… Mach 1 Stages Rally, Sat/Sun July 14/15 …
Bruce Edwards and Jim Smith avoided disaster by the thickness of a fibreglass body panel on their way to victory on last weekend’s two day Mach 1 Stages Rally in the Mull of Kintyre, the latest round of the Cobble Shop Scottish Tarmack Championship
The Darrian duo were in a class of their own although they were harried all the way by the Subaru Impreza of Gordon Morrison and Callum Shanks. With three stages to go the ‘3 Montanas’ (dvr, codvr & car) were 56 seconds behind the leaders, but managed to reduce that to 16 seconds by close of play.
The final place on the podium was determined on the penultimate test with Ian Paterson and Callum Shanks finishing in 3rd place 9 seconds clear of Brian Watson and Sean Donnelly after an epic day long tussle.
It was a glorious Summer’s day on the Friday before the rally as most of the crews made their way westwards, and the good weather continued into Saturday. Overnight it rained into Sunday providing crews with a pretty fair challenge – 44 miles of dry roads on the Saturday and 45 miles of damp/wet roads on the Sunday.
The top seeds were duly piped on to the start line of the first stage by race-suited co-driver Andrew Gray giving us a serious blaw on the pipes before resuming his seat beside Gavin Gray in the polka dotted Citroen.
First off the line was the Darrian. No messing. Throttle, revs, go. Like a Guy Fawkes rocket out of a milk bottle, and already 12 seconds quicker over the 10 mile opening test than Morrison. He was another 2 seconds quicker over the new short ‘Bunkers’ 0.9 miler before first service. A repeat of those two before lunch netted another 10 seconds for Edwards although Morrison pulled 1 second back on the short 4th test.
Tom Morris was on the boil too, third equal quickest with Ian Paterson over the opening test but the Metro was visibly slower over the third test: “I’ve got a misfire just between 6500 and 7000 rpm,” said Tom, “so we’ve changed the plugs – one of them was actually rusty!”
Behind the top four, there was a rare old fecht going on between the Mk2s of Tom Blackwood and Colin Gemmell and the Mk1 of Alan Gardiner, and this despite Blackwood spinning on the opening test. Mind you it wasn’t his fault. As he rounded a tight left hairpin between the huge round, and very robust, hay bales the Escort was struck a glancing blow by another competitor rejoining the stage. Both cars continued although Blackwood’s steering was a bit cock-eyed.
Already out were two of the top seeds. Alistair Inglis was in trouble before the start, the Lotus refusing to fire up and then stalling and refusing again when he reached the start line already late. “We think the crank sensor has failed,” explained Alistair, adding, “looking back, we think the problem started to show itself at Leuchars but we thought little of it at the time – we had other issues on the day!”
John Rintoul’s departure from the fray was rather more dramatic. On the first stage, one on the fastest parts of the test, he went for the brakes, and the pedal jammed on. The Fiesta locked up and head butted a bale. There was no serious structural damage but the loss of vital fluids sidelined the car there and then. Back at service John found out the cause. The floor of the pedal box had twisted upwards catching the brake pedal hinge and jamming the pedal. It needed a good tug by hand to release it, and then when pressed again, it jammed. He was none too chuffed with the design of that.
However, the men on the move now were Brian Watson and Donnie MacDonald. The Sheriff was 15th after the first two stages and up to 7th as he headed into the lunch halt. After an altercation on the first stage, MacDonald dropped to 18th, but quickly made up ground to close out the first loop in 8th place just 3 seconds behind Watson.
That meant the leading Escorteers were coming under severe pressure. Gardiner was 5th at the break just ahead of Gemmell. Rounding off the top ten as crews paused for sustenance were William Beattie in the Escort and the Mitsubishi Lancer of Alan Wallace. Sadly, Beattie was going no further, the Escort sidelined with a broken electrical master switch.
Refreshed and revitalised after the lunch break Brucie bounded off into the distance again, but this time Morrison was just about staying with him dropping only 9 seconds on this second loop of four stages.
Morris had changed the ignition pack at service in a bid to solve his misfire problem, but it persisted although now in a different sector of the rev band. Standing in the spectator area behind the service park the Metro could be heard momentarily going flat as Morris charged up through the gears on the long fast airfield taxiway, but he was losing time to Paterson, who was having his own troubles: “I broke the prop shaft on the first stage after lunch,” said Ian, “so we shouted for ‘help’ round the service park and Simon Proud loaned us his spare. That was really good of him.”
Gardner was hanging on to fifth place but not really extending his lead over the looming Watson and MacDonald. Blackwood was 8th just 3 seconds clear of Gemmell in 9th with Alasdair Graham moving into the top ten just 3 seconds behind Gemmell. “I had to buy new tyres this morning,” said Alasdair, “the tyres went off so quickly, the car wouldn’t turn in and just washed out on the faster corners. That’s my rally budget gone for the weekend!” Sadly, to no avail: “The diff was getting noisier over the final two stages and as we drove into service at the end of the afternoon, it just clattered and died.”
Wallace had been knocked back to 12th, not just by Graham, but by the 1600 Nova of Donald Bowness and he finished his afternoon 11th overall. The big cars could get away from him on the straights but the nimble three wheeling Nova was a delight to watch through the tighter turns.
By close of play on Saturday, the sun had disappeared, not because it was late, but because grey clouds were gathering overhead. Mind you, there was a more worrying sight, concerning Gordon Morrison. Fears that he was losing his mind or had developed a taste for Grime music were allayed by assurances that no, he was fine, he was just doing a rain dance!
Overnight it rained and by morning the ground was wet and puddled, but if folk thought this would hamper Brucie, the Darrian pilot had other ideas. Dunfermline CC had come up with an imaginative route for the final day’s four stages. The first two were each 12.5 miles in length and the second two were both 10 milers. Serious stuff.
The wee white Darrian appeared through the gloom and the glaur to get things underway on Sunday morning and immediately put another 24 seconds between itself and the Morrison Subaru, but there was trouble inside the Subaru. It was misting up badly in the rain and Gordon was struggling to see the road, and more importantly, the bales. He did manage to pull a second back on the second run, and on the penultimate test was a full 20 seconds quicker, but he was still 35 seconds behind the Darrian with one 10 mile stage to go.
Another to suffer badly from misting was Tom Morris. Although he was fighting for a top four finish it was becoming dangerous: “The arrows were just an orange smudge through the windscreen,” said Tom, It was like trying to read the road through a bathroom window.” With no effective solution, the Metro was packed away in the trailer.
The battle for 3rd place took on new impetus when The Sheriff took over half a minute out of Paterson on the long test and then another 14 seconds, second time around to move into 3rd place by 1 second. With the glimmer of glory on the horizon, Watson sped off into S11, where it was difficult to spot the standing water on the dark tarmac. Just a fraction too late on the brakes and the Impreza spun. He dropped 13 seconds to Paterson to finish the stage in 4th place just 12 seconds behind his rival with the final 10 mile blast to go.
Prior to the start on Sunday morning, a bemused Alan Gardiner was seeking advice: “I’ve got four different choices of tyres with me, and nothing is suitable for these conditions!” Unfortunately for him, Tom Blackwood was better-suited and booted. The yellow Mk2 cut through the murk taking time out of Gardiner on each of the four final stages to grab 5th place overall with an off-form Gemmell finishing 7th.
After a couple of spins on Saturday, James Gibb was back on the case on Sunday and romped up the leaderboard in the Mitsubishi to match Donnie MacDonald for 8th place, the tie-deciding first stage awarding the position to Gibb. Donnie was a mite fortunate though: “We had no boost at all on the first stage this morning, so we dropped a bit of time, but it was only a loose jubilee clip,” he explained.
Alan Wallace managed to shake off the Nova of Donald Bowness which was sticking to the top ten like a kid to a caramel, with Wallace claiming 10th by just half a minute from Bowness.
Which left the small matter of the top three to sort out. It was still wet as the Darrian hydrofoil blasted off from the final stage startline and the car didn’t miss a beat all the way round, and yet it appeared at the Stop line minus the whole rear engine clamshell cover, wheel arch and wing section: “Approaching the merge at 70 mph, the road was awash and the car just aquaplaned when I hit the brakes,” said Bruce, “I just brushed the bales enough to tear off the bodywork but without losing speed. I was so-oo lucky.”
Meanwhile the red and white Impreza was showboating its way round, and as it heaved itself steaming and dripping into the Final Control, there was the consolation of a time some 19 seconds quicker than Edwards’. Close, but not quite enough.
The battle for third place overall was not resolved until the final two stages. Brian Watson was ahead of Ian Paterson by 1 second at the end of ten stages, but he crucially dropped 13 seconds on the penultimate test when he spun the Subaru. He managed to claw back 3 seconds over the final test, but Paterson ‘kept the heid’ and made no mistakes to claim the final podium position in his Impreza.
Donald Bowness scored a mighty impressive 11th place overall amongst such fast company in his 1600cc class winning Vauxhall Nova while Cameron Craig scored his first 1400cc class win in his Peugeot 205.
1, Bruce Edwards/Jim Smith (Darrian T9 GTR) 105 mins 18 secs
2, Gordon Morrison/Calum MacPherson (Subaru Impreza) +0:16
3, Ian Paterson/Callum Shanks (Subaru Impreza B13) +1:12
4, Brian Watson/Sean Donnelly (Subaru Impreza S11 WRC)+1:21
5, Tom Blackwood/Gordon Winning (Ford Escort Mk2) +2:10
6, Alan Gardiner/Dave Robson (Ford Escort Mk1) +2:54
7, Colin Gemmell/Derek Keir (Ford Escort Mk2) +4:05
8, James Gibb/Taylor Gibb (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +4:41
9, Donnie MacDonald/Chris Hamill (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +4:41
10, Alan Wallace/Darren Robertson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo6) +4:59
11, Donald Bowness/Andrew Blackwood (Vauxhall Nova) +5:29
12 Ross McCallum/James Ralph (MG Maestro) +5:32
13 James MacGillivray/Kerrie MacGillivray (Subaru Impreza) +5:37
14, Michael Harbour/Ian MacDougall (Citroen C2) +6:30
15, Chris McCallum/Stephen Clark (Ford Escort Mk2) +7:44
16, Scott McMinn/Mary Pierotti (Subaru Impreza) +7:46
17, Robert Marshall/Lewis MacDougall (Ford Escort Mk2) +7:48
18, Richard Wheeler/Gail Whyte (Ford Escort Mk2) +8:22
19, Jamie Miller/Ian McCulloch (Citroen C2) +8:34
20, Keith Richardson/Kevin Richardson (Ford Escort Cosworth) +8:37
Cameron Craig/Ewan Lees (Peugeot 205)
Donald BownessAndrew Blackwood (Vauxhall Nova)
Ross McCallum/James Ralph (MG Maestro)
Bruce Edwards/Jim Smith Darrian T9) GTR
Gordon Morrison/Callum MacPherson (Subaru Impreza)