29 Aug: Weston wins Grampian

… Coltel Grampian Stages Rally, Saturday 13th August 2016 …
Rd05, ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship …

If all rallies were like the new Coltel Grampian Stages event, the sport would be in a happier place. Good stages, compact route, excellent facilities and lovely Scottish summer weather. And nae midges!

The competition was pretty good too. Dave Weston and Aled Davies’ winning margin was a mere 6 seconds after 6 stages compiled by the new team at Stonehaven & District MC. It was all quite fraught behind Weston with three drivers tied on the same totals as they approached the start of the final stage – John MacCrone, Euan Thorburn and Garry Pearson, with the ‘Man from Mull’ just holding off the ‘Border Reivers’!

And what a fitting backdrop to the day’s proceedings. The rising sun lit up the Crathes Castle backdrop behind the ARR Craib Scottish Championship archway, through which 93 cars and crews headed out into the forests of south east Aberdeenshire on this penultimate round of the national series. There was much at stake too. A win would give Garry Pearson the 2016 title, but others had different ideas in mind.

SS1, Coltest Ltd Fetteresso 1, 6.51 mls
1, Dave Weston Jnr/Aled Davies (Subaru Impreza) 6m 15s
2= Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Peugeot 208) 6m 16s
2= Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell (Ford Fiesta) 6m 16s
4, Jock Arnstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) 6m 18s
5= John MacCrone/Rhianon Gelsomino (Ford Fiesta) 6m 22s
5= Shaun Sinclair/Jamie Edward (Subaru Impreza) 6m 22s
7, Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendrie (Mitsubishi Lancer) 6m 25s

Incredibly, 14 months had passed since Dave Weston Jnr last parked his bum in a rally car seat and you’d think he’d never been away. Fastest time over the opening stage, albeit by one second, put him in contention from the off. It was good to see Euan Thorburn back on the pace too, after a few hiccups (must have been the garlic) in recent months with his French built Peugeot 208 R5, but he had to share second fastest time with local rival Garry Pearson.

Fourth quickest and peddling his Impreza as fast as it would go was Jock Armstrong, but behind him John MacCrone and Shaun Sinclair had tied on fifth fastest. Although Sinclair was in a Subaru, it wasn’t his own car, he had hired an S12 Impreza car as he awaits parts for his own S9. For his part, John MacCrone wasn’t where he wanted to be: “The ‘Stage Mode’ button didn’t work, we did the stage in ‘Road Mode’. No boost and no diffs!” he explained. Rounding off the fastest few was Mark McCulloch.

Missing from that bunch was John Rintoul. Having hired a Mitsubishi whilst the Hyundai is being repaired after its Scottish outing, he didn’t get very far: “The clutch failed just after the start line,” said a somewhat disappointed John. Nigel Feeney wasn’t far behind him: “The clutch failed in the first stage. I tried to make it through the second one,” said Nigel, “but lost all drive.” Ian Baumgart was another to hit trouble, pulling a wheel off the Subaru. Iain Wilson was a bit more fortunate, losing only time when a turbo pipe came off.

SS2, McCombie Builders Ltd Durris 1, 5.08 mls
1, Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell (Ford Fiesta) 5m 00s
2, Dave Weston Jnr/Aled Davies (Subaru Impreza) 5m 01s
3, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Peugeot 208) 5m 02s
4= Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) 5m 03s
4= John MacCrone/Rhianon Gelsomino (Ford Fiesta) 5m 03s
6, Shaun Sinclair/Jamie Edward (Subaru Impreza) 5m 05s
7, Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendrie (Mitsubishi Lancer) 5m 07s

Pearson hit the front in the second stage with the Fiesta by one second from Weston, but admitted: “I got a bit wild towards the end of that one,” said Garry, “that was down to me not the car – a touch of over-confidence.” As for Weston: “I couldn’t get into it for some reason,” said Dave, “but the second half was better.”

Thorburn was a further single second back with Armstrong and MacCrone tying for fourth quickest. MacCrone had fixed the ‘Stage Button’ for this one but Armstrong was thoughtful: “I blew my engine in this very stage the last time I was through it,” said Jock, “three years ago.” Sinclair and a smiling McCulloch made up the rest of the pace-setters: “I was more off than on in there,” said Mark, ” I need to bring it back a wee bit and tidy it up, but I took time out of Mike (Faulkner) over the first two stages, and I haven’t done that before.”

Scott McCombie had a bit of a smile on his face as he pulled into service: “I visited the scenery – sideways. I was three quarters off the road, but got away with it.” It was a stage which also caught out John McClory, the Mitsubishi disappearing over a banking backwards. Iain Wilson struck trouble, again, with a repeat of his first stage problem when the turbo pipe came off.

SS3, Groundwater Lift Trucks, Drumtochty, 16.09 mls
1, Dave Weston Jnr/Aled Davies (Subaru Impreza) 15m 16s
2, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Peugeot 208) 15m 24s
3, John MacCrone/Rhianon Gelsomino (Ford Fiesta) 15m 26s
4, Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell (Ford Fiesta) 15m 32s
5, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) 15m 56s
6, Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendrie (Mitsubishi Lancer) 16m 02s

Then it was into the best stage of the day, a 16 miler in Drumtochty, where pace had to be tempered with a touch of self-preservation, and Weston was on it. The Subaru was a full 8 seconds quicker than Thorburn’s Peugeot and 10 seconds quicker than MacCrone’s Fiesta R5. Pearson wasn’t far off the pace trying to mix pace with safety, 16 seconds down on Weston, but Armstrong lost out.

“I got the first six hairpins just right,” said Jock, “then I came to Junction 13. I was too quick in and it was either the loose or a ditch, and I just got bogged down in the gravel.” He dropped over 30 seconds with one mistake, making it a four way fight at the top. Also in bother was Mike Faulkner, losing well over 2 minutes with a puncture: “We got the first few miles OK,” said Mike, “then punctured a tyre with 11 miles to go. We thought we could just drive out on it!”

Another in trouble was Shaun Sinclair, retiring his Subaru with a severe vibration: “I don’t know what it was,” said Shaun, “but it got so bad I had to stop, then I couldn’t get gears.” At least he was parked on the road, Freddie Milne’s Mitsubishi was ‘parked’ nose-first well down a banking and going no further. Almost joining him was John Wink when a brake pipe burst in the Mitsubishi, but he managed to keep going and reach service. Another recording a slow time was Fraser Wilson: “We did the last 9 miles on a puncture then dilly-dallied through the next stage with an odd-sized spare!”

SS4, Whyte Crane Hire Drumelzie, 5.01 mls
1, Dave Weston Jnr/Aled Davies (Subaru Impreza) 4m 56s
2, John MacCrone/Rhianon Gelsomino (Ford Fiesta) 4m 57s
3= Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Peugeot 208) 4m 59s
3= Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell (Ford Fiesta) 4m 59s
5, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) 5m 06s
6, Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts (Mitsubishi Lancer) 5m 07s

Weston was quickest again in the fourth test, but MacCrone was on the move. He was only a second behind the leader, with Thorburn tying with Pearson, third quickest. Armstrong was fifth quickest but any thoughts of a podium finish had already been scuppered while Bruce McCombie got amongst the top six for the first time, admitting: “Michael (Coutts) is giving me a hard time,” said Bruce, “I’m not going fast enough.” As for Faulkner, he really needs some lucky white heather: “I was still carrying damage from the puncture earlier,” said Mike, “and it pulled out the diff wiring .” It was sorted at service before the final two stages, but like Armstrong, there was going to be no glory for the Mitsubishi driver either today.

Alasdair S Graham had a moment too: “I lost the clutch then spun and clattered the front bumper, intercooler and radiator,” but at least he reached service for repairs.

SS5, Albyn Garage Fetteresso 2, 6.51 mls
1, John MacCrone/Rhianon Gelsomino (Ford Fiesta) 6m 13s
2, Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell (Ford Fiesta) 6m 14s
3, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) 6m 18s
4, Dave Weston Jnr/Aled Davies (Subaru Impreza) 6m 19s
5, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Peugeot 208) 6m 20s
6, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer) 6m 23s

In the penultimate test, MacCrone hit the front by a second from Pearson with Armstrong and Weston in their dust, but not Thorburn: “I thought I had a puncture, but it was a broken rear driveshaft,” said Euan, “and with no chance to change it, that meant a steady run through the final stage to get a finish.” Faulkner managed to salvage some pride with sixth fastest, but that’s about as much satisfaction as he was likely to get with one stage to go.

SS6, McCombie Builders Ltd Durris 2, 5.08 mls

1, John MacCrone/Rhianon Gelsomino (Ford Fiesta) 4m 52s
2, Dave Weston Jnr/Aled Davies (Subaru Impreza) 5m 00s
3= Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) 5m 05s
3= Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendrie (Mitsubishi Lancer) 5m 05s
3= Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts (Mitsubishi Lancer) 5m 05s
6= Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Peugeot 208) 5m 07s
6= Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer) 5m 07s
8, Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell (Ford Fiesta) 5m 15s

Going into the final 5 mile stage, Weston had a 14 second lead over the pursuit, but with Pearson, Thorburn and MacCrone all tied on the same time, there was little prospect of taking things easy. It was the same for Pearson who observed: “I need to be semi-sensible. If the other guys want to take risks, let them. They’ve got the hard job to do.”

There was little chance of catching Weston, but MacCrone closed the gap by 8 seconds after a serious charge through the Durris greenery. Just 5 seconds slower than Weston was Armstrong tying with Mark McCulloch and Bruce McCombie. Thorburn was a further 2 seconds back with Faulkner, shaking his head, again: “It was self-inflicted,” muttered a rueful Mike, “we got another puncture. That was down to frustration.”

But where was Pearson? No worries, he was a cautious 8th quickest, keeping his title hopes alive.

There was little change in the final finishing order, although Bruce McCombie just missed out on sixth place: “I’m still in ‘holiday mode’ just back from Portugal,” he said while Greg McKnight on only his second outing on gravel in a 4WD car finished an excellent eighth giving the ‘old guard’ good reason to look over their shoulders on future events. Barry Groundwater scored ninth with Mike Faulkner reduced to tenth.

MacCrone therefore took top ARR Craib Scottish points denying Pearson his first national title victory, so the title fight will be resolved on the final round next month. McCulloch’s sixth place ensured that it won’t simply be a two way fight for the title, as he still has an outside chance of lifting the national title should Pearson and Armstrong strike trouble. But given Pearson’s pace, reliability and canny approach who would bet against him? Then again, this is rallying.

Final Results:
1, Dave Weston Jnr/Aled Davies (Subaru Impreza WRC S12B) 42m 47s
2, John MacCrone/Rhianon Gelsomino (Ford Fiesta R5) +0:06
3, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Peugeot 208 R5) +0:21
4, Garry Pearson/Robbie Mitchell (Ford Fiesta R5) +0:29
5, Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) +0:59
6, Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) +1:28
7, Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +1:43
8, Greg McKnight/Laura Marshall (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +2:45
9, Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X) +2:54
10, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) +3:55

11, Scott McCombie/Mark Fisher (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +3:57
12, Iain Wilson/Keith Riddick (Subaru Impreza) +4:24
13, Ross MacDonald/Mairi Riddick (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8) +4:32
14, Brian Watson/Cameron Fair (Mitsubishi Evo) +4:47
15, Alasdair S Graham/Laura Stuart (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +5:07
16, Keith Morris/Martin Forrest (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6) +5:12
17, Simon Hay/Calum Jaffray (Mitsubishi Evo 6) +5:21
18, Dougal Brown/Lewis Rochford (Ford Escort Mk2) +5:47
19, Fraser Wilson/Craig Wallace (Mitsubishi Evo 9) +5:48
20, Gordon Murray/David O’Brien (Ford Escort Mk2) +5:48
21, Duncan MacDonald/Neil Ross (Ford Escort Mk2) +5:56
22, Scott MacBeth/Andrew Falconer (Mitsubishi Evo 7) +6:10
23, Sean Will/Ashleigh Will (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) +6:28
24, Martin Craik/Steven Brown (Subaru Impreza) +6:54
25, Matthew Thomson/Ian Graham (Subaru Impreza GC8) +7:21
26, Thomas Gray/Dave Robson (Ford Fiesta R2) +7:39
27, Barry Jordan/James Gratton-Smith (Hillman Avenger BRM) +7:43
28, John McIlwraith/Scott Young (Ford Escort RS) +8:02
29, Linzi Henderson/Tom Hynd (Subaru Impreza) +8:18
30, Duncan Campbell/Michael Cruickshank (Subaru Impreza) +8:25

Class 2: Grant MacRae/Martin Bruce (Peugeot Rallye) 56m 06s
Class 3: Chris Collie/Richard Crozier (Peugeot 205) 57m 13s
Class 4: Thomas Gray/Dave Robson (Ford Fiesta R2) 50m 26s
Class 5: John McIlwraith/Scott Young (Ford Escort RS) 50m 49s
Class 6: Barry Jordan/James Gratton-Smith (Hillman Avenger BRM) 50m 30s
Class 7: Ian Forgan/Kathryn Forgan (Ford Ka) 51m 12s
Class 8: Dougal Brown/Lewis Rochford (Ford Escort Mk2)48m 34s
Class 9: Gordon Murray/David O’Brien (Ford Escort Mk2) 48m 35s
Class 10: Alasdair S Graham/Laura Stuart (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 47m 54s
Class 11: Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) 46m 42s
Class 12: Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) 43m 46s
Class 13: Dave Weston Jnr/Aled Davies (Subaru Impreza WRC S12B) 42m 47s

Classes roundup: [Grampian Classes]

News and Blethers: [News & Gossip]