29 May: Scottish 4WD Rally Report

… RSAC Scottish Rally, Saturday 19th May …
Round 4 – 2018 ARR CRaib Scottish Rally Championship …

RSAC Scottish 4WD Rally …

Perhaps it was apt, that on Cup Final day, with deciding games at both Hampden and Wembley, this year’s RSAC Scottish Rally was also a ‘game of two halves’ producing not one, but two winning crews.

That was because the Royal Scottish Automobile Club organising team had introduced the novel ‘two rally’ format with the 2WD competitors running first on the road through the day’s six forest Special Stages while the 4WD crews set off three hours later. That meant two separate champagne finishes in Moffat High Street later that afternoon, or three if you count the Ecosse Challenge champagne celebrations too.

Re-united with Kevin Rae as a one-off, David Bogie swept to his 50th outright career rally victory while Greg McKnight and Harry Marchbank scored their first ‘outright rally victory’ in the ARR Craib Scottish Championship.

Billowing dust clouds had been a problem for drivers the day before at the Test Day, but the breeze was much stronger come rally day somewhat negating the advantage that the first car on the road would otherwise have had. Even so, the Skoda Fabia R5 set off at a spanking pace through the opening Twiglees test, but ominously, only 3 seconds behind it was the Subaru Impreza of Jock Armstrong and Cameron Fair. Gaining in confidence with the Subaru WRC, Freddie Milne and Patrick Walsh were 3rd quickest ahead of the Fiesta R5 of Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry. Emerging into the sunlight, Donnie MacDonald and Andrew Falconer were 5th quickest in the Fiesta R5 with the similar car of Lawrence Whyte and Stuart Loudon completing the top six fastest times. In fact less than 30 seconds covered the top six.

Things turned sour for Armstrong across the road in Castle O’er when the Subaru limped out of the forest with a rear puncture. More importantly, almost a minute down on the leader. which was of course that man Bogie again, but trailing his dust was newcomer Whyte only 15 seconds down on the master. Only a single second behind him though, were the tying McCulloch, Milne and Rory Young/Paul Beaton with the two Johns, Wink and Forrest, joining the fray, 6th fastest in the Hyundai.

Back to Twiglees for a re-run of the opening test, Bogie was quickest again with Armstrong back on song only 5 seconds adrift. Milne was still on a charge, 3rd quickest ahead of McCulloch and Whyte while 6th quickest was shared between MacDonald, Young and Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts getting in on the act with their Mitsubishi.

That was followed by a second visit to Castle O’er where Bogie romped through 3 seconds up on Armstrong who had 5 seconds on McCulloch. Whyte continued to impress, only 2 seconds behind his fellow-Ford rival with MacDonald and Milne tying for 6th quickest.

That meant Bogie pulled into Lockerbie Service with a 49 second lead over Milne. In fact most interest was now centred on the battle for second place as Milne was at the head of a quartet of cars covered by 20 seconds with the Ford Fiesta R5 of Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry only 3 seconds behind while the gap to 4th placed Whyte was a mere 7 seconds.

Suddenly the race for the front took on a new impetus. Armstrong was quickest through the fifth Rivox test in Ae by 5 seconds from Bogie with 7th placed Rory Young chasing a piece of the action. He was only a second behind Bogie but more crucially 7 seconds up on McCulloch. John Wink was 5th quickest in the Hyundai ahead of Milne’s Subaru WRC. But as the cars appeared out of the dust clouds at the Stage Finish, the yellow Ford was missing. A wrong note had caught out the crew and Whyte’s Fiesta tumbled off the road.

As the cars nosed into the final Gill Knowe stage at the northernmost edge of Ae Forest, there were still just 3 seconds between Milne and McCulloch, and almost 9 miles left to sort it out.

There was no doubt about the winner though. Bogie’s imperious progress continued at unabated pace as spectators waved their arms in the air in the search for a phone signal so that they could follow the action on the ‘Flying Finish’ results service. As the times appeared scrolling down the screen, there was no sign of Milne. At full pelt, the Subaru had drifted slightly wide on a tight right hander. Two wheels just caught the edge of the loose marbly dust and off it went. No real damage but beached on the soft ground.

Young was second quickest through the stage, but only 3 seconds up on McCulloch so had to settle for an unexpected third place overall: “I really didn’t expect that when we left service,” said Rory, “I didn’t start that well this morning and didn’t really click till the fifth stage, but I feel genuinely sorry for Freddie, he just simply ran out of room and fell off the road.”

Runner-up McCulloch echoed those thoughts: “I was having a good fight with Freddie (Milne) and I actually got away with it twice on the last stage with two massive moments. It was either us or Freddie, so I was lucky.”

John Wink was 4th quickest through that final test scoring his best SRC result yet with 4th overall, just one step away from the podium. Donnie MacDonald and Bruce McCombie were equal 6th quickest through the test which earned them 5th and 6th place overall. McCombie’s day had got off to a bad start with a puncture in the first test so 6th overall wasn’t too bad.

Finishing 7th overall, Andrew Gallacher and Jane Nicol in the Ford Focus WRC were 5th fastest through the final stage but this was their only time in the top six fastest times after a lacklustre outing where the Focus was found wanting in the face of the R5 challenge. Scott McCombie scored 8th just ahead of Michael Binnie who had endured a troubled morning loop with a handbrake problem and wheel sensor fault.

Rounding off the top ten was Jock Armstrong. He had suffered his second puncture of the day on the final stage. Having fought back to 8th after his earlier deflation he lost almost a minute again. Fraser Wilson finished 11th but “had a look at a couple of ditches” on his way round and Ian Baumgart was 12th.

Which left Bogie to reflect on a career which has now seen him take his 50th rally victory since he started rallying in 2004. “It may have looked easy, but it wasn’t. When Jock (Armstrong) got a puncture on the second stage and dropped half a minute that eased the pressure right away. The stages were hard and it was a case of managing the tyres to make sure I didn’t get punctures.”

4WD RSAC Scottish Rally Results
1 David Bogie/Kevin Rae (Skoda Fabia R5) 42m 38s
2 Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry (Ford Fiesta R5) +1:11
3 Rory Young/Paul Beaton (Ford Fiesta R5) +1:30
4 John Wink/John Forrest (Hyundai i20 R5) +1:46
5 Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer (Ford Fiesta R5) +1:50
6 Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +2:20
7 Andrew Gallacher/Jane Nicol (Ford Focus WRC) +2:31
8 Scott McCombie/Mark Fisher (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +2:56
9 Michael Binnie/Claire Mole (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +3:00
10 Jock Armstrong/Cameron Fair (Subaru Impreza) +3:01

Class Winners
Michael Binnie/Claire Mole (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9)
Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9)
John Wink/Martin Forrest (Hyundai i20 R5)
Chris McCarthy/Barry Connolly (Land Rover Wolf XD)

2WD Rally – [Main Report]
4WD Rally – [Fastest Stage Times]
2WD Rally – [Fastest Stage Times]