… Jurys Inn Arnold Clark Snowman Rally … Rd01, ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship …
Take your pick. It was either the ‘NoSnowman’ or ‘Snowfree’ Rally this year. No-one could recall when last the Snowman didn’t live up to its name, but this year’s Jurys Inn Arnold Clark Snowman Rally was indeed devoid of the white stuff. That meant there would be no surprises in the Final Results at the end of the day’s competition, or would there? The top ten, indeed the top fifteen, were as good a representation of Scottish tree brushing talent as had been seen on the Scottish stage for many a year.
As things turned out, the opening round of the 2017 ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship did indeed throw up a few surprises. However, there was little sign of any usurpers challenging the record of five times Scottish Rally Champions, David Bogie and Kevin Rae – yet!
It wasn’t quite tee-shirt weather in the Highland capital on the Saturday morning, but unlike last year there was no need for scrapers or de-icer as the 99 cars and crew gathered outside Jurys Inn ahead of the ceremonial start in Inverness High Street. Nor was there any need for two sets of thermals and ankle draught excluders at Dingwall Service, although the ‘Highland Drover’ and his coo at the entrance to the Mart is still frozen to the exact same spot he was standing last year!
And so in a warm hearted spirit of goodwill to all men, women and rallyists, let battle commence.
SS1, Top Car/ROM Meall Mor (6.58 miles)
1=David Bogie/Kevin Rae (Skoda Fabia R5) 5m 39s
1=Jock Armstrong/Paul Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) 5m 39s
1=Shaun Sinclair/Jamie Edwards (Subaru Impreza WRC) 5m 39s
4, Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer (Ford Fiesta R5) 5m 45s
5, Steven Clark/Paul Brown Mitsubishi Lancer Evo5) 5m 50s
6, Rory Young/Alan Cathers (Ford Fiesta R5) 5m 51s
7= Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 5m 52s
7= Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 5m 52s
Sheltered between two hills, the Meall Mor opening test is often more like a curling pond at this time of year than a forest stage, but this year it was different. Yes, it was slippy in places, but that had nothing to do with ice, it was wet and muddy.
Even so, three of the top seeds cleaned it, Bogie was 7 seconds under the Bogey, Jock Armstrong 6 seconds under and Shaun Sinclair may have been as much as 8 seconds under (subject to official confirmation!) but no matter, they were all credited with the Bogey Time. David commented: “It was slippy in there and I was just taking it easy finding the braking points with our new DMack Tyres.”
Top seed, and last year’s winner, Donnie MacDonald was a mere 6 seconds off the pace first time out in the Fiesta R5 ahead of the fast starting Steven Clark in a Lancer and another Fiesta R5, this time Rory Young’s machine.
No such luck for Euan Thorburn. He was already 13 seconds down on the leaders emerging from the opening test with a rear wheel askew: “There was a big stone right on the line. I managed to miss it with the front wheels but just caught a rear and it snapped the suspension arm,” said Euan. More fortunate was Quintin Milne in Brian Watson’s Evo Proto which needed two bolts tightened at the rear of the sumpguard while young Scott McBeth emerged from the forest with a front right puncture. Fraser Wilson hit a stone which damaged a wheel and part of the steering, while Simon Hay needed a push at the start of the stage: “It’s nothing serious,” said Simon, “I left the fan running when we were waiting and it flattened the battery!”
Amongst the first retirements of the day was John Rintoul. He exited the stage and made it to service, but: “It was jumping out of third gear in that first stage,” said John, “we’ve had a look here at Dingwall and there’s something wrong with the gearbox, so that’s it for the day.” And you know what? He could still manage a smile. He has the stoic fortitude of a ‘Lollipop’ crossing supervisor outside a tough Primary School, that man.
SS2, Tyre & Auto Tain/SPH Ardgay Scotsburn (5.38 miles)
1, Bogie/Rae, 4m 48s
2, Sinclair/Edwards, 4m 53s
3, Armstrong/Swinscoe, 5m 05s
4, Young/Cathers, 5m 06s
5, Quintin Milne/Sean Donnelly (Mitsubishi Lancer Proto) 5m 08s
6= Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Ford Fiesta R5) 5m 09s
6= Greg McKnight/Laura Marshall (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 5m 09s
There were no threats to the Bogey times at Scotsburn where the Skoda hit the front, 5 seconds clear of Sinclair and 13 seconds clear of Armstrong. “I picked up a rear puncture,” said Armstrong, “just near the end so didn’t lose too much time.” Rory Young claimed to be rusty but he was quicker than Milne, a cautious Thorburn, after his repairs, and Greg McKnight showing a fair turn of speed to equal Thorburn’s Fiesta with his Mitsubishi: “That was better,” said Greg, “I just couldn’t get into it in Stage 1, I don’t know what was wrong.” Maybe it was his new specs! (Ed.).
SS3, Pat Munro Strath Rory (13.30 miles)
1, Bogie/Rae, 11m 29s
2, Thorburn/Beaton, 11m 57s
3, Armstong/Swinscoe, 12m 02s
4= Sinclair/Edwards, 12m 04s
4= Clark/Brown, 12m 04s
6, McKnight/Marshall, 12m 16s
7, Young/Cathers, 12m 19s
The 13 miler at Strath Rory was next and Bogie had reservations prior to the stage start. “It’s quite a steep climb up and down the other side, but it’s flat-out across the top,” said Bogie, “we’re geared for 119 mph but the Lancers can hit 130. Plus there’s six chicanes in there.” He needn’t have worried, the Skoda finished the stage 5 seconds over Bogey and 28 seconds quicker than Thorburn: “We clipped a big rock on the front left and bent a rim” said Euan, “and thought we had a puncture but we got away with it.” The R5s may lack the outright pace of the turbo cars but they are much more nimble around the tighter corners and chicanes.
Even so, the Impreza of Armstrong was only 5 seconds off the pace of the Fiesta, but that man Sinclair was still threatening, just 2 seconds down on Armstrong. It was the big smile that gave it away: “I spun and stalled it,” said Shaun, “re-started it and got going, but it didn’t feel right. I finished the stage in road mode!” Steven Clark tied with Sinclair taking 12 seconds out of McKnight who still managed to put some daylight between himself and Rory Young.
This was where Donnie MacDonald’s big day out hit a problem: “I got stuck in a chicane,” said Donnie, “I just couldn’t get reverse and I got annoyed with myself. I lost the heid, I just forgot the procedure for selecting reverse in these R5s. It wasn’t the car’s fault, the car is brilliant, it was down to me.”
Milne dropped time too: “That was the biggest non-accident ever,” said Quintin, “we swiped a bank in fourth gear kicking the tail way up in the air and on to the car’s nose, but the tail struck the banking and knocked us back on to our wheels.” Faulkner lost a bit of time too getting settled into the new car: “We stalled at a chicane and it wouldn’t re-start. New technology, eh?” Bruce McCombie was honest as well: “We ballsed it up,” said Bruce, “the chicanes were too tight and we got jammed up in one having to stop and reverse out.”
Brother Scott wasn’t about to be as honest till Bruce provoked him into telling the truth: “We just carried a bit too much speed into a left hander,” smiled Scott, “there were a couple of quick corners before it, so were about flat out going into a Left 6 and put it into a ditch – on the co-driver’s side. We were well up and thought we were going over, but the car came back down. We took it slow for a wee while after that!”
Simon Hay was up to similar high jinks and got away with it: “We came into a Left 5 too quick and slid off but eventually got around.” John Wink was lucky too emerging from the stage with no brakes: “We burst a brake pipe in there and lost all the fluid,” he said, before resorting to a politically correct statement to avoid any potential Police action, “we effected a temporary repair in order to reach Service safely!” Aye, that’ll be right.
SS4, Highland Office Equipment Contin (4.46 miles)
1= Bogie/Rae, 5m 31s
1= Thorburn/Beaton, 5m 31s
3, Armstrong/Swinscoe, 5m 32s
4, Sinclair/Edwards, 5m 33s
5, Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 5m 35s
6, Young/Cathers, 5m 38s
Even though Bogie and Thorburn tied over the Contin stage, Bogie admitted to a wee hiccup: “We had a bit of a spin and had to stick it in reverse. We were still equal fastest at the end of it, taking a 42 second lead into the last stage,” said David. Armstrong was a second adrift and Sinclair another second behind: “Jamie was telling me ‘push, push’,” said Shaun, “but I was just lifting and feathering in places. No risks today.”
Mark McCulloch got into the fastest times for the first time holding off Young, but Scott McCombie was playing silly buggers again: “I spun in there,” he said, “it was a bit slippy and I overcooked it. It took a ten point turn to get going again!” Not so lucky was Fraser Wilson who slid off the road on the inside of a long right hander and got beached on the verge. He had been struggling with a wayward rear end all day (the Lancer that is) and just got stuck, and not enough speccies around to help push it back on.
SS5, John M Munro Scotch Beef Raven Rock (10.74 miles)
1, Bogie/Rae, 10m 24s
2, Sinclair/Edwards, 10m 40s
3, Thorburn/Beaton, 10m 41s
4, Armstrong/Swinscoe, 10m 55s
5= McCombie/ 10m 56s
5= Young/Cathers, 10m 56s
7, Faulkner/Foy, 11m 02s
Bogie confirmed his domination with another fastest time by 16 seconds over Sinclair on the 11 mile final test ahead of Thorburn and Armstrong. “That last stage was smoother than the others,” said David running the new DMacks, “I really had to lean on the tyres – and the grip was there.”
Holding 5th place overall going into the final test, Steven Clark emerged slightly bemused in 7th place. “That was a fantastic time by Bruce (McCombie),” said Steven, “fair play to him.” Rory Young matched McCombie’s stage time ensuring that Clark just missed out on a top six finish.
Another who missed out on the last stage was Mark McCulloch. Stage 4 shared a common start with the final test: “I caught a car before the split and when I wanted to keep it flat for the left hander, the guy in front was braking for the right hander,” said Mark. He was still pleased to be in front of a disappointed 9th placed Mike Faulkner in a new Evo9: “We made good progress today,” said Faulkner, “this was previously a tarmac car so we’re getting it sorted.”
Rounding off the top ten was last year’s Snowman Rally winner Donnie MacDonald, first time out in an R5: “I could have done better,” said MacDonald, “I just got stuck in that chicane. No complaint with the car – just me. It was still a fantastic day.”
Just outside the top ten was Quintin Milne who was on course for a top six finish till the diff pump failed in the final stage and his brother Freddie was 12th: “Job done,” said Freddie, “I wanted a good run with no mistakes and no bashes. I’ve had quite a few bumps over the past couple of years and I need to get back to a pace I’m happy with and start to rebuild from there.” Greg McKnight was holding 10th place after 3 stages, but brake trouble slowed him on the penultimate test and caused his retirement on the final one. Iain Wilson was fair chuffed with 14th overall: “There was a good mixture of stages today, I’m so pleased with a top 15 finish, AND got Top Challenger in the Scottish Championship.”
Although he has registered for the ARR Craib Scottish Championship, Bogie has not yet confirmed his plans for the season. That will wait till after next month’s BRC opening Border Counties: “If I do the recce, I can’t score points in the Scottish Championship,” he explained, “so we’ll see how that goes next month.” As for the rest of the Scottish Championship contenders there were some ominous words from Sinclair: “There’s more to come from the car – and more to come from me in the car. It’s all about confidence. I was throwing tyres at the car today. That’s not like me. But if you’re going to do something well, you have to do it right.” Methinks the boy has some serious intent this year!
1, David Bogie/Kevin Rae (Skoda Fabia R5) 37m 51s
2, Shaun Sinclair/Jamie Edwards (Subaru Impreza) +0:58
3, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Ford Fiesta R5) +1:20
4, Jock Armstrong/Paul Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) +1:22
5, Rory Young/Allan Cathers (Ford Fiesta R5) +1:59
6, Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +2:08
7, Steven Clark/Paul Brown (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo5) +2:10
8, Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +2:18
9, Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +2:24
10, Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer (Ford Fiesta R5) +2:47
11, Quintin Milne/Sean Donnelly (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo Proto)
12, Freddie Milne/Chris Williams (Lancer E9)
13, Reay MacKay/Keir Beaton (Ford Focus WRC)
14, Iain Wilson/Callum Atkinson (Impreza)
15, Simon Hay/Callum Jaffray (Lancer E6)
16, Scott McCombie/Mark Fisher (Lancer E9)
17, Ross MacDonald/Matthew Johnstone (Lancer E8)
18, Brian Stephen/Jack Keith (Lancer E9)
19, Ian Baumgart/Mike Dickson (Impreza)
20, Dougal Brown/Lewis Rochford (Escort Mk2)
Full Results at: www.flyingfinish.co.uk