22 May: Granite Leuchars Report

… AW Autotech Granite Stages at Leuchars, Sat 4th May …

By goad it wis cauld at Leuchars for the AW Autotech Granite Stages Rally. It was fine in the sun and if you had some shelter, but when exposed to the east coast breeze coming off the North Sea a full set of Damart thermals would still have been useless. At least it was dry, and nothing like the dreich and dour Border Counties a couple of weeks back.

Alistair and Colin Inglis won the rally at a canter finishing up well over a minute clear of the opposition. The Lotus Exige led all the way from the second stage, but why not the first stage? Setting a blistering time on the opening stage of the day was first time visitor Frank Bird in his Focus WRC. Unfortunately as the bright red projectile hurtled through the Flying Finish, the water pump belt shredded itself, the temperature shot up and cooked the head gasket. A long trip for one stage, eh?

For once, the Lotus behaved itself which meant Inglis was now in class of his own with the Exige and took maximum points in the Cobble Shop Scottish Tarmack Championship. “We’ve never red-lined as often at an event as today,” said Alistair, “the car’s better than it’s ever been – at long last.” He also had another reason not to let up: “I had a young lad behind I couldn’t let win.”

Of course he was referring to Greg Inglis and Ian Parker in the other Lotus Exige who finished third behind Colin Gemmell and Derek Keir in the Escort Mk2. Gemmell is still tinkering with the Escort’s set-up, although he says he’s getting there, but even so he was only 2 seconds slower than the well sorted Mk2 of Andrew Kirkaldy on the first stage of the day.

That was as far up the leaderboard as Kirkaldy was going to get as the Escort then developed a fuel pressure problem and one of the team had to be dispatched homewards to pick up a spare regulator! Anyway, Gemmell was virtually home and dry as top Escort with a faultless run after that.

Which left Greg Inglis in a somewhat surprise 3rd place overall. The youngster now has Honda power in the back of the Exige and a sequential shift ‘box but even so, was looking at 4th place till Tom Morris spun his Skoda Fabia on the last stage dropping 20 seconds – and crucially finishing 13 seconds behind Greg.

Willie Paterson lost a bit of time in SS6 when the Escort blew a spark plug clean out of the cylinder head taking the ECU with it, but fortunately the violence of the expulsion took all the bits with it and he finished 5th. Rounding off the top six and just losing out to Paterson by 5 seconds was Michael Robertson in the Honda. That might well have finished rather differently. Just after the start of the penultimate stage, the Honda stuttered and spluttered and almost stalled. In fact Michael had to stop, switch it off and back on again which seemed to clear it. “I think maybe it had suffered a bit of fuel vapourisation waiting in the queue to start,” said Michael. Whatever, that goosed his chances of finishing 5th.

There was a tremendous battle for 1600 honours with Des Campbell and Kyle Adam dead heating in 7th place overall with Des getting the nod due to a faster time on the first stage of the day, but Ben Wilkinson had been the class pace setter until the penultimate test. Such was the closeness of the competition Ben just overdid a long left hander spinning off on the outside and knocking the tracking out with one final stage to go.

Completing the top ten was Michael Harbour first time out in his new Escort Mk2, quite a change from the Citroen C2 with which he clinched the Cobble Shop Tarmack title last year.

Robert Ness just missed out on a top ten finish by 10 seconds in his Impreza but had done enough to stay ahead of Michael Glendinning, and shh!, don’t tell anyone, but Michael is still recovering from surgery so wheeled out the Impreza for the day as it is less strenuous to drive than his Nova!

Alan Wallace was 13th with his Evo6 benefitting from major tweaks including a new flat shift. However, at the end of the first stage, Alan switched it off and reverted to the manual gearstick: “It’s not shifting cleanly, needs more work,” he explained. Graham Bruce was 14th in the Mk2 ahead of the Fiesta Graeme Rintoul. Gregg Lithgow was 16th in his Mk2 while Andrew Kirkaldy set some scintillating times on his way back to 17th place, fastest over each of the final four stages.

Rounding of the top twenty were Dave Cranston in the Astra, Iain Findlay in his Evo4 and Richard Sutherland in the Manta but son Jack was fair seeck. He had missed the Split on SS7 and the crew had incurred a maximum for that stage: “It’s the first time I’ve ever missed it,” said Jack. If it’s any consolation Jack, you’re not alone and you won’t be the last!

Class 2 honours fell to Des Campbell and Craig Forsyth after one heckuva duel with Kyle Adam and Fiona Moir. Anyone betting on RWD winning the day in those conditions reckoned without the antics of Dangerous Des. He did have one fright though. The Peugeot’s exhaust split but Shannon Turnbull’s Dad was there with a stick welder and big thick rods for welding up steel sheds, so he fixed it for Des. Kyle’s pace has improved perceptibly this year and after squabbling over mere seconds on each stage he tied with Des on exactly the same total, but Des got the class win and 7th overall courtesy of his quicker time on the first stage of the day. Tell you what though, I can’t wait till the next round to see who comes out on top.

Ben and Andrew Wilkinson had been leading the class till the penultimate test but the Saxo came a cropper at a fast left hander. The wheels got on the loose dirt on the edge of the road and the car slid at speed on to the grass. Ben managed to retain control and direction, but he was losing handfuls of time followed by a jump and hard landing off a high kerb back on to the road. He was still well clear of 4th in class, Joel Simpson and Shannon Turnbull in the Honda Civic. Adam Hanner and Wayne Wood were 5th in class in the Puma with newcomers Colin and Pauline Blake getting the hang of this rallying lark in 6th in the MINI.

Marcus Tinsley and Cameron Dunn were fortunate winners of Class 1. Fortunate because Marcus had the wee Peugeot well out of shape on ‘Wilkinson’s Bend’ but unlike Ben didn’t slide off on to the grass, although how he held on to that lurid slide we’ll never know. Some might say ‘pure luck’ although Marcus will no doubt claim in all modesty it was down to sheer skill and talent!

Martin Farquhar and Aiden Henderson were 2nd in class in the Peugeot 106 with Meghan and John O’Kane taking 3rd in the Nova. James Thomson had been going well in the Nova till a driveshaft failed so that put him out for the day and James Strachan’s disappearance with the Peugeot 106 was a wee bit more violent! He missed a gear and heard a bang – the crankshaft broke!

1, Alistair Inglis/Colin Inglis (Exige) 56m 40s
2, Colin Gemmell/Derek Keir (Escort) 58m 24s
3, Greg Inglis/Ian Parker (Exige) 59m 04s
4, Tom Morris/Russell Smith (Fabia) 59m 17s
5, Willie Paterson/Euan O’Neill (Escort) 60m 20s
6, Michael Robertson/Murray Milne (Civic) 60m 25s
7, Des Campbell/Craig Forsyth (Peugeot 206) 61m 01s
8, Kyle Adam/Fiona Moir (Escort) 61m 01s
9, Ben Wilkinson/Andrew Wilkinson (Saxo) 61m 06s
10, Michael Harbour/Ian MacDougall (Escort) 61m 28s