21 Feb: Snowman blethers

… News & Blethers …

Emotions were running high at the conclusion of Saturday’s Arnold Clark Snowman Rally. It was 39 years since the name ‘Gallacher’ last appeared on the winner’s trophy. Andrew Gallacher’s Dad, and four times Scottish Champion Drew Gallacher, last won the Snowman in 1979 with the late David ‘Budgie’ McHarg in their Ford Escort Mk2. Andrew reflected afterwards: “There can’t be many events won by father and son.” He’s right of course, although few could match the McRae family record. Jim and Colin both won the Circuit of Ireland and the Manx while Jim, Colin and Alister all won the RSAC Scottish Rally.

There were a couple of watery eyes (must have been the cold and biting wind!) in another car too. A disconsolate Quintin Milne said at the finish: “I so wanted to win this for Dad.” His father, Donald Milne was killed in an aeroplane accident just last month. The 1991 Scottish Rally Champion last won the Snowman in 1994 with Bob Wilson in an MG Metro 6R4.

The Scottish Rally Championship was sporting a new logo at the weekend to commemorate the fact that this year marks the 50th anniversary of Scotland’s top motor sporting championship moving into the woods. Until 1967, the national series had comprised primarily ‘selective’ events, with timed tests, in the seven round series, but in 1968, the competition excluded selective-only events, instead persuading clubs to move towards forest based ‘Special Stage’ rallies.

Ross MacDonald appeared at the Snowman Rally with a ‘new’ car and scored his best result to date with 10th place overall. He had ‘borrowed’ the Culloden Car Sales Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9 from his uncle (and employer!) one Donnie MacDonald Esq. in place of his own Evo8. “It was a one-off depending on how to-morrow goes,” said Ross, “no doubt any future drives will be decided at the bar after the rally.” He added, “I had a wee test last week. It handles better than my car, it steers better, it puts its power down better and it has more power.” There would appear to one other proviso: “If I beat any of his times in the Fiesta on the rally then it will be no car, no job and no prospects!”

A certain Willie Paterson was spotted wandering about Dingwall Service looking like a Labrador puppy that had lost its loo roll, but all was explained. It’ll be over 10 years since Willie last sat his bum in a rally and that was at the wheel of a Daihatsu Cuore AVANZATO Turbo ES. Yes, you read that right, a 660cc pocket rocket. Don’t laugh, this 4WD device revved all the way up to 8,500 rpm and barely bothered the scales at 750kg – before you added 2 bodies. It could get off its mark and hit 60 in around 8.5 seconds and topped out at 98 mph. He also had an Escort at one time but is unsure about what to try next. The plan is to hire The Sheriff’s Evo WRC for the forthcoming Knockhill event and then his Escort for a forest event.

Thomas Gray has divested himself of his Fiesta R2 and acquired the ex-Scott MacBeth Nova from its latest owner on Mull. He had two concerns ahead of the rally, he was back to right hand drive and it was Ricky Finlayson’s first rally o-driving for him.

Neil Coalter has replaced his Suzuki with a 1600cc Ford Puma. It had its first, short, very short, outing at Knockhill on the Beatson’s Building Supplies Stages last December. It didn’t end well. He knocked a wheel off it on the first stage, and that was down to his first run out in RHD car after the LHD Suzuki. Easy done, eh? Anyway, he got a bit further on the Snowman, before sliding off on the snow in the Rogie test. The times were starting to look good so expect another front runner in the 1600 class as the season progresses.

Scott MacBeth, Ally Currie and Shaun Sinclair all had a test on the Friday morning before the Snowman Rally at the new-ish Cannich facility to the west of Drumnadrochit. Skye Rally Club had previously used the facility for their Time Trial. It would appear that Eddie Noble has plans to extend the current 2 mile dead end forest road and create a loop, so that would be good for the Highland rallyists. Shaun had a wee oil leak from the Subaru’s gearbox and the McKinstry boys had to change a sensor later that evening to cure a fault which was explained in typical Irish terminology: “The front end wasnae talkin’ to the back end!” Clear enough, eh? Ally also had a puncture during the test and Iain McLeod noted that when they jacked the Fiesta up to change the wheel, the ground was frozen so hard they didn’t need a spreader plate under it, and it didn’t sink or move a millimetre.

Good to see Donnie Munro at Scrutineering, still shoogling wheels and checking rally car build quality. He turned 81 last November, just don’t ask him about roll-cage mounting points for a Model T Ford. Ivor Clark was celebrating his latest birthday at the Snowman, he turned 71 on the Saturday and he’s still daft as a brush.

There was a bit of a delay during the running of SS1 when a couple of motorcycle cops turned up. They were investigating reports of a motocrosser seen in the woods, but when the cops turned up he took off down a firebreak. Some folk just don’t get it yet, do they? If spectators don’t behave, delays are the least of the sport’s problems.

Sandy Arbuthnott was going well over the early stages in his Subaru engined Ford Focus till electrical gremlins intervened in the final stage, but he nearly caused a major embarrassment on the Start line of the rally in Inverness High Street. The commentator explained to the crowd the hybrid nature of the car, Ford and Subaru, Focus and Impreza and asked what he called it – a Fordaru or Subaford, to which the exasperated Sandy responded: “I call it a lot of things, like ….” at which point the commentator pulled the microphone away sharply to spare the assembled parents’ blushes and awkward questions from their weans!

And finally …

Niall Cowan Jnr won the 1450cc class by almost 6 minutes in his MG ZR, but one could be forgiven for thinking that he doesn’t take the sport seriously. He appeared at Scrutineering with a colourful illuminated snowglobe stuck to his dashtop. Sadly such an adornment is not allowed in the sport these days as those arbiters of good taste and fair play, Health & Safety, would have a field day.

And finally, finally …
Just don’t mention the Scottish Tarmack Awards night to Brian ‘Beefy’ Fraser and Fiona Moir. They didn’t win any major prizes but they were called up to collect one other important award – the Old Crocks Cup. Apparently their ages and the age of the car were taken into consideration. Which made me wonder – if Fiona is only 22, what age does that make Beefy?

And really finally …

Bob Adamson appeared with his new car, a magnificent looking Skoda Fabia S2000. This would be its first outing and Bob was planning on taking things easy. The car was originally built for a chap by the name of Seb Ogier who apparently made a few extra non-Skoda works tweaks to the machine because he didn’t want his to be the same as everyone else’s car. Despite the obligatory “few ditches” Bob was well pleased with 29th overall and no marks on the bodywork, but he made me laugh. Apparently his son asked his Mum what Dad was getting for his Christmas, to which she replied rather disinterestedly and offhandedly: “I think he’s getting a Skoda.” If only she knew, she does now.