Friday 31 January 2014

Rally - Citroen bonus scheme

Citroën has released details of its Bonus Scheme for the Citroën Racing Trophy in this year’s MSA British Rally Championship series.

Citroën Racing will award Prize Vouchers totalling 10,000 Euros on each of the 7 rounds to the top five finishers using DS3 cars.

The winner will still get a parts voucher worth €4000, second gets €2250, third €1500, fourth €1250 and fifth place a €1000 voucher.

In addition, the Citroën World Rally Team will have an engineer and parts support on hand to help the BRC contenders during the year.

And yes I know it’s not much in the great scheme of things, and compared to the price of buying and running a front running DS3, but it beats anything anyone else is offering.

(Note: 10,000 Euros equals £8,230 at present, approx.)

Thursday 30 January 2014

Rally - Coneyhatch cancelled

If you were intending to head to Stonehaven at the weekend for Saturday's (1st Feb) Rally Time Trial at Coneyhatch, stay at home. The event has had to be cancelled due to soft, claggy conditions after all the recent heavy rainfall and even more recent snow showers. A couple of test runs were made earlier today which only confirmed the organiser's reluctant decision to cancel. Next event is in July.

Road - Extreme Astra

10 years after it launched the VXR brand Vauxhall has revealed that it will invest in a low production run of  Vauxhall Astra VXR EXTREME cars based on the competition Cup Car which is currently used in the Nürburgring Endurance Championship.

The current Astra VXR already produces 280 PS and 400 Nm of torque, but as yet there are no details of Vauxhall’s plans for the EXTREME, although they have admitted to a “liberal use of high-quality carbon components”. The new car is expected to be shown at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

But does this herald a return to rallying? Don’t hold your breath. It’s over 20 years since the company was officially involved in rallying before devoting more attention to the BTCC.

Hopes were raised that it would make a comeback when it introduced an R2 rally version of the Vauxhall Adam 18 months ago, but so far any plans for a one-make series has come to nought.

Still, this one looks quite tasty for a road car.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Rally - Monte Tales

Paddy Hopkirk in 1964
Well, it looks as though there was no fairy tale finish at the end of this year’s Historic Monte Carlo Rally, and no last minute surprises. Indeed it looks as though there were no Brits in the top ten, or even the top twenty. Indeed the top 50!

50 years after the Mini’s first win, there was no likelihood of history repeating itself. No chance of a British crew repeating Paddy Hopkirk and Henry Liddon’s unexpected victory half a century ago.

Andrew McAlpine in 2014
Although that victory is known to many, less well known is the fact that the Mini almost scored a hat-trick of Monte wins. Timo Mäkinen won it the following year in 1965 and Rauno Aaltonen won in 1967.

So what happened in 1966? It was the night of the French long knives. They couldn’t have a British car winning their main international event three years in a row, could they? Could it have had anything to do with the anti-British Charles de Gaulle, who was President of France at the time, sticking his nose in? After all, this was the guy who vetoed Britain’s entry into the EEC.

Anyway, Mäkinen, Aaltonen and Hopkirk in three works Minis dominated the rally and crossed the finish line in that order. Victory was theirs, or so they thought. Then the French ‘commissars’ disqualified the trio, handing victory to Finland’s Pauli Toivonen (Henri’s dad) – in a Citroen. Even Roger Clark’s Ford Cortina was disqualified for the same reason.

And now, before you go saying ‘rules is rules’ these were the same lights that Mini had used the previous two years, while the winning Citroen had similar lamps although theirs were deemed legal because the bulbs “were fitted as standard on some models”.

 Bitter? Me? Not a bit of it, but I never did take to de Gaulle. Maybe that was because he was once quoted as saying: “Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first - nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” And maybe that also applied to his sense of sporting fairness!

And so to McAlpine and Gallagher (see earlier Monte preview). The works replica Mini which was 
seeded number 1 did actually finish with the figure ‘1’ in the final classification – 166th to be exact, out of 257 finishers. They weren’t last, but they did have one hell of a tour of restaurants on the way to Monaco. Now that’s how to go rallying. 

Tuesday 28 January 2014

A weekend off

I missed last Thursday’s Paisley start for the 2014 Monte Carlo Historic Rally because I was away for the weekend on a business ‘do’ at an awfy posh hotel. Despite the proliferation of cutlery at meal times, I managed to cope manfully - and without embarrassing the wife.

Full report from my weekend off here, plus a wee look at the Historic Monte which apparently attracted over 10,000 spectators to the line up of cars outside Paisley Abbey and the formal start ceremony itself:

Monday 27 January 2014

Rally - Crystal for Kris

Just like Scotland, Northern Ireland is not very big, nor does it have a huge population, but again like Scotland, it punches above its weight In terms of motor sporting talent.

So when the Association of Northern Ireland Car Clubs sits down at the end of a hectic season to choose the winner of its annual ‘Northern Ireland Motorsport Award’ you can bet your racing bootees that it’s no easy task.

Voted by members of the media, local motor clubs and ANICC council members, the winner of the 2013 award presented in Armagh at the weekend was pretty much a universal choice – Kris Meeke. Although he had a pretty barren season last year, with a few hiccups along the way, his performance on the Monte Carlo a couple of weeks back certainly vindicated their choice.

Kris said: “Receiving this award is humbling as I know there are many others who have achieved more than I did this year however it is important to know that I have so much support from my home. The Monte Carlo was a most testing event having to contend with ice and snow and my result was the perfect start to the year.”

Aye, amen to that, and you’ve got all of Scotland’s backing too. Go get ‘em Kris.

Photograph shows Kris Meeke receiving his ANICC Motorsport Award from Alan Drysdale, Chairman of 2 and 4 Wheel Motorsport Steering Group Limited (Guest presenter), Nicky Moffitt, ANICC Secretary, and Henry Campbell, Chairman.

(Photo credit: John O’Neill, Sperrins Photography).

Friday 24 January 2014

Rally - An appeal

I wonder if anyone out there can help. I’m looking for anyone with video/film clips of John Allan when he was rallying and latterly when he was running Course Car duties on occasional events.  He passed away in late 2010 and it wasn’t until this past couple of months that his wife Rachel was able to go into his den at the garage business to start clearing it out. As you can imagine, the memories started flooding back.

There are couple of video clips on YouTube of John in the Subaru Legacy on the 2007 Merrick and his final outing in the ex-McRae white MkII on the 2008 McRae Rally, but not much more.

If anyone has any film footage can they please drop me a message here, and I will get in touch. I’ll either pass on the info, or put you in touch with Rachel, however you want to handle it.

Most of the old-timers will have known John, and known him well, but some of you may not recognise the name. You’ll find out more here:

Thursday 23 January 2014

Road - Lexus IS300h

Lexus IS300h review now in the mag. Lexus claims it's a 'sports saloon' but it's much more 'saloon' than 'sport' I reckon. For sure it's quick enough, but really it's a car to relax in, soak up the miles and soothe the bits that get frazzled on day to day life.

And now for something completely different - see Pic.

It's the size of a Ford Focus and more or less the same price, but is it any better than the sector leader? At the moment it's putting up a pretty good fight.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Race - Touring Cars

Cleland - in attack mode, as ever!
Now I know it’s not rallying, but there is a connection. On Wednesday evening 5th February, at 8 pm, sit yourself down in front of the telly with a beer and a pizza, and switch on to ITV4 for ‘Touring Car Legends’. From 3 wheeling Ford Cortinas and panel beating on the move, to fisticuffs and sweary words, this is what widescreen was invented for.

Following on from their ‘TT Legends’ and ‘Dakar Rally: Frontline to Finish Line’ documentary programmes, Gaucho Productions has been commissioned by ITV4 to produce 3 one-hour programmes on the British Touring Car Championship from the first race in 1957 to the present day.

I suppose the downside is that it will be narrated by Tiff Needell, whose enthusiasm doesn’t have a rev limiter, but there will be interviews with drivers and team managers, and even Murray Walker. Each episode will focus on a different period, with leading drivers and cars and many of the ‘highlights’ that makes this series so entertaining.

There’s a wee taster here:

Oh, yes. The connection. Well, both BTCC Champions Jim Clark and John Cleland did a bit of rallying in their mis-spent youth, before going on to greater things. Please also note, Jim doesn’t swear on camera, - but .......

Sunday 19 January 2014

Rally - Roma wins Dakar

Spain’s Joan ‘Nani’ Roma has won the 2014 Dakar Rally in his Monster Energy X-raid Team MINI ALL4 Racing. He finished the rally just 5:32 minutes  in front of his teammate Stéphane Peterhansel (FR) with Nasser Al-Attiyah (QT) third in another MINI.

It was the first win for Nani Roma in a car at the Dakar Rally. The Spaniard had already won the event on a motorbike when it was still held in North Africa in 2004. "I'm so relieved and happy," Roma said. "It was my big goal to win the Dakar not only on a motorbike but also in a car. A dream came true for me and I want to thank everybody at X-raid and MINI for their great work!"

The 9,374 km-long route led from Rosario (AR) across the Andes and the challenging Atacama desert to Valparaíso (CL) at the Pacific coast. The drivers had to face a lot of different weather conditions and soils. Gravel in the Andes and a lot of extremely fine sand in the hot Atacama desert.

Further back the South African based Team Ford Racing equipe finished in 22nd place overall with Lucio Alvarez driving the Ford Ranger pickup:  “We didn’t have the race I was hoping for," he said, "but the important thing is we brought the car to the finish line and we had a good run this week.  To be more competitive we’ll need to focus on engine performance, but other than that the car is really good.”

“The fast but rough stages in Argentina were probably the hardest on the car, and the long 605 km Stage 11 was probably the most difficult with a mix of conditions from rocks to soft sand. We started the stage with 500 litres of fuel, three spare tyres and lots of spare parts so that was pretty tough.”

“The best part of the 2014 Dakar for me was the last 100 km of Stage 12, with the big dunes which I really enjoyed driving over,” said Lucio.

Rally - Tyre tales

Sébastien Ogier’s ‘ice spy’ is a chap called Nicolas Vouilloz, also known as the ‘inventor of tyre crossing’. In unclear and fluctuating weather conditions, rally drivers are increasingly opting for a mixed tyre set-up in a cross configuration. For example, slick and wet tyres are used at the same time, with slicks fitted on the front left and rear right, and wets in reverse.

“We tried this out years ago at tyre tests with Michelin, and it worked better than having different tyres on the front axle to the rear axle. We were probably the first to use it in competition,” said Vouilloz.

No doubt Vouilloz perfected this technique in his own rallying career (he won the IRC in 2008) but you wonder how he applied this to his other professional sporting pursuit – he has won the World Downhill Mountain Bike Championship ten times. Sounds like the French have bampots just like we do!

Rally - Barrable takes the Biscuit

Robert Barrable scored a podium finish on his Rallye Monte Carlo debut, finishing 3rd in WRC-2 (and 13th overall) with Stuart Loudon in the Tunnock’s World Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5.

Robert started well, with 2nd fastest time in WRC2 but a repeat run through the 3 stage loop on Day 1 stages had to be done in engine ‘road mode’. A leaking turbo return pipe forced Robert to nurse the car back to service in Gap.

On arrival in Monaco at the end of the event’s longest day, Robert and Stuart had moved up from 4th in WRC2 (and 30th overall) to 2nd WRC2 (and 13th overall).

On their first run over the Col de Turini the windscreen completed misted up and had to do all-but four miles of the 25 mile loop of two stages completely blind, losing two and a half minutes and dropping to 3rd in WRC2.

The CA1 Sport team also had to replace a broken clutch in service. A dark and wet final stage was completed without drama, allowing Robert to celebrate a well-judged and experience-gaining Rallye Monte Carlo finish – coming home behind WRC2 winner Yurii Protasov (Ukraine) and Lorenzo Bertelli (Italy).

Afterwards Robert said: “The Monte Carlo Rally definitely lived up to my expectations of being one of the toughest rounds of the World Rally Championship, and I can see why it’s regarded as a real classic. It’s been quite an endurance, with a hard recce, a lot of road mileage, the technicality of the stages, the weather conditions and tyre choices.”

“The Col de Turini is an amazing stage. Three kilometres before the top it’s all snow, coming down the other side is just like glass, and it’s all so narrow. You can see why you don’t get anything like that anywhere else in the world and I really enjoyed it.”

“The lads at CA1 Sport have been great again. To change a clutch in under thirty minutes was magnificent, and that allowed us to carry on and score a podium finish. I didn’t come here thinking of a result, I just wanted to get a finish and enjoy it. So first time at the Monte, I wasn’t really expecting a podium, so I’m really very happy.”

Stuart: “I’m relieved to have reached the finish of the Monte Carlo Rally, as it’s been a very difficult event for us, with the weather conditions, tyre choice and a few issues with the car. We’ve got to the finish and as a team we should be very proud of ourselves. All the guys have done a great job, including changing the clutch which involved taking the gearbox out. To do that without us incurring a time penalty was impressive work.”

“I’m extremely proud of Rob to get through his first Monte Carlo Rally and to score a podium result. He’s driven very well, and it’s been far from easy – particularly today, when the windscreen misted up and neither of us could see anything at all. It’s so easy in those situations to get frustrated and throw the car off the road, but Rob kept calm and it’s paid off with a good result.”

“We tried where we could to push and set top WRC2 stage times; not everything was against us, but a lot was! But we’ve gained an awful lot of experience and we’re very pleased.”