… RSAC Scottish Stages Rally, Sat 20 May,
Rd04, ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship …
Who’d have thought it, from stoor to glaur in 24 hours, but then again, this is Scotland. In all its natural majesty and glory. Having tested in dry and stoory conditions on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning the Nat B teams woke to torrential rain on Saturday morning. Overnight what had been fast and flowing now became slimy and slithery.
The Nat A crews had already contested two stages on the Friday night and the rumour mill was working overtime with regard to conditions and punctures as the BRC runners were joined by the SRC folk on Saturday morning. Fortunately, the rockiest conditions were confined to the Greskine test on the north west side of Ae on the Friday evening, but they would still play a decisive role on Saturday.
Although registered SRC competitors were allowed to contest either event, those doing the Nat A rally were not allowed to take part in the Friday stage recce, and only their stage times from SS3 to SS8 would count. These times would then be taken and inserted into the SRC finishing order to determine championship points. Simples, eh? On that basis I will leave it to sharper minds than mine to work out the points afterwards!
Jock Armstrong and Paula Swinscoe set the pace from the start. Fastest through Twiglees by 5 seconds from Shaun Sinclair and Jamie Edwards. “I was expecting to see more big rocks,” said Jock, “I thought the ‘big’ cars would have pulled a lot out cutting the corners, but conditions were remarkably good apart from being wet and slippery.”
Greg McKnight was quick out the box too, he and Laura Marshall only a second behind the Sinclair Subaru and a good 8 seconds up on Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry. Rory Young/Allan Cathers and Freddie Milne/Jane Nicol filled the next two places while Mike Faulkner finished outside the top six fastest times. “I went for hard tyres,” said Mike, “wrong choice. We were off for about 30 seconds at the first bend on the first stage. The surface was wet and the tyres were cold, and we just locked up and slid off. It was a silly mistake. There was just no braking at all till the tyres warmed up.”
It was Armstrong again across the road in Castle O’er by 8 seconds, this time from McCulloch with McKnight another 2 seconds adrift. Sinclair was only fourth fastest but ahead of Faulkner and Young. Michael Binnie survived a scare in here: “I went for the handbrake at one corner,” said Michael, “and – nothing! We got away with it and the brakes came back later in the stage. Iain Wilson reckons it was just ‘pad knock-off’.” Worse befell Fraser Wilson when his Lancer was halted after a rock smashed his oil filter and Ian Baumgart’s run was curtailed when a bottom ball joint sheared off the front o/s corner of the Subaru and the wheel fell off.
A stage time less than 2 seconds behind Armstrong moved McKnight into second place overall after the third stage on the south side of Ae Forest. Sinclair was third quickest from McCulloch, Faulkner and Milne completing the top six fastest times, but it all went wrong on the other side of the main road.
The Windy Hill fourth test punctured quite a few ambitions. Particularly hard hit was McKnight. A punctured tyre ripped out the inner wheel arch lining and cut through the electrical wiring stopping the Lancer in its tracks. Mark McCulloch also lost out with a puncture leaving Sinclair secure in second although coming under pressure from Faulkner who was only 3 seconds behind Armstrong in that stage. Rory Young was getting up to speed too, third quickest behind Faulkner, then Sinclair and Milne, but making their first appearance in the top six was the Evo5 of Michael Binnie and Claire Mole.
The penultimate stage featured a return to Twiglees and with Armstrong now half a minute clear of the opposition, a more prudent approach was called for. He was just third quickest while Sinclair was fastest but pondering what might have been: “I’m just not committing enough, quite a few times I found myself thinking I should have been up a gear through that corner” said Shaun, “there’s a fine line between driving and crashing, and I haven’t quite found it yet.” Even so, Faulkner was less than a second behind him and 12 seconds up on Armstrong. McCulloch, Young and Milne rounded off the top six as Iain Wilson pulled off to the side of the road. The Subaru had lost all drive, possibly the diff.
Having made some set-up changes at final service Rory Young was fastest in his Fiesta R5 through the final test at Castle O’er, but it wasn’t enough to catch Faulkner whose ‘catch-up’ pace ensured a third place finish ahead of the Fiesta driver. “There was just no grip out there at all today,” said Rory, “I don’t know where the rest of them are finding it but the changes helped over the last two stages.” The two of them were 0.2 seconds apart through that final, mad, wet Castle O’er dash! McCulloch was just over a second behind this flying pair with Armstrong happy enough with fourth quickest ahead of Sinclair and Milne.
Young failed to close the gap on Faulkner and finished just off the podium, but ahead of a rather fortunate McCulloch: “We punctured another tyre just towards the end of the stage,” said Mark, “and we were late booking into the Final Control. We were penalised 10 seconds so it didn’t cost us any places.” Freddie Milne was well pleased with his result after his big accident on this event last year: “I’m still just concentrating on my pace rather than outright speed,” said Freddie.
Newcomer Michael Binnie scored his best result so far in his elderly Lancer Evo5 with seventh overall, also winning the Challenger’s category, just ahead of Scott McCombie and Simon Hay. “The Ae stages were good,” said Scott, “but I didn’t like Castle O’er, or maybe that was just me.” As for a smiling Simon Hay at the finish: “I hit one chicane and had to reverse out of another,” he said, “the chicanes were just a bit tight for the Lancer.”
Dougal Brown was highest 2WD runner in his Escort Mk2 in an excellent tenth place overall after a great battle with Mike Stuart and Steve Bannister. And that was despite a last minute scare: “The car refused to start at the last stage,” said Brown, “we took all the plugs out and cleaned them and noticed it was losing water too. So we topped it up and just went for it!”
Stuart also admitted to a slight error: “I left the handbrake on at the start of one of the stages,” he said, while Bannister was happy enough with the Class win in his Historic spec Mk2 and third behind the more ‘modern’ Mk2s ahead of him.
There was a nail-biting finish to the 1600cc class runners too with Mike Riddick’s MG ZR just taking the class from Angus Lawrie who had been leading all day till the final stage. He knocked the rear n/s wheel off the Corsa and yet somehow managed to get it back to the rally finish, albeit late, incurring a 1m 20s penalty which cost him the class win. Scott MacBeth lost out when his Citroen struck a rock, bent the bottom arm and the steering in Ae.
At the finish the rain was still falling as Jock Armstrong sprayed the winner’s champagne, although Euan Thorburn took top ARR Craib Scottish Championship points. That means there is no change at the top of the championship leaderboard after 4 rounds, with Thorburn carrying a 5 point lead into the new ‘Dunoon Presents Argyll’ event next month ahead of Armstrong and Faulkner.
Results: RSAC Scottish Rally – National B
1 Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) 42m 45.3s
2 Shaun Sinclair/Jamie Edwards (Subaru Impreza WRC) 43m 09.0s
3 Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer E9) 43m 27.7s
4 Rory Young/Allan Cathers (Ford Fiesta R5) 43m 37.0s
5 Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry (Mitsubishi Lancer E9) 43m 59.9s
6 Freddie Milne/Jane Nicol (Mitsubishi E9) 44m 15.9s
7 Michael Binnie/Claire Mole (Mitsubishi E5) 45m 08.4s
8 Scott McCombie/Mark Fisher (Mitsubishi E9) 45m 42.2s
9 Simon Hay/Calum Jaffray (Mitsubishi E6) 46m 17.4s
10 Dougal Brown/Lewis Rochford (Ford Escort Mk2) 46m 35.5s
11 Mike Stuart/Sinclair Young (Escort Mk2) 47m 17.9s
12 Steve Bannister/Callum Atkinson (Escort Mk2) 47m 21.0s
13 John McIlwraith/Heather Grisedale (Impreza GC8) 48m14.2s
14 Keith Riddick/Mairi Riddick (MG ZR) 48m 33.9s
15 Angus Lawrie/Paul Gribben (Vauxhall Corsa) 48m 52.3s
16 Sean Will/Ashleigh Will (Evo) 48m 58.6s
17 Paul McErlean/Niall McKenna (Escort Mk2) 49m 23.0s
18 Ross McFadzean/Shona Hale (Impreza) 50m 29.2s
19 Alex Pirie/Frazer Skene (Citroën C2) 50m 58.6s
20 Hamish Kinloch/Mark Grierson (Escort Mk2) 51m 37.0s
Class 1: John Rowan/Bridget Rowan (Talbot Sunbeam) 60m 25.1s
Class 2: Robbie Beattie/Dave Findlay (Peugeot 205 GTI) 51m 54.7s
Class 3: Riddick/Riddick
Class 5: Bannister/Atkinson
Class 6: Luke McLaren/Phil Kenny (Fiesta ST) 52m 01.8s
Class 7: Brown/Rochford
Class 10: Binnie/Mole
Class 11: Armstrong/Swinscoe
Class 12: Sinclair/Edwards