… Mach1 Stages Rally, 9/10 July 2022 …
Derek McGarrity was the first to raise the question: “Where is everybody?” He and Graham Henderson romped to victory on Dunfermline CC’s Mach1 Stages Rally, the latest round of the 2022 Burnside Piling Scottish Tarmack Rally Championship. He had been hoping for a tougher challenge but the previous weekend’s McRae Rally Challenge at Knockhill and the following weekend’s thrash at the new Kinloss venue had decimated the competition with quite a few folk opting out of the Campbeltown festival.
As I stood there on Saturday evening at the end of Day and ahead of Day 2, can of lager in hand, talking to two horses (that’s another story) and looking out across the vast expanse of the Machrihanish site, I just thought rallying has got itself into an awfy state at present. Both horses nodded in assent but seemed to say “Nay” in disagreement! Oh, please yourselves.
There was however some serious opposition for Derek to face, but it wilted over the 97 miles of stages divided up into 12 stages, 8 on Saturday and 4 long ones on Sunday. By close of play on Sunday afternoon the white VW Polo GTi had a six minute winning margin over the pursuit led by John Bradley and Ryan Crozier who grabbed second place in their Ford Escort Mk2 ahead of the father and daughter duo, Andy and Karen Horne in their Darrian T90.
Admittedly it did look for a wee while as though there might be a Northern Irish 1,2,3, on the podium but a mistake on the opening stage on Sunday morning saw Michael McGarrity and Damien Garvey in their Hyundai i20 R5 do an extra lap which incurred a penalty, and they dropped to sixth place.
They had been fighting hard with Greg Inglis and Ian Parker in the Lotus Exige, but second place was assured when Michael took the wrong route at the Merge. Or was it? This is rallying, right? On the next stage, the Lotus snapped a driveshaft. With no chance of a repair this late in the event, the boys were out.
Last year Bradley finished 7th, this time he was runner-up with a 2 litre ‘red top’ in an Escort that looked like it had been gulping down a Red Bull, STP, Lucozade Sport and aviation fuel mixture! I asked him if he had a nine speed gearbox instead. Seriously he was quick and tidy, although he was losing time out of the corners and on the straights, but he was into and through the corners like a whippet after a rabbit.
Andy and Karen Horne weren’t that far behind, the Darrian well suited to the wide open spaces and fast sweepers of Machrihanish, and there was a touch of the old style Andy at times with grass poking out some of the tattered front air dam edges at close of play having spun off just after the start of stage 9!
Michael Harbour and Ian MacDougall were fourth in their Mk2 and although they had a mostly trouble free run, ‘young’ Michael was obviously working hard as he was spotted having a power nap across the front seats of the van on Saturday afternoon!
Having “messed about with tyres on Saturday, we got it right for Sunday” said Darren Nugent and Peter Johnson who finished fifth in their Escort Mk2 on their first visit to the venue just ahead of the penalty stricken younger McGarrity.
The Mk2 of Graham Bruce and David Aitken needed a knackered rear wheel bearing replaced on Saturday evening ready for Sunday and finished seventh overall ahead of the best fight of the weekend between Jamie Miller and Ian McCulloch, and David McIntyre and Paul Toner. They finished their weekend ONE second apart after 97 miles of stages in almost identical Citroen C2 R2s!
It would be funny if it wasn’t so ironic, but on the Sunday morning class leading David said: “Can you imagine me saying I have to ‘manage’ a 20 second lead over Jamie? After all the troubles I’ve had with the car, to come here and be leading him by 20 seconds!”
Having changed a sensor on Saturday and the coil pack on Sunday morning Jamie was still shaking his head: “I’m going as hard as I can but I still can’t catch him.” Four stages later, David’s 20 second gap had disappeared into a one second lead for Jamie. Watching and listening to the French twins was worth the trip to Kintyre on its own.
Rounding off the top ten were Keith Richardson and Jackie Richardson in the Ford Escort Cosworth having crawled out of SS4 with electrical troubles in the gearbox but they were able to fix it although they lost a couple of minutes in stage.
Alister Watson and Ian Murray finished 11th in their Mk2 just ahead of the 1.4 litre class winning Rover Metro of Innes and Kirsty Mochrie. Like the wee Citroens, the Metro scooted round Machrihanish like a starving midge chasing a fat, sweaty tourist.
Despite all that, victory was never in doubt with Derek making up for last year’s misfortune when he failed to finish with gearbox troubles. “It was good to be back and finish the job,” he said, “I really like the stages here, this is a superb venue for a rally – and the road trip getting here is worth half the craic in its own right!” Fifth time out in the Volkswagen, he added: “This is the best car I’ve ever driven. I’ve done four events with it now and this is just another shakedown ahead of the final round of the NI series, the Down Rally in two weeks time.”
Perhaps the saddest tale of the lot was Andrew Fraser’s. He and Richard Walters had made the 450 mile trip from the Midlands with their Darrian T9V6 having heard tales of the venue from arch rival Bruce Edwards. Andrew and Bruce had enjoyed regular epic tussles on the English asphalt series at Millbrook and such like, so he was encouraged to visit Scotland. It all started so well with second quickest time on the opening stage on Saturday morning, but on the second test, the Nissan V6 backfired and set alight the air filter with the resultant fire destroying the spark plug leads and melting the rocker cover. No serious damage but where do you get Nissan 370Z parts quickly in Campbeltown? Game over.
Colin Gemmell and Robert Wood were in trouble early on too with the 4WD VW Golf. Having had the front and rear diffs professionally matched and set up, the long stages proved that they weren’t quite compatible. The propshaft was removed and Colin continued in FWD mode for some suspension development runs before calling it a day.
Tom Blackwood and Gordon Winning didn’t finish either, the Ford Escort Cosworth suffering a broken hub with Tom admitting: “I may have weakened it when I slid off earlier!” Kieran O’Kane and Jane Nicol didn’t finish either, the Opel Ascona initially suffering a misfire which was traced to a bare wire but there were other electrical niggles too.
Meanwhile Andrew Blackwood and Richard Stewart were disappearing into the distance when the Class 1 leading Ford Fiesta broke it’s gearbox, not in a stage, but on the link section between stages 10 and 11. Cameron Craig and Terry Mallin were forced to retire the Peugeot 205 when the pipe into the oil cooler came out. The thread had stripped so there was no chance of repair. Christopher Smith and Amy McCubbin retired the Corsa on Sunday morning after three Maximums on the Saturday rather than spend more money on tyres.
Speaking of tyres, Phillip Jeffress and Kevin Philp were having bags of fun in the standard looking Peugeot 206 juts proving what can be done at the budget end of stage rallying: “I’ve just used one set of tyres all weekend,” said Phillip, “and swapped the fronts with the backs on Sunday morning.”
Miller and McIntyre were the only finishers in Class 2 as Jamie MacLean and Darren Clark were forced out when they couldn’t source a rotor arm for the Nova while Jim McDowall and Shona Hale retired the Escort after the clutch failed. Neither of the Hondas finished either. Craig MacIvor/Sam Smith out with a seized engine and Fraser and Phillip Smith retired when a driveshaft kept ‘popping’ out.
Ben MacDowall proved he was gentleman when he and Alison Horne pulled the BMW over to let a Darrian go by – but this was the Darrian driven by Alison’s Dad – well, what would you do? They still managed to finish 14th overall despite a slight off which buckled a wheel and punctured the tyre. Bobby MacDonald and Martin MacCabe finished 16th having had to change the rear shock absorbers on the Subaru after one seized, but they only had forest spec spares. Craig and Ross Callander finished 17th despite a Subaru which was regularly cutting out on stage. This required a switch-off and re-set before they could get going again, but still failed to find the cause.
On a happier note, there was a bit of an unusual local connection participating in the rally. Former rally driver Neil McAllister (from Campbeltown) sold his Peugeot 205 to Chris Johnson who lives near Manchester. Chris had heard so much about the rally that he made the long trip north and teamed up with Neil’s former co-driver Stephen Lang for the weekend. They finished 20th overall and 3rd in class.
And finally, Darren Nugent’s co-driver, Peter Johnson from Carlisle, arrived at Machrihanish on his bicycle. But all was not as it seemed. On further inquiry, he explained he took the train from Glasgow to Carlisle, then from Glasgow to Ardrossan and on to the ferry before getting on his bike at Campbeltown to cycle the five miles up the road to Machrihanish!!
The event was also a round of the Ecosse Junior Rally challenge and consisted of 12 stages on the SDaturday only, totalling 47 miles. It was won by Midlands based Sam Pattison over Northern Ireland’s Kalum Graffin with Scottish honour being upheld by Anstruther’s Rian Walker in third place although Oliver Phillips might have made it a four way fight had it not been for a wee mistake when he bent a bottom arm and the steering rack.
1 Derek McGarrity/Graham Henderson (Volkswagen Polo GTi) 104m 18s
2 John Bradley/Ryan Crozier (Ford Escort Mk2) +6m 28s
3 Andy Horne/Karen Horne (ianT90 GTR) +7m 51s
4 Michael Harbour/Ian MacDougall (Ford Escort Mk2) +9m 39s
5 Darren Nugent/Peter Johnson (Ford Escort Mk2) +10m 19s
6 Michael McGarrity/Damian Garvey (Hyundai i20 R5) +11m 09s
7 Graham Bruce/David Aitken (Ford Escort Mk2) +12m 17s
8 Jamie Miller/Ian McCulloch (Citroen C2R2 Max) +13m 26s
9 David McIntyre/Paul Toner (Citroen C2R2) +13m 27s
10 Keith Richardson/Jackie Richardson (Ford Escort Cosworth) +14m 00s
C1: Innes Mochrie/|Kirsty Mochrie (Rover Metro); C2: Miller/McCulloch; C3: Bradley/Crozier; C4: Horne/Horne; C5: McGarrity/Henderson
Junior 1000 Results
1 Sam Pattison/Paul Whittaker (Skoda Citigo) 60m 08s
2 Kalum Graffin/Johnnie Mackay (Škoda Citigo) +48s
3 Rian Walker/Stuart McBride (Skoda Citigo) +59s
4 Thomas Milne/Neil Jeffrey (Nissan Micra) +2m 56s
5 Evan Graham Findlay/Robin Nicolson (Peugeot 107) +3m 17s
6 Ruan Lowry/Ian McRae (Nissan Micra) +7m 34s
7 Oliver Phillips/Paul Hudson (VW Up!) +8m 40s
8 Lucy Anne Cree/Chloe Fleming (Skoda Citigo) +12m 04s