28 Jul: Mach1 – News & Blethers

… News & Blethers from Machrihanish …

Although he wasn’t there, previous winner of the Mach1 Stages Rally John Marshall had actually entered the rally, but had to withdraw his entry, following an accident on holiday. For a man of his age, he should have known better. Apparently he had an ‘off’ and “broke ribs” whilst water-ski-ing somewhere exotic. And no, it wasn’t Largs. Hopefully he’ll get better soon and return to a much safer and less strenuous sport.

Speaking of injuries, Sean McElherron appeared at the Mach1 with the McKinstry Motorsport Subaru for the Sheriff, but he wasn’t quite his usual self. He was sporting a harness which supported his left arm and shoulder. This was a result of keyhole surgery on a shoulder ligament injury which would take about 8 weeks for recovery followed by physio. Was it an accident at work? Too much heavy lifting? Nope. He was visiting his sister in law on Mull and slipped and slid down a banking tearing some ligaments. Aye, drink is a compelling affectation but a terrible affliction, eh?

There was another new item in the McKinstry camp when Brian Watson’s co-driver Sean Donnelly was spotted fitting an in-car camera to the roll-cage. Was this for some post-rally social media exposure? Perhaps not, as Sean explained: “The only reason I bought the camera is to stop all the claims of ‘wrong note’ sh*t that I get when things go wrong or Brian runs out of talent.”

James MacGillivray appeared at the Mach 1 with yet another new co-driver. This time it was younger daughter Kerrie who will be 17 in September. Apparently older daughter and former co-driver Shona was away looking at horses with James adding: “Have you seen the price of these things, they’re much dearer than rally cars!” And they are less fuel efficient, although good for the garden!

There was another Lotus Exige at Machrihanish this year. When the orange car arrived on the trailer, folk thought Alistair Inglis had painted his, but when he wheeled out the white car, all was explained. Greg has replaced his Citroen C2 with a similar car but with one major difference. He has an 1800cc ‘K’ series motor in the back compared to faither’s 2 litre Honda job. Times were good and improving steadily until the alternator failed on the 10th test.

Combining a bit of business with pleasure was ex Citroen C2 driver, Bill Laidlaw in the ex Iain Wilson Subaru Impreza: “This is my first time here with the car,” said Bill, “but I did an event on the Isle of Man with it. The wee Citroen didn’t have the legs round this place but the Subaru does!” And then he was off, not in the car, but on foot carrying a large foil wrapped parcel: “This is Montana’s meat order, for his barbecue,” explained the Dalmellington based butcher.

Not so much a new face, but certainly a change of car. Alan and Greg Stark appeared in the Caroline/Donald Carslaw Subaru Impreza in place of the family Peugeot 205, as Alan explained: “We ran a big end in the Peugeot last time out, so we took it out to re-grind the crank and found it was bent. We also had a bent con-rod! We just ran out of time to get it ready, so Donald loaned us the Subaru. It might even be considered a ‘try before you buy’ type of arrangement so who knows?” Anyway, Alan and Greg set off and were setting some steady times till the first stage on Sunday morning when they spun the car and got beached astride the edge of the tarmac and the grass. No damage but stuck. And then the phone rang. Guess who? The car’s owner had obviously been following progress on Raymond’s ‘Scotresults’ rally results service. “Where are you, what’s up, how’s the car?” There was no “are you ok?” or general enquiries made about the crew’s welfare, so it was nice to be able to inform the caller that all was well with man and machine.

If Alan Stark’s engine woes with the Peugeot were catastrophic, Kieron O’Kane’s were worse, and more expensive. He appeared at the Mach1 with a 4 cylinder engine in place of the expected V6: “When I blew up the V6 in my tarmac car I took the engine out of the forest car and put it in but on the way to Scrutineering for the Tour of Sperrins a couple of months back, I heard a wee rattle, so went home. I now had two dead V6s and was so fed up I was going to sell the lot – 2 cars, spares, wheels and tyres. But then someone suggested a 2.5 litre KGP Vauxhall engine, so I went for it. 330 bhp and it felt strong and reliable at Donegal. Whereas the old V6 would frighten you coming out the bends, this just lays it down and goes.” Sadly, Kieron didn’t manage to finish the rally. On the 5th stage, co-driver Eamon McCrystal took ill and Kieron called it a day: “The run-out was more of a thank you for Eamon for all his help with the car in the past,” said Kieron, “but we enjoyed what we did.”

First time visitor to Kintyre was Ben Wilkinson with his Citroen Saxo. He finished 59th o/a after a troubled weekend. On the 6th stage, the front n/s bottom arm snapped and the wheel jammed itself inside the wheel arch. With the help of the Joe Pringle team welder, the car was repaired for the Trophy Rally on the Sunday with Ben adding: “Great venue, good stages and well worth the 700 mile round trip from Yorkshire, even with the problems.” Nice one Ben.

George and Lois Fell debuted their new rally machine at Mach1. The Ford Puma has been replaced by a Renault Clio. They didn’t finish when the alternator failed on the fourth stage. Even so, George was pleased with the way it handled.

John MacDonald’s rally was short-lived. The Audi poked a rod out of the block. “It got too hot, lost oil pressure, and that was it.”

One good turn deserves another. Lenny Jones lost a chunk of time in the 9th stage when the Chevette slid off into the undergrowth: “When we stopped we found there was another car in there as well, so we helped each other out.”

Renowned for their appetite for head gaskets, the Leyland ‘K’ series engine nevertheless provides a good basis for a competition engine. However, the twins, Gary and Alan Ross appear to have solved that issue with their rear engined MG TF. Whereas the engine thermostat had trouble with managing engine temperatures due to the radiator at the front and pipes running the length of the car, the boys have fitted an electric water pump. They finished 32nd o/a and 6th in class.

If you don’t try you don’t progress, and so it was that Michael Robertson appeared at the Mach1 with 15 inch wheels on his Honda Civic as opposed to the previous 17 inch jobs. It wasn’t just the availability of cheaper tyres and lower ride height that tempted the change, as he had also lowered the gearing: “I’ve never been in 6th before,” he chirped, “maybe this weekend!” As ever, progress was punctuated with bouts of excessive vigour which resulted in the loss of the rear bumper but also 4th in class.

The author got a big dissie when Gavin Gray turned up in his ‘something French’ entry. In anticipation of something new, exciting and hopefully exotic, your esteemed reporter went in search of the fabled French nugget, only to be sadly disappointed. There sat the polka dotted Citroen ZX of old. Andrew’s own Peugeot was ‘hors de combat’ (to coin the French!) so father and son had teamed up but not in something new, the ZX. However, there is hope, Gavin revealed that he does have something different lurking in the workshop. It’s just not ready yet, so we’ll just have to wait – when is the next Blood Moon?

Making a family weekend of it at Mach1 was John Rintoul who had brought along his long suffering Missus, Yvonne. “I used to have a campervan, but Yvonne didn’t like it. Too cramped,” said John, “so I thought I’d hire a motorhome and see how she liked that it. When she first looked around inside she was mighty impressed especially with a proper toilet and shower, so off we went. We didn’t get far before we were forced to pull over. The vehicle was making such a racket it was annoying both of us – the crockery was rattling, the cutlery in the drawers, the pots and pans in the cupboards and the trays and grilles in the oven. What a racket. So we packed everything with towels, tee-shirts, shorts, socks and ‘other things’ to try and stop them all rattling around. It worked. Silence.” It did make me wonder how his beans on toast tasted on a plate which had been wrapped in socks, and even worse, it makes you wonder what the ‘other things’ were that they used. Or did I mis-hear him, and he actually said ‘under things’? It doesn’t bear thinking about, eh?

Comfort food, what’s yours? Willie Paterson’s rally was curtailed when his hired Mitsubishi started trailing some blue smoke around the airfield and his enjoyment had to be halted. Now I know his Missus doesn’t read this drivel so his secret is safe with us, but he was later spotted sooking a Fry’s Cream, y’know, the dark chocolate one with the creamy white vanilla filling. I didn’t know you could still get them, and he wouldn’t tell where he got his. Rotter.

And finally …

… the soppy bit. Flushed with success (or something else?) Scott McMinn was placed well inside the top 20 at close of play on Saturday evening after the first day at Machrihanish and proceeded to drop on one knee when he got out of the car. Cramp? Check something underneath? Nope. He proposed to co-driver Mary Pierotti. She said ‘Yes’. They completed Day 2 and finished 16th o/a. Gaun yersels you two.

… the excuse. Brian Watson finished an excellent 4th o/a at Mach1 and was in the running for the top 3 finish till he spun on the penultimate test. When asked the reason for his speed and consistency, replied: “I had no drink last night, or the night before.” What’s this? Has he taken the pledge? Joined AA? Nope, the answer is much more simple. There was no Quintin Milne to lead the north easterners astray. “Q was a bad influence,” said Brian. Amen to that.