15 May: Pearson’s Speyside Win

… McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages Rally, Sat 23rd April …
Rd03 (of 7), ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship …

On the basis of stage times and total times and the sheer outright pace of our top drivers, it looks as though the ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship will have to introduce World Rally timing, measuring stage times in thousandths of seconds. There’s an awfy lot of tied times going on up here at the moment!

Consider this, eight seconds separated the top two at the end of the McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages Rally last weekend with victory going to Garry Pearson and Robbie Mitchell. Having tied with Jock Armstrong and Paula Swinscoe last month on the Border Counties and losing out on the tie-decider, there was no mistake this time, although it was close. Very close.

In third place overall were Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy but a mere 6 seconds behind were John MacCrone and Rhianon Gelsomino, that’s less than a second per stage!

Consider also, as the rally progressed during the day, the times of the top six fastest crews got closer and closer. If they keep this up for the rest of the season we’ll all be knackered just watching and counting.

SS1, McDonald & Munro Cooper Park 1, 0.6 mls (tarmac)
1, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) 0:46s
2= Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell (Ford Fiesta R5) 0:47
2= John MacCrone/Rhianon Gelsomino (Ford Fiesta R5), 0:47
2= Dave Ross/Kyle MacKintosh (Dam Metro) 0:47
5= Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Peugeot 208 R5) 0:48
5= Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer (Mitsubishi Lancer) 0:48
5= John Wink/John Forrest (Mitsubishi Lancer) 0:48
5= Simon Hay/Calum Jaffray (Mitsubishi Lancer) 0:48
5= Billy Miller/Scott Pope (Mitsubishi Lancer) 0:48

SS2, McDonald & Munro Cooper Park 2, 0.6 mls (tarmac)
1, Dave Ross/Kyle MacKintosh (Dam Metro) 0:45s
2= Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Peugeot 208 R5) 0:46
2= Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell (Ford Fiesta R5) 0:46
2= Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer) 0.46
2= Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer (Mitsubishi Lancer) 0:46
2= Scott McCombie/Mark Fisher (Mitsubishi Lancer) 0.46

If the short opening two tests around the Cooper Park ‘city centre special’ in Elgin proved anything it was, ‘Don’t screw up’. Or put it another way, if Jock Armstrong hadn’t done a woopsie at the hairpin on the second run and dropped 6 seconds to Garry Pearson then who knows how the whole shebang might have turned out by the finish? As it was, the ‘Thrash in the Park’ earned Dave Ross his first ever fastest stage time on a ‘forest’ rally. After the chilly, hail-swept blast round the park it was off to the woods – for even more changeable weather, including, rain, hail and snow – and even sunshine.

SS3, Knock More, 6.10 mls
1, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe, 5m 46s
2, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 5m 47s
3, Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell, 5m 51s
4, John MacCrone/Rhianon Gelsomino, 5m 52s
5, Shaun Sinclair/Kirsty Riddick (Subaru Impreza), 6m 01s
6, Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts (Mitsubishi Lancer), 6m 04s

One second separated Armstrong from Thorburn who was wondering what was going on: “After concentrating on the Circuit of Ireland this felt totally alien at first,” said Euan, “with the car moving about on the gravel.” He quickly re-acclimatised, but a brake calliper nipple was leaking and needed attention before the next stage. Pearson was four seconds off the pace and it was good to see John MacCrone quick out of the box, probably due to Weetabix – although other silage mixtures are available. Back in the Subaru, Shaun Sinclair was on the ball too with Bruce McCombie shadowing the Impreza in his Lancer. Donnie MacDonald failed to make the cut, a spin costing him 35 seconds to the fastest man and Dale Robertson appeared at the stage finish with a Lancer minus its rear bumper: “It just went wide, stepped out and hit a rockface,” he said.

SS4, Balloch, 6.69 mls
1, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 6m 15s
2, Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell, 6m 24s
3, John MacCrone/Rhianon Gelsomino, 6m 25s
4, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe, 6m 26s
5, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 6m 30s
6, Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts, 6m 36s

Thorburn was well into his stride on the fourth test at Balloch, the Peugeot 208 a full nine seconds up on the Fiesta R5 of Pearson after a wee overshoot: “It was a deceptive bit,” said Garry, “I had marked it up for special attention on my Notes – but it still came up on me a bit quick!” John MacCrone continued to show a much more encouraging return of pace in his Fiesta R5 a further second behind and one up on the Subaru of Armstrong who admitted to a similar misdemeanour as Pearson. Mike Faulkner got in on the act too with Bruce McCombie rounding off the top six fastest. Shaun Sinclair missed out on the top times when the Subaru sheared a driveshaft and he limped into service with three wheel drive and Mark McCulloch too lost time when he took to an escape road: “I was going off anyway and the ditch looked a bit rough, so went for the escape road.” Barry Groundwater also spent some quality time off the road: “It wasn’t the same bit as everyone else – I found my own bit.”

At first service Thorburn had a 12 second lead over Pearson with Armstrong and MacCrone tied, just three more seconds behind, but ahead of MacCrone and the Mitsubishi Lancers of Mike Faulkner and Bruce McCombie.

SS5, John Wink Design Gartly Moor 1, 4.86 mls
1, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 4m 35s
2, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe, 4m 38s
3, Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell, 4m 41s
4, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 4m 45s
5, Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry (Mitsubishi Lancer), 4m 51s
6, Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer, 4m 53s

Ten seconds covered the top four through the first Gartly test led by Thorburn from Armstrong, Pearson with a slow front puncture at the finish, and Faulkner. This time it was MacCrone suffering driveshaft woes dropping a massive 50 seconds to the leaders. McCulloch was back on form fifth fastest ahead of MacDonald still troubled by handling problems having dropped the suspension by 7mm at service.

SS6, Strone Hill, 3.71 mls
1, Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell, 3m 24s
2, John MacCrone/Rhianon Gelsomino, 3m 27s
3= Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 3m 30s
3= Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 3m 30s
3= Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts, 3m 30s
6, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe, 3m 31s

Down the road in the first Clashindarroch test, Pearson scored his first fastest time of the day, but by just three seconds from MacCrone, and 3 more from Thorburn tying with Faulkner and Bruce McCombie, one second clear of Armstrong. Dale Robertson was only a second behind, seventh quickest, but ahead of a troubled Shaun Sinclair: “It keeps stalling,” said Shaun, “but it’s not me, it’s the car.” MacDonald missed out again, this time with a puncture and added insult to injury when another tyre deflated on the road section.

SS7, Cats Craig, 4.57 mls
1, John MacCrone/Rhianon Gelsomino, 4m 28s
2= Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe, 4m 30s
2= Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 4m 30s
4= Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell, 4m 33s
4= Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer, 4m 33s
6= Shaun Sinclair/Kirsty Riddick, 4m 34s
6= Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry, 4m 34s

MacCrone hit the front in Cats Craig, two seconds faster than Armstrong and Faulkner who were three up on a tying Pearson and Donnie MacDonald while Sinclair and McCulloch both tied on similar times too. As for Thorburn: “I went off backwards into a ditch and stalled,” he said, “it was really slippy. Not wet, but greasy.” At the end of that one, Bruce McCombie was seen shaking his head: “I got three punctures – all in this stage!

At final service before the last loop of three stages, Thorburn had a nine second advantage over Pearson with Armstrong still a threatening four seconds behind in third place. Faulkner was fourth with MacCrone having fought back to fifth ahead of McCombie.

SS8, John Forrest Gartly Moor 2, 4.86 mls
1, Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell, 4m 32s
2, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 4m 33s
3, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe, 4m 35s
4, John MacCrone/Rhianon Gelsomino, 4m 38s
5= Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 4m 43s
5= Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry, 4m 43s

On the second run through Gartly, Pearson scored his second fastest time of the day followed by Thorburn, Armstrong and MacCrone with the ‘huge’ margin of six seconds covering the top four fastest. Faulkner tied with McCulloch for fifth fastest ahead of McCombie and Sinclair.

SS9, Auchindinnie Hill, 8.89 mls
1, Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell, 8m 13s
2, John MacCrone/Rhianon Gelsomino, 8m 20s
3, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 8m 21s
4, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe, 8m 25s
5, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, 8m 31s
6= Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts, 8m 33s
6= Dale Robertson/Stuart Loudon (Mitsubishi Lancer), 8m 33s

Pearson did it again on the penultimate test, fastest from MacCrone, Faulkner and Armstrong with Thorburn losing time and gaining worry frowns as the Peugeot lost drive. He dropped almost 20 seconds and lost the rally lead to Pearson and was unable to continue due to either a diff or a gearbox problem. With the Pirelli Rally just ahead, Thorburn opted to miss the last stage and not risk the transmission any further. Dale Robertson equalled Bruce McCombie’s sixth fastest time ahead of McCulloch and Sinclair: “That’s seven times it’s stalled on me today,” uttered Shaun.

SS10, Rosarie, 2.79 mls
1, John MacCrone/Rhianon Gelsomino, 3m 08s
2, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe, 3m 10s
3, Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts, 3m 13s
4= Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy, 3m 14s
4= Dale Robertson/Stuart Loudon, 3m 14s
6, Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry, 3m 15s

A whole minute covered the top five as they headed for the final stage. Surely things couldn’t change that much in a 3 mile stage. Could they?

MacCrone was fastest by 2 seconds from Armstrong while Pearson spun. According to Pearson’s co-driver Robbie Mitchell: “That was as big a spin as you’re ever likely to see, off down the road backwards!” A relieved Pearson admitted: “That was real pressure. I had two near-spins before that big one!”

Bruce McCombie ended his day with a third fastest stage time ahead of Faulkner and Robertson (another tie!) with Dale heaving a big sigh of relief at the finish: “That was fast as she will go” said Dale. ” McCulloch was a bit relieved too, he had been spending time topping up the Mitsubishi with water: “I think the head gasket is going,” he said, with Freddie Milne just missing out on the top six times.

Whatever, Pearson held on to score his first outright victory by just eight seconds from Armstrong with Faulkner holding off MacCrone for third place: “That was as fast as she will go,” said Faulkner, “we were on the door handles.” For his part, MacCrone’s grin said it all: “That was a step forward today, fastest on the last stage. We’re getting our pace back and the confidence is returning,” adding ruefully, “if it hadn’t been for that driveshaft!”

Bruce McCombie recovered from his tyre disaster to claim fifth ahead of Dale Robertson, but the day belonged to Pearson and Mitchell. At the finish Garry said: “That was not a normal day for us. There was a bit more pressure, especially towards the end. My bum was nipping when we spun it on that last one!”

Pearson’s victory has now given him a 7 point lead over Jock Armstrong in the ARR Craib Scottish Championship after three rounds, but there’s still a long way to go. As ever, Garry’s Dad, Monty, was at the rally finish, and you know what? He was even seen to smile! What a loveable curmudgeon he is, eh?

Full class round up: The Classes
News and Gossip here: Speyside Blethers

Final Results:
1, Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell (Ford Fiesta) 42m 32s
2, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) +0:08
3, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) +0:41
4, John MacCrone/Rhianon Gelsomino (Ford Fiesta) +0:47
5, Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) +1:36
6, Dale Robertson/Stuart Loudon (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +1:59
7, Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) +2:04
8, Andrew Gallacher/Jane Nicol (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8) +2:23
9, Freddie Milne/Charley Sayer-Payne (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +2:43
10, Barry Groundwater/Sean Donnelly (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X) +3:05

11, Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +3:07
12, Shaun Sinclair/Kirsty Riddick (Subaru Impreza) +3:26
13, Fraser Wilson/Craig Wallace (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +3:36
14, Alasdair S Graham/Laura Stuart (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) +3:46
15, Scott Mutch/Greg McDonald (Subaru Impreza) +3:46
16, Ross MacDonald/Matthew Johnstone (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8) +3:54
17, Iain Wilson/Keith Riddick (Subaru Impreza N12) +4:21
18, John Wink/John Forrest (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +4:25
19, Keith Morris/Martin Forrest (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6) +4:40
20, Quintin Milne/Paul Hughes (Ford Escort) +4:54
21, Fraser Louden/Abi Louden (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +4:59
22, Simon Hay/Calum Jaffray (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6) +5:14
23, Michael Binnie/Claire Mole (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 5) +5:27
24, Martin Scott/Daniel Forsyth (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6) +5:33
25, Scott Kerr/Stephen Clark (Ford Escort Mk2) +5:40
26, Dougal Brown/Calum MacLeod (Ford Escort Mk2) +5:54
27, James Gibb/Iain Robson (Ford Fiesta) +6:03
28, Calum M MacLeod/Claudia MacLeod (MG S2200) +6:05
29, Brian Watson/Shona Hale (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) +6:06
30, Martin Craik/Steven Brown (Subaru Impreza) +6:12

Class 2: Scott Sloan/David Sloan (Vauxhall Corsa) 52m 14s
Class 3: Robbie Beattie/David Findlay (Peugeot 20 GTi) 53m 06s
Class 4: Tomas Gray/Dave Robson (Ford Fiesta R2) 50m 23s
Class 5: John McIlwraith/Scott Young (Ford Escort RS) 50m 38s
Class 6: Ian Milne/Sandy Milne (Ford Escort Mk2) 59m 27s
Class 7: Ian Forgan/Kathryn Forgan (Ford Ka) 49m 41s
Class 8: Quintin Milne/Paul Hughes (Ford Escort) 47m 26s
Class 9: Scott Kerr/Stephen Clark (Ford Escort Mk2) 48m 12s
Class 10: Fraser Wilson/Craig Wallace (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 46m 08s
Class 11: Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) 43m 13s
Class 12: Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) 42m 40s
Class 13: Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell (Ford Fiesta) 42m 32s