Dunoon presents Argyll Rally, Saturday 22 June 2019
Round 5 (of 7) – KNC Groundworks Motorsport UK Scottish Rally Championship
And so to Cowal. Famous for oysters, rhododendrons, sprites and fairies, and of course midges, not to mention rallying. It was here that Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton returned to their winning ways in Argyll, after their hiccup on the Scottish, when they won the Dunoon presents Argyll Rally in their Ford Focus WRC05, but just like Dumfries they had a fight on their hands. For 4 of the 8 stages Garry Pearson and Dale Bowen led the way in their Ford Fiesta R5.
As the Cowal peninsula basked in sunshine, and with the sound of cannon-fire (honest!) ringing in their lug holes, competitors in the 2WD machines led the field away ahead of the 4WD contingent from the rally start at the picturesque pier in Dunoon.
The Glenbranter test opened proceedings, winding its way up one side of a glen and zig zagging down the other with Thorburn and Pearson inseparable at the end of it. John Wink and Neil Shanks were second quickest in the Hyundai i20 R5 ahead of Michael Binnie and Claire Mole in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9. Fifth quickest and not too happy were Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts in their ’02 WRC Focus: “It stalled on the start line, again” said McCombie, “It did it on Speyside and the Scottish but I practiced this week at home and it was fine, then this morning. Stalled. I don’t know whether it’s me or it!” First time out in an Evo9, Keith Morris was getting used to the extra power:”I spun it in the first stage,” said Keith, “this is a big learning curve,” adding, “It’s very bouncey so it needs to be set up, I hadn’t driven it before today.”
Things changed dramatically in the next test at Corrie Ealt overlooking Loch Eck. Pearson suddenly appeared at the top of the Time Sheets with a 21 second lead over Thorburn. That was down to a front wheel puncture picked up by the Focus driver: “I blame myself,” said Thorburn, “I thought it was soft at the start of the first stage and again at the start of the second. With hindsight I should have changed the wheel.” That meant McCombie filled the number 2 slot by just one second ahead of a flying Binnie. Just as they did on the Scottish, Thomas Gray and Harry Marchbank were showing excellent pace too, just 3 seconds behind Binnie and ahead of the slowed Thorburn, but he was still second overall. John Wink rounded off the top six but was just beginning to find out this was the start of a not so good day. The Hyundai had developed a mind of its own in that stage with the back end swaying about a like a tea clipper in a gale. So too had John Rintoul’s Fabia: “It stalled at a hairpin and wouldn’t re-start, Ross had to get out and put his hand over the cam sensor, and as if by magic, it started!” Over 2 minutes was lost, so any chance of a top ten result had gone.
In the next test at Gairletter, Thorburn took a second back from Pearson who was up for the fight. McCombie was next quickest again but had resorted to just “driving off the stage starts and not using his Launch Control”. Wink and Gray tied on 4th quickest, with a returning John McClory first time out this year in the Lancer with David Hood and that was despite no intercom on the first two tests. They beat Binnie by 3 seconds, but he was in trouble. He had damaged a driveshaft and a bottom arm and was trying to nurse the Evo9 till he got back to service: “I’m puzzled, I didn’t hit anything,” said Michael, “it was still driving but noisy and the wheel was pushed back into the arch.”
Thorburn shifted up a gear in the 4th test at Bishops Glen pulling back 14 seconds on Pearson in just over 6 miles. McCombie was a lonely third with Gray, the best of the rest ahead of Wink and Binnie tying with Keith Morris/Terry Mallin as Keith gained familiarity with, and confidence in, his new mount.
The afternoon run featured a re-run of the first four stages which meant that at the half way point of the rally, Pearson was still leading, but by only 6 seconds from Thorburn, with McCombie a full minute behind the rally leader. Wink was in 4th place and puzzled. The Hyundai was switching itself between 2WD and 4WD mode with the team eventually concluding that the electronic switch which controlled the handbrake and rear diff was faulty. That led to some interesting ‘moments’ mid stage.
Back in Glenbranter, Thorburn kept up the pressure, 4 seconds quicker than Pearson and McCombie a further 9 seconds back but ahead of Binnie with a ‘bodged’ bottom arm, Gray and Wink.
Thorburn recovered the rally lead in the 6th test at Corrie Ealt, where he was a full 56 seconds faster than Pearson. It was Garry’s turn to have a puncture! “There was no point in stopping to change,” said Garry, “but it did give me a serious problem getting round right handers.” He was still second overall but McCombie was still almost half a minute adrift. The star turn in here was Iain Wilson in the Mk2. With Chris Williams calling the notes, Wilson was flying, adding: “You don’t realise how good these stages are till you get on them with a car like this.” Gray and Dickson tied on 5th quickest behind him with Paul McErlean and Niall McKenna revelling in the conditions, 7th fastest in their Mk2.
If anyone thought Garry would have given up, they don’t know the Borderers. The Reivers blood was boiling through both their veins with Euan and Garry tying on an identical fastest time in Gairletter ahead of McCombie, Binnie, a tying Wink and Gray, and Dickson.
The final test at Bishops Glen allowed a glimpse of the competition from the service area far below with trails of stoor drifting up the hillsides, showing where the cars were and highlighting their speeding progress as it rose in clouds above the trees. Even with almost a minute in hand over the pursuit, Thorburn didn’t let up setting a faster time than Pearson by 8 seconds. McCombie was just as secure, third fastest ahead of Binnie, Wink and Gray as the convoy made its way back down the mountain to the Dunoon Stadium and the finish.
Thorburn led the parade around the infield ahead of Pearson and McCombie with Binnie a somewhat relieved 5th having spent each service “welding additional bits of metal on to the arm just to keep it going.” Thomas Gray can be well chuffed with his career best finish, commenting: “There’s an awful lot of jumps here, we seemed to spend a lot of time in the air.” He finished 5th overall ahead of Wink who has some work to do to sort out the Hyundai’s electrical problems.
Alan Dickson finished 7th in his Evo9 despite a puncture in SS6 saying: “That last stage was beautiful, it had a bit of everything.” Iain Wilson evoked memories of old ‘Burmahs’ with his Escort Mk2 singing its sonorous song up and down the glens as he finished an impressive 8th. Magic. Also going very well was 9th placed Ian Baumgart who also punctured a tyre in his Subaru on SS6 while Mark McCulloch completed the top ten first time out in his newly acquired Mk2, but he was a knackered wee boy by the finish: “There’s no power steering in the car, that’s the first project – but I loved it.”
Thorburn still leads the KNC Groundworks Scottish Championship: “The puncture was a setback, so I had to put the pressure on Garry, then he got a puncture,” said Thorburn, “that was a shame, it would have been a good fight.”
1 Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Ford Focus WRC05) 40m 36s
2 Garry Pearson/Dale Bowen (Ford Fiesta R5) +1:02
3 Bruce McCombie/Michael Coutts (Focus WRC02) +1:44
4 Michael Binnie/Claire Mole (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +2:46
5 Thomas Gray/Harry Marchbank (Lancer Evo9) +3:18
6 John Wink/Neil Shanks (Hyundai i20 R5) +3:25
7 Alan Dickson/Martin Forrest (Lancer Evo9) +4:43
8 Iain Wilson/Chris Williams (Ford Escort Mk2) +5:21
9 Ian Baumgart/Sinclair Young (Subaru Impreza) +5:29
10 Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry (Escort Mk2) +5:41
11 Paul McErlean/Niall McKenna (Escort Mk2); 12 Duncan MacDonald/Neil Ross (Escort Mk2); 13 Gordon Murray/David O’Brien (Escort Mk2); 14 Simon Hay/Calum Jaffray (Lancer Evo6); 15 Kevin Crawford/Andrew Stevenson (Lancer Evo9); 16 Paddy Munro/Keir Beaton (Escort Mk2); 17 John Rintoul/Ross Hynd (Skoda Fabia); 18 Jude MacDonald/Michael Cruickshank (Skoda Fabia R2); 19 Barry Lindsay/Caroline Lodge (Peugeot 206 Cup Car); 20 Matthew Calderwood/Phil Sandham (Lancer Evo7)
1 Scott Peacock/Robin Neil (MG ZR)
2 James Campbell/Ricky Finlayson (Talbot Sunbeam)
5 Tom Coughtrie/Ian Fraser (Mitsubishi Galant VR4)
6 Linzi Henderson/Tom Hynd (Ford Fiesta R2)