10 Mar: Knockhill Notes

… Grant Construction Knockhill Stages Rally, Feb 23 …

Knockhill Notes

First off. A stern word. A lot of people went to a lot of effort spending much time and resources preparing the Knockhill stages for the rally. The least some folk could do is stay for the prizegiving, especially the bluidy prizewinners! A great pity considering the efforts of the organisers and the fortitude of the marshals in such cold weather.

John Marshall appeared at Knockhill with his new Skodaru. The engine was still in run-in mode as he had only done 3.5 miles the previous day at Race Retro and was restricted to a top speed of 96 mph for the Knockhill event when everyone else was doing 110 or 120 Plus! Still, a troublefree outing and 4th o/a ain’t too bad for last year’s winner. Mind you running first on the road wasn’t ideal for last year’s winner. Cresting Duffus Dip (running anti clockwise) the Skodaru encountered water streaming across the track and just slithered off the track on to the grass. Running behind him Alan Kirkaldy got caught out too, but those following behind soon became wise to conditions.

Scott MacBeth gave his newly rebuilt Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9 a shakedown at Knockhill. he survived a big spin into the gravel on the first stage but when a turbo boost pipe blew off on SS6 called it a day rather than risk the engine.

Trevor Gamble retired his Ford Fiesta R5 at the lunch break. He was having trouble all morning trying to get the car up to working temperature. It was running too cool so he stopped before any real damage was done and give himself a chance to get to the bottom of it.

Drew Barker was going well but the Corsa wasn’t. He stopped in both SS2 and SS3 with the engine cutting out. Art service, the relay on the fuel pump was judged to be faulty so the pump was ‘hot-wired’ and the problem solved. His 13th o/a was still good enough for 2nd in class but the fuel problem may well have cost him a top ten finish.

David McIntyre appeared at Knockhill with a new Billy Faulkner 200 bhp engine in the Nova. This was his second time out in the car following an appearance at Croft at Christmas and he set 6th fastest time on the opening stage. Sadly he blotted his copybook on the 5th test going the wrong way at the Split when he was concerned about the diff locking up intermittently and got a stage maximum. He finished 20th.

Jock Threadgall made his first appearance on a rally stage for some 8 years when he was offered a run in Nigel Atkinson’s Lancer to ‘celebrate’ his 60th birthday. Prior to this Jock would contest just a few rallies per year in his Ford Sierra, Subaru Impreza and latterly Mitsubishi Lancer. Pity that, he was awfy quick in them days 20 years or so back, but his day job as a blacksmith and farrier tending a rather more sedate form of horsepower prevented a full blown season attack. His 9th place finish at Knockhill was therefore quite a good result for a rusty auld git, but it would have been much better had he not gone off on the opening stage. With cold brakes, the car locked up as he approach the first left hander, struck a bale which bounced him on to the grass on the inside of the Hairpin. Fortunately he had the sense to keep it going and with all four wheels spinning dug two furrows across the grass that would have been deep enough to plant tatties. “This was a one-off,” said Jock, “NOT a comeback!”

In over thirty years (nearer 40!) of rallying Ian Archer has rallied front and rear wheel drive and most recently four wheel drive but has sold his Evo9 in favour of Tom Hynd’s 1600 MINI. His first outing in the new machine earned him a ‘no bad’ 12th overall and 3rd in class.

Marc McCubbin did alright with his pretty standard looking Ford Focus. Second time out in the car (he did Mach 1 last year) he finished 16th o/a.

Causing a bit of consternation and puzzlement amongst marshals and organisers was one James Strachan Esq. Having forsaken his FWD Peugeot 106 for a RWD BMW Compact last year he appeared at Knockhill with the number 16 on one door and number 19 on the other! Of course, he had put the ‘6’ on upside down. Anyway the learning curve continued despite a wee off at the top of Duffus on SS1 which incurred a Maximum and he finished 23rd.

Carin Tait Logan had a bad start to her Knockhill outing when the Saxo understeered off the road on the slush and ice on the first stage and sank to its axles in the grass. There was no way the wee car could get out under its own steam and had to be pulled out backwards by the recovery crews. Thereafter she set some decent times but any chance of class glory had long gone.  Mind you it has to be said that, as a Polis herself, Carin was using some driving techniques that would have been frowned upon by Police Driving Instructors.

Allan Watt lost out on a finish on the last stage when the Saxo had a big spin under braking on the entry to the Hairpin. It just swapped ends violently and bounced over the kerb getting stuck in the splungeing wet grass.

On only his second rally, Chris Smith did alright in the 1400 Nova finishing 19th o/a and 3rd in class, but the cars was still showing the cosmetic scars of its debut outing at Knockhill last December.

Former autocrosser, Jack Lunn contested his first rally at Knockhill but his Peugeot 106 broke a gearbox mount onSS3 and he was unable to get it repaired.

For the second time in two years, the ‘Golden Burger’ award was up for grabs. Steven Hay and Des Campbell had a bet on last year that whoever was leading between them at the lunch break would have their team lunch bought by the ‘loser’. Despite stalling on SS2 when the car locked up and understeered off approaching a tight right hander, he was leading Des by 9 seconds at the lunch break. “I just ran out of feet,” said Steven, “with both feet on brake and clutch, the engine just died.” Worse was to come on the first stage after lunch when the Corsa’s engine let go in spectacular fashion followed by voluminous clouds of smoke which made spectators wonder if Knock Hill’s supposedly long dormant volcano had erupted.

And finally ….

Perhaps there needs to be an additional paragraph inserted into all rally Final Instructions when they are issued to competitors ahead of rallies. A few words of guidance perhaps, for those from the countrified hinterlands (the Borders?) coming to a big city (Dunfermline?) full of bright lights and exotic attractions, and of course restaurants. I don’t think there is any need to go into the etiquette of which fork, knife and spoon should be used when sampling local delicacies and cuisine, but a word to the wise about healthy diet and behaviour ahead of a competitive sporting event. Take the case of Des and Craig and the rest of the ‘Dangerous’ team who chanced upon just such a hostelry, the Kinema Restaurant, famed for its ‘global fusion buffet’ offering up a vast selection of  Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, British and Asian temptations. This being a buffet and tantalised way beyond personal consumption and capacity, the  team indulged themselves, or perhaps, over-indulged themselves. Next morning, the crew were about as dark and gloomy as the weather, race suits straining at the seams, complexions matching the topography of Knock Hill itself, and a poor wee 1600cc Peugeot fearfully awaiting its fate and about to be ‘heaved’ around the course. Of course, the word ‘heaved’ has many meanings, but those of a sensitive nature should not ask. Despite all this, Dangerous and crew scored 8th overall in the class winning 206, aided by Steven Hay’s fiery departure. And the moral of this story? If you want to win, don’t depend on others to fail and stick to salads and tofu or soya burgers!

Grant Construction Knockhill Stages – [Main Report]