Friday 31 August 2012

Rally - Merrick tales

Autumn has arrived in Wigtown, it’s getting dark and the lights are on under the Scrutineering marquees.

Amongst the latest cars to arrive is the Ford Focus of Euan Thorburn. To keep his title hopes alive he needs a win tomorrow and a maximum point score so I asked him if he felt any pressure: “No pressure. There’s no plan for tomorrow. We know what we have to do. I think the long stage will be where it’s won or lost, and we’ll be trying.”

He added: “I’ve never done Glentrool this long before and I’m looking forward to it. In fact this will be the longest single forest stage I have ever done, although I’ve done 20 milers over Otterburn before, but that was in the Peugeot and on tarmac.”

When asked what he had done to the car after Speyside, he said: “Just a spanner check. We know the car better now, but I’m under orders. I’m only allowed to use two switches inside the car, one for the diffs and the other for the anti-lag – the go-fast button and the go-faster button!”

David Wilson passed through with the MkII: “When I left home this morning (north of Inverness!) I had a nagging feeling that I had left something behind, but couldn’t think what. All the way down the road it bothered me till we got 6 miles from Dumfries – the MOT! I had forgotten to get it done during the week. Luckily we found a garage in Dumfries that had a cancelled slot so he could fit us in. Naturally, it passed first time.” Anyone who knows the brains behind the Wilson outfit will raise their eyebrows at the use of the word ‘naturally’ in that final sentence.

Had a wee chat with Rachel Medich and Katherine Begg in the ‘Rally2Raise’ Nissan Micra. Rachel uses her rallying activities to raise money for MS, cancer and mystygamus charities and had driven the wee car the full 285 miles from Aberdeen to Wigtown for the rally and will drive it all way back after the rally on Sunday. No trailers for her.

Both Rachel and Katherine are specialist theatre nurses, and Rachel had just come off night shift the night before last to get ready for this weekend’s rally and the long drive south. 

True grit, eh? So if you see them out and about tomorrow, chuck some money their way.

Rally - Merrick moos

By goad it’s dreich in Wigtown. It was dry for the rally shakedown this morning but started raining at lunch time and it’s still raining now at tea time. Which is a pity, as the Ian Broll Merrick Rally has taken over the city centre of the county town of Wigtown for the night with two marquees outside the Town Hall where the Scroots are practicing their dark arts of wheel shoogling, turbo sizing, and fire extinguisher pin twiddling, and all the while harrumphing at the competitors.

 Lancaster’s David Wright is here for tomorrow’s rally and asked why, said: “It was either the Woodpecker or here,” he said, “there’s virtually no difference in distance from where I live and I’ve got no chance of doing anything in the BTRDA series, so chose to come up here. I was last here in 2010 but only did one stage – the fuel pump broke!”

Another thing that swung his decision in Merrick’s favour was the inclusion of a 20 mile stage in Glentrool tomorrow. A stage that long is rare in a one day forest National.

Also here is the new British Junior Rally Champion, Garry Pearson. He’s not doing Rally Yorkshire so his season is virtually over but he is looking ahead to his prize drive for winning the Renaultsport Twingo Championship which is the Rallye du Var in France in October. There is however, one wee problem. It will be in a French built car run by an Italian team, so he’ll need to learn three languages – French, Italian and English, for the furriners will never understand his Borders brogue.

Anyway, Garry’s got a job tomorrow, he’s marshalling at a Passage Control. Now I think that’s terrific, he’s just one two major British titles, and here he is at a Scottish Championship event marshalling. 

Craig McMiken has been a busy boy today. He had problems at the shakedown this morning: “It was just a grommet in the fuel pump that needed replacing,” he said, “but then I got called back to the farm. We had a cow in difficulty. She was giving birth, but the calf was coming out backwards, so she needed a hand.”

And the good news is, mother and daughter are doing well!

Rally - Trade secrets

Machars Car Club had laid on a rally shakedown earlier today ahead of tomorrow’s Ian Broll Merrick Stages Rally and there was a goodly turn out of cars and crews to give various guests and sponsors a hurl through the woods. Guests included some Forestry Commission folk and even a couple of traffic cops. It’s always nice to keep in with the boys, and girls, in the blue and yellow battenburgs.

Mike Faulkner was there and despite the professional looking outfit and well prepared car, Mike is the very epitomy of budget rallying i.e. cheap. He’s just fitted new rear brake pads and used today’s test session to set up the brake balance. “I’ll get half a season out of the rear disc pads,” said Mike, “but only 2 or 3 events out of the fronts. Some folk change all pads at every event, but we don’t.”

David Bogie enjoyed his recent trip to Stornoway in Hamish Kinloch’s MkII. “There’s only 15,000 people on the island,” he said, “but I think they were all there at the kart track on Saturday afternoon. Every time I power slid the car I got a huge cheer and they went mental when I did do’nuts.”

“I was following the Police in convoy at one point down the main road and the Police car made a sudden turn right off the road. I turned in with the MkII and the back stepped out so I just gunned it round the corner, and there was a woman standing there with a wee girl. I thought, ooops, I’m in for it now, but the woman was grinning and gave me the thumbs up and the wee girl was waving. Just magic.”

David had a few of his own sponsors there this morning and I asked him how hard he tried when at days such as these. He said about 8 tenths, no risks: “Folk who’ve never been in a rally car don’t appreciate the difference between flat out and safe, they just enjoy the noise and the ride, and a wee bit of tail action on the corners. I was down at M-Sport earlier in the year giving some of M-Sport’s guests a ride in an S2000 car, so I was on my best behaviour in front of Malcolm. This chap from Abu Dhabi climbed in and off I went. I wasn’t even up to speed and he was clutching at the seat and roll cage but grinning from ear to ear. I thought he was nervous so I only went at half speed and when we got back, he jumped out and was hugging me and Malcolm and everybody else. Some folk are easily impressed.”

Jock Armstrong doesn’t know what to do about tomorrow. Comed Saturday it will be three years to the date when he won his first Scottish Championship round. “So it would be nice to do it again,” said Jock, “but tomorrow is all about David (Bogie), Euan (Thorburn) and Mike (Faulkner), they’re in the running for the championship, I’m not, but I don’t want to take points from any of them.”

Alick Kerr has fixed his gearbox since the Scottish – with some Tiger seal! “It was just a wee crack in the casing. It wasn’t leaking just weeping, so we’ve plugged the leak and we’ll change the casing over the winter. We’re hoping to do a full season next year if we can get the budget together.”

It’s 21 months since Alick last sat in a rally car before the Scottish this year, but the plan was only to do two events ahead of a full season next year. “It’s a confidence thing,” he said, “the 4s and the 5s are the hardest to get right.”

The Honda twins both had problems this morning. Graham Smith’s orange car had a misfire and water was found in one of the cylinders. So a paper towel was dunked through the plug hole to soak up the water, then they found the real cause of the problem, one of the bolts holding the distributor cap to the metal casing had broken and was seized inside the sleeve. So the distributor was whipped and taken 10 miles down the road to Jim McDowall’s place to get some heat on it and free it up.

Graeme Schoneville’s yellow car had a similar problem with water so the Smith team gathered round with their dry cloot to fix it!

Fraser Wilson heard a knock from the rear of the Mitsubishi and changed a top link in the rear suspension. Then after the next run, found that it was actually an exhaust bracket rattling on the prop shaft.

Rachel Medich is a wee star. She drove down al the way from Aberdeen in her wee 1000cc Nissan Micra, and on Sunday she’ll drive all the way back. Her spares package consists of one spare wheel with a road tyre!

As for tomorrow, I’ll try and update the Blog from the rally but signals are hard to get in the middle of Glentrool!

Thursday 30 August 2012

Road - Transit blues

Before ...

It’s amazing how quickly human nature can change. I used to be a gentle, caring, kind, considerate, patient, polite, thoughtful, human being, then overnight I changed. Like the afterbite of a werewolf I’ve now developed a vicious streak. I’ve become very angry. I also detect the beginnings of a bloodlust – for revenge.

And the cause of this sudden change? Some dirty sneaky cowardly lowlife scumbag stole the wheel covers off the editorial Transit last night.
...... after!

Why? To sell on? To tart up their own van? Or was it a drunken prank? Whatever, I have now joined society’s grumpy generation of “hanging’s too good for them” moaning old gits.

There is absolutely no chance of ever finding out who did it, but if I ever did get my hands on them I would need to be physically restrained. The initial thought was to drill a hole through their tongue, hook it up to the tow rope and then drag them up a forestry road, through a thicket of gorse, then a bed of thistles followed by nettles before staking them out over an anthill. Then I had a better thought, make them eat the mother-in-law’s cooking for a week – two weeks really would be pushing it!

Really. I’m surprised at myself. We’re talking a set of plastic wheel trims at 65 quid (plus VAT!) and yet I’m just so full of murderous intent. Goodness knows how I would have felt had they nicked the van itself. I would probably have turned trigger happy.

And since the van was parked on my own property, I suppose it also has something to do with the invasion of privacy as well. And that dates back to prehistoric man – it’s my cave, keep out!

And just in case you were left in any doubt, I really am quite annoyed as well.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Rally - More Merrick info.

The organisers of this Saturday’s Ian Broll Merrick Stages Rally have produced leaflets containing a Spectator Map and Entry List for spectators. Supplies of these are being given out to local businesses in Wigtown and Newtown Stewart to give to spectators.  So if you’re coming down for the day, get there early and check out the shops.

I don’t know how successful this will be but I have put a copy of the ‘Spectator Map’ here in the Blog in the hope that it might help. I have also reproduced the organisers’ directions.

SS1/4: Stewartry Tyres Craignell (1st car 09.10 Hrs and later at 13.06 Hrs)
a & b Access to stage mid-points are off the unclassified road immediately west of Clatteringshaws Loch. Please drive carefully on this narrow road. Parking is limited and please ensure all 4 wheels are off the road.
c Access to stage 0.19 from A 712. Please park with all 4 wheels off the road. Good spectating around Black Loch 0.77 miles from stage finish/ start.

SS2: GWF Energy Glentrool (10.53 Hrs)
d Access to start of stage with limited off-road parking in large lay-by opposite forest entrance. If parking at the side of the road please ensure all 4 wheels are off the road. DO NOT park in passing places.
e & f Access to stage mid-points off unclassified road north of Glentrool village with limited off-road parking.
g Access to mid points in stage off unclassified road north of Glentrool village with limited off-road parking.
h Stage mid-point approx. 1 mile from spectator point e
I Access to midpoint of stage 2 off A 714 north-west of Bargrennan village.

SS3: Motorwise Drigmorn (12.41 Hrs)
j Access to end of stage from A712 Please park with all 4 wheels of the public road

And a final point, remember, the 2WD cars and crews are running first on the road followed by the heavy mob.