29 Jul: Mach1 Stages News Roundup

… Mach1, News Roundup …

Behind the scenes 1
Many of us don’t think about the time and effort put into setting up a single venue tarmac rally. Even at Kames the work schedule is frenetic before, during and after each event so imagine starting from scratch each year at a place the size of Machrihanish with its 1.9 mile long main runway on its 1,000 acre site. No wonder everybody takes bikes. Anyway, according to a source deep within the Dunfermline CC organising team, 3 members of the set-up team arrived on the Monday before the rally, 2 more on the Tuesday, another 3 on Wednesday and over 25 on the Thursday, and that’s not counting the farmers with their tractors and bales and other local folks who provide additional vital support. Quite a few of them take a week’s holiday just so that folk can have a rally. That’s quite a commitment and undertaking, eh?

Behind the scenes 2
At close of play on Saturday afternoon when everyone else was packing up and heading for curry and beer, Raymond and Stan were still hard at it in the Results room. They spent hours correcting a number of stage time anomalies. It wasn’t till the Check Sheets came back in from the stages that they could compare them with the Time Cards. The problem was the times on the wet cards that some poor drookit and cauld Marshal had been diligently writing down only for the ink to run! The radio crew struggled to read them when they were calling them in so the lads knew they were in for some overtime, hence the wait for the Check Sheets. Did they complain? Not a bit of it. Sticklers for accuracy, they are. Thank goodness.

Behind the scenes 3
At the pre-rally Drivers’ Briefing on Saturday morning, Davie Hatrick stepped up to say a few words before the serious business got underway. He publicly thanked Tom Blackwood for his Blackwood Plant Hire championship sponsorship for the past 3 years and all the other ‘Behind the scenes’ help and support he had given rally organisers and individuals, especially the Juniors. Poor Tom, he was so embarrassed he went bright red, with Gordon Winning piping up: “I can feel the heat from here,” and he wasn’t even standing next to him!

John Bell was a surprise visitor to the Mach1 Stages. Somehow he had been talked into co-driving for Mark ‘Speedy’ Runciman in the Vauxhall Corsa, renewing a partnership that came to an abrupt end on the Scottish Rally 22 years ago. John was driving his awfy smart stage prepared Vauxhall Victor (Yes, a Victor, that’s not typo) when it broke the suspension in Dalbeattie. Luckily Speedy remembered that Murray Grierson lived nearby so the car limped to the village where they set to fixing the thing with Mad Murr doing the welding. They were well out of time by this stage but at least they were able to drive the thing home and park it up in the garage where it has remained ever since. None of this trailer to and fro nonsense in those days. However, it seems that the lights are burning late into the night in the Bell Garage where the Victor is undergoing a major rebuild and should be seen out on the forest stages once again quite soon. As Speedy asked: “Is this the biggest car in rallying?”

Speaking of partnerships, Gordon McElrath was reminiscing about the good old days when he revealed that his co-driver for the Mach1 in the Chevette was Jim Rintoul, with Gordon saying: “The last time we rallied together was 33 years ago – when I was 30!” I don’t know whether he was fibbing, his memory fading or he just can’t count, or maybe it’s the rallying that’s aged him. Whatever, they managed to complete the Saturday stages despite an excursion on to the grass which bent the front o/s wing and tore half the bumper off, but it was a propshaft breakage that forced them out.

Now, rumour has it, that a certain competitor, who shall remain nameless, hit a problem with his car on the Saturday and missed out one of the stages so any chance of a result had gone. Even so the car was fixed and taken back out before developing a gearbox fault on the last stage of the day. Did he hand his time cards in and go home? Nope. They managed to get the car running: “I don’t care if I’ve damaged the ‘box,” he said, “I just wanted a shot at that 12 miler on Sunday morning!” Only then did he pack up ready for home. One happy chappie. Just call it Mach1 fever.

After the rally, Nigel Feeney admitted that he nearly didn’t finish: “We were on slicks for the last two stages on Saturday, and they were the wettest stages all day. I got all four wheels on the grass sliding sideways at one point and just waiting for the impact but it didn’t hit anything.”

Ellya Gold had similar problems in the Lancer on the last two Saturday stages: “We did have wets on but they went off and we were aquaplaning everywhere – we only hit 5 bales.” He finished 35th.

It was the same for James Gibb: “We had a huge spin at 100 mph in top gear going through one of the slaloms but got away with it.” Then he did it again on the next lap, but he was going slower this time. You see, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

We all know Kenny Moore‘s Avenger is one of the smartest looking cars around and he finished just outside the top ten in 13th place in the Avenger, but there were a few slight wrinkles in one of the normally pristine front wings at the finish: “I hit the bales at a shitty corner and I was scared to get out and look,” said Kenny, “but the paint wasn’t even broken although I lost a door mirror.”

Hamish Grant finished just inside the top 20 in 19th place but was lucky. There was a rush job to fix a broken alternator bracket on the Escort on Sunday morning.

Just outside the top 20 was Michael Robertson, second time out in the Honda Civic. He finished 21st and no broken driveshafts this time: “We lost the clutch on the last stage and did the second lap in 4th gear. We also lost the rear bumper and hit the rear quarter smacking a bale just near where Greg Inglis was parked up. It was either him or the bale.”

Stuart Paterson‘s outing was curbed on Saturday when the gearbox started to fail: “It was getting noisy,” he said, “so we changed the oil just in case it was getting too hot and tried again but it still wasn’t right,” and then added, “or it might be the clutch.” Later it was reported that the rear diff had failed which prompted more explanation: “I broke a driveshaft and drove on, then I broke the other one – and knackered the diff!”

The reason that Donald Bowness‘ Vauxhall Nova didn’t make the start was because of the fuel pump. “It was at 9 o’clock last night,” said Donald, “the car was on the rollers at Andrew Gallacher’s place when it failed. There was no chance of getting a spare at that time so Archie McCallum loaned me his Corsa. Everything feels different, but I still won the class.”

Eddie O’Donnell was well off the pace finishing 42nd in his BMW but he dropped 5 minutes in the first stage which didn’t help and then explained: “I bought a set of used tyres for the Argyll Stages at Dunoon the other week, and I’m still using them here. Look there are no knobblies left on them.” Budget rallying – Mull style.

The Subaru of Alistair Dalgleish appeared at the Mach1 with a new 6 spd ‘box but there were some teething difficulties. Apparently they had to “fanny aboot” fitting the new starter motor with longer bolts, and then during the rally one of the bolts came loose and the earth strap came loose too which affected the electrics. Still they were happy enough with a top 20 finish, 18th o/a.

The normally smart Ford Puma of George Fell was looking a bit sorry for itself after the rally despite finishing 34th and 6th in class: “We aquaplaned into the tyres yesterday,” said George, “and bumped the front end. but there was no mechanical damage.”

Class 1 runner-up Innes Mochrie in the ‘mocket’ (quaint Lanarkshire term for ‘rather dirty’ – see main report) explained his modest car’s handling attributes: “There isn’t much hydrolastic fluid in it, so it sits down on the bump stops. It’s a very firm ride and it does tend to oversteer!” It also has 150bhp these days a big increase on last year’s spec.

Son and father duo Craig and Colin Smith debuted their new Vauxhall Astra at Machrihanish. They bought the ‘shell last October and planned on taking a year to build it but they got the job done quicker than expected and this was its first event. However, it would appear there was a major design fault in its construction: “The electric windows wouldn’t open,” said Craig, “and the car misted up in the rain, and we couldn’t see anything.” The fault emanated from the roll cage and new door trim so it’ll be fixed for their next outing. They finished 38th o/a and 11th in class but might have done better had they not gone the wrong way at the Split when they were trying to overtake another car.

Billy Hamilton finished 30th in the Kadett: “I did a lot of autocrossing in the second last stage,” he said, “but got away with it. There was nothing in the grass, but it bounced quite well.”

Greg Stark‘s troubles started on the first stage when the Peugeot lapsed on to 2 cylinders: “A plug came half out of the coil pack so it was only firing on 2 cylinders,” said Greg, “then the throttle cable broke on SS5.” They contented themselves with dong the Trophy Rally on Sunday.

Neil McAllister had a wee panic on the 7th test when the Peugeot 205’s throttle cable broke but he got back to service where it was fixed and recorded 4th in class at the finish.

Another lucky man was John Robertson when he stripped the steering wheel boss on his Escort: “It was at the end of a long straight which went into a 90 Right. I turned the wheel and we went straight on.” I’m sure it was much more dramatic at the time, but John seemed quite unfazed by it: “The splines on the steering wheel boss had just stripped. I’ve never seen that before, but then Ali Galbraith said he had a spare steering wheel at home which would fit and drove 50 miles home that night and 50 miles back again to get it for me.” John finished 43rd after his SS3 excursion.

Speaking of Ali Galbraith he slid off in SS7 and got stuck in a field. They got the Escort out eventually but he didn’t complete the last stage: “I was losing brakes and gears he said, “I started with 5 gears, I think it’s down to 3 and a half now.”

The demise of Robert Cumming‘s Astra was caused by oil in the clutch and they didn’t have the time or the spares to fix it.

The Ford Escort Cosworth of Russell Milne was forced out with gearbox failure: “We lost third gear and after that it sounded like ice cubes in a blender,” he said.

In rather more trouble was Jamie Miller in the Nova. An engine mounting broke which caused the engine to drop and hit the fan which stopped it working. So concerned was Jamie, he wasn’t watching where he was going and hit a kerb bending the chassis leg. And he still finished 3rd in class.

Finishing 36th o/a and far below his potential, so he says, was Hugh ‘Shug’ Steel in his Subaru Impreza: “There’s something wrong with the gearbox,” he said through clouds of fag smoke, “it’s like stirring porridge. We were on the grass at one point,” adding, “that was the only time we got it sideways.”

Willie Beattie was classified as a non-finisher because he didn’t complete the first two stages due to an electrical fault in his Mk2 on SS1, but after repairs he did the other ten and looking at his times, a top 20 finish might otherwise have been on the cards.

Also classified as a non-finisher in his Nova was Matt Ratcliffe although he completed 8 of the 12 stages, missing out 5,6,7 and 8: “We put it through a fence,” he said, “there was little damage but the bumper fixing clips went through the radiator, so we had to change it.”

Steve McGregor had a disappointing outing with the Honda Integra Type R retiring after just two stages when the car was running properly. On Saturday morning it developed a misfire so the plugs were swapped for brand new ones and the car just cut out and stopped mid Stage 2. He swapped back to the old plugs and the car fired up again, and he managed to get a couple of stages in later on, but the car still wasn’t right so withdrew: “Before we do any real damage,” said Steve.

Often it can be the simplest things that curtail a rally outing, like it did to Gavin Gray‘s Citroen ZX: “The drain plug fell out of the bottom of the radiator, lost all the water and goosed the engine, and I didn’t hit anything,” said Gavin.

Meanwhile, the other member of the Gray family, piper Andrew had a miserable day with his Peuegot 206: “It kept going into limp mode and I had to stop and re-start it 3 or 4 times,” he said, “It did at Ingliston too. I think it must be a sensor, so we’ll need to investigate that when we get it home.” At least they finished (37th) with Andrew adding: “We halved our start number (82) so that’s progress!”

He wasn’t last but Allan Watt was still quite chuffed with 46th o/a in his Peugeot 106: “That’s 3 finishes so far, and we’re still using second hand tyres, but we got them cut today, and what a difference!”

First time out in his newly acquired Talbot Sunbeam and first time on tarmac, Rhuaridh Campbell finished 44th: “It was originally a 1300 engine,” said Rhuaridh, “but it was rebuilt into a 1600 by Finnish expert Petteri Sappinen and then rebuilt by AP Racing Engines before I got it.” He might well have finished higher up the order but for a Maximum on SS10.

On the basis that he’s old enough to know better, Alan Ross‘ return to the sport was curtailed when the Saxo ended up in the fence.

Last man home was Scott MacDonald who reported that a deer came out of the undergrowth at one point and ran alongside the Nova. He says he didn’t hit it but didn’t say whether it overtook him or just ran away. However, the real reason for looking at their results position from the wrong end: “Drew and I had an argument in the car as we approached the Split on the second last stage – and we went the wrong way.”

From Bavaria … with love …
You might wonder why a motoring journalist would subscribe to the weekly Autocar mag, but I do. I like to see whether they agree with my opinions, or I agree with their more detailed appraisals. The answer is, not always. I also like to read the Letters page. Gawd there are some right pretentious numpties out there, aren’t there? I can imagine those who have to respond to these letters biting their tongues to refrain from saying what they’d really like to say and upsetting their readership. Mind you there are some interesting Letters from sensible people with sound views and opinions, so it’s worth sticking with it. Then I got to the final letter of last week’s issue. Oh, here we go again. Some over-opinionated twat writing about the merits of manual, automatic and sequential gearboxes. But as I read through the letter, I thought, ‘Nope’ this guy has a point and I ended up agreeing with him. Then I read the name of the author, Calum MacLeod from Bavaria. Yup, that’s our Calum, the one with the ex-works MG ZR S2000 whom we last saw on the 2016 Speyside Stages and who now lives and works in Germany. And you know what’s worse? I have written 3 letters in the past to Autocar and they haven’t printed a single one!

And finally …

There was a TV star taking part in the rally, albeit an unwitting star of the small screen. Like many folk I was sitting watching the tennis on Thursday afternoon before the rally when the cameras cut to the crowd and there mid-screen, large as life, was one John Marshall Esq. He was just finishing off his holidays: “I got some tickets (no doubt they were free, Ed.) so I went. It was really good,” he said, “the atmosphere was terrific.” Sadly he missed out on another star, Cliff Richard – there was no rain while John was there so Cliff wasn’t needed.

Main Rally Report – [Mach1 Stages]