26 May: Granite Leuchars Gossip

… Granite Gossip & News …

Tom Hynd paid a ‘flying visit’ to Leuchars for the Granite Stages: “Do y’know, this is the first time in 11 years I’ve had my son (Ross) navigating for me?” Sadly the family reunion didn’t last long. At the end of the second stage, the MINI drifted wide on the long right hander leading up to the Flying Finish, got on the grass, ran up a banking, cleared a wall and landed between two brick bulwarks. Fortunately both guys stepped out shaken and stirred but OK although the MINI will need more than Elastoplast before it’s next outing.

On an event which should have suited the Honda engined MG Maestro of Ross McCallum, it wasn’t to be. It broke a driveshaft on the second stage and Ross had no spare.

Although he finished, Steven Hay had a trying day in the Nova, very trying. “The dog ‘box is back out and the F13 standard unit back in,” said Steven, “but something’s not quite right, I can’t get 5th gear – so I’ll be on a the rev limiter in 4th a lot today!” He also had no power steering over the first two tests of the day and then he got stuck in 2nd for most of SS2 when the gear linkage jammed. He finished but with two Maximums he was well out of contention. James Thomson didn’t get that far. The Nova broke a driveshaft on SS5 and that was him finished for the day. It was the inner shaft which broke and it was well screwed up so there was no chance of repair either.

Iain Findlay finished just inside the top 20 in his Evo4 but had a bit of excitement on the way: “I didn’t realise how much of a bump there was at the ‘matting across the grass’ section. We hit it, took off and snapped two 2 bolts in the exhaust downpipe.” With no spare bolts that would fit, he took one out of the sumpguard and used that. Job done.

Finishing just outside the top 20 was Johnnie Mackay in the Fiesta: “We did the whole Speyside Stages and didn’t put a mark on the car,” said Johnnie, “then within a mile at Leuchars, we bend a steering arm and break a driveshaft at the chicane!” Rubbing salt into the wound was his pal Harry Chalmers who was running ahead of him on the road, and who commiserated with Johnnie: “That chicane was tight, it was a first gear job.” To which Johnnie replied: “NOW you tell me!” At least Johnnie finished (23rd) but Harry didn’t when the Subaru’s gearbox failed.

A possible top ten finishing was ruined for Greg and Alan Stark in the Evo9: “Dad was co-driving today,” explained Greg, “and we went the wrong way at the Split. We got a Maximum – Dad blamed the wind for blowing down the sign!” James Munro also lost out on a possible top ten when he punctured tyre on the Subaru in the second stage.

Considering his last outing was way back in 1998, Mark McMinn was pleased (relieved?) with a top 30 finish (28th) in the KGP 2 litre engined Mk2, and that was despite a minor altercation with a route marker tyre on the second stage. “That was in an Opel Manta,” said Mark, and when asked what had tempted him back out, he replied: “I’m running in bad company – the Goudie Bodyshop boys from Kilmaurs!”

After his Ingliston adventures, young Andrew Blackwood appeared at Leuchars in the ‘spare’ Fiesta ST. Despite setting some good times, he finished well down the order after a driveshaft broke on SS2 and he incurred a Maximum. George Fell retired the Clio after 4 stages and there was no chance of a fix: “The engine is in bits,” he explained.

Garry Coutts didn’t fare well in his Fiesta either, but after changing the clutch fluid at lunch time, his times improved in the afternoon. At least he fared slightly better than Allan Watt who managed to roll the Saxo: “I just went into a Hairpin Left too quick and it was too tight, the car clipped a tyre and just fell over,” said Allan. The car didn’t look too bad (from a distance) and he did a couple more stages before calling it a day. James Strachan’s reason for retirement in the Peugeot 106 was rather more abrupt and succinct: “I missed a gear and it went bang – broke the crankshaft!”

Andy Scott retired his Mk2 with a broken Hardy Spicer joint in the prop shaft and added: “Better here than on the Isle of Man next week.” Or maybe not, he retired on the 10th (out of 16) stage on the Manx National!

Speaking of the Manx National, Alan Kirkaldy and Cammy Fair scored an excellent 5th o/a in the Fiesta R5 amidst some heavyweight machinery and more experienced rally drivers. Our adopted ‘Scottish’ pal Wayne Sisson was 9th in the Evo with Neil Shanks. Ian Cruden and Dave Corlett finished 41st in the Honda while auld codgers Drew Struthers and Iain Thorburn were 60th in the Citroen C2. David Hardie and John McCulloch didn’t fare quite so well, they cowped the Fiesta R5 on the penultimate test joining Andy Scott and Ian Robertson in retirement.

Billy Hamilton recorded a non-finish at Leuchars with the Opel Kadett after incurring some damage: “We clipped a tyre and it went up on two wheels,” said Billy, and added with a smile, “not bad for two 60 year olds and a 40 year old car!”

Another non-finisher was Martin Watterstone: “Approaching the hairpin at the end of Stage 3, the brake pedal went to the floor and we ended up on the grass,” he said. Although he survived that, a blown turbo in the Subaru stopped play on Stage 6.

Andy Horne appeared in the ex-Chris Davis Darrian Millington. “I haven’t been out for a few years,” said the man who has successfully campaigned such cars as a V8 Opel Ascona, Toyota Celica GT4, Ford RS200, Ford Focus WRC and a variety of Metros including a DAM 4100, “and I’ve always fancied a Darrian.” By close of play he was setting impressive times, but a Maximum on the third stage with a wrong direction at the Split dropped him to 35th o/a. “I can’t believe how much grip the car generates,” said Andy, “but the only disconcerting thing is that you have to look up to Fiestas and Subarus.” He did have a wee problem ahead of the rally: “It was still in the garage at 8 o’clock last night,” he said, “the alternator failed yesterday. Where can you get a 1992 Isuzu Trooper alternator in stock, immediately? So I had to get another, modify the mountings and make new pulleys. It was a nightmare.” And just how confident was he on the day: “When he phoned me to ask me to co-drive, he said – bring a fibreglass repair kit with you,” said fibreglass moulding supplier Jim Howie.

Some time rally driver Jordan Black got married the other week and Alan Todd (co-driving for Gregg Lithgow at the rally) was Best Man. Yeah, I know, Toddy is about as reliable as a chocolate watch, but there you go, however it appears the whole affair went without a hitch. Jordan is now married and Toddy did rather well. Anway, I asked about the Stag do and Alan exclaimed even being a Best Man was awfy expensive: “Have you any idea how much lap dancers are for 22 people in Benidorm?” and added, “Jordan got a good blackening though!”

And finally …

Faither Gemmell was spotted ambling about the Service Area at Leuchars minus his new electric folding bike. Wondering if he had rolled it or broken it, the enquiry was made: “Alex McCulloch (father of ex-rallyist Blair) has borrowed it. He’s doing a charity ride round Millport. He got a wee shot during the week and said this is great – I’ll go roon twice!” Even with the power of electrical support I wonder if he made it once, let alone twice!