11 Apr: 1983 – The Tie-Break Title

… A report from the Sprint Tyres Trossachs Rally, October 1983 …

Entitled: A ‘Sprint’ Can Take  Long time …

Sitting in the Ancaster Arms waiting for  results and reports to trickle in from the field, the time stretched interminably, not least for Jimmy Fleming sitting in the bar with no finger nails left and nerves atingle. Jimmy was out of the event on the 3rd stage when the suspension broke on the Toyota and he thought that was the end of his championship bid, for as he turned to Robin he said: “Sorry old son, that’s ph*k*ed it now!”

Back they came to the hotel and then news filtered in that Donald had punctured and had to stop in a stage and change it, then news of Robin’s string of punctures came in followed by Colin Valentine’s report of striking a fence post. Suddenly, Jimmy’s jangled nerves could take no more and he reached for the bottle, to dab brandy on his fevered brow.

It really was cruel luck for all, for the Flying Fifer was in good form and lying 2nd after the first two stages but then came that fateful puncture. But just a few stages later, the camshaft broke in Carron and he was out for good. Similarly, Rambling Robin was going great guns, but on the first 6 stages he got 4 punctures, one of which helped to give him a Maximum. Perhaps Colin’s story is the  most heart rending, for he came so close.

After clouting that post at the end of SS6, Colin had to nurse the bruised and battered Sunbeam back to the finish but had to finish 4th Scot or higher to clinch his first title. At first, it looked as though he had done it but then a mistake was spotted in Dougie Riach’s total on the results board. It was  a simple addition error but when the offending minute was taken away he had beaten Colin buy one second. That second cost Colin the title, for he then equalled Jimmy on Points and the tie-decider went in the Totota driver’s favour for he had scored a 28 on the Scottish to Colin’s 27, these being their highest individual scores in the championship.

To come so far and get so close, it really was a strain, for Jimmy had been the first to congratulate Coin when he thought that Colin had it, then came the news, and Colin was the first to shake Jimmy’s hand in turn when the announcement was made. One point and one second decided a series which started in February and finished in October, from Inverness in the north to Dumfries in the south, from Aberdeen in the east and Dunoon in the west and over 10 events with around 700 miles of special stages. It was an emotional moment for your co-ordinator let alone the protagonists.

All this drama surrounded the fact that Roy Cathcart had won the rally outright from Alec Cannon in the Avenger. The only consolation being that they had Scottish co-drivers, for George Marshall was sitting beside Roy and ‘Ivor the Driver’ was sitting beside Alec. Mind you Alec is a graduate of the Ivor Clark School of Motoring so it was no real surprise but you lot really must be ashamed of yourselves letting these furriners win!

Andrew Wood made the best shot at it in the LHD Malcolm Wilson car but he lost 7 minutes on a  road section when the car sprung a bad oil leak and he dropped to 23rd place overall. Blackbeard did well to finish 4th and I suppose it could be said that he helped Colin Valentine to finish in 7th place for in actual fact, Alistair had loosened the fence post that Colin struck with the Sunbeam. If the Chevette hadn’t hit the same post perhaps Colin might not have finished at all. David Gillanders was an excellent 5th in the Escort G3 which finished the rally in his hands and the ‘old faithful’ Mk2 failed to finish in Donald’s hands. After all the trouble that Donald has had with the car and then big Davie just goes out and sails round while the normally reliable Mk2 failed. There ain’t no justice, eh?

Dangerous Dougie was in fine form with the 2 litre Sunbeam and no doubt the wet and slippery stages helped him a lot but at the finish it looked as though he was 7th, then ol’ eagle eye Bob Wilson spotted a mistake in their stage totals. When this was sorted out it was found to have been an extra minute added in the total – just a simple addition error but it made a hell of a difference to the final championship standings.

Alistair Smith had his best result of the year with 8th place in the multi-striped RS2000 although it got a bit fretful near the end when it started to burn a lot of oil and lose a lot of water. At the start of the rally Gallopin’ Gillespie told me that he had doubted very much if he would finish in the top ten on the day despite the Programme preview tipping him for a place, but the lad should learn, the guru was right again and he finished 9th. Rounding off the top ten, John Allan finally got a result worthy of his talent after an awfy troubled year but I still don’t know if having Neil McKinnon in the left hand seat is a help or a hindrance (only kidding Neil, honest!).

Eamon Keillour finished 2nd in class after a fair old tussle with Robert Harkness, but I suppose Harkness’ excuse is that the Avenger is up for sale and he had to take things easy. Andrew Smith did well in 13th place now getting to grips with the extra power in the Sunbeam (or is it something to do with Jonathan’s diet being such a success and losing  a lot of weight). Dom Buckley was reduced to 14th place on an event where all the favourites and usual front runners seemed to strike trouble. A good run was in progress until a brow on the 5th test which wasn’t quite flat, but the Lord likes nothing better than a trier, and Dom tried, but he slid into a ditch and got stuck for 4 minutes, then on Carron he hit a boulder and re-arranged the axle location.

At least Dom finished, for Bruce Lyle complete with BBC camera in the car failed to finish when the engine blew and Wilson Girvan suffered a similar fate when the rotor arm broke up. Not to be outdone, Ken Wood threw the big Rover across a bridge in Carron, but followed the path of the stream rather than the direction of the road with the result that the Thunderbus decapitated the bridge parapet and knocked off a few of its own vitals in the process. Tom Muir reckoned that anything Wonder Woody could do, he could do better and promptly rolled the Ascona near the Finish in Carron. Alastair McSkimming nearly followed suit with the Escort Turbo but a friendly push from Donald Heggie and friends saw him back on the road. Not so lucky was David Anderson who had the misfortune to be caught by the cameras when he rolled the Ford powered Sunbeam at the same point.

Anyway, back at the front, John Lawson had blown the cobwebs out of his Escort and finished a superb 15th overall from a start number of 50, but he did the very same last year when he finished in 19th place. Farquhar MacRae had his good engine back in the Corolla and finished 16th with the new Challenger’s Champion, Jim Fleming in 17th spot. Stewart Robertson in the Escort Turbo has earned enough points to finish not just 3rd overall in the series, but also he is the runner-up in the second half of the prize drive scheme, but what will come out of that remains to be seen – and remember he only started half way through the year.

Hugh Steel had a good (?) service crew this time under the leadership of one James S McRae and this might have helped to encourage him to finish 19th just ahead of the ‘other Smiffy’, Gordon Smith, in his Escort. Stormin’ Norman Barrie broke a stub axle in Carron, Mike Riddick fell off the edge of the world and lost his more usual class lead but a big gang of spectators was soon  on hand to help lift the crew out although they got a Maximum.

Pentti Morrison survived the Scrutineer’s attention to his horn (which didn’t work at first) and survived a ditch-deepening escapade while Graham Walker rounded off his season with a win in the 1300 class despite a puncture. Ken Adamson retired after Torrie with a blown had gasket and young Alan Blackstock listed a broken shock absorber, a noisy diff and a holed radiator as a well as the engine beginning to blow lots of blue smoke out of the back. Paul Wilson should have got the ‘True Grit’ award for when the gearbox jammed on Achray, he ran out a forest path to the road, got some tools, then went back and ripped up the gearbox tunnel to get at the selectors and then unjammed them. Then it did it again on the next stage but thereafter the gearbox behaved itself although the engine became quite thirsty for oil. Dave MacDonald had an unusual view of the rally but he admits to meeting a nicer class of people in the mid-field! The wee Toyota did fairly well but a puncture and a bent rim cost the crew over 3 minutes and then the vacuum pipe came adrift.

Doug Muir got no farther than the  3rd stage after the halfshaft pulled out, Jim Harrigan had the alternator fail and had to switch off the Kenlowe which resulted in the engine overheating but got it replaced at service whilst Tom Purves was another to have the halfshaft pull out and off it bounded complete with wheel away down the stage. Donny McDonald hit a log in the final stage, but the log hit back and bent the track control arm although they carried on, and Andrew Ritchie went sight-seeing when the hardy-spicer broke on his Imp and George Gordon had nothing at all to report – he should be so lucky!

Top Ten:

1, R Cathcart/G Marshall, 50m 43s

2, A Cannon/I Clark, 51m 35s

3, A Wood/J Robinson, 51m 42s

4, A Brearley/D Cannon, 52m 10s

5, D Gillanders/G Neish, 52m 54s

6, D Riach/R Wilson, 53m 09s

7, C Valentine/R McNeill, 53m 10s

8, A Smith/G Hastie, 53m 49s

9, G Gillespie/G Black, 54m 01s

10, J Allan/N MacKinnon, 54m 02s

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