… Voyonic Grampian Forest Stages Rally, 13 August 2022 …
Rd6 (of 8) 2022 KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship …
Keith Cronin and Mikie Galvin scored a close fought victory on the Voyonic Grampian Forest Stages Rally from Osian Pryce with Noel O’Sullivan and Ruairi Bell and Max Freeman in third place. Less than 30 seconds covered the top three at the finish. Even more impressive was their overall pace as they recorded total times under 40 minutes for the 43 miles of tests.
With the British Championship contenders in charge, the top ‘home’ crews contesting the KNC Groundworks Scottish Championship were David Bogie and John Rowan in 6th place overall. Only 19 seconds behind Bogie were David Henderson and Chris Lees in 7th place with Hugh Brunton and Drew Sturrock 8th. Just losing out on a Scottish podium place were John Wink and Neil Shanks who finished 10th overall.
Four Scots crews in the top ten results was a damn good result especially since the BRC crews had the chance to recce all six stages on the Friday before the rally, a courtesy not extended to non-BRC crews. Makes you wonder how our lot might have fared had such a practice been allowed in the domestic national series!
Folk arriving at Crathes for the rally didn’t know quite what to expect weather-wise, Especially those coming from the south. Apparently the temperature dropped ten degrees on the approach to Stonehaven due to an incoming cold and damp North Sea Haar before it brightened up again as they turned inland towards Banchory.
But standing there in the warm Friday evening sunshine, the couthy figure of Ken Wood cast his eyes skyward and predicted that the haar would roll in overnight ensuring a cold damp start to Saturday. With that in mind he ensured John Wink fitted super softs to the Hyundai for the first two stages in the morning. And you know what? He was right.
Even so it was Cronin who led the charge through the first dry and stoory Durris test with the dust trails adding to the misty conditions as they clung to the trees behind the VW Polo. He was only 3 seconds quicker than Bell in the Skoda Fabia R5 and 4 quicker than Pryce in the other Polo. Garry Pearson and Dale Furniss were 4th equal quickest in the Ford Fiesta Rally2 with James Williams and Dai Roberts in the Hyundai i20 R5. The best that Bogie could manage was 7th quickest, second time out in the Fiesta Rally2, but he was only 2 seconds quicker than the Hyundai of John Wink benefitting from ‘the guru’s’ advice! Equally impressive was Brunton’s pace in the Fiesta R5, he was only a second behind Wink.
Missing from the top times and the leaderboard already was the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9 of Michael Binnie and Claire Mole. The stages were fast but very tricky with a covering of dust and pebbles which the front runners cleared. The loose stuff was swept to the track sides leaving a ‘line’ bordered by this fine material. The Scottish championship leader found this to his cost as he got two wheels on the loose and the Lancer immediately swapped ends coming to rest nose down on a banking on the other side of a ditch. A momentary lapse and hopes dashed. Perhaps the fact that he had spent two solid weeks of 15 hour days driving a 650hp combine harvester leading up the rally had something to do with that rare mistake!
Into the second stage at Drumtochty and it was Cronin again, this time by a full 6 seconds from Pryce sharing second fastest with Williams and Pearson 4th fastest. Bogie was 7th quickest again by just two seconds from Henderson in the Fiesta Rally2 with a revitalised Wink on their tails but only 2 seconds behind Wink this time was the Proton Satria Evo of Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry and a further second back was the Ford Focus WRC of Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts bedding themselves in gently on their local event.
Bruce’s brother Scott McCombie was already in trouble. First time out in his new Lancer Evo9, he and Murray Strachan were enjoying the new found power compared to the old car. On the run into service a bolt dropped out of the subframe and Scott heard it hitting the ground. They stopped quickly but there was no sign of the bolt as a quad rider came round the bend behind them. Scott flagged him down and asked him if he would go back and look. A few minutes later he returned with said bolt – in return for a small fee!
After first service, the crews headed out to the longest stage of the day, the 9.9 mile Finglenny test in Fetteresso Forest where Cronin was again fastest by 4 seconds from Bell. By this time the sun was up and burning off the sea haar, but stoor was still a big problem. Only a second slower was Pearson now getting on the leaders’s pace and ahead of Williams by one second. With Pearson taking time out of Bogie and catching his dust, David showed his class and had sportingly allowed Garry to run ahead of him. He was still fastest SRC crew setting 6th quickest time some 9 seconds faster than Henderson, but only one second behind the Fiesta was the orange Subaru Impreza of Jock Armstrong and Cammy Fair sharing 9th fastest stage time with the Hyundai R5 of Alan Carmichael and Arthur Kierans.
McCulloch had cause to feel relieved: “The tail slid out on a long left hander and hit a bale which bounced it back on to the road – but it was a good job the bale was there. It was protecting a concrete bridge parapet, otherwise we’d have been in the river!”
The 4th stage at Scare Hill was a re-run of Drumtochty. This time Price and Bell shared fastest time, 2 seconds clear of Williams with Cronin and Pearson equal fourth fastest but only 3 seconds behind the top two. Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke shared Bogie’s sixth fastest time as he again was fastest of the Scots with Henderson 4 seconds adrift but ahead of Brunton tying with Carmichael for 10th quickest. Wink and McCulloch were still in touch with the leaders setting 12th and 14th fastest times
Missing from the time sheets this time was Armstrong, the Subaru pulling up at the end of SS4 with low oil pressure, but worse befell Willie Paterson and Tom Hynd. The Lancer tumbled off the road on the outside of a long, fast right hander ending up below the level of the road and almost out of sight. It was a violent incident causing the rescue services to spring into action and the crew were taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. Tom was released in the afternoon and Willie that evening.
After the second and final Service it was back to Durris for the Strathgyle Wood stage where Cronin was back at the top of the time sheets but by only a second from the tying Pryce and Bell. Only 3 seconds behind Cronin were the top Scots, Bogie and Henderson sharing third fastest time and showing what might have been had they had the opportunity to recce the stages ahead of the first pass. Wink was back on song with Brunton just 3 seconds slower than this pairing while McCulloch’s perseverance with his Proton setup was 10th fastest through the stage and 5th fastest of the ‘home’ crews.
Sadly, Garry Pearson’s promising BRC points scoring run was ruined when he got two wheels on the loose, slid wide and clipped a banking with the Fiesta coming to rest in a boggy ditch, perhaps the only boggy ditch in the parched wilderness, some luck, eh? Bruce McCombie was also forced to call it quits at the end of this one after an encouraging run. He had been struggling in the previous stage with gear selection but when the Focus got stuck in 5th that was him out.
Into the final stage, the 8.7 mile Hurlie Bog test featuring some commonality with the earlier run through Fetteresso, Cronin again stamped his authority on the chasing pack with fastest time by 3 seconds from Pryce and a full 15 seconds clear of Bell who had inadvertently spent some time amongst the trees. It was Henderson this time who led the ‘home’ crews, taking 2 seconds out of Bogie, setting 6th and 7th fastest stage times with the Lancer Evo6 of Scott Beattie and Peredur Davies poking its nose into the top ten fastest times. Beattie admitted to a cautious start after his bump and big repair job on the Speyside three months ago and just got quicker on each stage gradually working his way back up the leaderboard to finish in 13th place overall.
And just when he thought he was on for the best result of his season and a possible SRC podium finish, John Wink lost any hope of catching Hugh Brunton when the Hyundai’s turbo failed. Mark McCulloch almost caught Wink in that final stage as development of the Proton Satria Evo continues but had to settle for fourth placed SRC points just outside the top ten while Angus Lawrie and Paul Gribben scored top SRC Challenger points in 12th place overall in the Evo9 just holding off the Evo6 of Beattie and Davies by two seconds.
With Kyle White’s demise in the BRC event, the top 2WD runner on the day was again Peter Stewart with Harry Marchbank in the Peugeot 208, the FWD machine just having the edge on the rear wheel drive Ford Escort Mk2 of Stuart Egglestone and Brian Hodgson. Steve Bannister and Callum Atkinson were on the pace too as those three finished 18th, 19th and 20th respectively on what they regarded as a very tricky and slippery day in the north east forests.
The hot, sweaty and stoor covered crews returned to Crathes where a perspiring CLO was heard to mutter: “This heat is enough to make Aberdeen folk believe in global warming after all!” It had indeed been a very trying and exhausting day for many of the crews inside their high speed ovens. but the Scots can be well pleased with their performances against the ‘furrin invaders’.
However, the pressure has now increased on both Bogie and Binnie. To claim the 2022 title Bogie needs a maximum point score on the Galloway Hills while Binnie needs to win both Galloway and Carlisle to be in with a chance. That’s because Bogie won’t be at Carlisle. He has another very important engagement on his mind: “I’ll miss the Carlisle Stages, my brother Stephen is getting married that weekend – in Brazil!”
Overall Results 1 Keith Cronin/Mikie Galvin (Volkswagen Polo) 39m 12s 2 Osian Pryce/Noel O'Sullivan (Volkswagen Polo GT R5) +21s 3 Ruairi Bell/Max Freeman (Skoda Fabia R5) +29s 4 James Williams /Dai Roberts (Hyundai i20 R5) +1m 12s 5 Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke (VW Polo R5) +1m 38s 6 David Bogie/John Rowan (Ford Fiesta Rally2) +1m 46s 7 David Henderson/Chris Lees (Ford Fiesta Rally2) +2m 05s 8 Hugh Brunton/Drew Sturrock (Ford Fiesta R5) +2m 35s 9 Alan Carmichael/Arthur Kierans (Hyundai i20 R5) +2m 49s 10 John Wink/Neil Shanks (Hyundai i20 R5) +3m 01s Scottish Championship Results 1 David Bogie/John Rowan (Ford Fiesta Rally2) 40m 58s 2 David Henderson/Chris Lees (Ford Fiesta Rally2) +19s 3 Hugh Brunton/Drew Sturrock (Ford Fiesta R5) +49s 4 John Wink/Neil Shanks (Hyundai i20 R5) +1m 15s 5 Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry (Proton Satria Evo 2000) +1m 21s 6 Angus Lawrie/Paul Gribben (Mitsubushi Lancer E9) +1m 53s 7 Scott Beattie/Peredur Davies (Mitsubishi Lancer E9) +1m 55s 8 Robert Adamson/Jamie Edwards (Ford Fiesta Rally2) +3m 17s 9 Peter Stewart/Harry Marchbank (Peugeot 208 Rally4) +3m55s 10 Stuart Egglestone/Brian Hodgson (Ford Escort Mk2) +4m 19s SRC Class C1: Robert Tonge/James Hudson (MG ZR) C2: Chris Baillie/Brian Foggo (MG ZR) C3: Colin Patterson/Gary Clark (Ford Escort Mk2) C5: Mike Moates/Gary McDonald (Subaru Impreza) M2: Keith Riddick/Mairi Riddick (MG ZR) M4: John Crawford/Josh Davison (Ford Escort Mk2) M5: Allan MacDowall/Mark Casey (Ford Escort Mk2) M6: Simon Hay/Calum Jaffray (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo6) M7: Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry (Proton Satria Evo) Pro2: Peter Stewart/Harry Marchbank (Peugeot 208 Rally4) Pro4: Bogie/Rowan H1: Stuart Egglestone/Brian Hodgson (Ford Escort Mk2) H2: Steve Bannister/Callum Atkinson (Ford Escort Mk2) [Fastest Stage Times]