and started to dry the roads out – but not much!

SS1, DJR Services -The Hermitage, 6.0 mls
1, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 5m 30s
2, David Bogie/Kevin Rae, 5m 33s
3, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe, 5m 43s
4, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 5m 47s
5, John MacCrone/Stuart Loudon, 5m 48s
6, Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks, 5m 50s

As the cars left the Aberfeldy town square Rally Start, it was wipers and demisters to the fore as they headed south to the first test at Craigvinean. After 6 miles of slittery mud and gravel, the difference between Thorburn and Bogie was 3 seconds, that’s half a second per mile! Armstrong was third quickest, but already 10 seconds down on his near neighbour with Faulkner on his tail. First time out in the Fiesta R5, John MacCrone was satisfied with his ‘sighting’ run while Barry Groundwater rounded off the top six times.

Fraser Wilson didn’t even get that far. On the first road section the Lancer’s fuel pump failed: “It was brand new after the last one failed at the Merrick,” he exclaimed. Seeck? You betcha.

SS2, Dalmarnock, 3.8 mls
1, Thorburn/Beaton, 3m 47s
2, Bogie/Rae, 3m 51s
3, Dougal Brown/Lewis Rochford, 4m 00s
4, Armstrong/Swinscoe, 4m 01s
5, Faulkner/Foy, 4m 02s
6, Dale Robertson/Paul McGuire, 4m 04s

It was Thorburn again on the shorter Craigvinean test, this time by 4 seconds over nearly 4 miles from Bogie. Whatever Dougal Brown had for his breakfast worked. He was third quickest from Armstrong with Faulkner just half a sneeze behind and Dale Robertson all fired up with sixth fastest.

Sadly, John MacCrone was going no further. He took a big cut on a right hander where a large rock punched the wheel into the arch and broke the steering. In fact it wasn’t just a rock, this was an M&S rock. According to Stuart Loudon: “It wasn’t a single rock, it was part of the world! It wasn’t in the Notes but we were taking a ‘World Championship’ sized cut so it was well back from the road and covered in long grass!”

John Rintoul didn’t get far when the Hyundai landed with a bump after a crest and the screen displayed ‘fuel pressure failure’ so he switched to the second pump and it prompted the message ‘hydraulic pressure failure’ so he parked up.

SS3, JLT – Ballechin Wood, 4.0 mls
1, Bogie/Rae, 4m 05s
2= Thorburn/Beaton, 4m 07s
2= Robertson/McGuire, 4m 07s
4, Faulkner/Foy, 4m 13s
5, Groundwater/Shanks, 4m 19s
6= Brown/Rochford, 4m 22s
6= Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts, 4m 22s

Bogie was quickest through Fonab. “We had a wee test during the week and set the car up for dry and fast. It was too firm over the first couple of stages but we managed to soften it before going in to the third test, and that was better.” Thorburn was second quickest but had his lead cut by 2 seconds although Dale Robertson’s pace was raising eyebrows, the Group N car equalling the WRC machine: “I like slippy,” said Dale.

Thorburn commented: “The early cars (Historics and 2WD) haven’t really cleaned the stages, it’s still very easy to make a mistake out there,” he said, and added, “the third stage was actually drier than we expected, I could have attacked a bit more.”

Mike Faulkner was holding third place at this point but was having “diff issues” with the Lancer. “The diff sensor takes a feed from the brake lights, but the brake lights appear to be jamming on, so we’ve disconnected the brake lights,” said Mike, “and now the brake pedal feels funny!” That’s ‘funny’ serious, not ‘funny’ ha- ha, to you and me.

Barry Groundwater was fifth quickest ahead of Brown and Bruce McCombie who tied on sixth fastest time, but Armstrong had dropped half a minute to the leaders with a puncture.

Willie Bonniwell’s long overdue return to the forests was curtailed rather quickly too when a seal in the Subaru’s centre diff started leaking its bodily fluids and he was forced to pull over. Quintin Milne was out with a broken axle casing, after the Escort clipped a log pile, then his brother Freddie put his Lancer off in the next one!

SS4, Allean, 13.9 mls
1, Bogie/Rae, 13m 20s
2, Thorburn/Beaton, 13m 27s
3, Faulkner/Foy, 13m 55s
4, Armstrong/Swinscoe, 14m 01s
5, Groundwater/Shanks, 14m 18s
6, McCombie/Coutts, 14m 19s

Errochty. One of Colin’s favourite stages. This time it would be run ‘the opposite way round’ from usual, hence the new name. Because of its more exposed nature, most folks though it would be drier. It was, but only in places! Even so, three drivers broke the 14 minute barrier for the 14 mile test. Bogie was 7 seconds quicker than Thorburn which pitched him into the rally lead, but by only 2 seconds. Such was the pace of the top two that Faulkner was third quickest even though he too beat the 14 minute barrier while Armstrong was 6 seconds slower. Groundwater and McCombie completed the top six times here.

SS5, Drummond Hill, 6.7 mls
1, Thorburn/Beaton, 5m 58s
2, Bogie/Rae, 6m 02s
3, Faulkner/Foy, 6m 27s
4, Armstrong/Swinscoe, 6m 30s
5, Brown/Rochford, 6m 32s
6, Chris Collie/Mark Fisher, 6m 33s

Thorburn fought back over Drummond Hill equalling the Bogey time and taking 4 seconds back from his nemesis which put him back into the rally lead – by 2 seconds. Crikey, spectators were running out of fingernails to chew. Meanwhile Faulkner was continuing to give Armstrong a hard time, 3 seconds separating them in here, while Brown was fifth fastest and Chris Collie got on to the leaderboard with sixth quickest time. Dale Robertson had lost pace but a burst brake pipe was the cause and it bothered him in the next stage too.

Back at service before the final stage Bogie suddenly burst into view where the team were waiting like an F1 pit crew, jacks ad spanners ready. David had clipped a rock and knocked the tracking out and was worried about the steering.

All you could see was a pair of legs sticking out from under the bonnet as the boys took a look from the top while others inspected underneath, but it appeared there was no serious damage. The tracking was adjusted and the Fiesta was ready for action, but even as he drove the road section to the final stage, David felt something was amiss with the power steering. After a phone call to M-Sport, Bogie was advised to keep re-booting the software on the road. “Phew! Its worked,” came the response from inside the car.

Armstrong was lucky too: “We had a puncture going into the stage so at least we had time to stop and change it, then damn me, did we not have another at the end of the stage.” As for Donnie MacDonald his rally was over when he parked up his Lancer rather neatly ‘off-road’.

SS6, Craigvinean, 11.0 mls
1, Thorburn/Beaton, 11m 02s
2, Faulkner/Foy, 11m 28s
3, Armstrong/Swinscoe, 11m 31s
4= Groundwater/Shanks, 11m 40s
4= Brown/Rochford, 11m 40s
6, Andrew Gallacher/Josh Davison, 11m 42s

As he pulled into the final stage, the long Craigvinean, what’s the betting Thorburn thought back to last year. He was leading then too, but a puncture on this final stage cost him victory, and then on the road section back to the finish, the crank broke. Lucky white heather anyone?

Still, that was last year. This time he only had eyes for the green and white car in front of him. He who dares, eh? Well, they both did. Both Fords set off with a shotgun blast of grush and glaur, disappearing into the green gloomery like comets spearing across a dark sky.

“It’s a real fast section for the first couple of miles,” said Euan, “and it was at the end of that, we saw David off! It didn’t really sink in at first, and I was still thinking about it when we went off just shortly after it. We had a ‘straight-on’ at a junction. I heard Paul, but I didn’t really take it in. After that I just drove to the finish.”

As for Bogie, Kevin Rae returned to the Finish in Aberfeldy while he supervised the recovery: “We were really lucky,” said Kevin, “at the end of the fast bit there are three slower corners, and a steering arm snapped on the third one. We just slid into a ditch. No damage. Had it happened on the fast section – who knows? And with Rally Wales only a few weeks away!”

Faulkner kept up the pressure on Armstrong, 3 seconds faster again while Groundwater and Brown tied on fifth fastest time. Rounding off the top six fastest times was Andrew Gallacher. Chris Collie failed to finish when the engine failed and Brian Watson put his Lancer off the road.

On the 16 mile run back to the Finish, Thorburn and Beaton could hardly believe it. BTRDA Champions last year and Scottish champions this year. “It had been close all day,” said Euan, “we were having a real push till we saw David off. It’s a shame it ends that way, it happened to us last year, but that’s rallying.”

Results: Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally – National B Rally
1, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Ford Focus WRC) 43m 51s
2, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +2:01
3, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) +2:36
4, Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9) +2:58
5, Dougal Brown/Lewis Rochford (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +3:02
6, Calum MacKenzie/Alan Clark (Ford Escort Mk2)+3:59
7, Dale Robertson/Paul McGuire (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +4:08
8, Andrew Gallacher/Josh Davison (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +4:34
9, Bruce Mccombie/Michael Coutts (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +4:48
10, Brian Ross/Sean Donnelly (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 5) +5:48

11, Steve Bannister/Louise Rae (Ford Escort Mk2) +6:20
12, Alasdair Anderson/Richard Sutherland (Subaru Impreza) +6:32
13, Scott Mccombie/Kevin Sim (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8) +6:43
14, Alasdair S Graham/Laura Stuart (Vauxhall Corsa) +6:51
15, Mark McCulloch/James Haugh (Subaru Impreza) +7:13
16, Craig McMiken/Craig Wallace (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +7:28
17, Greg McKnight/Chris McKnight (Ford Escort Mk2) +8:1
18, Ellya Gold/Jean Hay (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6) +8:28
19, Martin Craik/Steven Brown (Subaru Impreza) +8:29
20, Steven Smith/Daniel Johnstone (Ford Escort Mk1) +8:36
21, Alasdair Reid/Donald Urquhart (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8) +8:43
22, Nigel Barber/Stuart Popplewell (Vauxhall Astra Sport) +8:51
23, Scott Kerr/Michael Cruickshank (Ford Escort) +9:00
24, Garry Wilson/Hollie Wilson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 5) +9:09
25, Scott MacBeth/Daniel Sutherland (Vauxhall Nova) +9:19
26, Iain Haining/Mairi Riddick (Vauxhall Nova) +9:31
27, Calum MacLeod/Cameron Fair (Subaru Impreza) +9:33
28, Charles Blair/Mark Roberts (Peugeot 205 Gti) +9:5
29, Joe Price/Christopher Brooks (Ford Escort Mk2 Rs) +10:08
30, Gordon Cunningham/David Hood (Subaru Impreza N15) +10:08

Class 2: Scott MacBeth/Daniel Sutherland (Vauxhall Nova) 53m 10s
Class 3: Iain Haining/Mairi Riddick (Vauxhall Nova) 53m 22s
Class 4: Alasdair S Graham/Laura Stuart (Vauxhall Corsa) 50m 42s
Class 6: Steve Bannister/Louise Rae (Ford Escort Mk2) 50m 11s
Class 7: Nigel Barber/Stuart Popplewell (Vauxhall Astra Sport) 52m 42s
Class 8: Calum MacKenzie/Alan Clark (Ford Escort Mk2) 47m 50s
Class 9: Scott Kerr/Michael Cruickshank (Ford Escort) 52m 51s
Class 10: Dale Robertson/Paul McGuire (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 47m 59s
Class 12: Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9) 46m 49s

Colin McRae Forest Stages Historic Rally – National A Rally
1, David Stokes/Guy Weaver (Ford Escort RS1600) C5, 49m 33s
2, Stanley Orr/Phil Sandham (Ford Escort Mk1) C3, +0:42
3, Jim McRae/Pauline Gullick (Vauxhall Firenza Can-Am) C4, +1:49
4, Mark Holmes/Craig Simkess (Ford Escort) C5, +2:27
5, Wayne Bonser/Richard Aston (Ford Escort Rs) C3, +3:48
6, Shawn Rayner/Declan Dear (Ford Escort RS2000) D3, +5:27
7, Dessie Nutt/Geraldine McBride (Porsche 911) B5, +8:16
8, Edmund Peel/Sara MacDonald (Porsche 911) B5, +11:49