23 Apr: Gemmell wins at Condor

… Memorial Garden Stages, Sat 13th April …

It makes you wonder if it’s a phenomenon known only in Scotland – cold sunshine. Where other countries and holiday destinations promise sunshine and warmth, all we get is the sunshine. Whatever happened to the bluidy heat we’re supposed to get with it?

Although the sun shone over Arbroath for the Memorial Garden Stages Rally, the wind coming in off the North Sea came straight out of the iceberg manufacturing facility in the far north. On the other hand, at least it wasn’t wet, not like the Border Counties.

But back to RM Condor where Colin Gemmell and David Aitken scored their first rally victory outside Kames. They had to come from behind as Ian and Sarah Forgan opened the scoring in their Subaru Impreza, a full 10 seconds faster over the first stage than the shiny blue Escort.

Sadly that was as far as they got. As the Subaru sped round the perimeter roads and runways of the Marine base, there was a faint blue haze of smoke trailing behind the white machine. At service, there was a wee oil leak from the bottom of the turbo. An oil pipe had fractured – and they had no spare.

Nigel Feeney and Conor Duffy thereafter took up the leading position with the MINI WRC setting fastest time over the next three stages pulling away from Gemmell. Then it was Feeney’s turn to hit trouble with a misfire: “”I felt it go on the final straight of SS4,” said Nigel, “so I just switched the anti-lag off and coasted into the Control.” No problem he thought, just change the coil pack. After all he had six spares – but they were not in the van, they had been left at home. Seeck? You betcha!

On closer investigation, it turned out that a spark plug had actually broken and the team were unable to be sure they had fished all the bits out of the cylinder so wisely decided to call it a day.

That left Gemmell in the lead and two fastest times over the final two tests clinched his first major rally victory. Sadly John Rintoul failed to make any impression on the leaderboard as the Skoda Fabia pulled out on the first stage. Initially it was going well, but after a couple of corners it lost its urge, refusing to pull hard and losing power. Then the oil light came on, although the engine still had oil pressure, but regardless John pulled over and switched off.

Alan Wallace and Darren Robertson were therefore promoted to a surprised second place overall and that despite some judicial use of tie-wrap to secure the front bumper which had been knocked off on a chicane.

First time on the podium were Kyle Adam and Fiona Moir, the 1600 Escort showing a turn of speed not seen before, and for which there was a simple reason. Turns out that when Gary’s Millington was taken out of the Escort and Kyle’s 1600cc unit put in, they didn’t change the gearshift ECU. With a much higher rev band than the torquey Millington, Kyle was changing up some two and half thousand rpm sooner than he should. No wonder he thought it was flat.

If Kyle was surprised to be third, imagine the shock inside a certain Honda Civic cabin. Michael Robertson and Murray Milne finished 4th overall. And there was more. Michael hadn’t been here before and it was the first time that he had encountered ‘gravel’ stages. That may also have accounted for the loss of his front bumper, but then again, given his style of driving that is a regular occurrence is it not?

Another crew paying their first visit to this event courtesy of its inclusion on the Cobble Shop Scottish Tarmack Championship this year were Ross McCallum and James Ralph who were 5th in the MG Maestro. They also had a bit of a spin on the first stage and there wasn’t much to separate them and the Robertson/Milne pairing.

Rounding off the top six were Graeme and Jim Rintoul with a hastily refettled engine in the Fiesta after its previous outing hiccup.

The Subaru Imprezas of Gareth Dalgleish, Cameron Stout and Ross McFadzean filled the next three places with Willie Paterson’s Escort completing the top ten line-up although he might have featured rather higher up had it not been for a rear puncture in the first stage which cost him over half a minute.

On paper the Class 2 fight promised more than it delivered. Des Campbell in his Peugeot 206 was quicker than Kyle Adam over the first two stages before he smacked a bale on the 3rd test which broke a driveshaft, the bottom arm and the steering. Steven Hay didn’t even get that far when his Corsa’s gearbox failed. It wasn’t actually the ‘box itself which caused the problem, a gear selector broke and a broken chip dropped down jamming itself between two gears.

James Strachan took the 1 litre class in his Peugeot 106 from the Skoda Citigo of Marc McCubbin with Martin Farquhar’s Peugeot 106 in third place. Steven Crockett went no further than SS1 when an engine mounting broke in the Peugeot 205.

Top Ten:
1, Colin Gemmell/David Aitken (Escort Mk2) 49m 41s,
2, Alan Wallace/Darren Robertson (Lancer Evo6) +1:24
3, Kyle Adam/Fiona Moir (Escort Mk2) +1:59
4, Michael Robertson/Murray Milne (Civic) +2:48
5, Ross McCallum/James Ralph (MG Maestro) +3:13
6, Graeme Rintoul/Jim Rintoul (Fiesta) +3:22
7, Gareth Dalgliesh/Kenneth Dalgliesh (Impreza) +3:31
8, Cameron Stout/Jamie Stout (Impreza) +3:35
9, Ross McFadzean/Cameron Dunn (Impreza) +3:49
10, Willie Paterson/Euan O’Neill (Escort Mk2) +3:54

( There will be more from the Memorial Garden Stages Rally in the Rally Roundup section to follow )