04 Apr: DCC Stages Rally Report

… DCC Stages Rally, Sat 30 March …

Last year, Gordon Morrison won the DCC Stages by 11 seconds, this year he won it again, by just 2 seconds. Initially, the rally was very much a four horse race but all the leaders had a problem or two during the day, except for Alistair Inglis who has finally got some reliability out of the Lotus.

Winners of last year’s event, Gordon Morrison and Calum MacPherson got the Subaru off to a flying start on the first stage, just 2 seconds quicker than the Mk2 of Andrew Kirkaldy and Peter Carstairs. On the second stage, Morrison had a problem with his flat-shifter between 3rd and 4th gears. It wasn’t mechanical but as he tried to select 4th gear, the electronics didn’t want to shift out of 3rd.

Fortunately there was a wee break for service between Stages 2 and 3 so Arron Newby from TEG Sport stepped in to sort it out. Then the Subaru had a problem with fuel surge, so young Mr Fixit was called into action again.

Meantime Kirkaldy had swept into the lead, with two fastest times and one shared fastest (with Inglis) but was struggling with tyre choice. On the 5th test just after the lunch break, the Escort locked up under braking and slid into a bale. Not much damage but he dropped to 3rd place, 5 secs behind Alistair Inglis and Jane Nicol in the Exige and 16 secs behind the rally leader.

The four way fight for the lead quickly became a three way fight when John Marshall’s Subaru overshot the Merge in the 5th test and then committed the cardinal sin of reversing back, and was penalised.

Over the final three stages there was a frenetic battle going on for the lead. Inglis was fastest on SS6, then 2nd fastest on the final two, while Kirkaldy set fastest time on SS7 and again on the final test, but it wasn’t enough to deny Morrison his 4th outright rally victory.

Tom Morris and Russell Smith finished 4th in the Skoda despite an early issue with his flat-shift linkage and then stalled the Skoda on the startline of the final stage. At the finish, Tom was happy with the improvements he’s made to the car and reckoned there is more to come. Colin Gemmell and Derek Keir were 5th in the Mk2, but Colin was left shaking his head at the finish after a day spent trying to sort out the suspension and disappointed that he couldn’t get closer to Kirkaldy’s times in his own Mk2.

Also Mk2 mounted were Willie Paterson and Euan O’Neill rounding off the top six finishers with times getting better stage by stage as the day wore on.

First time out in their re-shelled and rebuilt Subaru, Ian and Allan Paterson were just hoping for a clean run but the clutch was slipping on the first two tests and when the car was jacked up at the lunch halt they found a few bolts missing from underneath! Behind them in 8th place after a lary looking run in the tail happy Manta were Richard and Jack Sutherland.

Young Greg Inglis with Ewan Stanhope made the top ten for the first time, finishing 8th in his Lotus Exige, but was kicking himself after a spin in SS6 which cost him 20 seconds: “Second in class – again,” he said. Completing the top ten was the MG Maestro of Ross McCallum and James Ralph, in the best of the Honda powered cars on the day.

Not so lucky was Alan Gardiner retiring his rapid Escort Mk1 which damaged a strut and bent a bottom arm when it hit a bump on the 5th test while John MacCrone lost any chance of a decent result when the Fiesta R2T coasted to a halt just after the start of SS3. This was entirely down to the origins of the wiring loom which is derived from the road car and modified for competition use. Regular R2 competitors are aware of this, but this was John ‘s first run out in the car. When the system shut down, he had stop the car, switch off and re-set it before getting going again.

Alistair Hutchinson’s departure from the rally was rather more dramatic and emphatic when a con-rod burst out of the Clio’s engine block and Robert Marshall was forced out with fuel feed problems in his Mk2.

Meanwhile, back at the sharp end, the top 3 runners in the 1600cc Class 2 finished 11th, 12th and 13th overall separated by 21 seconds. First time back in the Mk2 since this event last year Stephen Thompson fought off the Peugeot 206 of Dangerous Des Campbell to win the class by 8 seconds, while Kyle Adam was 3rd, a further 13 seconds behind Des. Ben Wilkinson and Neil Thompson might have made more of a fight of it, but Ben’s Saxo spun off on the 3rd test and smacked its rear end while Neil’s Corsa hit a bump which sheared off the front hub. Steven Hay was also well in contention but he got a Maximum on the 5th stage and was later spotted underneath the Corsa with a welding torch although he did get back out and finish, albeit in 27th place o/a and 5th in class.

Marcus Tinsley won the 1400 class in his Peugeot 205 despite holing the radiator on the 5th test. “We came out of the stage with water pouring out of it,” said Marcus, “but the hole is on the inside of the radiator and doesn’t appear to have been struck by anything. We’ve got two spare 205 radiators – but they’re back at home in the garage,” he added. Fortunately he was able to borrow a Saxo radiator and got it to fit, but it was close. James Strachan was 2nd in his Peugeot 106 from 3rd placed Johnnie MacKay in his 1 litre Micra.

Top Ten:
1, Gordon Morrison/Calum MacPherson (Subaru Impreza) 56m 15s
2, Alistair Inglis/Jane Nicol (Lotus Exige) 56:17
3, Andrew Kirkaldy/Peter Carstairs (Ford Escort Mk2) 56:23
4, Tom Morris/Russell Smith (Skoda Fabia) 57:44
5, Colin Gemmell/Derek Keir (Ford Escort Mk2) 57:54
6, Willie Paterson/Euan O’Neill (Ford Escort Mk2) 58:25
7, Ian Paterson/Allan Paterson (Subaru B13) 58:33
8, Richard Sutherland/Jack Sutherland (Opel Manta) 58:49
9, Greg Inglis/Ewan Stanhope (Lotus Exige) 59:24
10, Ross McCallum/James Ralph (MG Maestro) 59:28