23 Aug: Grampian Gossip

… Grampian Gossip …

The Grampian Forest Rally had a surprise visitor the other week but no-one more surprised than international rally driver and WRC test driver Ryan Champion himself. “I was on holiday in Ballater just along the road when my wife Jemma, said, there’s a rally on here tomorrow,” explained Ryan, “I had no idea so popped along for a look and to catch up with old mates.” Having visited one of the stages, Ryan said he was mighty impressed with the pace of Scottish rallying.

Perhaps the unofficial ‘star of the rally’ was Scott Beattie who finished 5th overall. The former Talbot Sunbeam driver had bought the ex-Fred Milne Mitsubishi Lancer Evo7. This was his first run out in a four wheel drive car and it was also his first time with Welsh MSA Academy co-driver Peredur Wyn Davies. “I caught a car in the first stage, spun and stalled in the second then overshot a hairpin in the third,” said Beattie, “and this is my first time out since the McRae Gravel Sprint 2 years ago,” before adding, “this was just a shakedown ahead of a full season next year – hopefully!”

Another ex-Talbot Sunbeam (and BMW) driver who appeared with a new Mitsubishi Lancer was Robert Harkness, but with less success than Scott Beattie! Harkness has acquired the ex-Taylor Gibb Evo8. First time out in the car, he finished last in class: “The first two stages went fine,” said Harkness, “but two thirds of the way through SS3 I was too quick into a corner – and kept the foot in. I ended up in the ditch!” At least he got out with more of a bruised ego than a bashed car.

Halfshaft failure spoiled a good fight in the leading 2WD category. Mark McCulloch and Iain Wilson were tied after the first stage before McCulloch opened up a gap on SS2. They tied again on SS3 and there was just one second between them on SS4, but Wilson’s Ford Escort Mk2 assumed the lead in as McCulloch’s Mk2 limped out on one wheel drive.

Linzi Henderson finished second in class in her Ford Fiesta R2T behind the Fiesta ST of Bobby Mitchell but with one round to go she has done enough to secure the 2019 Scottish Rally Championship Ladies’ title and the Class 6 overall title, but the Scottish Championship Junior title will be determined on the final round between Henderson and Class 3 winning Jude MacDonald in his Skoda Fabia R2.

Brett McKenzie later revealed that he had a problem with the anti-lag system in the Subaru, “but after a couple of non-finishes we made it through, just what I needed – and I made to the end without a black eye from Susan (Shanks) the co-driver.” That’ll be the school teacher showing through, eh? Mike Moates also had an anti-lag problem in his Subaru having to switch it on and off throughout the day to control the temperature and also admitted to “three near misses.” David McLeod’s retirement from Class 7 was caused by a broken bolt in the Sunbeam’s oil pump. Although he got it fixed, the crew were OTL by that time.

At the end of the Grampian Forest Rally Gordon Murray switched off the engine in his 2.3 litre Vauxhall/Millington Ford Escort Mk2 and said: “After 15 years of rallying, that was the last stage of my rallying career,” said the popular clubman, “I retired from business this year and now I’ve retired from rallying.” When asked what his highlight was, he said: “This car – and favourite stage is Gartly Moor. Doing Gartly in this car was the most awesome thing ever!” Murray finished 2nd in Class 8 behind Iain Wilson.

Never one to use two words when a dozen will do, John McClory was overheard trying to explain in technical terms to Big Gordon the problem with the Lancer: “I don’t know what’s wrong, but I know it’s not right,” he said, “it has a propensity to go backwards of its own volition.”

Rallying almost every weekend, Charley Sayer-Payne thought she had a weekend off following the Grampian Forest Rally where she co-drove Caroline Carslaw, but she was tempted back into service on her ‘weekend off’ by the attraction of a rather unique event where she navigated for Linsey Giles in a 1972 Jaguar E Type V12 on the RSAC Three Lochs Classic. This was a first for Charley, so next time you see her, ask her what a ‘Touring Assembly’ event is.

And finally …

Fresh from their ‘starring role’ on the Rally Finland ‘Vetomies’ National event last weekend where they finished 27th overall (out of 88 2WD), Douglas Watt and Ian Parker scored the Class 4 win at the Grampian in the Escort Mk2. The Finland result was particularly pleasing as they ‘thrashed’ Hamish Kinloch and Mark Grierson who finished 28th in the Toyota Corolla which last saw the light of day on the 2010 Rally Hebrides. Donald and Scott Peacock were 31st in the wee Peugeot 205 but spare a thought for Keith Robathan and Steven Brown in the BMW, they fared less well in Finland, to put it mildly. Keith got round the Super Special the night before the rally started but less than 2 kms into the first stage, the driveshaft snapped. “We were told the outer end of the BMW driveshaft never breaks so didn’t carry a spare, and neither did any of the BMW crews around us, and we couldn’t source the part locally – all that way, for that!” The four crews travelled together in convoy, 1320 miles door to door (and the same back home again!) according to Hamish and included three ferries. However, all four crews raved about the event, the reception by the fans and the fervour of the locals wherever they passed through, stopped for petrol or for food. If you think the Irish fans are nuts about rallying, they’ve got nothing on the Scandinavians. This has to be a bucket list ‘must do’, eh?