20 Aug: Tyneside Tales

… Tyneside Tales …

Very late entry Tom Preston missed the Saturday recce at Otterburn and turned up on Sunday morning, suit and helmet in hand, to take over the number 1 spot in his Ford Fiesta WRC. Preston’s appearance was the result of a last minute text message from Peter Taylor on Wednesday. Due to work commitments the top seed had to pull out, but his co-driver Andrew (Loophole) Roughead reckoned Preston could take over the entry as the Regulations allowed for ‘one change’. In this case the driver, as it could be argued that although the car was not the same, it was still a Fiesta WRC! “There was no specific reason for doing this event,” said Preston, “it’s all about seat time in the car. The Fiesta is a lot different to my previous Skoda with more power and a lot softer. Today was really good, I enjoyed the stages and Rory (Young) kept pushing me on.”

John Marshall appeared with a new car at the Tyneside, a Ford Fiesta R5. “I just got it this week,” said Marshall, “and had a shakedown at Knockhill Circuit on Thursday evening.” He finished 9th overall but struggled with the ‘multi-tasking’ demands of the launch control system and sitting on the ‘wrong’ side. “I haven’t had a left hand drive car since my Impreza GC8 twelve years ago,” he said, “and I’ve just had my current Subaru rebuilt and prepped ready for sale so I didn’t want to use it. I’ve had a Subaru engined Skoda on order for some time but it’s still not ready and I needed something for Mull. My company sponsors the Mull Rally and I really didn’t want to miss out on this special event in October so I did a deal to buy a Fiesta.” He added: “There’s a big learning curve ahead, you really have to rev the Fiesta to get the best out of it whereas the Subaru had loads of torque. That’s the biggest difference – as well as the brakes and suspension!”

Andy Fenwick who has rallied just about everything in the last 20 years appeared with yet another ‘new’ car at Tyneside, this time a Ford Fiesta R5. Previous machinery has included Sapphire and Escort Cosworths, Mitsubishi Lancer, Skoda Octavia WRC, Subaru Impreza, Hyundai Accent WRC and Ford Focus WRC plus a whole host of other machines bearing Nissan, Vauxhall, Proton and VW badges. “I got it three weeks ago and this is my first run out in it,” said Fenwick, “I’m planning to do the Rally Bethune in France next month. ” He finished 6th overall in the new car despite “tapping a chicane bale” and added: “I really like it. It’s not as powerful as my ex-Higgins Subaru S11, but it more than makes up for that in stopping and handling.”

“I came here (Tyneside) 16 years ago, did a quarter of a mile and tipped my Escort on its roof,” said Kevin Proctor, “and haven’t been back since. The stages are scary but they’re good,” he added, although he had no better luck this year with his Fiesta 2000 Turbo as he provided a very accurate and supremely technical description of what happened: “Sitting on the start line of SS4, it just went ‘Ting’. No drive, we think an input shaft failed.” I did ask if it was a definite ‘ting’ and not a bang or a crack, so he thought about it and then confirmed: “Nope, it was  definite ‘ting’,” so now we know.

Oddly enough, this was Alistair Inglis’ first visit to Otterburn: “These are great stages. It’s my first time using Notes since the Jim Clark. We did the recce yesterday but it was difficult to judge things with just one run and on a first visit.” Alistair and Colin were running in the top ten on the first loop till a driveshaft snapped: “It was our first time on 18 inch rubber (previously 17 inch wheels on the Exige) and there’s lots of grip!” Young Greg Inglis with Cameron Dunn finished 19th in his Exige but had been running higher till the final stage when something snapped at the rear: “I think it’s the same problem as Dad had, perhaps a driveshaft or bearing. It was making a ‘klunking’ noise so we backed off just to get a finish.”

Steve Bannister and the Yorkshire crew took time out of slagging (they call it banter!) the long suffering Callum Atkinson to explain the lack of pace on Tyneside. Steve finished a lowly 30th o/a saying: “We’ve just had the engine re-done and put it in this week, but the lad who sets it up went on holiday, so we just ran it up and down the road a few times making adjustments ourselves so we’re just going for a finish.” Over the first three stages the brakes were binding on so hard that the car wouldn’t freewheel down a hill but they got that fixed at first service.

Finishing 13th o/a and 1st in class were Willie Paterson and Euan O’Neill in the glorious looking battleship grey Mk2, although fortune did smile upon their efforts: “There was a Right6 into a chicane which we had noted as 150 (mtrs) but it turned out, it was 50!” said Willie, “We hit a bale and had a big, full 360 spin, and then smacked the bale again.”

It was good to see Subaru driver Michael Glendinning back out in the Nova: “It’s 25 years since I first came to Otterburn with a Nova so I brought it back out for this. It’s only an 8v engine but it takes a lot of stopping. It’s just got bottle tops for brakes and then it takes a while to get going again.” He and Charley Sayer-Payne finished 38th o/a and 9th in class.

One of these days Michael Robertson will finish a rally, get a result, and have nothing to talk about, but it didn’t happen on the Tyneside: ” 40th overall was poor reward for another day out where the toolbox got a longer work out than the driver. The Honda suffered a persistent misfire despite changing two coils packs and a set of plugs leaving the crew thinking there might be a faulty injector.

Fresh from his 19th o/a on the Mach1 Stages second timeout in the Ford Puma, Adam Hanner and Wayne Wood finished 17th o/a on the rather more specialised Tyneside: “It’s only our third time out in the car which we bought in Ireland,” said Adam, “and we’re still sorting it out. It didn’t have roll-bars when it arrived so we’ve fitted them and a set of harder springs which have helped. We had  a problem on the early stages but that was down to a blocked fuel filter, but it’s getting better.”

“I’m just nursing the old girl round,” said Stephen Petch, having wheeled out the 20 year old Hyundai WRC for an airing, “it’s not done anything for 5 years. Al we did was put a new set of plugs in it and fired it up.” Even so, he was in the running for a top ten finish till the final stage: “We just hit a patch of concrete across the tarmac when the rain came on,” said Stephen, ” and the car just took off on to the grass.” He wasn’t too downhearted though having enjoyed the run out: “It’s still got loads of grunt but everything else is so outdated, it feels big, not like the R5 and the brakes are not up to an R5 either. It’s noisy and cramped and my head is jammed up against the roof, but at least Michael (Wilkinson) can see out of it – he sees nothing from an R5 seat!” and added: “It’s still really good fun.”

And finally …

Esmeralda Double-Barrelled Easton-Page has shortened her name to ‘Em’ to save money on stickers for side windows. She was co-driving for Johnnie MacKay at Tyneside and her name wouldn’t fit on the wee Nissan Micra’s side window! Although the Micra was seriously outgunned around the Ranges, they didn’t finish last. “This was our first time together,” said Johnnie,” so it was all about getting seat time and used to each other. We’ll be out in the Fiesta ST for the Grampian.” There is also no truth in the rumour that her Dad, Martin, had to bolt his sandwich box AND his wallet under Em’s seat to weigh that side of the car down!