Wednesday 29 February 2012

Road - Panda spotting

Another week, another hotel. At least this time it’s local. Last week it was the Ramada Inn at the NEC (which was booked through for the princely sum of 40 quid compared to the usual price of £160 if there is an event on at the NEC) but this time it’s local. The Scottish and Irish motoring journalists are gathering in Edinburgh for the launch of the new Fiat Panda.

Fiat are expecting the Panda to do well in Scotland because the Scots love thrifty little cars. In fact the wifey across the road from my house has one and loves it to bits. Anyway we’re all gathering in the bar at 6.30 pm ready for the presentation at 7.30 pm. But don’t go thinking this will be a convivial, liquid affair, we all take it far too seriously for that.

And here’s a nugget of useless information. Some manufactures have been known to ask their guests to take a breathalyser test in the morning before driving their cars. That caught out a few of the die-hards in the past, but seriously motoring journalists are rather more responsible than some of their other colleagues these days despite what Top Gear’s antics might suggest.

Besides the days of expensive and expansive press launches are long gone. It’s all terribly serious these days.

There’s a 120 mile route planned for tomorrow morning so we’ll just have to wait and see what automotive delights lie in store.

Road - Dream Machine

Ferrari has today unveiled its new F12berlinetta ahead of its official debut at the Geneva International Motor Show.

Claimed to be the most powerful and high performance Ferrari road car ever, the F12berlinetta’s 6262cc, 65° V12 engine delivers unprecedented performance and revs for a naturally-aspirated 12-cylinder.

It’s maximum power output is 740 CV (Cavalli Vapore – which is the Italian form of horsepower!) with a peak torque figure of 690 Nm, 80 per cent of which is already available at just 2,500 rpm. Ferrari says this “provides an unrelenting surge of acceleration all the way to the 8,700 rpm limit”.

An F1 dual-clutch transmission is used which has closer gear ratios developed specifically for this car’s performance.

The F12berlinetta boasts a weight-to-power ratio of just 2.1 kg/CV while fuel consumption has been reduced by 30%, with CO2 emissions of just 350 g/km.

Ferrari’s traditional transaxle layout has been altered to cope too. The wheelbase has been shortened and the engine, dashboard and seats have been lowered in the chassis, while the new rear suspension layout and gearbox enabled Ferrari’s engineers to make the rear volume of the car smaller. The overall result is a very compact car with a lower centre of gravity that is further back in the chassis, and new standards of aerodynamic efficiency.

Scaglietti designed an all-new spaceframe chassis and bodyshell using 12 different kinds of alloys. This has resulted in a 20 per cent increase in structural rigidity while reducing weight to just 1525 kg (70 kg less than the previous V12 coupé) with an ideal distribution between the axles (54 per cent over the rear).

As far as the aerodynamics are concerned, downforce has been boosted by 76 per cent (123 kg at 200 km/h) while drag has been significantly reduced (the Cd is just 0.299). This is down to a couple of intriguing features, one of which is the ‘Aero Bridge’ which uses the bonnet to generate downforce by channelling air away from the upper part of the car to its flanks where it interacts with the wake from the wheel wells to decrease drag. The second is Active Brake Cooling, a system that opens guide vanes to the brake cooling ducts only at high operating temperatures, again reducing drag.
The F12berlinetta’s impressive technical specifications are completed by Ferrari’s latest generation carbon-ceramic brakes (CCM3) and the evolution of the magnetorheological suspension control system (SCM-E). As is now traditional with all Ferraris, its control systems (E-Diff, ESP Premium, F1-Trac, and high-performance ABS) are all fully integrated.

The result is a 0-100 km/h (0 to 62 mph) time in 3.1 seconds and from 0 to 200 km/h in 8.5 seconds. Apparently it has also completed a lap of the Fiorano circuit in 1’23”, faster than any other Ferrari road car.

Now, where is the nearest Euro Millions Lottery outlet?

Road - A New MINI

It will be interesting to see how the latest MINI John Cooper Works Countryman will do against the recent news of dropping Prodrive to run the WRC Rally Team and Kris Meeke as a driver. Hopefully the ardent rallyists will make their displeasure known on the sales floor. But having said that, this latest MINI derivative is pretty potent.

The car features a newly developed 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with twin-scroll turbocharger, direct injection and variable valve control. That will be good for 218 hp at 6,100 rpm and generates peak torque of 280 Nm between 2,000 and 5,600 rpm. The Overboost function briefly pushes this up to 300 Nm.

Performance should dispatch the Nought to 62 mph sprint in 7.0 seconds with a top speed of 140 mph. A ‘Sport Button’ has also been fitted, sharpening the engine's responses, retuning the exhaust note and adjusting the steering's power assistance.
The ALL4 all-wheel-drive system uses an electromagnetic centre differential to distribute drive between the front and rear axles. In normal conditions ALL4 allows 50 per cent of power to the rear wheels, rising to anything up to 100 per cent when the going gets tough.

Standard features include an advanced aerodynamic kit, lowered sport suspension, 18-inch light alloy wheels, sports stripes and exclusive design features, i.e. typical BMW fancy bits with addded bling.

The real thing will be on show at the Geneva Motor Show for the first time and will go on sale in the autumn priced at £27,800 in the UK.

Road - Sportbrake by Jaguar

Jaguar has this morning revealed its first pictures of the new XF Sportbrake which will be officially unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show.

Based on the XF saloon, the Sportbrake is only 5mm longer and weighs only 70kg more than the saloon so handling and ride quality should not be compromised.
Every panel from the B-Pillar rearwards is new, and the rear seat passengers will benefit from an extra 48 mm of headroom.

With the rear seats up., the loadspace measures 550 litres and 1,675 litres when they are folded.

Naturally, this being a Jaguar, thoughtful touches include ‘remote fold levers’ which are mounted within the boot area to lower the rear seats so that you don’t get yer troosers dirty when stretching in across the bumper to release the rear seats. Also, an array of LEDs throws a pool of light onto the ground when the boot is open.

Self-levelling air suspension has been fitted with the Jaguar engineers reckoning that: “the Sportbrake can serve as an accomplished tow vehicle”. Just the job, eh?

The engine line-up includes 2.2 litre four cylinder and 3.0 litre six-cylinder engines driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Prices and specifications will be announced nearer the time of the car’s launch which is set to take place in the third quarter of 2012.  

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Rally - Time Trial

If you need an excuse to get out of the house this weekend, there is the first of this year’s Rally Time Trials at Kames (Muirkirk) on Sunday the 4th of March. The first car will set off at 9.30 am and it should be all over by 4.30 pm. If it’s wet it will be fun, if it’s dry it will be fast. And standing there on the banking at Kames is a lot more satisfying than washing the car or tidying the hoose.

Rally - Garry and Craig Win

On last weekend’s Rally Sunseeker International, the first round of the British Rally Championship, Garry Pearson and Craig Wallace scored maximum points in the Twingo Renaultsport R1 Trophy.

According to Garry’s Dad, Monty, the car was finished on the Wednesday and then taken south for the rally, typical last minute stuff.

With the car so new and Garry’s first time out in it, he wasn’t up for any risks and let double British Rally Champion Keith Cronin, in an identical Twingo, disappear off and up the road until he got a puncture and then broke a driveshaft.

Garrry wasn’t without his troubles either, as he bent a steering arm on a rock, but got back to service where the team was helped out by Monster Sport Europe who look after the Twingo Trophy cars.

More important to Garry and the team than the champagne finish, were the maximum points on the first round of the Twingo Renaultsport Championship and the £750 parts voucher. He also got full points in the MSA British Junior Rally Championship which has an end of season prize drive on offer on the Rallye du Var – that’s just a bit further south than Rallye Sunseeker, in Frenchland.Nice one boys.

Monday 27 February 2012

Rally - Malcolm Wilson Rally

Mike wants more 'seat-tme' ahead of the Border
This weekend’s Malcolm Wilson Rally will have a huge entry when it takes to the Lake District forests on Saturday with over 150 entries at the moment and possibly more to come.

Euan needs more time in the new Focus
Heading the entry list are Steve Perez, Hugh Hunter, Charlie Payne and Paul Bird all in Focus WRCs and Roger Chilman in an Impreza WRC, but there are a few Scottish crews entered with Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton provisionally entered at number 10 in their Ford Focus WRC right in front of Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy in the Mitsubishi Lancer.

Further down the entry list is Graeme Schoneville and Michael Hendry, but not in the Honda, as they have hired a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer (following an encouraging run out in a similar car on last month’s Knockhill Stages). Allan McDowall and Gavin Heseltine are entered in the Opel Kadett as are Andy Kelly and Stuart Loudon in the Historic Ford Escort MkI. And right away down at the other end of the field are Alex Pirie and David law in their Vauxhall Corsa.

The rally starts from Cockermouth Main Street on Saturday morning at 08.25 hrs with the first stage at Comb at 08.45.

Hobcarton follows at 09.05 and Greystoke at 09.45 hrs. Stage 4 is Grizedale North at 11.50 with Grizedale South at 12.09. A second run at Greystoke 2 is at 14.30 with the final stage in Wythop at 15.20 hrs.

But please note, this being the Lake District, everything is a bit sensitive so parking is very strictly controlled - and so is walking! There are some rare plants in the vicinity so don’t go trekking through the woods. Any adverse publicity could affect the future of rallying in this area. So please be careful – and patient!

Full details are on the website at:

The intention is to put some news and results up on this Blog during the rally, as ‘Motoring News’ is a bit short-staffed this weekend, so muggins has been pressed into service on their behalf. Instead of an enjoyable day’s spectating, it’s notebook and pencil at the ready.

Sunday 26 February 2012

Road - Evoque opens up

A number of companies are planning to reveal ‘concept’ vehicles at next month’s Geneva show, designed not just to showcase engineering ability and attract attention, but also to gauge press and public reaction which will be instrumental in whether such design studies actually make it into production.

Amongst them is Land Rover with this Range Rover Evoque Convertible Concept which the company claims would be the world's first premium convertible SUV.
The soft-top convertible is based on the RR Evoque Coupe and features a fully retractable premium roof system with a Roll Over Protection System [ROPS]. The concept combines capability and versatility with a drop down tailgate and a full four seats.

The hood is housed in a neat tapered finisher with the roof mechanism stowed discretely below the belt-line.

Naturally, and this being a concept only, the show vehicle sits on stupid 21 inch alloy wheels, which will probably do as much for the human spine as a drunk chiropractor who hates school teachers, proper doctors, life coaches and bankers.

Otherwise, the Evoque Convertible will feature all the expected Land Rover attributes such as Terrain Response, surround cameras, Park Assist, and a full ‘infotainment’ system featuring an 8-inch dual view touch screen from British audio experts, Meridian.

A convertible Evoque with full all wheel drive capability? And why not? That was how Land Rover made its name over 60 years ago.

Who knows? It could make head scarves and bunnets fashionable again!

Blethers - No Man's Land

Nutrition, or ammunition?
The kitchen was a no-go area yesterday. In fact it was no-man’s land. The wife and wean were in residence with Mary Berry’s ‘Great British Bake-Off’ cookbook. I blame her for being banned to the shed without tea or biscuits.

I can now understand where Steven Spielberg got his battlefield inspiration for warhorse. The smoke drifting from the open kitchen windows was in fact sieved flour being shaken with such vigorous intensity that the neighbours called the bomb squad, great clouds of icing sugar wafting across the garden like Sahara desert storms of sugary sweetness, steam from the red-hot kettle and the cake mix being beaten into submission by a device called KenWood, and just as powerfully as a V6 Dolomite Sprint (in-joke!).

At one point I did try to poke my nose through the door only to be greeted verbally with a single syllable uttered with expletive like ferocity. “Out!”

And then came the great unveiling. One sponge. In the time that Greggs can churn out 1,558 Victorian jam sponges, I was greeted with the total output of one Saturday morning’s domestic endeavour. One circular slab of shiny swelling that looked like an orange 1960's Cortina hub cap, with a frosted topping, sparkling under the fogged, splashed and dripping light bulb. It sat there sullenly, the drying rack legs bending ominously under the weight.

Two syllables were uttered this time with a venom to match the earlier command.  “Try it!”

Unfortunately, the tools were in the garage. All I had was the bread knife with the serrated edge. Making it look as easy and as gentle as I could, I sawed at the black edged crust reminiscent of the Black Hand Gang’s feverish pre-MOT chassis welding, humming to cover the sound of serrated grating. After breaking through to the ‘sponge’, the interior mortar-like mix had not yet set. Woe betide anyone who wanted a slice later!

Over the years I have tasted many cremated celebrations of dead cow at so-called burger vans around the rally service areas of countless rallies, the singed slices of dead pig, and rubbery fried chicken embryos wrapped in baps of cardboard and bread rolls fashioned from dead mattresses. I have borne such outdoor catering delicacies with great fortitude in the pursuit of sustenance  and protein, simply to provide the life-sustaining energy and protein to stick at my post and finish the job. A home-made sponge would therefore be a doddle, wouldn’t it?

All this experience was called into play as the first cut of the slice was passed between my lips. Nectar. The provenance of the Gods. Sensory satisfaction. Global contentment in a bite-sized morsel  – all these impressions I tried to convey to the captivated audience of two as I sought to prevent the bile rising in the throat, the gut muscles constricting in obstructive discouragement, and all the while trying to present an outward picture of male rapture and pride.

Such a delicacy would be too good for rebuilding the garden wall. No this was destined for a more profound need. Like ammunition for throwing at government troops in Syria. This would accomplish two objectives, pity and fear. The government troops would take pity on the opposition if they thought this was their basic fayre, while a direct hit from such a well flung sponge would crack a carbon fibre helmet at 100 paces rendering the wearer unconscious.

In fact the design/mixture could be sold to Bernie for F1 barriers at street circuits. Once struck, nothing would move again. It would be a crane job to clear the circuit.

On that basis, I escaped to McConechy’s Tyre Services, which I‘ll tell you about tomorrow.

P.S. Now I know this has little to do with motoring or rallying and we all like a little light reading on Sundays, but I was restricted in my access to domestic premises and the internet yesterday unable to go about my normal business.

Thursday 23 February 2012

Road - 2WD Subaru

Subaru may have lost some its appeal to enthusiasts following its withdrawal from the World Rally Championship, but it still makes fast and fascinating cars, and the new BRZ 2+2 Coupe is no exception.

Subaru has released details of the UK specification for the new car which will be available from mid year with its 2 litre Boxer engine producing some 200 PS and driven only through the rear wheels.

It will come with a choice of six-speed short-shift manual or paddle-operated automatic transmission.

A second, lower-spec model will be available a little later in the year, and a third ‘stripped out' version, which will appeal to tuners, modders and track-dayers will be along after that.

UK Spec:
17-inch alloy wheels
Torque-sensing LSD (Limited Slip Differential)
HID headlamps, front fog lamps and LED daytime running lights
VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) and ABS
Front, side, curtain and knee airbags
Cruise control system
Body-coloured, electric-folding, head door mirrors
Dual-zone automatic air-conditioning system
Leather seats, heated front seats
Key-less entry with Push Button Start system
Leather steering wheel and gear knob
Radio CD player with six-speaker system
USB and iPod connectivity

The price has yet to be confirmed, but don’t expect any change out of £25,000.

Of interest to those who no longer relish lying on garage floors doing their own servicing, the BRZ will be available with Subaru’s new three-year Everything Taken Care of (ETCo) aftercare package which for a set fee covers the following:

Minor dent and scratch repairs
Alloy wheel repairs
Monthly wash ‘n’ vac
Annual makeover – full valet
Lost keys replacement
Service collection and delivery
Annual wheel alignment check
First MOT cover (and contribution to repairs)
Accident management service
Insurance excess cover contribution
Winter wheel and tyre storage

This will be in addition to Subaru’s three-year (60,000-mile) manufacturer’s warranty, 12-year anti-corrosion bodyshell cover and three-year paintwork warranty, and also lasts for three years.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Road - New Transit

Further to this morning's story about the new Ford Transit Tourneo, which looked like a replacement for the Transit Connect, this in fact will be the new Transit van!

Billed as a 'concept' which is due to get its first public airing at the Geneva show next month, the next generation van will be based on this bodyshell. The vehicle in the pictures is apparently of similar size to the current short wheelbase Ford Transit van.

As yet, the interior furnishings have yet to be finalised, and although the concept shows an eight seater layout, the rear seats are not actually removable, they fold away into the floor much like the current S-Max. Whether that makes the final version remains to be seen.

The high waistline and the 18 inch alloy wheels disguise the true size of the vehicle, and while the concept interior shows two front seats there would appear to be room for three, and with two rows of three seater benches in the rear it would be ideal for airport and hotel shuttle duty as well as coping with big families.

As for the commercial van version, there is no news, but the current van was scheduled for replacement prior to the recession scuppering Ford's plans, hence the facelift last year and the adoption of Euro-5 engines. This will see the current van continue until this striking looking newcomer is introduced - possibly next year. More news to come!

Road - Ideal chase car

At midnight last night, Ford released this picture of a new model to be debuted at the Geneva show next month. Called the Tourneo Custom Concept for now, this eight seater has fully removable rear seats which would make it ideal for school wean ferrying during the week and chase car duties at weekends. 

Just think, the wife would never suspect your ulterior motive if you suggested such a stylish big MPV!

Ford also used the term ‘new family of one-ton Ford Transit people movers’ which kind of gives the game away, and along with a range of three 2.2 litre Duratorq TDCi diesel engines at 100 PS, 125 PS and 155 PS (i.e. no petrol!), tends to suggest that this could be a replacement for the current Ford Transit Connect range. Also the term ‘Tourneo’ is currently used by Ford’s Transit passenger carrying range of vehicles.

But here’s the thing, imagine the current Transit with this nose on it. Vans could become sexy again, eh?

Anyway, we should find out more today. There’s a big meeting of journalists at the NEC today, and Ford will be there along with a number of other automotive companies.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Rally - Snowman Rally Report

That's the Main Event Report for last weekend's Thistle Hotel Arnold Clark Snowman Rally up on the main website now. The reports on the Classes and their adventures will have to wait till later in the week - Birmingham beckons!

And just a wee note of apology for the many spelling mistakes and 'typos' in the on-event reports on this Blog last weekend. It wasn't intentional, it was entirely due to frozen fingers and a damp laptop. Honest.

And for those service area stalwarts at Muir of Ord who were wondering why I was sitting typing away in the blizzard with the Transit door wide open - it was only so I could get an internet signal on the Dongle. With the door shut, nothing, but with it open I was getting a glimmer of a satellite. New technology, eh?

Monday 20 February 2012

Road - Ne bevvy pas en France!

It’s obvious the French have taken the huff with us Brits, and maybe the rest of the Euro-continentals as well, because anyone contemplating driving abroad will now need to add even more kit to the mandatory stuff that already has to be carried in vehicles at all times.

As of the 1st July, British motorists will have to carry a breathalyser kit in the car at all times - and more likely two, in case you’ve used one after a night on the vino collapso, and then the Gendarmes stop you anyway.

And don’t think you won’t need to check, because the drink/drive limit in France is actually lower than it is over here at 50 mg per 100 ml, as opposed to 80 mg per 100 ml in dear old Blighty, so British rules do not apply in furrin-land.

If you haven’t got such a thing, don’t worry too much, single-use breathalysers are currently on sale at ferry and tunnel terminals now, and they’ll probably stock up on more ahead of the Summer hols.

In other words it’s just one more thing to pack alongside the thongs, mankinis, sun cream and Saltires to wave at Le Mans!

When driving abroad you will need:
Spare light bulbs
GB sticker or GB Euroflag numberplate
Hi-Viz jacket (some countries require 2)
Headlamp converter
First Aid kit
Warning Triangle

Also Recommended:
Fire extinguisher – some countries rule that you must stop to help stricken motorists.
Tyre inflator or metal barrel foot pump
Breakdown and emergency kit

Road - MINI van

I suppose it was only a matter of time, but having exhausted all other forms of MINI - diesel and petrol, standard and Cooper, 2WD and 4WD, convertible and clubman - BMW have now introduced the van.

Although only a concept, all the pre-Geneva show publicity blurb looks too positive for this not to happen, and the van will be revealed in the metal at the Geneva show on the 6th to 18th March next month.

Based on the MINI Clubman, the concept Clubvan shares its five door lay-out, but behind the two front seats is a flat floor and two-section ‘bulkhead’. 

The bottom section of the bulkhead is made from solid aluminium with a stainless steel honeycombe grating above it to protect occupants from a bump on the napper should the load contents shift under heavy braking. To prevent that though, there are six load lashing eyes on the floor.

The original minivan was a huge success so there is no reason to  doubt that this concept would be a success too. That only leaves the original Mini Pickup to complete the set!

Sunday 19 February 2012

Rally - Snowmen and women

Couldn't resist this one! And no, it's not a group of Christmas elves practising for next years Santa's Grotto in Halfords, it's actually Marshals from Highland Car Club manning the 'Finish' line at the end of the first stage on last weekend's Snowman Rally.

This must be one of the most thankless tasks on any rally. There is no inter-action with the crews, just keeping an eye on the timing equipment and if it does go wrong, then resorting to a pre-arranged signalling manoeuvre with the Marshals further down the road on the 'Stop' line.

And yes, it is as cold as it looks. Or maybe not - it's actually colder than that!

Rally - Happy days

Reay MacKay was surprisingly upbeat at the end of the Snowman Rally - even though he retired the Impreza at the end of the first stage. Despite the bitterly cold air, the Subaru was steaming like an auld kettle as it came through the finish. Only too well aware of the problem Reay wasn't pushing and the car was parked up on the A9 ready for the trailer.

Later he said with a smile: "At least it wasn't the electrics this time," referring of course to the string of electrical loom failures which sidelined the car so often last year, "this time the electrics were reliable and it was a mechanical fault. It wasn't actually the head gasket," he explained, "but a loose connection between the radiator and the engine which lost the water."

Another driver with a smile on his face was Bruce McCombie whose new engine arrived on Wednesday and was installed for the Snowman after a string of non finishes last year, but his day was not without its problems. The wiper motor failed, hardly ideal in the wintry conditions.

But the ingenuity of rallyists and service crews knows no bounds and Bruce rigged up a hand operated wiper system. The usual method is to tie a long piece of string to a wiper arm and pass one end through the passenger door window for the co-driver to pull and the other through the o/s door window for the driver to pull, but not this time.

"I didn't want to distract Michael (Coutts) the co-driver," said Bruce, "He's got enough to do with the Notes, so I attached an elastic to the far side of the wiper and the car bodywork, and a wee rope to my side passsing through the window so that I could pull it against the elsatic and it would pull the wiper arm back itself for another wipe. It worked fine!"

Saturday 18 February 2012

Rally - Bogie wins Snowman

He made it look easy, but conditions on this year's Thistle Hotel Arnold Clark were infinitely changeable and constantly treacherous. Every one who survived was a winner.

It wasn't just skill and talent that earned Bogie his first win of the season, there was luck in there too: "On that snowy fourth stage, there was one downhill section where I just touched the brakes - the car filled the road. With a drop on one side and tress on the other, I thought, this is going to hurt. This was not the most enjoyable event I've done but it was one of the hardest to win."

Mike Faulkner was both pleased and relieved with second place: "I put snow tyres on for the fifth test, and it was gravel, then I put gravel tyres on for the final test, and it snowed!"

Unluckiest driver must be Quinton Milne, as high as second after four stages, and looking good, the brakes failed in the fifth test. "We had to run through the sixth stage with no brakes at all. Given how bad things were I'm really pleased with 9th place and getting some championship points in the bag.

That gave young Peter Taylor third place and he was really chuffed: "Job done, I wanted to push at times but Martin and Dad (Keith Taylor) told me just to hold station and go for the points." When asked how slippy it was he said: "Imagine a tarmac surface with an inch of sh*t on it and an inch of frozen snow on top of that. It was the slippiest conditions I've ever encountered."

Rory Young was equally pleased with fourth: "John McClory beat me by one second on the Scottish last year, and I best him by one second today!"

Snowman Top Ten:
Bogie 50m 03s
Mike Faulkner 51m11s
Peter Taylor 52m 46s
Rory Young 52m 49s
John McClory 52m 50s
Barry Groundwater 53m 08s
Steven Ronaldson 53m 17s
Dougal Brown 53m 46s
Quintin Milne 53m 58s
Matthew Calderwood 54m 05s

Apologies for the delay with this final report - the laptop froze. Not the usual electronic glitches, it was just too cold. I had to wave it under the hand dryer in the Gents toilets in the Thistle Hotel to thaw it out!

Rally - Bogie still leads

With 4 stages out of 6 gone in today’s Snowman Rally, David Bogie still leads the Snowman Rally from Quintin Milne with Mike Faulkner in third place but the snow is now falling steadily as the survivors of a particularly tough, slippery and unpredictable event head south again.

Early times show:
David Bogie 27m 57s
Quintin Milne 28m 45s
Mike Faulkner 28m 52s
Rory Young 29m 41s
Peter Taylor 29m 47s
Dougal Brown29m 58s
John McClory 30m 02s
Steven Ronaldson 30m 02s
Barry Groundwater 30m 19s
Keith Robathan 30m 19s
and Alasdair S Graham is 14th overall in a Nova at present!

Euan Thorburn continues to struggle. The cause of his time loss in the first stage this morning was an overheating clutch – caused he reckoned by the very tight chicanes and his unfamiliarity with the new Focus. On the other hand, Peter Taylor has go to grips with his Focus and is resiting the urge to push for a podium position – so far!

But the drive of the rally so far is down to Quintin Milne second time out in his Mitsubishi but he admitted to “being a passenger a couple of times in that last stage in the snow” commenting on the conditions., Apparently there was 4 inches of snow for the first 8 miles of the stage, then it got deeper for the last section!

Mike Faulkner reckoned “this was a snow tyres stage – but hindsight is wonderful thing, isn’t it?” he said with a grin.

David Bogie had a misfire at the en d of that last stage and had to switch off the anti-lag in case the lean mixture burnt the pistons and is just hoping there is no lasting damage as he heads towards the final two stages.

John McClory was off in SS2 and had to reverse out ... Craig McMiken broke a driveshaft in SS2 and had to do SS3 as well ... Dougal Brown got a rear puncture towards the end of SS4 which was tricky as the snow was starting to polish by that time ... John Morrison spun in SS4 and struggled to get it turned around on the ice ... Chris Collie’s Subaru is on its roof in there and Calum MacKenzie went straight on and got stuck at an easy bend, but just fell victim to the conditions ... Fraser MacNicol was off in there too but last seen struggling to get back on the road ... Bruce McCombie’s wipers failed and he has rigged up a manually operated system consisting of a pull-rope attached to the wiper arm and leading through the window for him to pull while driving while the other side is controlled by an elasticated bungy which pulls the wiper arm back! Ingenious ... Alistair Inglis was going  well but slid off and damaged the front o/s corner of the Lancer and Allan MacKay was off twice – the second time for good.

As for the winner? It’s anyone’s game now. Conditions will play their part too.

Rally - 1st Service Roundup

The snow is on with a vengeance now. It’s wet, cold and horrible at the Service Park in Muir of Ord with bitterly cold snow showers sweeping across the landscape, but the crew have got to get down, under and on with it.

Calum MacLeod broke a throttle cable in the MG on SS1 but then had an intermittent electrical fault over the next two stages ... Matthew Calderwood forgot to switch on the anti-lag on SS1 (dohhhh!) but didn’t really miss it in the slippery conditions ... Fraser Wilson’s turbo pipe came loose and rear suspension arm worked loose but reckons it was just rebuild teething troubles ... Carl Tuer slid when being flagged down by spectators cos of cars already off in Ord Hill ahead of him, but Michael Glendinning who was already off sportingly helped by pushing the MG out although much time has been lost ... Alasdair Graham had a clutch problem in the first stage and it is being bled at service so he can get gears ... The other Alasdair S Graham had a wee off in the Nova but didn’t lose much time ... Charlie Jarrett cannae see,  cos the heated w/screen isn’t working ... Scott Grant had to change a driveshaft at midnight last night, but glad he did so and things are OK this morning ... Graeme Smith lost all brakes in the Honda at the end of the first stage and had to do the next two using the handbrake and is having to carry a can of fluid to top up the reservoir... Kevin Ronaldson was off in Ord Hill and banged the rear quarter of the Subaru but it’s only panel damage ... Kenny Wood’s alternator isn’t working in the V6 Dolomite (doesn’t it sound ,minted?) ... Jim Robertson had a wee off in the C2 in Ord Hill ... Niall Inglis is trying to fix his handbrake in the Nova which appears to be binding on the rear wheels ... Stewart Davidson has broken the front anti roll bar mounting on the Escort and done some other damage ... Bill Davidson’s wipers failed in SS3 during the snow! ... Alex Pirie is tightening up the sumpguard bolts after rubbing the Corsa’s erse on the glaur in SS2 and 3 ... Colin Grant’s co-driver Michael Cruickshank did the the second stage holding the Skoda’s door shut when the Marshal didn’t quite manage to close it at the Start.

And those are the lucky ones, there are a lot of cars off in SS2 and 3, and now it's the 13.5 miler next.

Rally - Bogie leads

With 3 stages gone in today’s Snowman Rally, David Bogie has taken an early from Mike Faulkner but Euan Thorburn was slow through the first stage thus morning.

Early times show:
David Bogie 11m 21s
Mike Faulkner 11m 34s
Calum MacKenzie 12m 17s
Barry Groundwater 12m 21s
Bruce McCombie 12m 22s
Rory Young 12m 31s
Peter Taylor 12m 39s
John Morrison 12m 45s
Euan Thorburn 12m 49s
David Wilson 12m 52s
Chris Collie 12m 578s

But Reay MacKay is out. The Subaru was billowing clouds of white steam in the crisp, clear, bitterly cold, sunlit air near the end of the first stage, and was spotted parked up on the A9 at the stage exit with suspected head gasket failure .

Michael Glendinning and Alistair Inglis were both going well through the first stage, but have slid off in the treacherously slippy Ord Hill, where drivers had to cope with windy snow flurries which obscured any sight of the nearby Kessock Bridge – compared to the sunny day’s opener. So it looks as though weather conditions will continue to play a factor in today’s event.