… Mach1 Stages Rally, 10/11 July 2021 …
Months of frustration and boredom exploded on to the runways and perimeter roads at Machrihanish in the Mull of Kintyre when the 2021 Marshall Construction Scottish Tarmack Championship opened for business on the weekend of 10/11 July.
Organised by Dunfermline Car Club, this year’s long awaited Mach1 Stages featured four 10 mile and four 1 mile stages on the Saturday and four 13 milers on the Sunday. What a way to open a season. And on the Saturday night we had steak pie and beer – well at least some of us did.
Given the array of talent and new cars, accurate pre-event predictions were few and far between, but perhaps the organisers knew something we didn’t. The rally was won for the third time by the number 1 seeds Alistair and Colin Inglis, despite the fact that they were having only their second run out in a new RHD Ford Fiesta R5. They were followed home by two more Fiesta R5s, those of Gordon Morrison and Calum MacPherson and Tom Blackwood and Gordon Winning completing a Ford Fiesta R5 podium lockout.
However, it was a rather different Fiesta which opened the scoring with the WRC example of Derek McGarrity and Paddy Robinson fastest by 6 seconds over the opening 9.8 miler. The Inglis brothers responded with a 2 second quicker time on the next nadgery little 0.9 mile test around the bunkers but they were beaten by the R5s of Blackwood and Morrison who went 1 second quicker.
After two stages, the order was McGarrity, Inglis and Blackwood with John Rintoul and Ross Hynd in 4th place. Then came yet another Fiesta, this time the Ian Forgan/Chris Lees car making its debut, but they were tied for 5th place, with yet another Ford. Not an R5, this was the Escort Mk2 of Kyle Adam and Steven Brown. So where was Morrison?
He had dropped around 20 seconds on the first stage of the day. “I was on the grass,” said Gordon, ” the tail just stepped out, I got a wheel on the grass and ended up in a ditch. I thought that was it, but we actually got it out OK.”
Bruce Edwards and Jim Smith were also on the pace in the Darrian just ahead of the Subaru Impreza of Lee and Cole Hastings. Gerry Fitzelle and Mark Mason rounded off the top ten at the start of a dry sunny day which allowed the rear wheel drive cars to be in with a shout against the 4WD brigade, but not for Mark Borthwick. His Mk2’s paddle shift solenoid failed leaving him stuck in 1st gear till he got back to service.
A repeat of the first test followed for SS3 and Morrison was up for the fight, equalling McGarrity’s time, but Inglis was only 2 seconds adrift. He pulled a second back on the short test with Morrison and Blackwood equalling McGarrity’s pace.
After 4 of the opening day’s 8 stages, the order was McGarrity, Inglis, Blackwood, Morrison and Forgan from a mighty impressive Adam rounding off the top half dozen but Rintoul had dropped out of the fight. The Fiesta was sidelined on the 3rd test with PDU failure, that’s the ‘power delivery unit’ module that sends power to the wheels. Barry Groundwater was out too in the Evo6. The centre had pulled out of the pulley wheel which drives the water pump and the power steering. Ricky Wheeler didn’t last much longer either when the head gasket failed on the Escort Mk2 and Ross Chalmers incurred a Maximum on the stage start when the Subaru’s brand new clutch welded itself to the cover.
There was drama on the next stage, SS5, when the sound of sirens sent shivers down the spine. Fortunately the SMMC ambulance and paramedics weren’t needed. Lee Hastings’ Subaru had got a bit hot and bothered under the bonnet and set itself on fire. No injuries to crew and no serious damage to the car but the Hastings boys were homeward bound.
McGarrity was really getting into his stride now, the Fiesta looking mighty impressive as it powered down the straights although the R5s were keeping him honest on the shorter, twistier stages. However all was not well in the McGarrity camp. “We have a slight misfire,” explained Derek, “we’ve changed the plugs, leads and had the ECU reprogrammed at M-Sport last week. It’s not really costing us time, we can short shift our way through it, but it’s a niggle.”
That meant Inglis was still very much in touch, just 4 seconds behind the overseas visitor. Blackwood was hanging on to third, although Morrison was on a charge and closing. In 5th place, Forgan’s grin was getting ever wider as he revelled in the sheer braking power of the Fiesta.
Bruce Edwards was now best of the rest and was having a precautionary ‘grumbling’ front n/s wheel bearing replaced ahead of the final two runs of the day. The Darrian had eased past Adam’s Mk2 but behind them, three drivers were tied for 8th place – John Bradley/Ryan Crozier, Fitzelle and Ian and Allan Paterson.
Two more stages brought Saturday to a close but little change at the top of the leaderboard. McGarrity’s lead had been reduced by one second to just 3 but Morrison was now 3rd, just 20 seconds behind and had no intention of holding station.
Neither could Blackwood be discounted, the benefits of a recent test session at Anglesey evident in his pace and he was well in charge of 4th place ahead of Forgan. Rounding off the top six was that pesky little fire breathing Darrian, lighting up the gloom on the over-run as it dived into the corners.
Edwards now had a 10 second gap between himself and Adam and whilst the three way tie behind them had also sorted itself out, it was still pretty tight. The Mk2 of Bradley held 8th ahead of Paterson in the Subaru, but Alistair and David Dalgleish had demoted Fitzelle to 11th having swapped their Subaru for an Evo9. And with Chris McCallum and Stephen Clark joining in the fight in their Mk2 plus the Lotus Exige of young Greg Inglis/Ian Parker keen to get involved, these six crews were covered by a mere 30 seconds.
Grey clouds scudded across the sky on Sunday morning but it was dry and would remain so, more or less, for the final 4 stages. It was also a bit more breezy, a bit of relief for the Marshals who survived Saturday albeit, slightly oven roasted.
The first of four 13 milers would soon settle the breakfast as McGarrity took over where he left off but Inglis dropped only 2 seconds. As for Morrison, just as yesterday, he struck trouble on the opening stage and dropped a handful of seconds as he caught a car. One can only imagine the language that ensued until the innocent miscreant realised the whirlwind on his tail and Morrison powered past.
It was all change on Stage 10. The leading Fiesta slowed, then peeled off the stage back into service. “I’ve nipped second gear,” said a disappointed McGarrity, “I’ve had this before, so I just put it into 3rd gear and drove out of the stage. It’s a £1,000 repair now, if I’d driven on, it would be a £10,000 repair.”
Inglis was now leading, but Morrison was now threatening. He had taken 6 seconds out of the new rally leader in SS10 with two 13 milers to come.
Blackwood was back up to 3rd and Forgan 4th with Bruce Edwards now well into his stride holding 5th place and top 2WD car ahead of Adam, Bradley, Fitzelle, Greg Inglis and Dalgelish but no Paterson. The blue Subaru had also peeled off the stage with no drive and a bitterly disappointed Paterson thoroughly dejected once again.
There was no panic in the Inglis camp. The pressure was on Morrison. Even so, he took another 4 seconds out of the leader on SS11 with the rest of the top ten order holding station behind, which left just one stage to go.
Inglis responded with a 7 second quicker time on the final stage to secure his third win on this event and Morrison and MacPherson were first to congratulate the brothers Inglis. “That was a cracking day’s sport, b*lls out,” said Alistair, “Yesterday we did 44 miles of stages over eight stages and this morning we had four thirteen milers!”
Blackwood drove well to consolidate his 3rd place even though Forgan was closing fast and as the final flag fell, Forgy had closed the gap to 12 seconds. Close, but no cigar.
Edwards finished top 2WD ahead of Adam, Bradley, Fitzelle, Dagliesh and the Mitsubishi Evo9 of Joe McQuillan and Shannon Turnbull just slipping into the top ten as young Greg Inglis slipped out. He had earlier been experiencing stub axle trouble in the Exige and had already changed one hub, but retired on the final stage.
And so ending a quite enthralling , but spectator-less, spectacle with no proper prizegiving due to Covid requirements and yet there was satisfaction and joy in the air. Rallying was back.
Which is why Derek McGarrity had made the trip. The sport is in a more perilous state across the water and he just wanted to get out and have some fun, so let’s leave the last words to him: “This is a great place, there is great variety here. In fact I’d go as far as to say this is the best event yet between a ‘normal’ single venue rally and a full-on closed road rally.”
Amen to that.
1, Alistair Inglis/Colin Inglis (Ford Fiesta R5) 97:49
2, Gordon Morrison/Calum MacPherson (Ford Fiesta R5) +00:22
3, Tom Blackwood/Gordon Winning (Ford Fiesta R5) +01:31
4, Ian Forgan/Chris Lees (Ford Fiesta R5) +01:43
5, Bruce Edwards/Jim Smith (Darrian GTR) +03:15
6, Kyle Adam/Steven Brown (Ford Escort Mk2) +04:15
7, John Bradley/Ryan Crozier (Ford Mk2 Escort) +04:51
8, Gerry Fitzelle/Mark Mason (Ford Escort Mk2) +05:36
9, Alistair Dalgliesh/David Dalgliesh (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +05:42
10, Joe McQuillan/Shannon Turnbull (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +06:10
Cameron Craig/Terry Mallin (Peugeot 205); Jamie Miller/Ian McCulloch (Citroen C2-R2 Max); Bradley/Crozier; Edwards/Smith; Inglis/Inglis
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