07 Apr: DCC Stages main report

… Blackwood Plant Hire Scottish Tarmack Championship … DCC Stages Rally, Sat April 1 …

Ingliston was at its best for the DCC Stages. Sunlight sparkling on chrome trim and shiny paint as the automotive gladiators lined up to do battle in the arena, and what a battle it was. While it lasted.
When the starting lights flickered the Escort Mk2 of Alan Kirklady and Cameron Fair got its nose in front on the first of the day’s stages and stayed there all the way to the finish earning Alan his first ever outright rally victory. Giving chase was the Lotus Exige of the Inglis ‘twins’ but it all went wrong in the afternoon.

It would appear that Breakfast TV’s Carol, or maybe it was STV’s Sean, got it wrong. Alistair and Colin had turned up in the morning expecting rain. And it didn’t. There were however a couple of very light passing showers during the afternoon, but generally, it was warm-ish, dry and pleasant.

“We got the set-up wrong. I thought the roads were going to be greasy,” said Alistair, “but they were bone dry.” On that first stage alone he dropped 13 seconds to Kirkaldy in the Mk2. That was a long way to come back. Even so, there were rarely more than 2 seconds between the Ford and the Lotus on each stage. Then it all went wrong for Alistair in the afternoon: “I just got two wheels on the grass and spun off. We were heading straight towards a tree and I just managed to spin the car so that we hit it with the rear end rather than head on.” Damage wasn’t too bad but the rear mounted exhaust was squashed flat.

With a healthy lead over the pursuit, Kirkaldy was able to back off: “I was short-shifting round that last stage,” said Alan, “and nearly overshot the hairpin. Just losing concentration,” he explained, “so I thought to hell with it and got back on it.” The result was his first outright rally victory.

Unfortunately, what could have been a three way fight fizzled out on the first test when last year’s winner, John Marshall, retired his Subaru at the end of the first stage. The paddle-shift was giving him trouble and when they looked under the bonnet, the timing belt was showing signs of wear. Wise counsel prevailed and the outing was curtailed. John Rintoul didn’t last much longer. A driveshaft broke on the Fiesta on the first test and then the power steering failed on the second, but at least they got to the bottom of the cause of the steering pump failure.

Then another star appeared over the horizon. Gordon Morrison was on a charge. He was mixing third fastest times with Nigel Feeney, Taylor Gibb and Tom Blackwood, but Gordon’s valiant run suffered a severe setback on the fifth stage when a turbo breather pipe fractured on the Subaru and he dropped down the order to finish in 13th place.

That left Gibb, Feeney and Blackwood fighting over the final podium place, till Inglis disappeared, and then it became a fight for second. Blackwood in fact had the upper hand over the first two tests of the day, but Gibb got a wee shock on the third test: “Somebody had taken out the marker tape on the outside of the hairpin, ” said Taylor, “I was straight through it before I realised, and it cost me a good few seconds to get it turned around and back on the track.”

Not to be outdone, Blackwood over-reached himself on the next stage: “I got on the grass at the ‘Rosebowl’ and spun round completely, twice!” smiled Tom.

If Feeney thought he was home and dry, he wasn’t. “I had a bit of fuel surge over the last two stages,” said Nigel, “so I didn’t know if I could hang on to second. Young Taylor was pushing me hard all day.” As things turned out, Feeney held on to the runner-up spot from the youngster, who was having only his second run out in a 4WD car, by TWO seconds.

That meant that Tom Blackwood finished fourth in the Escort, but he had good reason to be chuffed as the quick and experienced Keith Robathan was 12 seconds behind him. Admittedly, Robathan had been badly baulked on a couple of runs but even so it was a good scrap for fourth place.

Rounding off the top six was a rather subdued Brian Watson in his Mitsubishi. Subdued? Without the rest of the Aberhooligans giving him a hard time, the Sheriff was actually chatty and almost pleasantly sociable. I said ‘almost’.

Stevie Hope was having a good run too. He finished seventh overall in his Mk2 and was actually spotted forking out dosh to buy new tyres. Perhaps the spin on SS4 had something to do with that! George Auld was 8th, but the Escort had been where the Escort shouldn’t. The co-driver’s door had been stoved-in to match the stoved-in rear wing: “I smashed a bale – hard,” admitted George, “but we had a leaking rear shock absorber, which was replaced at service. That’s my excuse.”

There were a couple of marvellous results in 9th and 10th places, with the 1600 cars of Gareth White and the fast improving Greg Inglis completing the front runners line-up. Even so the Peugeot 208 didn’t escape unscathed, White having a ‘straight-on’ at the Hairpin on SS3 and then smacked a bale in SS5. No such adventures for Inglis, although he did admit to a “wee straight-on” with the Citroen on the opening stage of the day.

Kenny Moore and his Avenger finished just outside the top ten, 9 seconds behind Inglis but 16 seconds clear of Alasdair Graham who was giving his Mitsubishi a bit of a shakedown before deciding what to do with the rest of his season – although he fancies Rally Wales GB at the end of the year.

After his promising start Gordon Morrison ended up 13th ahead of Ian Forgan in the Subaru and Graeme Rintoul’s Fiesta.

Edward Todd had made a good start to the day with his GTM holding a top ten place at the lunch halt till the gear linkage broke on the final stage and he finished 21st. Hamish Kinloch set some good times, but the Escort had an intermittent electrical fault which finally caused his retirement, and Robin Hamilton had borrowed a Subaru for a return to the rallying fray which was ended by a large bale on the 4th stage.

At the finish, delight was tinged with relief for Kirkaldy: “That’s the first time I’ve been leading and got to the end,” said Alan, “I led at Donington twice, and both times mechanical failure stopped me.” Hard to believe this is just his third full season of rallying: “On my first event I started with the number 71 on the door,” he added, “today it was number 5.” That’s progress.

Final Results:
1, Alan Kirkaldy/Cameron Fair (Ford Escort Mk2) 63m 46s
2, Nigel Feeney/Phil Sandham (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo10) 65m 28s
3, Taylor Gibb/Jane Nicol (Lancer Evo8) 65m 30s
4, Tom Blackwood/Gordon Winning (Escort Mk2) 65m 56s
5, Keith Robathan/Peter Carstairs (Escort Mk2) 66m 08s
6, Brian Watson/Caroline Will (Lancer Evo Proto) 66m 51s
7, Stevie Hope/Louise Hope (Escort Mk2) 67m 18s
8, George Auld/Richard Stewart (Escort Mk2) 67m 22s
9, Gareth White/Harry Marchbank (Peugeot 208 R2) 67m 29s
10, Greg Inglis/Martin Forrest (Citroen C2 R2 Max) 67m 36s

Class 1: Stuart McBride/Shona Hale (Vauxhall Nova) 70m 26s
Class 2: White/Marchbank
Class 3: Auld/Stewart
Class 4: Kirkaldy/Fair
Class 5: Feeney/Sandham

[Classes and Juniors report]