Monday, 18 November 2019

Rally - The secret threat

Forest rallying faces many threats. Rising costs, restricted availability of forests, quality of roads on offer, increased regulation, shortage of volunteers and of course now there are a growing number of opportunities to go closed road rallying. There is another threat, but few are aware of it. Hill rallying.

The bare statistics alone should make most forest rallyists give it some serious consideration. Last weekend's Scottish 'Borders' Hill Rally provided 19 stages with 110 miles of competitive motoring for an entry fee of £495. Kind of puts a 'normal' forest rally to shame, eh?

Starting on Saturday morning at 10am, there were 10 Special Stages with the last 3 held in darkness! On Sunday the re-start was again  at 10am  for the final 6 stages finishing around mid afternoon with time enough for folk to get packed up and back on the road home after an excellent weekend's sport.

The regulations are also a bit more relaxed than 'our' sport. The cars range from sophisticated 4WD machinery to standard production vehicles, most of which are Land Rover based. Although some of these Land Rover based specials have about as much in common with the farm runabout as a Tardis.

Really, you can compete in an almost bog standard Defender. There is a Standard Production class and a Modified production class and then work up through the specials to the Prototypes. But even at the top end of the food chain the most competitive machinery falls far short of the price of a World Rally Car or an R5, and a lot less than a 'modern' Mk2!

Having said that, a World Rally Car could probably get round the stages quicker than some of these machines, but they would be minus a few bits of bodywork at least by the finish. For sure there are many fast smooth bits with 100 mph straights and fast corners, but it's the nadgery bits that demand  additional skills of the driver and the build quality of the cars as they dip and dive through quarries, ditches and bogs. It's all part of the challenge and the fun. And yes, some folk do get awfy wet and muddy, but that's all part of it too.

Standing there on a banking at the weekend, surrounded by snow capped and tree clad hills in the crisp morning air was quite magical. The event got under way with the sound of distant thunder in the glen far below. All too soon the approaching deep growl of a 6.2 litre V8 burst into view in a flurry of spraying gravel and flying mud as it braked, turned in and accelerated out of the hairpin. The long travel suspension making the nose of the Lofthouse LS3 machine dive into the dirt under braking and then rear up on its hind legs as it took off again on the exit, all the while bellowing like a rutting stag looking for a mate.

And that was just one. There were a variety of aural delights from diesel fours to straight six petrols and a variety of small and large capacity V8s, many of them with automatic gearboxes! Two pedal motoring doesn't get much better than this.

So if you do fancy a shot, just chuck the sheep out the back of the pickup, fit a rollcage and fire extinguisher and you're almost good to go. There are currently only two proper Hill Rallies in Scotland each year although there are many other 4WD events from competition safaris to trials, but if the demand was there, no doubt more events could be created.

Top Six Results:
1, Justin Birchall/Mason Kershaw (Lofthouse Proto M3)  2 Hrs 27 Mins 59 Secs
2, Phill Bayliss/Lance Murfin (Land Rover Special) +0:02:21
3, Mark Jacques/Adam Nicholson (Lofthouse LS3) +0:03:13
4, Richard Wynne-Williams/Matthew Lowe (Lofthouse BMW M3) +0:10:18
5, Paul Myers/Tom Harris (Tornado 100) +0:16:10
6, David Brose/Graeme Morrison (Land Rover 110) +0:17:52

More info here:

Thursday, 14 November 2019

The future is electric ...

... or maybe not. I have just spent a few days with an electric car. I have seen sights and visited places that I haven't noticed before, and not necessarily wish to visit again any time soon.

For instance, there I was yesterday afternoon marooned in the desolate wastes of North Lanarkshire looking over windswept, rain scoured moors with dark clouds dragging their wispy entrails over the horizon while my car was plugged in to a roadside charging station.

The only signs of life were the litter blowing down the car park from the overflowing bins and the diesel lorries thundering past on essential, life sustaining, transport duty. Yes, there was a chuck wagon in a nearby lay-by offering such tantalising delights as polystyrene tea, stale rolls and square sausage that could repair a block-pave drive, but I chose not to treat myself. Aye, VisitScotland - at your peril!
Sitting there watching the wee battery symbol filling up on the display panel, there was time to ponder the wisdom of our elected representatives in Edinburgh and Westminster urging us all to switch to electric cars. This advice coming from people who don't need to use them on a daily basis themselves. People who don't have a 'normal' job like us and therefore don't understand what a 'normal' working week is like for the majority of us.

Unless you have a high capacity charger at home and access to another at your place of business, then reliance on a purely electric vehicle is not an option. Using a domestic power supply can take anything up to 30 hours for a full charge whereas the latest high capacity chargers can accomplish the same task in 4 to 6 hours. Of course you can 'top up' your charge at various locations around the country where there is a mixture of standard and high capacity public roadside chargers.

On Tuesday I tried two, for one hour each. The standard charger gave me 16% of a full charge increasing my range by 31 miles, while the nearby high capacity charger provided a 44% boost, worth 93 miles in the same time. The trouble is there simply aren't enough of these high capacity chargers around. When I went back yesterday, there was a chap from Scottish Power in his electric company car already plugged in to the sole high capacity charger and when I tried the adjoining standard one - it wasn't working!

Annoyed? Frustrated? I let my big pal, Jaggy have a go. He was later spotted kicking sleeping policemen in his frustration and turning 'keep left' signs upside down on traffic islands in his annoyance.

I now understand the term 'range anxiety'. Even with a range of some 200 miles, that is dependent on weather. If it's cold, wet and dark, then wipers, heaters and lights will place further depletion demands on the battery. Those travelling more than just commuting distance will therefore have to plot their route via roadside chargers and then just hope that they work when they get there!

If you are tempted to purchase such a futuristic vehicle then I urge you not to decide on the basis of a test drive - take a week at least. Spend some time with it at home, at work and at play, even if you have to hire one for  a week. It's the only way you'll find out if you can live with it.

For those travelling big mileages it will change your lifestyle. You'll become a slave to the machine and road side chargers. A motoring vampire looking for that flicker of life-saving neon indicating the location of a roadside charger from which to draw the lifeblood of the open road warrior once again.

However, the biggest problem was, I really did like this electric car. It was comfortable, quick and quiet. The electric car most certainly has a future, but has the future arrived yet? I don't think so.

And now a warning dear reader, I will return to this subject - shortly. I'm not quite finished with it yet!

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Rally - Surprise, surprise

As a member of the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers, there was a wee surprise awaiting a certain peripatetic reporter when he arrived in Duns for the Jim Clark Rally. One of the first vehicles he saw was this Mitsubishi L200 adorned with a certain logo. Mitsubishi had provided the organisers with six L200 pickups to fulfil a number of vital functions ahead of during the rally  and had decalled one of their pickups.

However, only a week before,  the circumstances were rather different at the Scottish Car of the Year awards (SCoTY). Steve Graham, ASteve has a rea Sales Manager at Mitsubishi Motors UK, had been presented with the 'Pickup of the Year' award on behalf of Mitsubishi by the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers at this rather glamorous annual ceremony at Dalmahoy. 

It was a colourful and glittering night of good food, fine wine, even finer whisky, music and dance with everyone suitably attired as befits such a prestigious and convivial occasion. All the category prizewinners received a substantial and much coveted quaich and the speeches were brief. Naturally there were haggis and bagpipes. These are not just any motoring awards, these are Scottish national motoring awards!

The pictures show a certain Mr Graham in his business suit with Russell Blood from the rally (not in a business suit), and much more appropriately dressed for the big occasion a week ago with Amanda Gibson, Mitsubishi's Press & Public Relations Manager. Steve was presented with the award by Ken Fletcher, Editor of the Scottish Farmer.

It was great to see that Mitsubishi had recognised their achievement with this adorned machine and that our national awards were so well appreciated. A special thanks also to Mitsubishi for their much valued support for the rally. It also goes without saying that a certain member of the judging panel was not in the least swayed by this generous gesture when casting his vote!

And how do I know all this? I was there.

Steve and Russell

Steve and Amanda

Steve and Ken

An enthusiastic Ken attacks the Haggis

The address to the haggis

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Rally - Moffett Magic

The record books will record the facts that Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes won this weekend’s Jim Clark Rally in Duns while David Bogie and Kevin Rae were second and Dale Robertson and Stuart Loudon were third. That is fact. What they might well fail to record is the emotion.

There was just something a wee bit special about the whole week leading up to the event.

Anticipation, excitement and of course a little bit of nervy tension, and then there was the event's first stage. On Friday afternoon a Mk2 Escort whupped the world cars. What a way to open the show. Bogie's scintillating flight over the 8 mile wet and slippery Abbey St Bathans stage was mesmerising. Surely the clocks were wrong. Nope. Moffett was 5 seconds down.

Another surprise. First time in an R5 car Robertson was second equal fastest with the Irishman.

Of course, the natural order was restored on Saturday. Moffett snatched the lead through Langton and eased his way to victory, but that was it. There was no way Bogie was letting anyone else past him. Of course this is no ordinary Escort, but still, pushing over 300bhp through two rear wheels in the dry is one thing, but when conditions, are wet, puddled, muddy, and very muddy, that's something else. Add in a bit of ice on Saturday morning and the ice coming back Saturday night and you had textures on tar that would make a bog snorkeller wince.

So whilst Moffett sailed serenely on, the battle behind became quite frantic as Hugh Hunter poked his Focus WRC's nose into third place then overtook Robertson and by stage 9 had displaced Bogie who had dropped to 4th at one point before fighting back to 3rd.

Then came the Bogie magic. On the final stage, he set fastest time over a slimy, freezing, mud-topped tarmac Fogo to re-take second from Robertson as Hunter was just too cautious in those terrifying conditions and dropped back to 4th. At one point Alan Kirkaldy was threatening the top four but the Fiesta bashed a bale and clattered a dyke. That did for him. John Indri was another to fall foul of the treacherous conditions, rolling the Mirage.

That wasn't all. Throughout the field there were surprises, shocks and sterling performances. Also first time out in a Fiesta R5 was Ross Hunter (no relation to Hugh!) and he finished 5th overall ahead of the Mitsubishi Lancer of Michael Binnie. The Fiesta R5s of Andy Fenwick and Steve Simpson were 7th and 8th ahead of the mighty impressive Mk2 of young James Ford in 9th place. And had Gordon Morrison not wet his Fiesta's breeks in the Langton Ford he might well have done a lot better than 10th overall.

But forget all the fancy tackle at the front. The star of the show finished 11th overall. lf Red Bull gives you wings, what the heck was Dangerous Des on? Des Campbell and Craig Forsyth finished a quite incredible 11toverall in a Peugeot 206 that was probably worth less than the tyre bill for the front runners (OK, that's a wee bit of an exaggeration, but you get my drift). The wee car danced through the stages, skipped over the puddles and delighted the spectators. Marvellous, simply marvellous.

That summed up my weekend. Standing there in the town of Duns on Saturday afternoon listening to the sound of distant rally cars with flat-shifts chattering like a Vegas slot machine rolling across the Borders hills was spine tingling and then as night closed in and the sound carried further through the still, damp and cold air, it was as if a pack of growling wolves were circling the perimeter of the town fending off vampires, zombies and other ghosties to protect the townsfolk from evil.

Magic, pure magic.

(Note: There will be a full (and more sensible) report - and a Column! - in next Wednesday's Motorsport News after which a more detailed report will be published in the on-line mag.)

1, Josh Moffett/Andy Hayes (Ford Fiesta R5) 54m 34.7s
2, David Bogie/Kevin Rae (Ford Escort Mk2) +0.41.7
3, Dale Robertson/Stuart Loudon (Ford Fiesta R5) +47.8
4, Hugh Hunter/Calvin Cooledge (Ford Focus WRC) +0.50.3
5, Ross Hunter/Martin Woodcock (Ford Fiesta R5) +1.20.1
6, Michael Binnie/Claire Mole (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +2.35.9
7, Andy Fenwick/Harry Marchbank (Ford Fiesta R5) +2.49.8
8, Stephen Simpson/Patrick Walsh (Ford Fiesta R5) +3.44.1
9, James Ford/Jack Morton (Ford Escort Mk2) +4.42.0
10, Gordon Morrison/Sean Donnelly (Ford Fiesta R5) +5.08.9