… Grant Construction Knockhill Stages Rally, Feb 20, 2022
… The Entertainers …
Donnie MacDonald and Andrew Falconer opened the scoring on this year’s Burnside Piling Scottish Tarmack Rally Championship with what looked like a comfortable victory on the Grant Construction Knockhill Stages Rally organised by Border Ecosse CC. First time out in his new Ford Fiesta Rally2, MacDonald was apprehensive before the start: “I’ve never driven a left hand drive car before and the aim is to get on Alistair Inglis’ pace by the end of the day.”
He had a funny way of showing it. On the very first stage his ‘racing line’ at the Knockhill Hairpin was quite spectacular, with a huge big ‘chuck it in’ approach and drift round. The quickest line? Not so sure. But there was method in the madness. This was simply Donnie’s way of finding out what the new car was like. Thereafter he settled down and actually achieved his aim after four of the day’s 10 stages, getting on terms with Inglis, and going on to win.
Admittedly he was helped to victory by his main rivals striking trouble. John Marshall and Craig Wallace were first to hit trouble when the Fiesta Rally2 driver went the wrong way at the Split on the third stage. Admittedly quite a few others had similar difficulties. The Split entrance was actually a very tight left immediately after the chicane with the quicker cars looking for gears on the chicane exit instead of going for the brakes.
First on the scene was Marshall and he completely missed it. Next up were the Inglis brothers, and they nearly missed it, getting stuck against a tyre as they turned in and holding up MacDonald who was third car on the road. Andy Scott and Laura Connell in the Fiesta S2000 Turbo also took a wrong direction and were penalised and dropped to 22nd place overall, but carried on, whereas Marshall packed up and headed for home after four stages as all he wanted was a test session in the new car ahead of a British Asphalt Championship campaign.
That all meant that after four out of the day’s ten stages, Ross Hunter and Martin Woodcock were tied for the lead in the Lancer Evo9 with Alastair and Colin Inglis while the Ford Escort Mk2 of Kyle Adam and Steven Brown was third, but already creeping up from behind was MacDonald.
Inglis seized the lead in SS5 but Hunter wasn’t giving up as the Lancer got itself into some weird angles as it swept around the wet and streaming Knockhill track. Unfortunately, the Lancer came to a halt with no drive at all. A broken shaft in the transfer ‘box the likely cause.
At that point, Inglis looked to have victory in the bag but on the penultimate test a protruding tyre marker just over a crest at the Esses caught him out and the Fiesta struck it with its rear o/s wheel immediately snapping a suspension arm.
By this time MacDonald had caught and passed Adam, but Kyle wasn’t letting up. Despite the atrocious conditions, e kept the 2.5 Millington engined beast on the road – most of the time: “At one point I turned to Steven and said ‘we’re going off’ when the tyres suddenly gripped and it straightened up!” The Escort was only a second slower than the Fiesta on the penultimate stage and a second faster over the final one to finish just 17 seconds behind.
However, the best battle of the day was for third place. Who’d have thought a couple of 1600ccc motors would threaten the heavyweights and all wheel drives?
Des Campbell and Craig Forsyth were quickest off the mark in their Peugeot 206 but they were caught and passed by the Vauxhall Corsa of Steven Hay and Cameron Dunn. Both cars were a thrill to watch as they slipped and slithered, two wheeled and bump-stopped their way around the track and the hillside bringing some cheer to the cold and drookit spectators.
Going into the final stage Hay had 5 seconds on Campbell but Steven’s tyres were well goosed by this time and Des had replaced a broken shock absorber. Still, a 5 second margin and 3.5 miles to go?
How those two cars stayed on those streaming wet roads on that final mental thrash is beyond belief, but the Peugeot was 5 seconds quicker than the Vauxhall. They finished dead equal on identical totals sharing third place with Campbell’s quicker time on the first stage settling the tie and completing the final podium line up and the 1600 class win.
After a steady start, Gareth and Kenneth Dalgliesh quickly gained confidence in the Subaru Impreza stetting some decent times by close of play to finish 5th ahead of a very impressive run from David McIntyre and Andy Brown first time out in their newly acquired Citroen C2R2. And once David gets a bit more confidence with the Citroen it looks as though Des and Stephen will get some ‘company’ up front.
Having dropped to 22nd place after his earlier misdemeanour, Andy Scott was on a mission and he set some blistering times over the final half of the rally to move himself up the leader board in to 7th place.
Graham Bruce and David Aitken scored the Class 3 win in their Ford Escort finishing 8th with Alistair Brearley Jnr and Keith Atkinson scoring Al’s best result so far in the Suzuki with 9th place. First time out in their ‘new’ Fiesta ST, 1400cc class winners Andrew Blackwood and Richard Stewart scored a remarkable 10th place overall.
Christopher Smith and Stuart McBride finished 2nd in Class 1 behind Blackwood in their Vauxhall Corsa with Steven Crockett and Kenny Anderson taking 3rd in the Peugeot 205.
James and Ian Wilson were 4th in the MG ZR ahead of Claire Kilmurray and Duncan Smith in a Suzuki Swift GTi which finished with a well stove-in, unglazed co-driver’s door after contact with a large tyre marker! Mike Robertson retired his Nova with fuel pump problems.
Campbell, Hay and McIntyre ruled Class 2 with Brearley in 4th place, but newcomer Justin Gunning’s pace was particularly impressive. He and Johnnie Mackay finished 11th overall on only Justin’s second senior rally event after a year in the Junior 1000s. Gordon Milne’s Honda engined VW Polo failed to finish when it got stuck on the sodden grass on the hillside. Steven Street’s Escort was going well but stopped twice on two stages with water in the ignition.
Behind Graham Bruce in Class 3 was the Targa Rally spec roadgoing Vauxhall Astra of Drew Barker and Shona Hale with James Lyon and Steve Bell 3rd in their Escort having had to resort to a large hammer to return the n/s front corner to its near-Escort shape after an encounter with a tyre marker. There was disappointment for Cameron Davidson when the clutch on the Junior 1000 graduate’s Peugeot 205 failed when he was lying 4th in class. Graeme Rintoul failed to finish when an engine mounting broke on the Fiesta causing the engine to tilt which rubbed the pulley against the chassis and shredded the drive belts. Graeme Sherry’s Opel Manta also failed to finish when it sunk to its axles in the mud on the hillside section having to be sucked out by the Land Rover boys.
Other non-finishers in the rather poor 41 car entry included Ian Archer whose Escort suffered a heavy clout against the chicane on the Start/Finish straight on the first stage of the day with Ian explaining: “It was my own fault, the brakes were still cold!”
And why was Scott McCombie second last in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo6: “It wouldn’t start this morning,” said Scott, “We jumped, it pushed it, towed it and it just wouldn’t fire it up so we went to tell the organisers that we wouldn’t be starting. Without thinking I jumped into the car to start it up and drive it on to the trailer – and it started first turn! The organisers kindly let us start Stage 2 but with a 30 minute penalty for missing the first stage there was little we could do.”
1 Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer (Ford Fiesta Rally2) 54m 49s
2 Kyle Adam/Steven Brown (Ford Escort Mk2) +17s
3 Des Campbell/Craig Forsyth (Peugeot 206) +37s
4 Steven Hay/Cameron Dunn (Vauxhall Corsa) +37s
5 Gareth Dalgliesh/Kenneth Dalgliesh (Subaru Impreza) +4m 03s
6 David McIntyre/Andy Brown (Citroen C2R2) +4m 34s
7 Andy Scott/Laura Connell (Ford Fiesta S2000 Turbo) +5m 14s
8 Graham Bruce/David Aitken (Ford Escort) +6m 09s
9 Alistair Brearley Jnr/Keith Atkinson (Suzuki Swift Sport) +7m 34s
10 Andrew Blackwood/Richard Stewart (Ford Fiesta ST) +7m 53s
Blackwood/Stewart; Campbell/Forsyth; Bruce/Aitken; Adam/Brown; MacDonald/Falconer