… Grampian Forest Rally, Saturday 10 August 2019 …
Round 6 (of 7) – KNC Groundworks Motorsport UK Scottish Rally Championship …
With one round to go, Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton clinched their third Scottish Rally Championship title when they won the Grampian Forest Rally last weekend. Thorburn now joins a very small band of drivers who have won more than two national titles in the Scottish Rally Championship’s 62 year history, Ken Wood and Raymond Munro (3), Drew Gallacher (4) and David Bogie (5) so perhaps Thorburn’s job is not yet done?
Jock Armstrong and Kirsty Riddick finished second overall to the rally winners while a tremendous scrap for third place was resolved on the last stage in favour of John Wink and Neil Shanks.
Coping with the weather is one thing the Scots do well. We get plenty of practice! And so it was at Banchory for the Grampian Forest Rally. Torrential rain on the Friday threatened to turn the Service Park and Rally HQ at Milton of Crathes into a quagmire. Everybody mumped and moaned but just got on with it.
On Saturday morning, summer returned to the north east, or at least it would have if we could have seen it. The area was shrouded in thick mist which cloaked the first couple of stages before the sun got high enough to clear it and offered up a right clammy, muggy day in the woods. And as the first cars returned home at the end of 6 Special Stages, the heavens opened once again. One thing we won’t be short of this Winter is water.
Conditions for the front runners remained tricky as they headed up the road to the first stage at Durris 1 where the thick mist still clung to the sheltered parts of the forest. As Euan Thorburn explained: “There’s plenty of grip on the open parts of the stages, but it’s very wet and slimy under the trees.”
That might well have explained his cautious start to the day with Armstrong taking fastest time by 4 seconds from his rival, but it looked as though Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts were up for the fight, the green Focus WRC only 3 seconds behind the blue and white one. John Wink and Neil Shanks started the day well in the Hyundai after a troubled Argyll outing but so did Michael Binnie and Claire Mole. The Mitsubishi shared equal 4th fastest time with the i20 R5. Rounding off the top half dozen were Donnie MacDonald and Andrew Falconer just 5 seconds behind Wink and Binnie. A puncture cost Thomas Gray around 20 seconds, but of more immediate concern was his personal welfare: “I’ve got a wet arse. The roof scoop was leaking water on to my seat overnight!”
The orange Subaru was again quickest in Fetteresso coming out of the forest with another very handy 7 seconds over Thorburn while McCombie was continuing his impressive pace just a further one second down. Behind them it was MacDonald from Wink and Binnie. A pensive Alan Dickson was spotted perusing the Time Sheets especially the times of the “young boys” in the Mitsubishis ahead of him: “They go on the inside of the ‘R5 rocks’ I go on out the outside – that’s the difference.” Equally flummoxed was Simon Hay: “I was trying something new – not using the clutch to change gears and left foot braking – it didn’t make any difference!” Kevin Crawford’s approach cost him time too, but of his own making: “I was in a ditch – twice, but I kept going.”
Thorburn made his move in the longest stage of the rally, the 10 mile Drumtochty. A blistering time in the Focus WRC overturned Armstrong’s 11 second lead into a 3 second deficit. He was now leading the rally by 3 seconds. MacDonald was third ahead of Wink with McCombie rumbling out of the forest with a deflated front tyre. “It was about 3 miles from the end of the stage,” said Bruce, “we smelled it first before it went down!” That allowed Binnie to equal 5th fastest time with the World car in his Lancer. Interestingly, just behind Binnie, two more Lancers were tied on 7th equal fastest. Thomas Gray and Harry Marchbank in the Evo9 realised that the number 35 seed wasn’t out for a gentle run in the woods. First time out in the ex Freddie Milne Evo7, Scott Beattie and Peredur Wyn Davies were adapting indecently quickly to the benefits of four wheel drive.
Also setting some indecently quick times, especially in these far from ideal conditions, were the Mk2 Escorts of Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry and Iain Wilson/Chris Williams. Mark was a bit luckier than Iain though – his wipers failed, but on the road section run-in to the Halfway Halt, while Iain had punctured a front tyre on SS2 and fitted the (wider) rear spare to do SS3.
At the half way point after 3 stages, Thorburn had 3 seconds on Armstrong but McCombie had dropped back over half a minute to the lead pair with his puncture.
Thorburn kept up the momentum in the second visit to Durris 2, 4 seconds quicker than Armstrong, but it was all change behind them. MacDonald emerged from the trees with front n/s damage having slid off into a ditch, although mostly cosmetic. Wink’s 3rd fastest time moved him ahead into third place after a second puncture slowed McCombie, but behind them it was like the charge of the Light Brigade with three young Lancers, Binnie, Beattie and Gray, plus a couple of the older guard, Keith Morris and Alan Dickson all squabbling over a top six finish.
Thorburn and McCombie led the way through the fifth test at Scare Hill, Armstrong was only 3rd quickest: “There were lots of hairpins in there,” said Jock, “wide open bends that double-backed on themselves, and that’s where the old Subaru loses out to the ‘World’ cars.” McCombie’s charge had swept him back into 3rd place overall as he was quicker than both MacDonald and Wink while Beattie was 6th quickest ahead of a tying Binnie and Morris. Just outside the top six times and raising the hackles on the backs of spectators’ necks were Iain Wilson and Chris Williams in the Escort Mk2. Memories are made of Mk2s, eh?
On the final stage at Finglennie, Thorburn extended his lead over Armstrong as McCombie set about consolidating third. Two thirds of the way through the final test, the green Focus emerged from a long straight under the dark forest gloom into an open-air right. It was carrying too much speed, got two wheels on the loose gravel at the road edge, slid wide, dug in, and flipped over on to its roof and back on to its wheels. Co-driver Michael Coutts almost singlehandedly pushed it back on to the road just as Marshals appeared to help.
Wink’s first podium on Scottish soil was secure. On recent form Michael Binnie might have threatened to do better but he finished half a minute down on Wink and blamed himself: “I’ve been thinking ‘farming’ all week, not rallying,” said the leading Mitsubishi driver, who had spent long hours during the week on his Winter barley harvest.
There was a surprise in store in fifth place. First time out in the ex-Fred Milne Mitsubishi Evo7, Scott Beattie scored a magnificent result just managing to eclipse the rapid sixth placed Thomas Gray, although Gray had punctured a tyre in the opening test.
Keith Morris was another to puncture a tyre in the second test but clinched 7th with his Mitsubishi ahead of Ian Baumgart whose Subaru unusually appeared at the finish with a dent after thumping a branch. Alan Dickson was ninth in his Mitsubishi and Iain Wilson, first of the 2WD brigade, was 10th in his Ford Escort Mk2 but helped by the fact that McCulloch had broken a halfshaft in the last stage and he was out.
It has been a remarkable year for the Thorburn/Beaton pairing, their second BTRDA title confirmed and now their third Scottish title. It was more relief than jubilation that was etched on Thorburn’s face at the finish: “It was a difficult position to be in this morning, whether to go hard or sit back. It was slippy and greasy under the trees, but the stages were good, I thought that they would be wetter than they were,” and added, “I still think my first Scottish title was the best, but this was equally as good.”
- Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Ford Focus WRC) 42 mins 30 secs
- Jock Armstrong/Kirsty Riddick (Subaru Impreza) +0:27s
- John Wink/Neil Shanks (Hyundai i20 R5) +1:55s
- Michael Binnie/Claire Mole (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +2:26s
- Scott Beattie/Peredur Wyn Davies (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo7) +3:31s
- Thomas Gray/Harry Marchbank (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +3:45s
- Keith Morris/Terry Mallin (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +4:13s
- Ian Baumgart/Sinclair Young (Subaru Impreza) +4:28s
- Alan Dickson/Martin Forrest (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +4:33s
- Iain Wilson/Chris Williams (Ford Escort Mk2) +4:43s
11 John Rintoul/Ross Hynd (Ford Fiesta R5); 12 Duncan MacDonald/Neil Ross (Ford Escort Mk2); 13 Paul Mcerlean/Niall Mckenna (Ford Escort Mk2); 14 Gordon Murray/David O’Brien (Ford Escort Mk2); 15 Kevin Crawford/Andrew Stevenson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9); 16 Calum M MacLeod/Claudia MacLeod (MG S2000); 17 Simon Hay/Calum Jaffray (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo6); 18 Martin Craik/Richard Wardle (Subaru Impreza); 19 Robert Adamson/Jane Nicol (Ford Escort Mk2); 20 Duncan Campbell/Gavin Chisholm (Subaru Impreza)
- 1 Scott Peacock/Robin Neil (MG ZR)
- 3 Jude MacDonald/Michael Cruickshank (Skoda Fabia R2)
- 4 Douglas Watt/Ian Parker (Ford Escort Mk2)
- 5 Tom Coughtrie/Ian Fraser (Mitsubishi Galant VR4)
- 6 Bobby Mitchell/Craig Wallace (Ford Fiesta ST)
- 7 Duncan MacDonald/Neil Ross (Ford Escort Mk2)
- 8 Wilson/Williams
- 9 Binnie/Mole
- 10 Armstrong/Riddick
- 11 Thorburn/Beaton
Grampian – [Stage Times]