… Dunoon Presents Argyll Rally, 24/25 June 2022 …
Championships – KNC Groundworks Scottish, Protyre MSUK Asphalt, SD34 MSG Stage, AS Performance North of England Tarmacadam, and the HRCR Mini Sport Cup
Five times Scottish Rally Champion David Bogie took another step closer to his sixth national title with a convincing victory on the Dunoon Presents Argyll Rally. He had a new co-driver, complete with new racesuit, for the occasion too. In the absence of Jock Armstrong, Cameron Fair had stepped in to fill the vacancy but since he felt that his regular Armstrong orange and black suit wouldn’t have gone down well in certain quarters he had invested in a quite posh looking black and creamy white outfit. Very fetching!
First time out in a new Ford Fiesta Rally2, David Henderson was back on Scottish soil (or should that be Scottish tarmac?) with Chris Lees contesting both the KNC Groundworks and Protyre Asphalt championships. He was rewarded with second placed KNC points behind Bogie and top points for the Protyre series.
Completing the podium line-up after a blistering burst of speed over the closing stages was the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9 of Michael Binnie and Claire Mole. No doubt the old hands will nod their heads wisely and say that was to be expected because Lancers are awfy quick on the straights, but this is Argyll. There aren’t too many top gear straights, there is an abundance of tight and nasty corners and there are more dips and crests than Alton Towers and Blackpool Pleasure Beach combined.
Nope this is ideal country for agility and long travel suspension, good brakes and copious amounts of bravery. That also ensured it wasn’t ideal terrain for old-tech rear wheel drive machinery, but no-one told Greg McKnight and Calum MacPherson! Either Calum is the bravest person in the world, or there is a void of emptiness between his ears – you pick!
A surprisingly high number of 99 crews made it to the finish from a field of 129 starters but that number would have been far less without the sterling efforts of those hundreds of service crew members who worked tirelessly to straighten and repair bent and broken metal. Quite a few runners managed to limp or crawl out of stages to reach help or were towed out and able to rejoin ahead of the next Leg thanks to the spanner wielding army.
As the crews gathered on Friday afternoon in southern Argyll, great clouds appeared in the sky – of midges! The little perishers had a field day with the poor Marshals stuck to their posts proving to be prime fodder for the bloodthirsty little beggars. Then the rain came, but being sodden and squelchy was much more preferable to being sooked bloodless and left itching.
The wind and rain eased overnight but it was still blustery and showery on Saturday morning for the second Leg and cleared up to an almost summery day in the afternoon for the final Leg. Let battle commence.
The auld gits (them again!!) will tell you that rallies can’t be won on ‘city centre’ tests, but they can be lost. And so it was, as fifty three seconds after the rally start in Dunoon town centre came the first retirement when Barry Groundwater’s Mitsubishi Lancer locked up and slid into a pole puncturing the oil cooler and radiator. Neil Roskell almost joined him, but his Fiesta R5’s progress was arrested by a more forgiving bale!
The short two and half mile third test at Kinlochruel introduced crews to the first of the ‘proper’ closed road stages where Mark Kelly and Will Atkins excelled, their Fiesta R5 setting fastest time, one second clear of David Bogie. Only two seconds slower and making up for his earlier misdemeanour was Neil Roskell with Andrew Roughead while Freddie Milne and Patrick Walsh were off to a quick but steady start in the Ford Fiesta R5, fourth quickest.
Gordon Morrison and Hannah Mckillop were surprisingly quick out of the blocks in the two previous short tests and were maintaining that in their Ford Fiesta R5 sharing fifth fastest with the Fiesta Rally2 of Rory Young and Allan Cathers now that they were in open country.
It all went wrong for early leader Kelly on the 14 mile Otter Ferry test where many of the crews faced extremely difficult weather conditions. Some said these were the worst blustery winds and heavy rain squalls they had ever faced before. Kelly crashed out, the Fiesta caught out by lashing rain and a slippery surface. Freddie Milne almost joined him, the Fiesta R5 clattering a stone wall: “Both wheels took the brunt of it absolutely side on and just knocked the tracking out,” said Freddie, “had we hit it at an angle we would have taken out a corner, but it was almost the ‘perfect hit’ if there can be such a thing!”
Daniel Harper’s bid for victory in the MINI was scuppered with fuel pump failure just yards from the stage finish: “We could see the stage finish but the Marshals wouldn’t allow us to push the car over the line.”
Only three crews were under 14 minutes for the 14 mile stage. I’ll leave you to work out the speed average, but remember this was in the dark and the wet. Fierce stuff. Ideal territory for that man Bogie but only four seconds behind was Roskell and considering his relative lack of experience compared to those around him this was a mighty impressive time.
The only other crew under 14 minutes were Steve Wood and Dale Bowen in their Fiesta WRC. Henderson and Young tied on fourth quickest ahead of the Lancer Evo9 of Michael Binnie and Claire Mole and Mull regulars Jonathan Mounsey and Richard Wardle in the Ford Fiesta Rally2.
It was John Rintoul in the MINI who put things in perspective: “I couldn’t see a thing. The rain was so heavy the lights were just blinding back at us. Perhaps if we had those new Lazer lights it might have helped, but it was horrendous.” At least he had lights, when Willie Paterson went to switch on his spotlights, nothing happened, and he had to drive through on headlamps.
Mark McCulloch skelped a wall with the Proton but only knocked the tracking out, although
Andy Scott fared worse in the Hyundai: “I got two wheels on the grass – but it was covering a ditch! We tried to power out but it just got deeper and the car bellied out. No damage, but stuck.”
Darren Atkinson in the Escort Mk2 also lost time in here: “We were caught and passed by a Mitsubishi Lancer, but as it passed us the anti-lag or something backfired and covered our windscreen in oil!” Escort Mk2 driver James MacGillivray was hopeful: “It was just like Mull, but then it all went wrong. The screen misted up, the wipers failed and we had no intercom.”
Saturday morning dawned wet and blustery with Milne and Patrick Walsh determined to get back into the fight, fastest by five seconds over Glendaruel 1 from Bogie with Henderson posting his intentions, just a second down on the MINI. Having dropped half a minute on last night’s final wet and dark test, Morrison was back on form in daylight, fourth quickest ahead of three crews sharing fifth fastest time with John Stone and Tom Woodburn in the Polo R5 joining a re-starting Harper and Binnie.
Five seconds separated Bogie and Henderson through Bealach Maim 1 with Milne in full flight on their tails. Behind them, Binnie led Harper, Morrison and Stone. Wayne Sisson came to grief in here putting the Lancer off the road, and stuck fast while Hugh Brunton was struggling with a slipping clutch through here and the next stage too.
Milne hit the front in Loch Fyne 1, two seconds ahead of Bogie tying with Henderson whose Fiesta finished the stage with a bent front rim after striking a stone just a mile into the test. Both Harper and Binnie shared fourth quickest just two seconds behind them. Morrison rounded off the top six, but only just, Hugh Brunton was beginning to find his form as he and Drew Sturrock were only a second adrift of Morrison in their Fiesta R5.
It wasn’t that Rory Young was getting any slower, it’s just that the opposition was gaining ground on him. He could only manage tenth quickest behind Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry in the Proton Evo sharing eighth quickest time with Scott Macbeth and Daniel Forsyth in the Evo9. In fact, just eight seconds covered fourth place to tenth, that’s how close it all was.
Missing out was Roskell: “I punctured both tyres on one side which then burst a brake line – and I didn’t realise till I tried to brake for a corner.” At least he survived.
Henderson scored his first fastest time over the technical Whistlefield 1 test before the crews headed back to service but Bogie was only three seconds slower and one up on Milne. Harper, Stone and Brunton were all tied on third quickest time with Macbeth on their tails ahead of Young, Stone and Morrison.
The same four stages were re-run for the afternoon Leg but the rain had stopped and the sun had come out to play – and speeds increased.
Milne’s attack was re-ignited right after lunch, fastest by eight seconds over SS9, Glendaruel 2 from Henderson where Bogie wasn’t even third fastest – he was third equal fastest with Binnie charging up the ranks in the Lancer. However, Henderson was hit with a one minute penalty for striking a chicane. Harper and Brunton shared fifth fastest ahead of Macbeth taking five seconds out of the tying Young, Stone and Morrison. Things were just getting crazier and crazier.
Into Stage 10 for the second run through Bealach Maim 2 and Bogie hit back, but only three seconds covered him, Henderson and Milne with Binnie still flying the standard for ‘old’ technology. Harper managed to put some air between him and the pursuit but by only three seconds from Brunton with Roskell back on the pace alongside Young and Macbeth with McCulloch pushing to get in on the act. Kevin Crawford’s rally ended in here when the Lancer clipped a rock and broke a wheel.
It all went wrong for Milne in the penultimate test at Loch Fyne 2. A puncture cost over a minute meaning there was now a gap on the podium steps but would it be second or third? “I got the puncture on a downhill section and tried to manage it, but we hit a big jump and the tyre came off the rim. We had a mighty spin, but got away with it,” said Freddie.
After his penalty Henderson was on a mission setting fastest stage time by ten seconds from a fast improving and mighty impressive Brunton. Bogie tied with Harper and Binnie who said: “I thoroughly enjoyed that. There was s series of jumps in there and I was all set for the third one taking huge air. It landed heavily, but I got away with it.” He was still quicker than Macbeth who lost his intercom on the start line, McCulloch with a spongy brake pedal, Morrison and Young.
But rounding off the top ten was a soul stirring streak of yellow bursting through the Argyll peninsula greenery. Scoring for the 2WD/RWD brigade was the Mk2 Escort of Greg McKnight and Calum MacPherson sharing tenth equal fastest with the Evo6 of Graeme McVicar and Andrew Forbes.
The best story of the rally was told by John Stone who went off in the VW: “We thought we were out, but as we sat there this big gang of spectators came charging over the hill. It was like a scene out of Braveheart where the Scots are charging the English. We thought we were done for – but they lifted the car out and sent us on our way. It was thanks to them we finished!”
As they waited at the start line ahead of the final stage through Whistlefield 2 Bogie was chatting with Binnie who was wondering whether to attack or stay safe. Bogie’s advice? “Drive it like a hire car – you know nothing is fast as has a hire car!”
As the cars pulled up to the lights, Bogie and Henderson were still fairly secure in the top two places, but there were no let up in this madcap chase for glory. Third was still up for grabs between Binnie, Milne and Young.
Henderson rounded off his day with another fastest time ahead of Bogie tying with Brunton while Roskell was tying with Harper for third quickest time ahead of Morrison and Milne, but Binnie had taken another two seconds out of Young to ensure the final podium place.
At the finish, Young was the first to congratulate Binnie on a stirring drive: “Fair play to Michael, there was nothing I could do about those times,” said fifth placed Young who finished four seconds behind Milne. A somewhat disconsolate Gordon Morrison was sixth overall. After a promising start, he lost ground: “I don’t know what’s wrong, we need some changes to the set-up, it’s not taking the jumps too well or landing very well.”
Macbeth finished a stirring seventh ahead of a recovering Roskell: “I think I was lucky to make it over the finish line, but I loved it. Good event, ” said Neil. Hugh Brunton was better pleased, he finished 9th overall: “I’m still not where I want to be, but it’s going the right way.”
Completing the top ten order were Greg McKnight and Calum Macpherson and first of the two wheel drive runners after a mesmerising run over 12 stages. Equally impressive were Stephen Thompson and Larry Higton, second of the 2WD brigade in their Mk2, with both McKnight and Thompson doing remarkably well given their lack of recent seat time.
Once again, the pace of the Peugeot 208 Rally4 in the hands of Peter Stewart and Harry Marchbank was spellbinding, 19th overall and mixing it with some serious heavyweight company. And didn’t Kev Dunn and Sean Douglas do well in the Honda Civic finishing 25th overall and 2nd in class behind the Escort Mk2 of Brad Cole and Jamie Vaughan?
Finishing just outside the top ten was a disappointed Jonathan Mounsey: “My main aim was to hang on to a top ten finish,” but he lost time in Glendaruel 2, “we had a big off over a crest into a ditch, I just kept it pinned, turned into the ditch, power on and drove out. That crest caught out a lot of other folk who went off.”
In second place overall a pleased Henderson commented: “Today was all about regaining confidence in the new car after last night. It was really challenging last night, we were never sure where there was grip, and where there was no grip.””
As for the victor: “It was all about staying away from trouble. The stages were very good, but very tricky. The misfire hasn’t quite been cured yet but it didn’t really cost us any time, although that’s the last time I’ll be out in the MINI, we’ve got a Fiesta Rally2 for the RSAC Scottish!”
1 David Bogie/Cameron Fair (Mini JCW WRC) 53mins 44secs
2 David Henderson/Chris Lees (Ford Fiesta R5) +1m 13s
3 Michael Binnie/Claire Mole (Mitsubishi Evo9) +1m 34s
4 Freddie Milne/Patrick Walsh (Ford Fiesta R5) +1m 58s
5 Rory Young/Allan Cathers (Ford Fiesta Rally2) +2m 02s
6 Gordon Morrison/Hannah Mckillop (Ford Fiesta R5) +2m 19s
7 Scott Macbeth/Daniel Forsyth (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +2m 34s
8 Neil Roskell/Andrew Roughead (Ford Fiesta R5) +2m 35s
9 Hugh Brunton/Drew Sturrock (Ford Fiesta R5) +3m 09s
10 Greg McKnight/Calum MacPherson (Ford Escort Mk2) +3m 38s
C1: Simon Hunter/Howard Pridmore (Vauxhall Corsa); C2: Scott Gourlay/Roger Alcorn (Peugeot 205); C3: Keith Riddick/Mairi Riddick (MG ZR); C4: Jonathan Stepney/Aled Davies (Peugeot 205); C5: Geoff Roberts/Callum Young (Ford Escort RS1800); C6: Peter Stewart/Harry Marchbank (Peugeot 208 Rally4); C7: Stephen Thompson/Larry Higton (Ford Escort Mk2); C8: McKnight/MacPherson; C9: Alasdair S Graham/Kenny McGuire (Mitsubishi Evo); C10: Binnie/Mole; C11: Bogie/Fair