Thursday 31 October 2013

Rally - Galloway Report

That's the main event report from last Sunday's Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally published in the rally mag now. Classes roundup will follow tomorrow.

Rally - i20 WRC in Spain

Prior to the WRC teams arrival in Catalonia last week for Rally de España, Hyundai was putting some serious miles on the new i20 WRC car over some of those very same stages.

This gave the new team some pretty good data to see how development is progressing and follows on from a week of testing earlier in October in southern Spain as well as some tarmac testing at Baumholder in Germany in the Arena Panzerplatte area which is used on Rallye Deutschland.

Juho Hänninen and Chris Atkinson did most of the driving which comprised a total of 15 days and more than 1000 kms (620 miles) on both gravel and tarmac.

Road - Want an ISA?

Now this is true, don’t go thinking I’m making this up, but those furriners across the waatter in EuroLand are up to no good again. Forever trying to justify their already fat salaries, exorbitant expense claims and inflate their over-spent budgets with ever dafter ideas, they have come up with a new ploy.

The EU is actively considering rules for new cars to be installed with Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) technology.

So what’s that all about? This is an on-board vehicle system which detects speed limits and can apply the brakes accordingly on the vehicle which you happen to be driving! They are also suggesting that existing vehicles could be retro-fitted with these devices.

This is not far fetched nonsense. The technology already exists. Motor sport currently uses transponders linked to GPS satellites which records not just the position and speed of a car on track or stage but what the engine, steering and suspension are doing. And as we all know adjustments to the car can be made by a bloke sitting in the pits with a computer even while the car is whistling past his nose at 200 mph.

That same technology is prevalent in trucks, buses and cars. We now have cars which can find a parking spot and park themselves while the ‘driver’ reads a newspaper. These same cars can detect whether a white line is being crossed, and can either take its own corrective measures or give the driver a jolt to wake him up.

In other words, we are losing control. As drivers, we are about to become passengers.

The trouble is our own politicians are not really interested. They will do nowt about such daft ideas then blame the Euro-ists - but by then it’s too late.

Nor do I see the FIA Institute getting vocal about this, but I reckon it could cause just as much trouble as it can save. What about temporary speed limits, roadworks, road conditions, other traffic?

We’re heading towards full-sized Scalextric for grown-ups - only those ‘driving’ the cars will be over-ruled and controlled by Big Brother.

So next time a politician tries to engage with you, just have a quiet (or not!) word in his ear.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Rally - Rally Wales GB

There's quite a few Scottish crews heading south to Rally Wales GB in November to compete on the 3 Day and 2 Day National Rallies. A full list of all those entered in the two National events has been published along with a Timetable, here:

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Rally - Kingdom Stages

That's the full Entry List for this Saturday's Kingdom Stages Rally at Crail up on the rally mag now. Six stages with first car off at 8.30 am. Last chance for Scottish rallying action this side of Christmas!

Sunday 27 October 2013

Rally - Armstrong wins

Well, there was a wee bit of a kerfuffle at the Final Control in Castle Douglas, hence the delay with this report from the Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally. The TV cameras and crews were there, the champagne was waiting, and that big ex-rugby chap off the telly was there with his sidekick Rhona. Jock was there, and Mike was there, but of David there was no sign.

Leading all the way to the end of the final stage, the orange Focus emerged from the trees and headed towards the main road. Then the big orange light on the dash came on. You know the one, the one that tells you this is going to be expensive, that one. David switched off immediately suspecting Thorburn-disease i.e. a broken crank.

"The engine was due a rebuild anyway," said David, "and we have noticed a wee bit of an oil loss over recent events so we've been keeping an eye on it. So it's not entirely unexpected."

That meant Armstrong won his home event and Faulkner moved up to second, only his third podium finish of the year. The biggest surprise was Shaun Sinclair's third, surprising even him: "I thought there might be a chance of top ten today," said Shaun, 2 years and 1 month after his last rally, "but to get this, it just proves there's life in the old dog yet."

Cursing under his breath was the fourth placed man, Barry Groundwater. "He beat me by only 2 seconds," said Barry, "but fair play to him he drove well." Donnie MacDonald was fifth and Andy Horne sixth - but only after he had shelled out for new tyres half way through. "Oddly enough my times got better after I put them on," said Andy.

Naturally Jock was delighted but not by the nature of the win: "We tied on the final Spectator Special and I took 11 off him on the final stage so I was happy with that," said Jock, "but then he hit his problem. He phoned me, but the signal was breaking up so we were all standing about in the rain at the Finish waiting for him to show up and he wasn't going to make it. It's a shame, but that's rallying."

Leaderboard after 7 (of 7) stages:
1, Armstrong, 47m 20s
2, Faulkner, 48m 45s
3, Sinclair, 49m 30s
4, Groundwater, 49m 32s
5, MacDonald, 49m 59s
6, Horne, 49m 31s
7, Gallacher, 50m 41s
8, McMiken, 51m 12s
9, McClory, 51m 26s
10, Brown, 51m 47s

Rally - Bogie in command

Well, those last 2 tests put the smile back on everyone's faces, well, nearly everyone. Cairn Edward and Glengap were in excellent condition, but bum-nippingly slippy in places.

As Mark McCulloch found out when the Subaru slid off into a ditch on a  Right over crest. The crew were OK as Iain Haining noticed when he drove past: "Mark gave us a beautifully executed star jump when he saw me and Mhairi!"

Jock had a problem this morning whe he couldn't see over the crests in the first few stages. Whoever had fitted the seat had installed it 3 inches lower than he's used to, but that was easily fixed at service. Donnie MacDonald is dropping  abit of time: "We've softened the whole car off as much as we can but it's still not right, we think we have a problem with the dampers." Liam Regan is having a tough time, no brakes on the first stage and puncture on the second, then no brakes again on SS4 and a puncture on SS5.

Barry Groundwater and Andrew Gallacher both reported a wee misfire on the road section into service but
Barry reckons a change of plugs will cure his.

And speaking of Iain Haining, silliness is never far away. Apparently he saw a big crowd in Glengap and set the car up for a bit of a slide - until that insistent little quiet voice came over the intercom "Stop it!" You don't argue with threats when they are made quietly, eh?

But after 5 stages, Bogie ("these stages are class") still leads from Armstrong with Faulkner in third place.

Leaderboard after 5 (of 7) stages:
1, Bogie, 37m 20s
2, Armstrong, 38m 09s
3, Faulkner, 39m 10s
4, Sinclair, 39m 46s
5, Groundwater, 40m 01s
6, MacDonald, 40m 13s
7, Horne, 40m 42s
8, Gallacher, 40m 59s
9, McMiken, 41m 01s
10, McClory, 41m 31s

Rally - Bogie leads

Richard Dickson summed it up best, "A good stage ruined," referring to the 'repaired' bits in Dalbeattie. Normally a tricky and technical stage, the flow had been spoiled by attempts to regrade sections during the week and with last night's rain, much of that well intentioned effort was ruined.

Steve Bannister drove for 6 miles with a rear puncture and Richard Dickson drove out on two punctures, both on the driver's side adding "we're too fat and lazy to stop, get out and change them!"

Alistair Inglis and Chris Collie are both off in Dalbeattie and Jon Burn damaged the front n/s corner and lost the bumper of his Impreza. Ian Baumgart also bashed the front n/s corner in his Impreza so it must a be a Subaru thing!

Craig McMiken bashed the nose of his Lancer on a 'tyre bale' in the Spectator Special third stage but it's only panel damage. Iain Wilson suffered most badly. When a drivehshaft broke in the Nova it happened right in front of his family and followers in the Spectator Special - from hero to numpty in less than a second!

But after 3 stages, Bogie still leads from Armstrong with Faulkner, who had a spin in Dalbeattie, holding third.

Leaderboard after 3 (of 7) stages:
1, Bogie, 18m 29s
2, Armstrong, 18m 59s
3, Faulkner, 19m 23s
4, Sinclair, 19m 32s
5, MacDonald, 19m 53s
6, Groundwater, 19m 56s
7, Brown, 20m 18s
8, Horne, 20m 23s
9, McClory, 20m 35s
10, McMiken, 20m 35s

Rally - Galloway underway

Gawd it's dreich here in Castle Douglas but most folks appreciated the extra hour of night time, especially Angus Lawrie and his crew. Remember they were at the Test Day yesterday trying out a replacement engine for the one which had destroyed itself earlier in the week. With little time to fix it they had installed a pretty well worn bog standard unit.

Well, after 2 runs yesterday a bolt broke on the cam tensioner and it wrecked the top end. Undaunted the boys set to. Using the head from the earlier 'good' engine and the block from this latest failure they assembled an engine and had it running by half past ten last night. Angus put a few miles on it before bed.

Another who appreciated the longer night was Mickey Rankin. Remember he broke the 'rotor' arm inside his Escort's Lumenition kit yesterday and his nephew managed to locate a replacement - in Banbury! Anyway, Paul Sharp (Michael's brother) jumped in his own car to drive to Manchester last night to meet a guy who was driving up from Banbury.,Six hours later he got back with the part and everybody is happy - ier (?) this morning.

And as for the Rally Start arch, the inflatable black banana, well it was taken down shortly afterwards before it went for a walk in the blustery conditions.

David Bogie leads (7m 13s) after the first stage, a wet, slittery opener to the day's 7 stage affair. He was 18 secs up on Jock Armstrong on 7m 31s, from Mike Faulkner and Chris Collie both sharing 7m 38s.

In a surprising fifth place after two years out of the driver's seat is Shaun Sinclair on 7m 47s showing he has lost none of his old flair. Just imagine what he could have done had he been match fit.

Anyway, Donnie MacDonald did 7m 54s ahead of Barry Groundwater and Andrew Gallacher both on 8m 01s ahead of Dougal Brown going well on 8m 05s with Alistair Inglis on 8m 07s and Andy Horne 8m 12s

Saturday 26 October 2013

Rally - Galloway eve

Well, the rain finally came, just as Scrutineering started for tomorrow's Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally. There are wet, grey skies over Castle Douglas tonight,  but it surely won't dampen enthusiasm for this final round of the ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship.

The organisers of the event are all gathering for dinner tonight to celebrate this 40th running of the event including Norman Gowans who has been involved right from the start. And you'll never guess who I bumped into in the street heading towards his free sherry and dinner, Roger Anderson. Another stalwart who has been around since the Galloway Hills was invented. In fact Roger has been around since Adam and Eve first reached for the fig leaves so they didn't offend his sense of dignity.

Speaking of old timers, we all know Ivor Clark and Keith McCleary are out tomorrow but so is Mickey Rankin who did the first Galloway Hills 40 years ago. "Isobel (Riddick) told me I was doing it," said Mickey, "she told me to get the Escort finished and get out on this event, so I did." Built by his nephew Christopher Rankin (Rabsport) the MkI with its 2 litre Pinto looks terrific especially with its period stickers.
Keith Renton appeared at service with a rebuilt Fiest R2. "It wasn't too bad after the McRae once we got it out and looked at it. It even drove out the stage with a bent bottom wishbone and bent driveshaft. But the roof and pillars were fine and the back was square so it was just front end damage. In fact it did less damage during 5 rolls on the McRae than it did when it fell on its side earlier in the year."

Had a good chat with Jock Armstrong who has high hopes for tomorrow's Super Special. It has taken a heckuva lot of effort to get this whole thing up and and running. Even his Dad, Jock Snr, got excited and was out directing the guys with the diggers.

In fact he's coming to watch the Super Special tomorrow to see Jock Jnr driving a rally car on an event for the first time - ever! And Babs has been every bit as keen, goading the menfolk to ever greater feats of engineering and construction.

But it's amazing what this sport of rallying can do, because also involved in this project is Opel Ascona rallyist Kieran O'Kane who supplied the BLUE Group rock crushing quarrying equipment. One machine was already on the site, but Kieran brought in another one to help out, and he's even supplying the hospitality unit for the guests who helped.

There will be a catering unit on site, a driving simulator and other stalls, plus a commentator to keep the spectators entertained. 

The Armstrong group employs 87 people and Jock has given them all a family ticket for tomorrow, so a big crowd is expected. Here's hoping they gets some decent weather.

And now for a fascinating fact. The BLUE Group crushers processed almost 15,000 tonnes of rock to fill in the gaps in the existing road network in the quarry to make the one mile loop. The result is a pretty good, slightly abrasive, surface and there's even a watersplash, but if it rains tonight - it will be a ford!

And how do you fancy a wee bit of scuttlebutt and gossip? Had a chat with David Bogie and asked him what he's up to for next year. David was very non committal saying he will decide after this weekend and after he's been on holiday.

"I was looking forward to this event anyway," said David, "then I'm off to Abu Dhabi on holiday for ten days and will take in the Grand Prix. I'll sit down and have a think about what I'm going to do then, when I get back."

But here's the thing, Andy Scott of Albatec Racing is also going to Abu Dhabi for the Grand Prix. I mention this because, Andy invited David down to Croft before the British Championship RallyX meeting two weeks ago to drive one of his 600 bhp Peugeot 208 RallyX cars. In fact, this is the second time that David has driven one of Andy's cars.

Asked if this might point a change of direction for next year, David just grinned.

Rally - Testing day

Apart from a few passing skiffs of rain, the test day at Laurieston was held in dry and cold conditions ahead of tomorrow's Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally and those who turned up had a mostly productive day, especially Caroline Carslaw. A strut top broke on the Fiesta on her first run of the day, that's the third one this year, but it could so easily have been the first stage of the rally tomorrow.

After rebuilding the Armstrong Subaru, TEG Sport had tweaked the engine and suspension a wee bit ahead of this weekend's event for Jock, hence his appearance at the test day. Barry Groundwater gave his Lancer a run to ensure that the spare diff pump is OK. He had diff pump problems on the McRae but a new one will take 2 weeks to be delivered so he had an old spare in the van and that was what he was trying out today.
And after his 'blind' test of three different makes of tyre today Mark McCulloch is faced with a difficult decision, whether to break into his piggy bank for the expensive stuff or go for second best.

Peter Stewart gave the Fiesta R2 a run out as he builds up seat time in the car. Apparently it's more difficult to drive than the ST which had more torque, so the R2 has to be revved harder and is a wee bit more temperamental. Also needing more seat time is Alan McDowall in the MkII. Remember he had the Opel Kadett for 12 years so it was more or less built around him and the Escort is still very much a stranger.

Currently he's thinking of installing a 4 spd gearbox in place of the 5 spd ZF, as this will allow him to use the engine torque more rather than continually changing gear.

Scott Peacock blew up his 'new' engine on the McRae, so has installed his old engine in his 'new' 205 and gave it a confidence building run out today!

And James Ford appeared in his new Citroen DS3, this was the car's first run out on gravel and James seemed quite pleased with progress.

Friday 25 October 2013

Rally - Fired, or fall-out?

Nick Bunting’s sudden and shock departure from his role as Chief Exec of the MSA yesterday caught the majority of people within the sport by surprise. Indeed it would appear that only senior staff members within the MSA were aware of the decision before it was made public.

Earlier this week a senior sporting figure talked with Mr Bunting at which there was no inkling that within 48 hours Mr Bunting would no longer be there and in a position to address the issues being discussed.

Which suggests the whole affair was all rather sudden and unexpected. So who fired the bullet, or was it simply a matter of Mr Bunting staring down the headlights?

With 28 members of the Motor Sports Council (not counting the Chief Exec who has a position in Council) plus the President, two vice presidents and an Honorary member, it would have been pretty impossible to get a consensus quickly.

Had it not been for the fact that he was only appointed to the post less than 7 months ago, it would have made few headlines. However, the shock departure, after such a short time scale, and after all the praise and expectation that was promised when the MSA made the initial appointment last March, has created more questions than answers.

For the present, no one is willing to go on record. In the press statement both sides praised each other, but if they thought that would end the matter, it has only raised more questions.

Running any sporting governing body is never easy and there are always factions within attempting to influence or control decisions and directions, and motor sport is no different. Which is a pity because it is always the sport and its participants who suffer most from bad decisions.

So for the moment we really don’t know what provoked this unexpected turn of events and will need to wait till the MSA publishes their annual account before we find out if there were any ‘golden hello’ or ‘golden goodbye’ payments made, as seems to be the way with senior execs these days!

The trouble is, these people are not just dealing with sporting matters, they are responsible for the income generated by licence holders, event permit payers and championship organisers to conduct the ‘business’ of running this primarily amateur sport.

We have a right to know what is going on.

And here’s another thing, who selected and appointed Mr Bunting in the first place? And will the same people choose his successor?

The regulation and promotion of Motor Sport may just present an interesting intellectual and logistical challenge to some of these folk, but it can be the very essence of life for the rest of us. There are many people in positions of sporting authority these days who fail to comprehend that simple fact.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Rally - MSA Chief to go

Appointed in March earlier this year, MSA Chief Executive Nick Bunting will leave his position as MSA Chief Executive with immediate effect.

“Nick was recruited to undertake a specific transitional role to prepare the MSA for future transformation,” said Alan Gow, MSA Chairman. “He has undertaken an internal restructure of the staff and functional departments, implemented a new IT system, reviewed our business structures and begun the establishment of a customer-focused culture.

“Nick has also reviewed the strategic opportunities for the MSA’s future in such areas as participant development, championship structures, regulations and marketing and communications. During his tenure he has successfully laid out the pathway for this transition and identified that a specific style of leadership is required to achieve this. Therefore, by mutual consent, he has decided not to take up the possibility of the continued role as MSA Chief Executive.”

“On behalf of the Motor Sports Association, I am grateful to Nick for his work and commitment this year and wish him every success in his future career.”

Nick Bunting said: “I have very much enjoyed working with the MSA staff and all the dedicated volunteers and organisations within the sport. It has been an interesting challenge to understand the motor sport environment and I am grateful for the support that has been given to me from all quarters. I am delighted that we have been able to effect some changes that will enable the sport and the organisation to move forward and I wish the MSA and everyone connected with British motor sport every success in the future.”

Following Nick Bunting’s departure, MSA General Secretary Rob Jones has been appointed as Acting CEO.

Road - Note Boat

Perhaps Nissan knows something that we and Carol Kirkwood off BBC Breakfast don’t. We’re going to get very drookit this coming winter. Perhaps prompted by the horrendous floods of recent years, Nissan came up with a new ploy for the UK ‘launch’ of its brand new Nissan Note car – it has extras!

Now, Nissan says there was a deliberate reason for presenting the new car at the2012 Olympic rowing venue at Eton Dorney Lake. They claimed that this novel ‘launch’ of the new car allowed them to fully demonstrate its sliding rear seat (like the single rower’s boat) and rear doors which opened a full 90 degrees (thereby allowing a full rowing stroke to be executed) to the car buying public.

Further emphasising the practicality of this device, Nissan deployed its ‘Around View Monitor’ 360-degree parking system comprising four cameras – one in the front, one at the rear and one under each door mirror – to give a helicopter-style top down view.

Even more suspicious was the fact that this system incorporates Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning and Moving Object Detection. In other words, even with their backs to the flow, the rowers could see where they were, and where they were going, without straying into other teams’ lanes.

Taking the whole ludicrous idea a stage further was the attendance of Olympic rowing gold medallists Helen Glover MBE and Sophie Hosking MBE, who triumphed in the womens’ coxless pairs and the lightweight double sculls – and Polly Swann, who partnered Glover at the 2013 World Rowing Championships scoring a victory the womens’ coxless pairs.  

Polly Swann commented: “It’s certainly a novel experience rowing down Eton Dorney Lake in a car. I’m amazed at how wide the doors open – I could achieve almost a complete rowing stroke, which produced more than enough power to push the Note down the lake.” 

It all made such a convincing case for the Note-Boat that I can’t help wondering if Nissan dealers around the coasts will get ‘extras’ on the Options list when the car goes on sale. Things like oars, waterwings, flare pistol and an anchor if the brakes get wet!

So if it’s too deep for a Land Rover to wade through, then with just the addition of a few extra external airbags around the Note, you can forget Top Gear’s ambitious attempts at amphibians and hovercraft.

Has Nissan ‘crafted’ the perfect compromise? Now where did I put my fishing rod?