28 Aug: Two Grampian Champions

… Grampian Forest Rally, Saturday 12 August 2017 …
Rd6 (of 7) ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship …

It was a two horse race in the north east, or perhaps more literally, a ‘two horse rally’ on the Grampian Forest Rally – and both horses won! The Skoda of David Bogie and Kevin Rae won the event, but the Fiesta of Euan Thorburn and Peter Beaton won the title. The 2017 ARR Craib Scottish Championship title that is. There was a third ‘winner’ too. First time in a rally car for over two years, Paul Bird felt like a winner with third place.

Once again the Milton of Crathes venue provided an ideal base for the rally, while Crathes Castle was used for the rally Start and Finish festivities. Mind you, the appearance of noisy rally cars did arouse the curiosity of passers-by and castle visitors perhaps more interested in the nation’s history than automotive technological advance and sporting prowess. Whatever, the sun shone – most of the time.

Setting the pace over the first stage in Fetteresso was Bogie’s Fabia R5, re-shelled after its Ypres misdemeanour, with Thorburn already on the case, but losing out by 6 seconds over the 6 mile test. Jock Armstrong and Paula Swinscoe were 3rd quickest, the orange Subaru only 2 seconds down on the blue Fiesta with Jock commenting: “That was quick in there, I clocked 119 mph.” Top Mitsubishi runners were Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy 5th quickest just ahead of Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry with Mark commenting: “”That was really weird, coming off the tarmac last weekend,” he said, referring to his usedcarparts.co.uk Solway Stages victory the previous weekend. Barry Groundwater was well off the pace: “That was slow. I haven’t been on gravel since the Border Counties.”

It was Bogie again in Durris from Thorburn: “The first stage was good,” said Euan, “but I was really messy in there – I was too busy looking at David’s braking points and missing the apexes!” Third quickest was Mark McCulloch ahead of three cars sharing 4th fastest time, the Subarus of Armstrong and Shaun Sinclair/Jamie Edwards, and the Focus WRC of Paul Bird/Stuart Loudon. Just a second off those three was Freddie Milne first time out in an Impreza WRC: “I was only a second off Jock’s time in that one. I’m delighted with that,” he said. Faulkner was 9th quickest: “That stage was twistier, it was more WRC territory, but it was OK.”

Already in trouble was Ian Forgan. The Subaru had got stuck in 5th gear in the first stage when the selector broke. He managed to do the second stage stuck in 3rd gear, but was 4 minutes late booking into service and thereafter had to run further back on the road and spent the rest of the day catching cars. John Wink was slow over the first two stages, but had a huge smile on his face despite that. First time out in the new Hyundai R5, he had nothing heroic planned, just get used to the car, then admitted: “I had a wee off in Durris,” he said, “it was just a half spin and we ended up with the nose in a ditch. No damage and we just reversed out.” Not so lucky for Scott McCombie. The boys found a problem with the gearbox at service and the Mitsubishi was going no further: “It’s punched a hole in the casing,” said Scott, “I think the initial damage was done at the Argyll and then it’s failed here!”

Bogie and Thorburn set the pace through the 3rd test at Drumtochty, but this time Paul Bird was third: “I was too cautious over the first two stages,” said Paul, “but once I got used to the style of the championship’s Scotmaps notes, and realised that ‘cut’ meant ‘CUT’, I got quicker.” Sinclair and Faulkner tied on 4th quickest by a single second from Armstrong: “We had been sitting in the queue for a while at the start of the stage,” said Jock, “then pulled up to the start and set off, then suddenly the car got dragged to a halt. We didn’t know what it was and checked all the switches, then ‘Dohhh!’ realised the handbrake was still on. The brakes had cooled when we were waiting and slackened off, so when they got hot, the handbrake pulled us to a halt, because we hadn’t put it off when we started the stage.” Aye, ‘Dohhhh!’ indeed, eh?

It was Bogie, Thorburn and Bird again in Drumelzie with Armstrong ahead of Sinclair while Faulkner shared 6th quickest with McCulloch. As for Milne, he was going no further. Although the Subaru had finished the stage it wasn’t going to make the next one: “We had a problem with the gearbox yesterday,” said Freddie, “so the boys changed it overnight, but it would appear there’s another problem.”

The penultimate test at Hurlie Bog saw Armstrong nip second quickest from Thorburn by 3 seconds: “We did what we had to do,” said Euan, “there was no point in taking risks. All we had to do was finish ahead of Jock to clinch the title, so we turned the anti-lag down for the final two stages and just drove down the middle of the road.” Bird was 4th quickest from the tying Sinclair and Faulkner. John Wink had another spin but was still smiling: “It wasn’t my fault this time,” he said, “we punctured a rear tyre, but the car is fantastic.”

Going into the final stage, Bogie had a 47 second lead over Thorburn with Armstrong a further 21 seconds behind, but Bird was 3 seconds off the final podium place with Sinclair just 8 secs away from the champagne too.

Through the 6 miles Strathgyle Wood test, Bogie rounded off his day with his 6th fastest stage time out of 6 stages, but it was Shaun Sinclair who was second, by ONE second from Bird. It wasn’t enough. Despite Sinclair’s superb final effort, Birdy had got out of the trap like a chicken catching sight of Colonel Sanders with a big gun and he was a second up on Thorburn. Bruce McCombie finally got in on the act when he and Michael Coutts got a top six time, 5th fastest just ahead of Armstrong: “I was just about off on the last two corners,” said Jock losing out on 3rd overall by 1 second, “that didn’t help!”

Impreza WRC driver Shaun Sinclair was a disappointed fifth: “I’m not disappointed with the car or anything. I’m disappointed with me,” he said. Second fastest on the final stage showed what might have been, had he got on the pace much quicker, but he can be pleased with 4th, 3 seconds behind Jock.

Mike Faulkner rounded off the top 6, but going into the final stage he had just 2 seconds on Mark McCulloch. However, any chance McCulloch had of snatching a top six finish disappeared when he punctured a rear tyre.

First time in the driver’s seat for 3 months, Bruce McCombie finished 8th in his Lancer Evo9 ahead of a relatively quiet Donnie MacDonald in the Fiesta R5. Michael Binnie was 10th overall first time out in his recently acquired John Wink Lancer Evo9 and scored top Challenger’s points too. “The car was very lively over the first two stages,” said Michael, “it kept stepping out at the rear, but we changed the rebound at first service. It didn’t cure it, but it helped.”

Only one second behind him at the finish was the Evo6 of second placed Challenger Simon Hay, who still leads the series, while third Challenger Iain Wilson had a recurrence of his brake problems in his Subaru: “We’ve changed everything,” said Iain, “and we’re still losing brakes in every stage. It must be pad knock-off, I’m having to pump the pedal to try and get it back.” Still smiling at the finish was Ian Forgan, despite his troubles: “That last stage was brilliant,” he said, “although we did catch a car in it. We also caught a car in the long previous stage and picked up a puncture in the dust, so we lost even more time.”

Top 2WD runner on the day was Duncan MacDonald in his Escort Mk2 ahead of Angus Lawrie in his class winning 1600cc Vauxhall Corsa despite a cracked engine mounting. “We had it all day,” said Lawrie, “but the service crew didn’t tell me until final service, so I took it a bit easier through the last two.” Dougal Brown dropped a lot of time with a burst exhaust and Mike Stuart ended his rally upside down in Durris Forest although both Stuart and Sinclair Young were OK.

Back at the champagne finish, Bogie and Rae celebrated their rally win as the sunshine cast a rainbow through the champagne fizz, while Thorburn and Beaton’s second championship title denied Armstrong his third in a row. “No issues today,” said David, “these stages have been the best I’ve been on this year.”

1 David Bogie/Kevin Rae (Skoda Fabia R5) 41m 17s
2 Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Ford Fiesta R5) 42m 15s
3 Paul Bird/Stuart Louden (Ford Focus 07 WRC) 42m 38s
4 Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) 42m 39s
5 Shaun Sinclair/Jamie Edwards (Subaru Impreza WRC) 42m 42s
6 Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer E9) 42m 56s
7 Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry (Mitsubishi Lancer E9) 43m 05s
8 Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) 43m 13s
9 Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer (Ford Fiesta R5) 44m 06s
10 Michael Binnie/Claire Mole (Mitsubishi Lancer E9) 44m 33s

11 Simon Hay/Calum Jaffray (Lancer Evo6) 44m 34s
12 Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks, (Lancer Evo10) 44m 55s
13 Iain Wilson/Will Rogers (Subaru Impreza) 44m 56s
14 John Wink/John Forrest (Hyundai I20 R5) 45m 15s
15 Ross MacDonald/Matthew Johnstone (Lancer Evo8) 45m 53s
16 Ian Baumgart/Mike Dickson (Impreza) 46m 34s
17 Duncan MacDonald/Neil Ross (Ford Escort Mk2) 46m 36s
18 Fraser Wilson/Craig Wallace (Lancer Evo9) 46m 47s
19 Fraser Louden/Ashleigh Will (Lancer Evo6) 46m 58s
20 John McIlwraith/Scott Young (Impreza GC8) 47m 05s

Class 1: Neil Coalter/Hannah Cessford (Suzuki Ignis) 49m 33s
Class 2: Donald Peacock/Scott Peacock (Peugeot 205 GTI) 52m 17s
Class 3: Angus Lawrie/Paul Gribben (Vauxhall Corsa) 47m 31s
Class 4: Fraser MacNicol/Keith Boa (Ford Escort Mk2) 50m 15s
Class 5: Ian Milne/Sandy Milne (Ford Escort Mk2) 54m 59s
Class 6: Finlay Retson/Tom Mynd (Ford Fiesta ST) 50m 00s
Class 7: MacDonald/Ross
Class 9: Wilson/Wallace
Class 10: Binnie/Mole
Class 11: Armstrong/Swinscoe
Class 12: Bogie/Rae

Grampian Forest Rally – [Fastest Stage Times]
Grampian Forest Rally – [Class Roundup]