01 Mar: Knockhill Rally Blethers

… Knockhill Blethers …

Alan Kirkaldy was on creche duty at Knockhill, and no, that’s not a posh east coast word for ‘car accident’. Nope, he was looking after Junior whilst the Missus was on her Winter hols. Also, he was getting himself some brownie points as he’s off to Wales next weekend for the Tour of Epynt with the R5. Anyway, he was at Knockhill doing his nosey and keeping an eye on older brother Andrew who was out in the red Mk2. Not only that, Andrew was leading the rally after three stages at which point circuit commentator Duncan Vincent rolled up to Alan in the Paddock to get some inside information. Naturally, our peripatetic hero obliged. In almost embarrassingly shameless fashion, and apparently taking much of the credit personally for Andrew’s performance, he responded to Duncan’s earnest enquiries: “I’m really pleased, but not surprised,” he explained, “I spent two years developing that car and sorting out the suspension and traction.” Unfortunately, the car broke, denying Andrew a victory, but there was no follow up interview for the ‘outsider’s’ opinion this time. Whatever, we wish him and Cammy Fair well in Wales where the Scottish ranks will be swelled with David Hardie and John McCulloch wheeling out the Subaru.

There was no Taylor Gibb at Knockhill, but faither James confirmed that ‘the boy’ will be campaigning a Fiesta R2 in this year’s BTRDA Championship. He was out the other weekend on the Cambrian. Times were encouraging considering it was his first time in the Fiesta, first time in LHD, first time in the forests and first time on Notes, but a punctured fuel tank stopped play. Here’s hoping for better fortune on the next one.

There was a rather unique ‘ex-works’ rally car in the entry list at Knockhill crewed by Linzi Henderson and Jane Nicol. It was a 2 litre Rover Motor Sport 220, one of six built for stage rallying by Tony Pond way back in the early 90s and which was previously seen in the hands of Keni Wills and John Marshall, but for the past three years has been languishing unused and unloved in a barn in Lanarkshire. It had been rescued by stonemason Alex Steele who is a near neighbour of one Walter Henderson Esq. Over the Winter farming wind-down, Walter and Alex got together to wish each other a guid new year, as neighbours do, and of course, drink was involved. How much we’ll never know, but the upshot was, the Rover was wheeled out of the barn refettled and entered for Linzi at Knockhill. She has lost none of her panache and managed a couple of spins settling in to the new car on her way to 32nd overall.

It wasn’t just the top seeds, like Nigel and Donnie, who had trouble on the stage start line, James Rae had to miss the first stage when the Peugeot 205 boiled in the queue as it waited to start. With a 30 minute penalty there was no way back and he finished 36th.

Some time co-driver Terry Mallin appeared at Knockhill with a smart looking, old-shape Fiesta ST with arches and 2 litre Duratec to contest his first rally as a driver. His outing was curtailed and he failed to finish through no fault of the car, it was all down to him. At service when the lads were working on the car he leaned down to have a look and put his hand on the brake disc to steady himself. It was still hot, as he whipped his hand off it, he left behind a palm shaped slice of skin sizzling like bacon on the disc. That necessitated a trip to hospital. Easy done, eh? Hope you’re on the mend now Terry.

Citroen C2 driver Jamie Millar’s disappearance from the results sheets was rather more violent. “We didn’t even get a mile into the first stage,” said Jamie, “we crested a rise in the fog expecting a chicane but it still took us by surprise and we hit a one tonne bag, smacked the left rear, broke a rear wheel and bent the rear beam.”

The Honda engined MG Maestro of Ross McCallum was another non-finisher, but there were no signs of violent contact, just the remains of what was once a driveshaft CV joint lying in bits on the ground underneath the car. And there weren’t enough bits left to rebuild it!

First timers Colin and Pauline Blake appeared at Knockhill in a really smart and good looking, home built MINI. Their son Craig races a 1600 MINI in the Celtic Speed Scottish MINI Cooper Cup so Paw and Maw have got the bug too, but the only way Pauline can get directly involved is to co-drive, hence they’re going rallying. Pauline was wearing Craig’s race suit but sporting brand new suede booties as Craig’s shows are big enough for her to go kayaking in, never mind walking. Anyway, the pair did well, finishing 34th overall first time out despite one ‘moment’ when Colin tried to take “the usual Knockhill racing line” at the Esses, only to find out that the rally line is an awfy lot different to the racing line!

Another first time visitor to Knockhill was Nick Stamper from Silloth who lost out badly on the first stage. “I’ve never been here before,” said Nick, “so I had no idea where the stage went and we simply lost all sense of direction in the fog.” The Subaru driver did make up for it later when the sun burnt through the mist, but blamed his rather lowly 19th place finish on “the lager the night before, or the cider, or maybe it was the wine, or perhaps it was the whisky nightcap” after watching the England/Wales game on the telly in Dunfermline on the Saturday before the rally! Yup, just another genuine and committed rally driver.

Spare a though too for Eddie Kelly, erstwhile motorsporting photographer, or so he claims, who was looking a bit under the weather at Knockhill. It appears that he was out running some three weeks back, slipped and fell on the icy surface and landed on his head. You’d think that was the safest part of him to strike terra firma, but the poor lad didn’t feel too well for a while afterwards so went to see the Doc who told him he was suffering concussion. And he’s still not 100%, hopefully he’s now on the mend. We need him back, otherwise we’ll need to make do with Gavin Brown’s pics for the Cobble Shop Tarmack Championship, and there’s a worrying thought, eh?

And finally …

I almost feel sorry for Stephen Hay, I said almost. In the run up to Knockhill, he was having a go at ‘Dangerous’ Des Campbell. The banter got to the point where Stephen challenged Des and said if he wasn’t 15 seconds ahead of Des by the lunch halt he would buy him lunch. Come the day and come the lunch halt and the Campbell Peugeot was 25 seconds in front, at which point Des sauntered up to Stephen and informed him that he would have to buy Angus (Lawrie) lunch as well as the Citroen pilot was also ahead. Aye, rub it in why don’t you? On the other hand, it wasn’t all Stephen’s own fault, the new dog ‘box in the Nova was playing up. He couldn’t get first gear at all over the first three stages and after repeated attempts to fix it got a clean run in SS4, but by that time it was too late to recover the bet! Adding insult to injury, he was forced out on the first stage after lunch when a gearbox mounting bolt snapped. Lucky white heather anyone?