20 Apr: McKnight’s Condor moment

… Memorial Garden Stages Rally, 15 April …

Strong sunshine and bitterly cold winds greeted a smaller than hoped for band of rallyistas to Arbroath for Glenrothes MSC’s Memorial Garden Stages Rally, but the rewards included some pretty close competition all day.

Having said that, there was no catching Greg McKnight. He and David Crosbie got things underway with fastest time over the opening two of six tests. Last year’s winner, Nigel Feeney turned up with his Lancer on Intermediates, thinking that the same tyres on his winning Subaru from last year would do the trick. Not this time. Even so, he and Sean Donnelly were second quickest behind McKnight on both tests.

Snapping at Feeney’s heels were Ian Paterson and Heather Grisedale, the blue Subaru only a second slower than the white Lancer on each of the two runs. Ian Forgan and Christopher Lees weren’t far off the pace in their Subaru, although they punctured a tyre on the opening stage, while Gordon Morrison and Derek Keir did their chances no good on the first stage as well.

“I spun,” said Gordon, “twice. And it was exactly the same place as last year, and the same photographer (Eddie Kelly) was standing there taking pictures!”

Over the next two tests, McKnight stretched his lead with Paterson moving ahead of Feeney into second place. Morrison was getting quicker too, matching Paterson on the fourth test with Forgan and Keith Robathan/Peter Carstairs holding station in fifth and sixth, but Robathan was a wee bit dis-chuffed: “I had to stop twice in the third test,” said Keith, “I caught the car in front over at the wooded section and I couldn’t see the road never mind his car for the dust.” Really, the dust was that bad, look at Eddie Kelly’s pics on Facebook and you’ll see.

Paterson matched McKnight on the penultimate stage and Morrison set fastest time on the final one but McKnight was under no pressure by then. He had done what he came to do, tried out his standard rear brake set-up having swapped the four pot callipers for two pot jobs: “I’ve had trouble in the past with locking rears,” said Greg, “and losing brake lines, so I’m just wondering if it will help to revert to standard brakes. It seems to have worked.” So that’s him all ready for Saturday’s Speyside Stages.

However, there was one big shake-up in the finishing order when Feeney’s Mitsubishi pulled a driveshaft out and he failed to make the start of the final stage. That put Paterson into second place and Morrison on the podium.

Any hopes Forgan had of catching Morrison were scuppered on the penultimate test when he had his second puncture of the day, the Subaru rumbling out of the test on the rim so he finished fourth ahead of Robathan and Ross Cree/Billy Gower in the Escort Mk2. Cree had his troubles too as he pointed to his rear tyres after the first two runs. They weren’t just through to the canvas, the internal wire casing was glinting in the sunlight. They looked more like well scrubbed Brillo pads than tyres.

Kevin Stout finished seventh in his Impreza while fourth time out in his BMW Richard Barnard (from Cumbria) was pleased with the seat-time and eighth overall. He previously had a Subaru but “prefers this on a nice day!”

The Citroen C2s of Graeme Sherry and Scott MacBeth finished 9th and 10th. First time out in the car, MacBeth was actually setting top six times – when things were going well that is. He had a misfire on the first two tests which was traced to a broken pin in the throttle body, but then it did it again on the final stage. Still, an encouraging debut for the wee car. Sherry was chuffed too, second time out in his C2 and apart from a few dings and wrinkles nudging tyres, was pleased with a top ten finish.

James Strachan finished 11th in his Citroen Saxo and Paul Orchiston was 12th in his Audi TT, but completed the rally in two wheel drive when the prop shaft broke. Final finisher was Martin Strachan in his Peugeot 106 – on road tyres!

Alan Cowan retired his Astra when a driveshaft broke on the fifth test, but that was the clincher in a day of troubles. On the first run the exhaust manifold bolts fell out and the heat boiled the hydraulic clutch fluid, a fuel pipe came off the top of the tank and he finished the fourth test running on fumes: “That was our fault, we didn’t put enough fuel in it,” said Alan, and then when he retired added: “That’s what comes of running with number 13 on the door. That’s to be avoided.”

Having his first run out in a ‘borrowed’ Escort Mk2, James Gibb got to the half way point of the rally when a driveshaft broke and that was his rally run, but not before: “I really enjoyed that,” he smiled, “I wanted to try a Mk2. I think I could be tempted into buying one now.”

Kevin Burns retired his Subaru when a turbo pipe split: “It’s too awkward to get to, so we can’t fix it here,” said Kevin. Graeme Rintoul retired his Fiesta with no gears: “I could push the lever forwards or back but not across the gate,” he said, “so we had to get towed out the stage. Then I poked about inside the box with a screwdriver, got a gear and we drove it on to the trailer.”

Final non-finisher was Ron Walker with the wide bodied Ford Ka: “Yesterday morning it just wouldn’t go at all,” said Ron, “but we finally got it started and set off for here. Then on the first stage it felt very down on power, and completely lost compression on the second stage. So we don’t quite know what’s up.”

The Juniors

Once again, the Juniors were highly entertaining. Following on from an exciting Ingliston thrash they were back at it again like hungry wasps chasing a jam sandwich at Condor. Jude MacDonald and Ewan Tindall had a furious day long scrap with Jude winning out by just 3 seconds at the finish. Johnnnie MacKay survived a huge tank-slapper in the third test to take third place in hi Suzuki Alto from Lewis Haining who left his Toyota’s front bumper stuck on a tyre marker in the same stage.

Finlay Retson finished fifth, the Micra losing out on the straights to the others and Andrew Blackwood was sixth but the service crew were puzzled: “We had to keep tightening the front wheel nuts after each run,” said Andrew, “turns out the studs were stretching, but we borrowed a set from Peter Beaton and replaced them.”

Amy McCubbin was giving her Micra its last run out ahead of the debut of her new car which will appear at the next Junior event. Her new Skoda Citigo should be a good bit quicker than the elderly Nissan. Alice Paterson was the final finisher as the wee Peugeot gasped across the finish line. It had been losing power since the penultimate test and was misfiring badly on the last one. Major surgery is being called for apparently. Peter Beaton was the sole retiree when the Citroen came off second best with a tyre marker and broke the engine mounting.

Top Ten:
1, Greg McKnight/David Crosbie (Mitsubishi Evo 9) 67m 39s
2, Ian Paterson/Heather Grisedale (Subaru Impreza) 68:26
3, Gordon Morrison/Derek Keir (Subaru Impreza N11) 68:46
4, Ian Forgan/Christopher Lees (Subaru Impreza) 71:08
5, Keith Robathan/Peter Carstairs (Ford Escort Mk2) 72:54
6, Ross Cree/Billy Gower (Ford Escort Mk2) 74:42
7, Kevin Stout/Cameron Stout (Prodrive Impreza) 75:57
8, Richard Barnard/Paul Gribben (BMW Compact) 76:11
9, Graeme Sherry/Richard Wardle (Citroen C2) 82:29
10, Scott MacBeth/Keir Beaton (Citroen C2 R2 Max) 83:14

1,Jude MacDonald/Steven Brown (Skoda Citigo) 78:52
2, Ewan Tindall/Paul Hudson (Citroen C1) 78:55
3, Johnnie MacKay/Gordon Reid (Suzuki Alto) 81:15
4, Lewis Haining/George Myatt (Toyota Aygo) 81:22
5, Finlay Retson/Andrew Falconer (Nissan Micra) 81:33
6, Andrew Blackwood/Gordon Winning (Citroen C1) 84:55
7, Amy McCubbin/Brian McClelland (Nissan Micra) 90:07
8, Alice Paterson/Ian Crosbie (Peugeot 107) 94:42