10 May: Speyside Blethers

… McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages Rally, Sat 20 April …

With repairs to the Ford Fiesta R5 not quite finished after its Border Rally bump, Mark McCulloch contested the Speyside Stages in a BMW E30. “I actually have a half share in the car with Iain Haining,” said McCulloch, “we built it between us for a bit of fun and that’s just what it is. Iain used it on the RSAC Scottish Rally last year and I was last out in it on the Jack Frost Stages in 2017. It’s nothing fancy, just a standard 2.8 straight six with a Z3 gearbox. The Fiesta is due back next week but I won’t be doing the Scottish in it although I will definitely be doing the Galloway Hills.” McCulloch with regular co-driver Michael Hendry finished 18th overall and 4th 2WD car, just 45 seconds behind regular BMW contender Keith Robathan, and was quite chuffed with that: “The BMW gives us a chance to do crazy things, it was just a bit of fun and to get so close to Keith was a bonus.”

Although Bruce McCombie was delighted with 6th place in his Ford Focus WRC there is work to be done ahead of the next event: “Not that it slowed us down, but we have a wee puzzle to sort out,” said McCombie, “after every stage we had to change a fuse for the temperature gauge. The gauge said the temperature was rising through each stage, but it wasn’t. When we changed the fuse each time, it went back to normal, then rose again in the next test.”

Scott MacBeth lost out on a top ten finish despite fighting back after a slight off in SS3 and problems with diff pressure: “We smacked the o/s front in a ditch and stalled,” said MacBeth, but on the Stop line of Stage 8, the Mitsubishi Lancer coughed and emptied its sump on the ground!

Makes you wonder if it’s simply age or the medication, but Alan Dickson claimed to have seen a deer run across the road in front of him on Gartly: “In all the years I’ve been rallying I’ve heard about this happening to other guys, but that’s a first time for me.”

Neil Coalter wheeled out his Suzuki Ignis for an airing on the Speyside: “The Puma is still undergoing its ‘Winter rebuild’ which will continue into the Summer,” said Neil, “It’s the same engine and gearbox but we’ve got a new wiring loom which we hope will sort out all the gremlins that we suffered last year.”

Matthew Thomson’s 14th place finish was hard won as he was fast running out of vice grips. When he burst a brake pipe in his Subaru Impreza in Cooper Park, he crimped the pipe with a pair of vice grips which promptly fell off in the first forest stage. Another pair was then pressed into service. On his return to the second Gartly test he burst another pipe requiring a third pair of grips!

Making his first ever appearance on a forest rally at the Speyside Stages was Historic car racer Jamie McIntyre. Showing how seriously he is taking this new motor sporting discipline, Jamie and co-driver Damien Greenall have engaged the services of one Gerry Bryden Esq to help with paperwork and timing queries. Old hands will well remember Gerry who was a successful co-driver long before watches became digital! Jamie has acquired the Ford Escort Mk2 which Jim McRae drove on the 2005 RSAC Scottish National Rally. That was the year that all three McRaes competed in Mk2 Escorts with Alister finishing 6th, Colin 7th and Jim 8th. More used to racing the likes of a 1964 ISO Bizzarrini A3C, 1959 Lotus-Climax 15, Rejo Mk4 or a Chevrolet-powered Lister Knobbly around the Silverstone Classic or Goodwood Festival of Speed, McIntyre finished in an impressive 24th overall on his first ever foray into the forests with virgin co-driver Damien Greenall. “I plan on doing the whole Scottish Championship this year,” said McIntyre, “I’d also like to do Mull and I’ll be back at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I just fancied a change. It’s every boy’s dream – blasting through the woods sideways.”

The terms ‘cheapskate rallying’ and ‘slave labour’ came to mind when Johnnie Mackay wheeled the Fiesta into Scutineering at Speyside, but that would be unfair. The car was looking straight, pristine and shiny unlike its appearance after the Galloway Hills last year. Apparently Darren Robertson (Alan Wallace’s co-driver) was responsible for the bodywork straightening but the Mackays had also enlisted the help of the North East College (NEScol) students. Some of the youngster had little or no knowledge about rallying but working on the car generated an interest while offering some genuine engineering experience which they could then follow at the event or on social media. Sounds like an awfy good idea, eh?

Jacob Harlington’s WW Polo was looking awfy smart at Speyside Scrooting: “It’s the first time out since I put it on its side in Gartly on this event in 2017,” said Jacob,” although we did get it back on its wheels and finish the event. We took a year out to fix it, it’s still just a standard 1400cc with bike carbs. We’ve done 8 or 9 events with the car now.” The wee car looks well and a credit to the boys.

Apparently Mike Grant and Graham Kelman were delighted with their non-finish on the Speyside. An odd admission perhaps, but a simple reason. This time their retirement was purely down to mechanical failure NOT driver error! However of more concern to those who contested the rally, Graham had an admission to make. Apparently the local cooncil had received complaints from dog walkers about the state of the puddled path at the far end of Cooper Park, so the cooncillors had decided to fill it in. Graham tried to reason with them to leave it till after the rally, but the dog walking interests prevailed and Graham wis tellt to dump and spread 40t of planings on the offending stretch. So you know who to blame but it wasn’t really his fault!

I tried to wind up young Harry Marchbank at the Speyside. He works in the family bakery business which has branches and outlets across south west Scotland – thing Greggs, but better quality! – so I asked when they were going to produce vegan ‘sausage’ rolls to keep up with their rivals. The wind-up backfired. Harry answered: “My brother made some last week!” OK, so what were they like? Although Harry is not what one would consider a diplomat, back came the considered, and very short, response: “Not for me though!” Sounds like they’re not for me either.

It’s amazing what some of you lot will get up to between rallies. Take Paul Mcerlean and Aaron Mawhinney for example. Apparently he and Aaron climbed Ben Nevis on Friday before the rally. He says he’s just turned 50 and “wants to do stuff” and he also wants to get a bit fitter. The climb to the top and back including a flask of coffee at the top took them 6 hours, but what inspired this idea: “I saw it on ‘Countryfile’ – I didn’t know there was a path all the way to the top!” Aye, gaun yersels boys.

Speaking of mid life crisis, Paul McIntosh appeared at the Speyside with a Focus ST. He last competed in a rally 31 years ago in a Mk2: “I was 50 years old on Nov 23rd last year so perhaps this is a mid life crisis,” he said, “Anyway, I’m just so pleased to have finished – now for the pub!”

And finally …

There is much talk in social circles and at political level about the amount of betting in British sport these days, and it would seem that this insidious disease is creeping into Scottish rallying. It has been reported that this nefarious practice was in evidence at the Speyside Rally, just prior to the crews entering the first stage at Cooper Park. It would further appear that this enterprise was undertaken by two of the sport’s more innocent and unlikely suspects, Keir Beaton and Nikki Addison. Information received suggests a bet was placed on who would set the quicker time round the first stage. Nikki was 6 secs quicker than Keir on the first run, but Keir was 7 seconds quicker on the second. It has been reported that much was riding on the outcome – not cash you understand, but the loser would have to clean the winner’s car. Given the implications of this highly irregular activity we must fervently hope that the championship and sporting authorities stamp down on this unwelcome practice immediately. On the other hand, I Just hope Keir behaves as the perfect gentleman when it comes to settling the outcome.

Speyside Rally – [Main Report]
Speyside Rally – [Stage Times]
Speyside Classes [1 – 6]
Speyside Classes [7 – 11]