02 Jun: Scottish Roundup & Blethers

… Scottish Roundup & Blethers …

Both sets of rally results were amalgamated at the end of the RSAC Scottish in order to determine points in the ARR Craib Scottish Championship following which Donnie MacDonald has moved to the top of the table with 76 points ahead of early leader Andrew Gallacher on 75. Mark McCulloch is now third on 73 ahead of David Bogie on 60 and Greg McKnight on 59.

It was good to see Kevin Rae back in harness once again at the Scottish although David Bogie was keen to point out that his re-appearance beside him had nothing to do with other recent changes of co-driver: “John Rowan had a family thing this weekend, but we knew that at the start of the season. John will still be doing the full Prestone British series with me whereas Kevin couldn’t do a full season due to work commitments. However, I wanted to do my ‘home’ event and Kevin was available. It was really good and we both enjoyed it.”

Ross Hughes and Steven Brown won the AW Motosport Tyres/C2 Rallyparts Ecosse Challenge in their Citroen C2 VTS from the similar car of Andy Struthers and Alasdair McIlroy. This time the Hughes machine finished in one piece and without any liberal applications of matching black tank tape despite losing the brakes in SS3: “We burst a brake line and had to chuck it into a ditch to slow down for a Left 7,” said Ross, “and then had to rely on the handbrake till we got to Service.” Struthers was lucky too: “We hit a massive rock in Twiglees which threw the car up on two wheels, but it didn’t go over!” After a string of problems on the Speyside, Drew Barker was pleased with third place: “I spent some time on the car to get reliability, and it paid off today.”

Having tipped her Mitsubishi over on to its roof at the Test Day ahead of the rally, Aileen Forrest faced the prospect of an early trip home, but she and Pauline Patterson have a ‘secret weapon’. Four times Scottish Rally Champion, Ken Wood looks after her car as well as the Hyundai R5 of John Wink, whose co-driver just happens to be Aileen’s husband – and who, coincidentally, was with Aileen when she rolled. Once they got the car extricated, Wood and company stripped out the shattered windscreen and straightened the metalwork ready for the windscreen man’s arrival at 8pm on the Friday evening. It fitted first time and the crew completed the rally.

Alasdair Currie added to his CV with a top ten finish in his Fiesta ST. “I caught the dust of the car ahead in the first stage, but it was OK after that. However, I think I need some lead weights in the back of the car. The rear end was all over the place.” He also finished top Junior.

Second time out in the Fiesta R2, Caroline Carslaw was forced to retire at service. The crew spotted an oil leak and reckoned it was gearbox oil and driveshaft related so there was no point in carrying on and risking more expensive damage.

After his retirement on the Speyside when the Ford Puma’s head gasket failed, Neil Coalter was better pleased with 3rd in class behind Lawrie and Riddick. “I’ve driven the car 12 miles since the rebuild,” said Coalter, “so this is my first ‘proper’ run. We did have one problem. We hit a bump and the headlamp fell off. We were in 5th gear when it came out, hit the windscreen and flew over the roof.”

Donald Peacock was lucky to make the start in his Peugeot 205: “The steering rack failed at Scrutineering, so we just drove home and took the one out of Scott’s old 205 and fitted that – I’ll tell him later!” Meanwhile, young Scott Peacock was out in his MG ZR and got a wee fright in the first stage: “We came round one corner to find an Escort – facing us! It was OK though, we stopped in time but he had spun, the we caught Niall Cowan’s dust after he punctured a tyre, so stage one wasn’t good for us.” Anyway, both the auld Peacock and the young yin went into the last stage tied on times. They were both in different classes of course, but there was more at stake here – bragging rights in the pub. Anyway, the auld yin took 13 seconds out of ‘the boy’, apparently through superior skill you understand, at which comment, co-driver Tom Hynd rolled his eyes. Spotting the gesture, Donald added: “Oh aye, we were nearly off at a Left 7. In fact we were so far off, Tom put his hands up to cover his eyes. I didn’t think it was going to turn in, but I got it.”

There was some family strife in the Cameron boys’ Escort when they spun in Castle O’er: “Douglas was shouting left,” said David,” so I went right! Then we spun and we got lost in the dust and had to wait till it cleared to see where the road went, never mind which direction we were supposed to go. We also had some overheating problems but we managed to top up the radiator from a burn.”

Looking like refugees from a Saharan desert dust storm, Keith and Kirsty Riddick explained their predicament at the rally finish. “At the start of the first stage I wound my window down to hand out the Time Card,” said Kirsty, “and the window jammed. We had to do two stages like that before we could get it fixed.” “The dust got EVERY where,” said Keith. They still finished 2nd in class despite a broken engine mounting. They also finished 5th overall with Keith commenting: “Kirsty has finished 5th in her last 4 rallies, so that makes her fifth 5th.”

Matthew Robinson and Dave Robson rolled into the Moffat finish sucking double caramel Magnums, but purely for health reasons your understand. They were hot, sticky and dusty with road construction contractor Matthew explaining: “I’ve got more dust down me than a week’s worth of road planing!”

Equally hot, bothered and dusty was Steve Bannister who was running behind Robinson on the road, and remember, the 2WDs were running first on the road and therefore first to experience the dray and stoory conditions, as Steve remarked: “The dust on the first two stages was horrendous – especially following that load of dick,” pointing out the windscreen at Robinson’s car! Friendship, eh? Forged in the heat of battle.

There is one familiar figure and unusual sight I am struggling to recognise these days. And there he was again, grinning insanely at the finish in Moffat. After years of disappointment and despair while cursing and fixing his recalcitrant Citroen, Jim Robertson was full of smiles and good humour at yet another finish with his Escort Mk2. He finished 13th o/a and 2nd in class and barely put a spanner on the car all day. He’s almost unrecognisable these days. From Meldrew to Muttley, chortling and smiling. “It’s the first time I’ve smiled at a rally finish for years,” said Jim. What a change a change of car can make, eh?

Tweak of the week. If you just ask the question, no matter how stupid, you can learn something new every day in life. And so it was I asked how Greg McKnight cured his misfire. It had been caused by the plugs overheating and cracking the ceramic top, so what the boys did was slip a shrink-wrap heat-sink around it. Of course I asked what the heck he was talking about. They used a plastic collar which they slipped over the ceramic, similar to those used in electrical connections, which are then heated and shrink tight around the spade and connector. In the same way, these things shrink tight around the ceramic. As Greg said: “It supports and strengthens the ceramic and helps to absorb the severe shocks from bumps and thumps. The boys at Millington told us about it.” So there you go, keep learning.

If life in the Armstrong household is about as calm as a creche full of weans fed on Calpol and fizzy drinks, it’s worse in the garage. Ahead of the rally, Jock was underneath the car being helped (?) by Niall Cowan Jnr. The pair of them were trying to take the underbody tank guard off and having undone the bolts, tried to loosen it by levering the thing using large screwdrivers. It wasn’t for moving, at which point, Niall grabbed both sides of the guard to waggle it from side to side, but he was still holding his man-sized screwdriver in one hand and as Jock looked to see what he was up to, Niall waggled his way and stabbed Jock in the face with the screwdriver! Hence Jock’s ‘new’ scar just under his right eye! What a pair, I wouldn’t trust either of them using a sponge, let alone anything sharp.

And finally …

My big pal Jaggy was wandering around the Service area at Lockerbie and got himself into trouble – again. Whilst taking pics of Michael Binnie trying to fix the Lancer’s exterior fire extinguisher switch, co-driver Claire bent down to check the warning lamp inside the car. As she stood up she turned to our hero and chastised him with: “I hope you weren’t taking pictures of my bum,” she said. To which our gallant lad riposted: “Certainly not, I didn’t have my wide angle lens on!” At which point the big lad legged it damn quickly in case she didn’t see the joke. More mouth than the Clyde Tunnel that bloke, eh?