Monday 31 October 2011

Road – Speed Limiters

I have come to a decision. After spending a week with a van fitted with a speed limiter restricted to 62 mph then any such vehicle must have a sign on its rump advising following road users that the vehicle they are following has a maximum speed limit.

This sign must be legible and clearly visible at all times, especially to those ‘eedjits’ (quaint Scottish term for idiots!) who overtake and gesticulate digitally or wave their fists as some form of Neanderthal greeting.

Driving such vehicles on a three lane motorway causes little problem, but on dual carriageways, overtaking manoeuvres have to be planned carefully. Overtaking on country road s becomes even more fraught.

And yes I know there are speed limits governing light commercials which differ from motor cars, but to those of us who live in the ‘real world’ and have to use non-motorway roads on a regular basis, there is a risk of ‘bunching’ and this is where the real danger lies.

Frustrated drivers following tractors and trucks will now have to contend with slower moving vans too, and a frustrated driver can be a dangerous driver.

So not only does the speed restricted driver have to cope with the limitations of his or her own vehicle they have to allow for the limited intelligence and impatience of other drivers.

Neither must they allow themselves to become frustrated at not being able to pass slower traffic – and get caught out mid-manoeuvre by something approaching unexpectedly.

Driving such speed restricted vehicles demands a whole new set of skills and road-awareness, and I would question whether those who are buying such vehicles are fully aware of the issues.

There is a difference between people who drive vans for a living and those who use vans simply as part of their business. Jumping from a normal car into a speed-limited van is just asking for trouble.

Anyone who proposes that speed limiters be introduced for light commercial vehicles should spend at least a week in such a vehicle on typical working journeys. It’s simply not enough to assess such a vehicle by driving it up and down a main road and then looking at the fuel savings. The money could be better spent on training drivers and rewarding them for fuel efficiency rather than enforcing them and endangering the rest of us.

These legislators and do-gooders have made no allowance for the ability or skills levels of the average person who drives a van. We already have speed limits in this country, we don’t need speed limiters.

Over the weekend I drove a Vauxhall Vivaro ECOflex fitted with such a speed limiter to the Galloway Hills and back. Most of the time it was a relaxing and restful experience, but dealing with traffic on the A75 and A701 required a lot of planning ahead – while wondering what the eedjits would do next.

Vauxhall, like other manufacturers, have produced this ECOflex vehicle in response to demand from fleet buyers and managers who want to reduce their transport fuel bills, but I think these people need to re-think their strategy. The simplest way is not always the safest.

We already have speed limiters on goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes – we don’t need any more.

Sunday 30 October 2011

Rally - McCulloch's Maiden Win

Young Mark McCulloch and Craig Wallace scored their first ever outright rally victory on today's Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally, and it was only their fourth run out in their Subaru Impreza after a season with a Fiesta ST.

"We got a puncture in Dalbeattie and thought that was it," said Mark, "then we saw Steve's (Petch) car off the road. He only lost about the same amount of time as us, so it was flat out for both of us over the final two stages."

"We spun on that last one, so that probably cost us the rally," said Steve,"the car was fine, the rally was brilliant, it was just down to me."

As for mid point rally leader, Jock Armstrong, he was sidelined on the road section to the fourth stage when the Lancer's boost disappeared and the engine stopped dead. And Pat O'Connell was going well till the Lancer clipped a bridge parapet and deranged a rear corner.

McCulloch therefore won by 31 seconds (46m 06s) from Petch (46m 37s) with Craig McMiken well pleased in third place (47m 25s) but there was a fierce old fight for third as Chris Collie just lost out by 2 seconds (47m 27s).

Adding a bit more needle to this match was the fact that Susan Shanks was co-driving for Craig while husband Neil was with Chris, so that's going to give her bragging and nagging rights for months! In her ten years of rallying she's never finished on the podium for a forest event (apparently tarmac events don't count!) so she was delighted.

Liam Regan finished fifth (47m 55s) from Richard Dickson (48m 28s) and lucky to do so after a two wheeling moment in a ditch on the final stage.

Shane McGirr scored an excellent 7th in the 2 litre Starlet (48m 38s) from Andrew Gallacher (48m 39s) who was losing time over the final two stages with a gearbox problem. It seems the selectors are sticking in the Impreza 'box.

Allan McDowall was ninth in the Kadett (48m 51s) the English Rally Champion having a frustrating day (by his standards) with two offs. Rounding off the top ten was Ian Paterson (49m 27s) who had a better afternoon after solving his Impreza's lack of earlier boost problems.

Rally - Sunshine over Galloway

Hard to believe after yesterday's fierce and heavy rain that today is so different. The sun's out, the temperature's up and there are even blue bits up above.

With three stages gone, Jock Armstrong still leads (26m 58s), so he's obviously got the fuel pump fixed but young Mark McCulloch has moved up to second place (27m 51s) ahead of Steve Petch (27m 59s), but the Hyundai is looking a bit tattered and second hand. He cowped it in Dalbeattie but it's only cosmetic, all the greasy bits seem to be in fine working order, so he hasn't given up hope yet.

Pat O'Connel is still holding fourth (28m 06s) from Craig McMiken (28m 31s) who had earlier dropped out of the top six but this was due to a timing error on one of his time cards. On the phone his time had been misheard as 51 seconds when it should have been 31 secs. So it was easily sorted.

Chris Collie is sixth (28m 48s) from Liam Regan (28m 57s), Peter Stewart in Dad's old Subaru (28m 59s), Shane McGirr (29m 12s) and rounding off the top ten is Andrew Gallacher (29m 14s).

I think the organisers are still struggling to get times up on the websites and even Raymomd 'The Man' Mann is having trouble with his own ScotResults service although he'll get that fixed later tonight when he gets home. I think it's all down to poor reception down here in the deep south west.

In other words you'll just have to stick with this humble wee Blog to get the latest.

By the way, I heard yesterday that Sean Moriarty has left Motorsport News so they'll be in the market for a full time rally journalist to go and work in London (that's near France by the way) if anyone up here fancies it.

Rally - Jock in Charge?

After two stages, Jock Armstrong leads the Galloway Hills, but for how long? He and Kirsty pushed the car into Service-In Control: "The fuel pump's not working," he gasped, "a wire melted!" It would appear that additional work needed done at service for he was almost late out and the car still wasn't sounding quite right, so finger crossed.

As for early rally leader Mark McCulloch: "That was p*sh in there," he said, "it was my own fault, I tried too hard and made too many mistakes. That was the first time I ever led a rally. The first stage no moments at all, and then all overt the place in the second."

So he's dropped to third with Jock on 18m 13s, from Steve Petch on 18m 35s who said: "This is the first time I've been here since 2001 - and that was in a Ford Ka," said the Hyundai WRC driver.

McCulloch is third on 18m 35s from Pat O'Connell 18m 58s with Chris Collie and Richard Dickson both on 19m 29s from Liam Regan on 19m 34s.

Jim Sharp is off in Cairn Edward and hasn't appeared at service although Fraser Wilson has. "We went off and were well stuck," said Fraser, "just panel damage and we would have stayed there but for the spectators. There was only a few at first then suddenly thoosands appeared |(at least 20!) and somehow managed to get us out."

Ian Paterson has had no boost for the first tewo stages, Stuart Paterson has a stuck thermostat and Allan MacDowall admitted to a "wee off" in the first stage, at the same place Shane McGirr went off in the Starlet although he too got back out and away.

Steve Petch had little to say at service as the car was fine, but his eyes went wide when he was talking about Jock's lines through the stages: "It's incredible to see Jock's line going into the corners - then they just disappear! He must be a full car's width off the road in some places. I came round some corners, and thought - where the 'f' has he gone!"

Rally - Sunshine and Grey skies

Typical Scottish weather in Castle Douglas. The sun is shining but the skies are overcast and battleship grey. It rained yesterday so the five stages for this year's Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally are wet, but according to 'Top NoteMan' Lucky Sturrock, there is grip to had under the dampness.

And off to a flying start in the first stage of the day is young Mark McCulloch on only his fourth run out in the Subaru. He set a fastest time over Glengap of 8m 29s with Jock Armstrong only one second behind. But remember, Jock is out in a left hooker Lancer for the first time as opposed to his Impreza so he's still trying to remember to change gear with the stick not the door handle.

Stephen Petch is third quickest in the Hyundai WRC on 8m 38s from Pat O'Connell off to an impressive start on 8m 39s in his EVO9. Craig McMikne obviously had his full portion of Weetbaix this morning on 8m 43s with Chris Collie sixth fastest on 8m 44s.

Another local driver Richard Dickson is  on 9m 04s as well as Liam Regan in that exotic looking marvellously put together 4WD Peug 206 on 9m 04s. Fraser Wilson has posted a time of 9m 11s but since these are the first times in there may well be some faster times to comes, so these are not results, just interim positions!

If you're looking for full results, apparently there is a problem with the Galloway Hills Rally website so they will be putting results up on Raymond 'The Man' Mann's website at:

Thursday 27 October 2011

Road - Keep on Truckin'

Well, there I was, standing talking to Quentin Wilson, the well-known TV motoring pundit. We were both at the Goodyear Truck Tyre test day at MIRA. He was there in his latest role as a Fuel Advisor, and I was there to assess Goodyear winter truck tyres.

Over the past year or so, Quentin has been fronting the FairFuel Campaign, but Government continues to frustrate his efforts and those of the people who support him including all the major motoring organisations plus the Freight Transport Association and the Road Haulage Association.

Earlier this year and prior to the budget they achieved considerable success in helping to dissuade the Government from applying a 4p per litre fuel price increase. Mr Osborne even offered to cut the fuel duty by 1p, but before we saw the benefit of that, the oil companies had jacked up the prices again.

Now with the Government proposing to apply a 5p per litre increase next year, the FairFuel Campaign is again trying to dissuade them. The organisation forced a re-think last year because their campaign attracted more than the required 100,000 signatures on a petition but the Government has told them if they want to raise the issue again, they must produce another petition with more than 100,000 signatures.

And while Quentin was at today’s event he got a call from his team informing him that the Government would not have time to debate the issue before the end of the current session.

If they can’t get you one way, they’ll get you another, eh? Still he hasn’t given up so if you want to support the campaign, drop into the FairFuel UK website for the latest info.

As for the Goodyear tyres, I was impressed. We had a wet weather braking test on a skid pan while it was raining! We were using Volvo FH440 tractors for the test although they weren’t pulling trailers. And you know what, if you stand on the brakes at 50 mph, these 6.5 tonne monsters will pull up to a dead halt within 36 metres – the best achieved was 32 metres! The g-forces nearly knocked my bunnet off!

There’s quite a few cars and car drivers out there who couldn’t manage that. 

I don't have any pics of the test because we weren't allowed cameras inside the MIRA facility but Goodyear had a lassie with a digital camera (as opposed to a professional photographer!) and we've been promised some pics tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Opinion - Moses followers

That chap Moses has a lot to answer for. Y'ken who I mean, the chap with the big stick and a liking for water. Apparently he had an awfy lot of followers at one time, although his popularity waned a bit after a bit of a problem with his prescription, but he took the tablets anyway.

He’s no longer with us, but it would appear that he still has a sizable following. The trouble is, these followers of his don’t have the same way with canals, rivers or sea lochs, so they practice their dark arts nowadays on Motorways.

You can always spot them, out the side of your eye, racing down the slip roads, building up to 60 or 70 and hellbent on hitting the middle lane without lifting. It doesn’t matter how many trucks are nose to tail on the inside lane or how many buses and caravans there are hidden out of sight behind the trucks, these Moses followers have an unerring belief in the power of the parting of the ways.

It happened again tonight, southbound on the M6, and a wee car no bigger than a lady’s handbag gathered itself for a fling down the on-ramp south of Carlisle. It didn’t matter a hoot to the driver that there was a bleedin’ great Stobart and a McBurney in her way (aye it had to be a wummin., but men are just as bad if not worser).

I was in the middle lane about to pass the trucks and I could see the impending drama unfold. The wee car disappeared out of sight behind the first truck and for a few seconds I thought common sense or some form of personal regard had overcome the mad downhill rush. Nae chance.  At unabated speed, it popped out between the two trucks like a burst plook – straight into my path, but I was half expecting it, so like the truck drivers I gave her room.

But it makes you think, because she got away with it this time, she’ll think she can get away with it every time – or worse, did she even realise how dangerous the practice is? One of these days she’ll come across one of those half-asleep foreign truckers who don’t understand the lemming-like zeal of the Moses followers.

Anyway, I survived unscathed to reach the hotel in Nuneaton, for tomorrow there is a tantalising prospect in store at MIRA. Comparing the merits of ‘standard’ tyres and ‘winter’ tyres on a 44 tonne artic.

I wonder if we’ll get marks for how many cones we hit – or miss!

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Rally - Galloping Hills

Jock Armstrong and Kirsty Riddick head the line-up for this Sunday’s Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally in Castle Douglas, but they will be in unfamiliar tinwork. With the Subaru not back from the body doctor’s as yet, Jock has borrowed a Steve Petch Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9 – in left hand drive trim. And making sure he behaves himself, guess who’s running at Number 2? Stephen Petch Jnr. I reckon the get-togethers in the service park will be interesting once ‘the boy’ sees Jock’s lines through the woods!

The improving Chris Collie runs at number three in his Subaru while the top seeded visitor from ‘across the water’ is Pat O’Connell in an EVO9, but there will be fireworks behind this lot with Mark McCulloch and Richard Dickson having a bit of a local needle match in their respective Subarus. The pair finished less than 2 minutes apart on the other local event this year, the Solway Stages, but Richard had a puncture.

Jointly organised by Solway, Machars and East Ayrshire car clubs, the rally will start from the Market Hill in Castle Douglas at 08:31, before heading to the first of five stages

SS1, Thistle Inn Crossmichael Glengap, at 09:02.
SS2, Marchbank Bakers Thornhill Cairn Edward, at 09:37.
Service at the Market yard from 10:20 - 11:00.
SS3, R.Earsman Ltd Dalbeattie, at 11:22
SS4, Thistle Inn Crossmichael Glengap 2, at 12:34
SS5, Marchbank Bakers Thornhill Cairn Edward 2, at 13:09

Sunday 23 October 2011

Rally - Tweak of the Week

To-day's UTS Cheviot Keith Knox Stages provided a fair old fight over the Otterburn ranges with Damian Cole taking a 21 second victory in his Focus over the Impreza WRC of Steve Simpson, but in a cruel twist of fate, Michael Glendinning lost out on a brief lead when his gearbox broke. John Indri was third in the Darrian from Andy Davison in the BMW, and what a sight that was, the M3 slippin' and a slidin' all over the place on the damp and greasy tarmac.

Jim Sharp was fifth in the Subaru from Adrian Spencer, but David Hardie lost out on a top four finish with a puncture on the penultimate test.

( Full report in next week's 'Motorsport News' - out Wednesday! )

But what tickled me most of all was what one of the front runners was up to during the cold and wet morning conditions. Tyre warmers are banned in British rallying, but said competitor had his road car sitting beside his wagon with the engine running, and then I found out why. With seconds to go before the start of the next stage and the car still up on axle stands, he went over to the car, opened the door and took out four wheels and tyres. The car was sitting there with the heater at full blast and his front seats reclined so that he could load in all of his wheels and tyres.

So the question is - how do you define a tyre warmer?

Friday 21 October 2011

Road - Master in Demand

That’ll teach me. I wandered outside for some fresh air this morning, still as weak as a politician’s apology and was spotted by the next door neighbour: “I see you have a truck to test this week.”

Considering it was bright yellow and blocking out the daylight at the back of the house, very observant.

“You couldn’t do me a favour could you?” And before I could say I wasn’t feeling well and still suffering the effects of man-flu, he added: “I’ve got some 12 foot lengths of timber to collect and they want 15 quid to deliver it.” Fifteen quid? Where are they?

Anyway, we ended up driving into the wilds of North Lanarkshire to a sawmill to collect said timber. The trouble was, another neighbour spotted us on the way past, and he was waiting for me when we got back.

“I see you have a truck on test this week?” Now, having done one favour I couldn’t be churlish and complain about being ill and refuse another call for help. Having unloaded the timber and swapped over the neighbours, it was off to Ikea in Glasgow for some 8 foot long wardrobes. Five of the rascals. And they were heavy beggars to boot.

Thankfully, the Renault Master Tipper has dropsides so it was a doddle to load them on the back, and you know what, when we got back to the neighbour’s garage we actually tipped the loadbed slightly to ease the job of sliding the packages out the tailgate.

But I couldn’t help thinking Renault was having a laugh. This Master tipper had SatNav, Cruise Control, Air-Con and a middle seat that doubled up as a desk. It’s quiet, comfortable and the 125 bhp engine and 6 speed gearbox pulls like George Clooney at a granny night.

Both neighbours were well impressed – but not once did they ask how I was feeling.

Opinion - Man-Flu

Man-flu. I suppose it was inevitable, just a matter of when. After three sodden weekends, and then hanging about at Fishnish for the ferry in the drizzle, the sniffles and sneezing set in.

Women just don’t get it. After all, they only have to put up with childbirth and PMT, they don’t really understand the debilitating misery and discomfort of man-flu. Sympathy? “So you won’t be able to drive me to my mother’s this weekend then?” As I said women don’t understand.

And then of course there’s the Cheviot this weekend (Sunday). What could be more appealing than Otterburn ranges in late October would be hard to imagine, sort of Largs without the beach. Bleakness for miles in every direction.

There’s an early end to the season too this year with the Armstrong Galloway Hills on the last weekend of October instead of the first weekend in December, then the rally car engines are switched off till the Snowman in February.

As for rumours of Rally of Scotland in February, it won’t happen. It’s too soon to get it organised, and besides, the Forestry Commission don’t allow studded tyres in British forests. And as we all know international rally drivers don’t do snow without studs.

Monday 17 October 2011

Rally - Last Look

Sitting waiting for the Lochaline Ferry on Sunday afternoon gives folk time to reflect on the weekend's activities. There is no doubt that life on an island is different to that of the mainland, but even that can be deceptive. The pace of working life over there is no different to over here. For instance, visitors to the island will often mistake the high speed driving style of some island motorists for rally folks in a hurry or out doing an illicit recce. Don't kid yourself, quite often it's a local. Be it the postie, plumber, poacher, vet or farmer, these folk are so used to driving on single track roads with passing places that their average speed is usually higher than 'normal' folks thinks is safe!

They also dismiss the occcasional near miss, or tactile wing mirror kiss, with a cheery wave where other folk might be fuming at what is perceived as reckless or careless diving. Wrong. This is island life. And if we all took the cheery wave response to other motorists in our everyday normal driving condtions, the world would be a happier place.

Sermon over. But looking back I spoke to north of England tarmac expert, Richard Cook after the rally. He's quite a whizz on Otterburn but this was his first visit to Mull, and I thought his 16th overall in a clubman spec Impreza pretty impressive for a Mull virgin. When I asked him what he thought of the event all I could get out of him was one word: "Fabulous."

I also thought visiting Fiesta driver Andrew Staton had a wonderful turn of phrase when he summed up his worst moment during the rally. When asked how close disaster was, he said: "My bum sucked up my underpants."

And despite his early demise, Hugh Hunter is still a fan. He retired his Focus WRC early last year after breaking a wheel and puncturing and retired again this year after the second stage. "We originally thought it was a shaft inside the transfer box," said Hugh, "but when we looked at it in daylight realised a driveshaft had snapped cleanly without damaging the bearings, so we were lucky." The Paul Benn run team then fitted a new driveshaft (during which operation one of the team was heard to mutter, this is the corner he whacked the gatepost with on last week's Cambrian!) so that Hugh could take it out for a run on Saturday night's Trophy Rally. Upset? Not a bit of it. Hugh's response, uttered in Arnold Schwarzenegger-speak was: "I'll be back!"

I can also exclsuively reveal that the event sponsor Mr B Tunnock, of the world-famous bakery, was escorted out of the Salen Hotel on Saturday night, by members of the Strathclyde constabulary. He was then taken to Tobermory in the back of the Polis car - where he was handed over to the ladies who were heating up the Tunnock's pies for Mr T to hand out to the finishing drivers and co-drivers. Some things in life take priority, eh?

And you know what? There is little better in life than standing at the finish of 'the best rally in the world' on Tobermory esplanade well past midnight, in the cold and the damp, eating a hot Tunnock's pie to the accompaniment of rumbling flat fours and growling BDAs.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Rally - The Last Thrash

Halfway through the final 22 mile stage of the rally, Paul MacKinnon thought he was out. He thought it was a recurrence of his earlier troubles: “But much worse,” said Paul, “it started misfiring and then dropped on to three cylinders, It wouldn’t pull itself up the hills. I thought that was it, we were out. I tried to just keep it cruising in fifth gear and freewheeled down the hills, but we made it.” Apparently an injector wire had broken. Had there been another stage, then perhaps Paul and Ewan MacGillivray would not have scored their second Tunnock’s Mull victory.

James MacGillivray scored a solid second place but Daniel Harper put in a scintillating drive to snatch third place from Tristan Pye while Eddie O’Donnell stormed back into fifth place despite a puncture, an off, and one minute time penalty.

Caught up with John Cope: “It was the gearbox mainshaft that did for us. I went from 5th to sixth, and it went bang!”

As for Callum Duffy, it wasn’t the gearbox that failed it was actually the diff, a similar problem to that which stopped Billy Bird’s Chevette.

Provisional Leaderboard after 19 of 19 stages:
1 Paul MacKinnon, 2h 28m 04s
2 James MacGillivray, 2h 23m 51s
3 Daniel Harper, 2h 34m 12s
4 Tristan Pye, 2h 34m 22s
5 Eddie O’Donnell, 2h 35m 18s
6 Jonathan Mounsey, 2h 36m 52s
7 Lewis Gallagher, 2h 36m 52s
8 Tim Stell, 2h 36m 54s
9 Doug Weir, 2h 37m 14s
10 Iain MacKenzie, 2h 37m 57s

Saturday 15 October 2011

Rally - Midnight on Mull

It’s dry and the moon’s out over them thar hills on Mull as competitors tackle the final loop of 4 stages to bring the 2011 Tunnock’s Mull Rally to a close, but there might be a wee bit of delay with final results. It would appear that the western side of the island has contracted Blackberry disease – the communications have gone down!

There’s also a bit of mist clinging to the damp hillsides, so the ever changing conditions continue to test the survivors.

It would appear that Alan Gardiner has succumbed to his earlier overheating problems as the MkI Escort has stopped in the Glen Aros/Mishnish first stage of the final loop. Peter Taylor did not hand in a time card at the Passage Control after the stage so we suspect that the Clio still has some braking issues although improvements were made for the afternoon daylight loop. Stevie Brown is out too, he’s been having a few niggles with the Subaru, including giving it a dunt on the driver's side against a pole,  and Cameron MacLean’s name is now missing from the time sheets too.

Information is sketchy and we’ll just have to wait for the competitors to emerge from ‘the dark side’ on the west coast after Gribun 3 and Loch Scridain 3 to see the final outcome. Meantime, here are the provisional positions after the first test of the night.

Interim Leaderboard after 16 of 19 stages:
1 Paul MacKinnon, 1h 53m 15s
2 James MacGillivray, 2h 00m 56s
3 Tristan Pye, 2h 01m 12s
4 Daniel Harper, 2h 01m 22s
5 Eddie O’Donnell, 2h 02.28s
7 Jonathan Mounsey, 2h 02m 57s
8 Lewis Gallagher, 2h 03m 35s
9 Doug Weir, 2h 03m 38s
10 Tugs Sherrington, 2h 03m 41s

Rally - Murky daylight

The rain hasn’t stopped but it’s less wet at the Tunnock’s Mull Rally and the rallyists keep wilting. Paul MacKinnon still leads, but second placed John Cope is parked up in the last stage at Calgary/Tuath. That means James MacGillivray is now second: “They’re all dropping out around me, it’s maybe my turn next, he joked.

Tristan Pye is concerned about the standing water which is puddling everywhere and Daniel Harper is behaving himself – well nearly: “I had the biggest moment of my life in there,” he said, “the MINI stepped out on a Left 5 going flat out, and I caught it, but it was still going!” His eyes were like brake lights as he recalled the incident.

Alan Gardiner is dropping down the top ten: “The engine was overheating in that last one. It was 120 degrees. I had to back off, but we’ll need to check the engine at service.” Curley Haigh has dropped back a bit and was wide=eyed at the end of the long test: “Eddie O’Donnell must have a screw loose, he passed me in there – and I thought I was going well.” As for Eddie, he's got a minute penalty somewhere, so he's checking that out with the results team.

Just outside the top ten is David Miller: “I bent the front chassis leg landing after a huge jump in there.” Not so lucky was Jamie Peden. The number 89 seed will need more than gaffer tape and tie-wraps to repair the Sierra after a bad landing in Gribun, striking a post and removing many of the body panels.

Bruce Edwards is a happier chappie this afternoon: “I’ve changed the dampers and the tyres, and the Darrian is going a lot better. I’m really enjoying myself.” Top 20 runner Philip Scholes in the Fiesta ruined a good run when he slid off in Mishnish Lochs: “I tried slicks then fried the brakes, and just slid off into a hedge. I’s still be there if it wasn’t for the spectators.”

It looks like Billy Bird is out too, the Vauxhall Chevette is parked up in the long one. And the reason for Howard Moore’s retirement in the Lotus Elise was clutch failure on the second stage last night.

It's a bit misty at present with low cloud cloaking the high roads, so fingers crossed it doesn't get any worse tonight.

Interim Leaderboard after 15 of 19 stages:
1 Paul MacKinnon, 1h 39m 37s
2 James MacGillivray, 1h 46m 44s
3 Tristan Pye, 1h 46m 57s
4 Daniel Harper, 1h 47m 12s
5 Tim Stell, 1h 48m 02s
6 Jonathan Mounsey, 1h 48m 15s
7 Iain MacKenzie, 1h 48m 28s
8 Eddie O’Donnell, 1h 48m 31s
9 Alan Gardiner, 1h 48m 52s
10 Tugs Sherrington, 1h 49m 01s

Rally - Damp times on Mull

Paul MacKinnon still leads the Tunnock’s Mull Rally after the first loop of daylight stages, but has backed off a wee bit: “I had a bad misfire in that last stage,” he said, “so I switched it into safe mode and we’ll get a look at it at service.” And he only dropped a second to John Cope!

John Cope is happy in second place: “I’ve got a good flow and a good pace. I’m pulling away from James (MacGillivray) that’s the plan.”

James MacGillivray looked a wee bit sheepish: “I went off in Ardtun and hit Dougi’s wall! The car’s OK, it’s just my pride that’s hurt.”

Alan Gardiner has slipped back a wee bit: “I took 18 seconds off my time in Gribun this afternoon that I set last night – but we were crap last night!” Honesty is a virtue, eh? Tim Stell banged a wheel and it’s wobbling badly but the tyre stayed intact. Richard Cook punctures a tyre in Ardtun and Dave Hopwood smacked the nose of the Escort. The fan’s not working but it’s not losing water.

John Cressey is out with clutch failure in the MINI and John Rintoul’s retirement was caused last night by head gasket and radiator failure.

As for the weather? It’s wet. The rain is wet and the fresh air is wet, so everything is wet.

Interim Leaderboard after 13 of 19 stages:
1 Paul MacKinnon, 1h 13m 04s
2 John Cope, 1h 16m 20s
3 James MacGillivray, 1h 18m 09s
4 Tristan Pye, 1h 18m 48s
5 Daniel Harper, 1h 18m56s
6 Tim Stell, 1h 19m 21s
7 Eddie O’Donnell, 1h 19m 38s
8 Alan Gardiner, 1h 19m 44s
9 Jonathan Mounsey, 1h 20m 00s
10 Iain MacKenzie, 1h 20m 08s

Rally - Mid day mullings

There’s no change to the overnight results (see previous Blog) but I spoke to Neil MacKinnon, the faither of rally leader Paul ‘Buzz Lightyear’ MacKinnon who is leading the rally. Apparently the problem with Paul’s frequent engine stalls last night was down to a sticking throttle body: “We found the cause at service last night,” said Neil, “and we fitted new bodies this morning so that should cure it.”

“He’s driving well,” said the 12 times Mull winner, “that’s Kenny’s (McKinstry) own car that I used two years ago. It’s taken a while to get it right again after its wee bump, but it’s quite a car.”

Also spoke to Dougi Hall this morning out taking the dug for a walk along Tobermory Main Street in the rain and asked him what happened last night: “The gearbox is fine, the car is perfect,” said Dougi, “it was a roller pin the gear selector that broke. A 20p part cost me the run. And looking at the results this morning, things would have been looking good for me today.” So he’s a wee bit disgruntled, he’s not had a lot of luck on this event in the past but he keeps coming back.

Andrew Wood and Ronnie Thom had a busy night in the tyre vans last night and they are still going hard at it this morning. After last night’s unexpected mild temperatures and dryness a lot of folk were looking for harder tyres and now they’re looking for wets. It’s not raining hard here at present, but the drizzle is constant and persistent. There’s also a lot of new tar on sections of the roads so it’s going to be awfy slippy on this afternoon’s Leg 2 of the Tunnock’s Mull Rally.

Andy Rowe didn’t last long last night. The alternator belt came off on SS1 and tried to get through SS2 but “it conked out.” Haven’t seen John Rintoul as yet but he was having braking problems early on last night before his retirement. But this is a brand new EVO8 and it’s first time out, so it lacked a bit of mileage and development. Bruce Edwards in the Tupperware GT is not on the pace, but the Darrian was never built with these roads in mind. The tyres were too hard last night and with such a light wee car he just wasn’t getting any heart into them.

Rally - MacKinnon well in front

Paul MacKinnon and Ewan MacGillivray continue to lead the Tunnock’s Mull Rally and even though he’s making it look easy, he’s not without his problems. “I stalled it again at the start of Bunessan,” said Paul, “it’s OK when I’m going, it’s just getting it cleanly off the line that’s the problem.” There were no problems in the Gribun test, he cleaned it by 6 seconds – is that the first time that Gribun has been cleaned? We think so.

“I’ve got a bit of a cushion now,” said Paul, “so I’m in cruise mode, and switched the anti-lag off on that final stage just to make it a bit easier on the car.”

John Cope is happy enough with second place: “I’m just a boring old shit,” he said, “gently over the first two stages and steady over that lot.”

James MacGillivray is happier with his pace after a slow start and has moved up to third and has designs on Cope’s second place. On the move after his earlier problems is Daniel Harper in the MINI, now up to fifth behind Tristan Pye in the Subaru. In the other MiniSport MINI is John Cressey: “I nearly binned it just outside Dervaig,” he chuckled, “but the sequential gearbox is playing up.” He’s lying in a provisional twentieth place at present.

Alan Gardiner has dropped off the pace a wee bit: “I had a front puncture in Ardtun, I nearly hit the back of Eddie O’Donnell’s car in Bunessan when he went off and now my steering wheel is loose!” Top local seed Eddie O’Donnell slid off the road in Bunessan but got back out again with the help of spectators and it looks as though John Rintoul is out, parked up at the side of the road. Ian Chadwick limped out of the last stage with a broken throttle cable and co-driver Johnnie Bould lacerated his fingers pulling the frayed bit by hand to get out of the stage.

Interim Leaderboard after 9 of 19 stages:
1 Paul MacKinnon, 55m 57s
2 John Cope, 59m 12s
3 James MacGillivray, 1h 00m 13s
4 Tristan Pye, 1h 00m 58s
5 Daniel Harper, 1h 01m21s
6 Alan Gardiner. 1h 01m 36s
7 Billy Bird, 1h 01m 56s
8 Iain Ogg MacKenzie, 1h 02m 07s
9 Curly Haigh, 1h 02m 14s
10 Tim Stell, 1h 02m 17s

Friday 14 October 2011

Rally - MacKinnon still leads

Paul MacKinnon continues to lead the Tunnock’s Mull Rally after 6 of the event’s 19 stages with Calum Duffy falling back but still holding second – well, nearly! News has just come through from SS8 that Duffy is out. The gearbox had been playing up through the short southern tests and it looks as though the gearbox has now failed completely.

Just spoke to a very disconsolate Hugh Hunter: “We stalled on the startline of the first stage, but we were still fifth quickest through it so that was good, but the Focus started to feel bad in the second stage. It was very skittish and jjst not handling right. We got to the end, stopped and got our time, but as we pulled away there was a rattle, and nothing. No drive at all. We’re gutted. We’ve been desperate to come back to Mull since last year. We had a good recce, and really looking forward to it. I’m just gutted.”

Paul Benn who looks after the car said: “We’ve never had this with a Focus before so we’re a bit puzzled. Until we get it back and open it up, we think it’s the main shaft inside the transfer box which has snapped.”

It also looks as though Dougi Hall is out. He didn’t report any problems after the first two stages, but he failed to re-start from service. It looks like gearbox trouble for the Lancer driver too.
And spare a though for the number 94 seed, Gordon Sneddon in his Corsa. He’s just made an image for a Haynes Manual – if you want an ‘exploded view’ of an engine with all its bits and internals on public display, that’s Sneddon’s Corsa!

Interim leaderboard after 6 of 19 stages:
1 MacKinnon, 27m 49s
2 Duffy, 28m 24s
3 John Cope, 29m 14s
4 Tony Bardy, 29m 44s
5 Alan Gardiner, 30m 02s
6 James MacGillivray, 30m 08s
7 Tristan Pye, 30m 10s
8 Curly Haigh, 30m 24s
9 Tim Stell, 30m 25s
10 Richard Cook, 30m 29s

These results are very provisional, because the rally has moved on from there, but as I said, it looks as though Calum The Comet is out.

Rally - MacKinnon Leads on Mull

Paul MacKinnon leads the Tunnock’s Mull Rally after two stages but Calum Duffy was fastest over the first test of the night at Mishnish Lochs by 6 seconds from MacKinnon who then took 20 seconds out of Duffy on the second 14 mile test.

“The brake pedal went spongy half way through the long one,” said Calum, “and by the stage finish the pedal was sinking to the floor and there was nothing.”

As for Paul, first time out in the McKinstry WRC Impreza: “I stalled it twice on the start line of the first stage, but the second stage was good. The car is brilliant.”

Dougi Hall is lying third and reported a complaint shared by many on this unexpectedly dry and warm-ish first night: “The tyres went off, but we’ll need to see what the weather will do before we change them!”

John Cope had a gentle start and is holding fourth place ahead of Eddie O’Donnell Jnr with Alan Gardner sixth in the MkI.

Already out is Hugh Hunter: “A shaft broke. No drive. I’m pissed off!” Daniel Harper had a puncture 2 mls from the end of the second stage but drove out on it to minimise time loss. The alternator failed after 6 miles so he was driving on dipped beam only. Tony Bardy’s Nissan is overheating and he has broken the gearbox after a hard landing over a jump and can’t get fifth gear. Young Peter Taylor has lost a heap of time in the Clio: “The brakes failed and I pulled over to let Eddie (O’Donnell) past and the car slid off the road into a ditch. It took the spectators ages to drag me out but thanks to them I’m still going.”

Interim positions after 2 of 19 stages:
1 MacKinnon, 19m 03s
2 Duffy, 19m 17s
3 Hall, 19m 48s
4 Cope, 20m 21s
5 O’Donnell, 20m 35s
6 Gardiner, 20m 50s
7 James MacGillivray, 21m 05s
8 Tony Bardy, 21m 06s
9 Curly Haigh, 21m 08s
10 Tristan Pye, 21m 14s

So far, the weather is dry but the wind is picking up a wee bit. Road conditions are dry despite a slight smirr of rain, but it’s early days.

Rally - Majesty of Mull

Just arrived at the capital of club rallying, Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. And it's dry. But for how long? It has tried to rain a wee bit so maybe it is practicing for a right downpour ahead of the rally start at 7 pm. That's 2 hours earlier than usual because after the traditional opener across Mishnish Lochs followed by the Hill Road an Loch Tuath, the rally heads to the southernmost tip of the island for two runs at Bunessan and two at Ardtun before heading north again over Loch Scridain, Gribun Rocks and round Calgary. In other words, it's going to be a long night for the 120 or so rally crews on this 42nd Mull Rally.

Bumped into Willie Bonniwell at the Corran Ferry, but he didn't have his Subaru Impreza, he was driving a 26 tonne Scania with 10 ship's anchors on it. "All my staff are at the rally," said Willie, "so I'm doing everything myself, including truck driving. Anyway the car's not out of the bodyshop yet. I rolled it at a charity rally day and the passenger thought it as all part of the 'rally experience'. A ball joint had broken and the car just dug in and flipped over. It will be next year before I'm back out."

Anyway, fingers crossed for a dry night. Last weekend was a right drenching on the RoS and the weekend before was a splungin' McRae Rally!

Thursday 13 October 2011

Rally - Mull beckons

Just had a call from Lucky Sturrock who is on the Isle of Mull at present saying it's not too cold, but it's damp. Also had a look at the BBC weather website. According to it, it was supposed to be dry today, showery tomorrow, heavy showers on Saturday and dry again on Sunday. So who knows? I reckon the safest thing to do is stick your hand out when you open the door. If the hand comes back in wet put on an anorak, if it's dry, still put on an anorak.

Last year was a one-off. It was dry all weekend and warm-ish. That big orange thing in the sky also came out to play occasionally causing a rapid divestment of winter clothing at times. It was only the second time in 40 years that I recall such a good weekend for the rally.

On the Sunday morning after the rally I was sitting outside the Tobermory Hotel on a bench overlooking Tobermory Bay with the late Bill Troughear. I had carried out my breakfast coffee and he was sitting there making smoke signals with his pipe. The sky was blue, the bay was blue, and the sun was sparkling on the wave tops and sailboat rigging. All was right with the world. Sad to think that just a week later he was no longer with us.

This year's Tunnock's Mull Rally will be the second under its new management and the route is quite different this year as it visits the south end of the island. The entry looks good too. Not quite the 140+ numbers of the past, but 120 rally cars whizzing round the island will ensure busy times for all.

The organisers have had a wee last minute panic with the recent wet weather causing a bit of a road collapse on the Hill Road stage. That's all they need with the event due to get underway tomorrow night. But the matter is in hand, and nothing is ever a problem for the ever inventive islanders.

Goodness knows what this weekend will bring. Can Calum 'The Comet' Duffy score a seventh win? Paul MacKinnonn ran him awfy close last year and James MacGillivray had a fierce old battle with Dougi Hall who finished third - but that all-elusive first victory still escapes Dougi. Maybe this year?

Road - Fancia Bugatti?

How do you fancy a Bugatti Type 52 for under six grand? Tempted? The Conran Shop in London are selling them, but there is just one wee problem, the driver will need to be less than 4 feet tall.

There is no engine but there is a full set of pedals. No clutch, brake and accelerator, this is a two-pedal job, and it’s not an automatic either.

The Bugatti pictured is actually a kid’s pedal car, but it looks just the bizz with its hand-crafted aluminum coachwork, genuine leather seats and a working steering wheel.

This latest addition to the Conran Shop’s kiddie range is a replica of the actual pedal car Ettore Bugatti made for his 5 year old son.

The cars are 196 cm in length and each one has a serial number and a certificate of authenticity, and you can have any colour you like, so long as it is either red or blue, and the price? A snip at £5,995.

Christmas isn’t too far off now, is it?