… Jurys Inn Arnold Clark Snowman Rally … Class Roundup
Although the final results show that Neil Coalter and Hannah Cessford had a comfortable class win in their Suzuki Ignis that doesn’t mean to say they weren’t trying. The car was on the limiter in SS3 and bouncing around so hard that Hannah was complaining about ‘her derriere’ being sore. Steven Crockett was second in his Peugeot 205 but lucky to finish as the back axle was loose and doing its own thing at the rear. Perhaps the result of the day was scored by Stephen Fraser. Not only third in class, but 60th overall in a REAL BL Mini 1275. He was forced to stop and fix the clutch in SS2 and then lost the brakes in SS4 and 5 when a bleed nipple sheared off and lost all the fluid. Despite that he was actually holding second in class till docked a 2 minute timing penalty! On his third rally, John Rowan was chuffed with a finish and fourth in class in his Sunbeam. His Sister Bridget was on the Notes and they were still the best of pals at the finish! Final class finisher was Mairi Ross in the Skoda Favorit on her first event. “It was amazing,” she said, “the aim was to get a finish, but I was getting braver towards the end.” Jacob Harlington (VW Polo), Gavin Kelt (Corsa) and Glenn MacDonald (Nova) all failed to finish.
Andy Chalmers and Martin MacCabe had the measure of the Peugeot runners in their 205 finishing over 40 seconds clear of the similar car of Robbie Beattie, but Beattie punctured a tyre in the final stage choosing to drive out on it rather than stop and change as he had only a couple of miles to go. David McLoughlin was third but struggled with a gear linkage problem which had the Peugeot jumping out of gear all day. Max Redpath was fourth and Chris Baillie fifth on his first rally and made quite a noise on his arrival at the Inverness finish – the exhaust manifold had broken halfway through the last stage. Danny Sutherland was sixth after the fuel pipe came off a few times on stages 2 and 3 and Bill Falconer was the final class finisher and lucky to do so with the car requiring constant topping up all day as it was overheating. Chris Duff was spotted parked up in the last stage and Allan Young’s Peugeot had terminal electrical problems. Tom Howie’s retirement was rather more emphatic. He cowped the Sunbeam in the second stage.
This was the best competition of the day with a single, solitary second deciding who won the class. Marty Gallagher and Dean O’Sullivan did the business in their Peugeot 208 R2 from Thomas Gray and Jane Nicol in their Fiesta R2. “This is just my fourth gravel rally,” said Marty, “and I’m just over for the experience ahead of the Border Counties.” Planning to contest this year’s BRC series, the Letterkenny based driver added: “I’m happy. That was a tough fight for the class. It was tough going but I really enjoyed it.” Gray was disappointed of course but had enjoyed the battle: “I was disappointed to lose by a second, but it was a good fight. A good day.” He did have one problem to contend with when he booked into first service: “The fuse has blown on my electric windows!” Alex Pirie was third in the Citroen C2 but lost chunks of time with the accelerator linkage slipping. Martin Crombie had an eventful day in the Peugeot 106: “We broke the gear linkage on Stage 4 and hit a bridge parapet on Stage 5, but got away with it.” A welcome sight at the finish was the Toyota MR2 of John Mackintosh finishing fifth in class despite a few “technical issues” with his unusual choice of rally weapon. Finishing sixth on his first rally was Michael Davies in his self built VW Polo: “It was amazing. We had one spot of trouble when we lost the brakes on Stage 3 when a servo pipe came off.” Initially Andy Struthers had been on course for a good result but eventually finished last in class when a driveshaft broke on his Citroen C2 in the last stage and that cost him a possible podium finish. Front runner Angus Lawrie was another to suffer bad luck when his Corsa snapped a driveshaft in the second stage. Keith Riddick didn’t get much further when the newly re-engined MG ZR burst a radiator pipe in SS3 and James Campbell retired his Peugeot 106 somewhere in the final stage.
Late entry Fraser MacNicol and Keith Boa were running their Ford Escort Mk2 with the number ’98’ on the door but finished first in the 2WD/2 litre/8v class with Paddy Munro just lucky to finish, let alone second in class in his Mk2: “We had to change the new engine back for the old engine on Thursday night after a problem with it and we’ve got no starter motor. Then the exhaust manifold snapped off.” Poor Chris (Munro, co-driver) had no voice left at the finish, uttering barely more than a croak. Scott McQueen was third in his Peugeot 205 ahead of John O’Kane whose Escort had a front puncture in the third test. Calum Fraser was the final finisher in his 205 after spending some time in a ditch in SS2: “We put it off at a spectator area so folks pushed us back out and we managed a couple of spins on the last two stages, but we were aiming for a finish and happy with that.”
The Historic class was won by Ian and Sandy Milne in their Mk2 from the Anglia of Michael McKain and Ryan Dunbar. Milne had a ‘senior moment’ in the first stage: “The tyres were far too hard – I forgot to check the pressures before setting off.” As for McKain, the poor soul was knackered by the finish: “We don’t have a servo and there’s no power steering on the Anglia.”
A late entry meant Luke McLaren and Phil Kenny ran their Ford Fiesta ST with ‘102’ on the door, but were re-seeded before the start and they romped away to win the class despite “a bit of an off in Stage 4.” Michael Renton finished second despite losing the Peugeot 306’s exhaust which snapped off. But then came the revelation that he was in a ditch at the time! Kevin Gray was third but lost a chunk of time in the first stage when he beached the Astra: “We overcooked a left hander and just got grounded on the sumpguard and then burst reverse gear trying to get out. Luckily there were spectators there to help out,” said Kevin. Andrew Grant was the last of the finishers but put the Peugeot 306 off in Stage2: “We caught a car and then when we tried to get past it, just slid off and got stuck for 13 minutes.” Sadly Grant MacRae’s debut in his new Fiesta ST was short-lived: “We broke a driveshaft on the start line of the first stage,” he said. Ally Currie didn’t get much further, retiring his Fiesta in the second stage with a broken gearbox. Scott Burness and Phillip MacIver failed to finish, and Mark McDonald didn’t make it home either when the Fiesta broke a driveshaft in the final stage.
Given the conditions and the quality of the 4WD entry it was going to be a tough call for any of the 2WD brigade to make it into the top 20, but Dougal Brown and Lewis Rochford made it – just. That clinched the Weldex Trophy as well as the class award. They also got the Peter Beaton Memorial Trophy for ‘most entertaining driver’. “The competition was great all day,” said Dougal, “The stage conditions were perfect, far different from the snow and ice of recent years. At the end of Stage 3 as we headed to service we were placed 22nd overall, some 36 seconds ahead of Marty Gallagher who was second 2WD while Calum Buchanan had suffered a puncture in Stage 4 dropping valuable time and costing his chances in the 2WD race. Over the final two stages we increased our lead on Marty to 1 minute and six seconds whilst Calum ended up stuck in a ditch after a small off.” In second place was Duncan MacDonald who complained about the ‘massive’ amount of damage to his Mk2 at the finish: “Look! We’ve broken the door mirror off. And we’ve broken a headlight.” Still, I think he was pleased with his half minute advantage over Steven Ronaldson who had burst a brake pipe in SS3 and then punctured half way through the final test: “We broke a bolt in the steering earlier,” said Steven, “and we thought it had gone again, so we were actually relieved it was only a puncture.” First time out in a magnificent looking new Mk2 was Michael Stuart and relieved to finish fourth in class without a mark on the car despite a ‘straight-on’ in the last stage that required selection of reverse gear to regain the road. Ivor Clark finished fifth in the Avenger with Alasdair MacLeod rounding off the class finishers in his Escort on his first rally: “We had a wee off in the final stage,” said Alasdair, “just getting too cocky!” Calum Buchanan failed to reach the finish when a ditch curtailed progress on the final stage and Neil Morrison retired his Sunbeam in SS3.
Just two finishers in Class 8 with Ken and Gordon Wood taking the honours despite a troublesome day with their Triumph Dolomite: “We hit something in the first stage and bent the bottom track control arm at the front,” said Ken. It was replaced at first service. Second was Colin Campbell, who was delighted to finish his first rally with his Ford Sierra: “We didn’t put a spanner on it all day, but we did hit one chicane.” Kevin Ronaldson failed to finish in his Metro.
Iain Wilson/Callum Atkinson and Simon Hay/Calum Jaffray finished first and second in class with Ian Baumgart third and admitting to nudging a chicane bale on the second stage with his Subaru but no damage. Duncan Campbell was fourth in another Subaru doing the first stage with no intercom and John Wink was fifth after his earlier braking problems were fixed. Pete Smart was pleased with sixth first time out in 4WD having replaced his Honda Civic with a Subaru but had to contend with the steering wheel coming off in his hands in SS4. Needless to say this came as something of a surprise as it wasn’t meant to happen due to their meticulous pre-event prep! Alasdair Reid was 7th in his Lancer, Colin Baxter 8th in a Subaru and Steven Wood scored 9th despite arriving at the first hairpin in SS4 with no brakes: “I made real a botch of getting round it,” he said. As for 10th placed Steve McGregor: “I was mortified. I’ve broken an indicator lens!” “Chuffed to bits,” said Michael Robertson in 11th place, “no starter, fuel starvation, one driveshaft – and one ditch, but spectators pushed us out.” Mark Shaw was lucky to survive and finish 12th: “In Stage 3 we oversteered out of a corner and hit a rockface which pitched us into a ditch, but we managed to power our way out.” The mood was a bit subdued inside Subaru number 56 at the finish with Hector MacInnes complaining that his co-driver was “very aggressive” but Jenny O’Kane looked the very picture of harmony and innocence! Kevin Crawford was 14th on his first rally and Willie Bonniwell was in a very unusual last place. He was on the class leading pace but booked into two controls early and was docked a massive 22 minute penalty. Michael Binnie failed to finish when the Lancer lost boost and steam started pouring out from under the bonnet mid stage 3. Scott McBeth retired with engine failure and Matthew Thomson chose a ditch for some premature parking in the final stage. Also failing to reach the finish were John McIlwraith, Steven Fraser and Gary Blackmore.
Jock Armstrong got the class win from Bruce McCombie, Stven Clark, Mark McCulloch and Mike Faulkner with Quintin Milne rounding off the top six. Freddie Milne was happy with a finish in one piece and 7th place ahead of Scott McCombie after his troubles, with Ross MacDonald in a subdued 9th place: “We went off in SS4 – in front of the spectators – and had to shunt backwards and forwards to get going again.” Playing to the crowds? Surely not. Brian Stephen got 10th after hitting two chicanes, Fraser Louden was 11th claiming: “It was me who opened the chicanes to give everyone else a batter chance!” and Ian Forgan was final finisher: “I was ready to go home after the first stage,” he said, “there was just no grip anywhere. Then at the start of the last stage, I remembered to lock the diffs!” Dohhh. Robert Thomson failed to finish after filling a Lancer sized hole in a ditch on SS3.
The big class featured all the top seeds with Bogie taking the honours from Sinclair, Thorburn, Young and MacDonald with 2009 Snowman winner Reay MacKay settling for a hassle-free, steady run into sixth in his Focus WRC.