Wednesday 30 April 2014

Rally - Scots abroad

Well, there I was. Minding my own business, when I was accosted from behind. In the nicest possible way of course. I was at the Commercial Vehicle Show at the NEC in Birmingham. Sufficiently far away to be travelling incognito, or so I thought.

 “The last time I saw you was at the end of the Trossachs Rally in 1985 or ’86,” said the voice, “you were commentating at the rally finish. Aye, those were the good old days, the Esso Scottish Rally Championship.”

Renault was launching their new Trafic panel van at the show and had pulled out all the stops with an outdoor F1 display and simulator, and the grey haired (but ever so young looking!) guy was wearing Red Bull team clothing. And since I know flock all about F1, the speaker had me at a disadvantage.

Turns out he did a bit of rallying in the good old days, and was a contemporary of Tommy Finn the quick young Talbot Sunbeam stoorifier from Campbeltown whose name some of you (older ones) might recognise.

David McMillan himself, for it was he, might not be instantly familiar, but he has one unmatchable claim to fame, or notoriety. He is the only Scot to have worked with Colin McRae at Prodrive, David Coulthard at Red Bull and Jackie Stewart at Stewart GP – and he was there when Johnny Herbert scored Stewart GP’s only F1 victory at Nurburgring in 1999. That will take some beating, eh?

He’s been away from home now for 30 years, but obviously keeps in touch with home because he was asking about the proposed rally event at Machrihanish. In fact he is harbouring a hankering to get himself a car and do the rally, or get involved somehow. Trouble is, it’s the same weekend as the British GP.

He isn’t working full time for any team these days. Like many of us, of a certain age, the work rate and frenetic pace of F1 is only for the young, fit and masochistic. Having said that he is still very much involved, although picking and choosing where and when he wants to work and with whom. For instance, he is off to Barcelona next week with the Marussia F1 team.

Nice work if you can get it, eh? And he’s a lovely bloke.

Saturday 26 April 2014

Rally - Thorburn wins

Euan Thorburn has put his Scottish Championship title hopes back on track with victory in today's McCombie Builders Granite City Rally. Jock Armstrong finished a strong second ahead of Mike Faulkner and Quintin Milne.

"No dramas today," said Euan, "We've got some new bits on the car with more to come and we've had a bit of help from Paul Benn. It's been running well today, so well that we used the same set of 4 Pirelli tyres all day. We didn't change a thing."

Jock was delighted with the runner-up position: "Quintin thought he would go well today on home territory, but sometimes that can work against you. We took a bit of time out of him but that's only because he knows where the bad bits are, and backed off, and I'm too stupid to back off." Methinks Jock plays himself down too much, eh?

Mike Faulkner was pleased and relieved: "I thought it was going on the trailer at lunch time. The diff pump failed and was pumping oil out of the transfer box into the engine. The leak we had was oil being pushed out the breather. So we just disconnected the diff pump and carried on with rear wheel drive!"

Quintin Milne was happy with a fourth placed finish: "I've got new suspension on the car and it doesn't feel right. It's quite different to what I had but Jock said he will help me with set-up. Jock was on fire in that second stage but on the fourth stage I saw big Hamish walking into the stage and thought I'd put on a show - I was nearly off!"

Donnie MacDonald was delighted with fifth and Mark McCulloch was equally pleased with a top six finish although the Subaru was overheating by the finish and he pushed it over the finish line in Aberdeen.

Chris Collie lost out on a top ten finish with a puncture on the final stage allowing Andy Horne to claim a top ten finish first time out in the Focus: "It's a huge difference to the Metro. It's more forgiving than me."

Leaderboard after 4 (of 4) stages:
1, E Thorburn, 44m 02s
2, J Armstrong, 44m 39s
3, M Faulkner, 45m 44s
4, Q Milne, 46m 07s
5, D MacDonald. 46m 40s
6, M McCulloch, 47m 21s
7, B Groundwater, 47m 28s
8, B McCombie, 47m 40s
9, A Inglis, 47m 54ss
10, A Horne, 47m 57s

Rally - ET leads Granite

Euan Thorburn led the McCombie Builders Granite City Rally from Jock Armstrong at the half way point, but David Bogie is out. Bogie set the fastest time through the opening stage and completed the second stage, but at the Stage Finish, he pulled over to the side of the road and parked up. Th crew suspects the rucurrence of an ignition pack problem and didn't want to risk going any further till they find out what's wrong.

Conditions were difficult as drivers headed towards the first stage this morning with thick mist intermittently reducing visibility to under a 100 metres at times. There was a delay at the start of the first stage too, due to the huge numbers of spectators belatedly trying to get in to see the action.

Running second car on the road, Focus driver Euan Thorburn said: "The first stage was worse than the second. At times I struggled to see 40 or 50 metres in places. The second was better but was bit muddy where they had been logging."

Jock Armstrong is quite pleased with second in his Impreza, but: "I c*cked up in the first one. My fault.  went straight on at a Right, up a firebreak, luckily!! The mist was bad in places. It's not nice when you're doing 90 mph and then go over a crest and suddenly see nothing."

Mike Faulkner is third in the Lancer but looked a bit concerned as he booked into service: "We had an overshoot in SS2 and I think we have an oil leak. I can smell it. I lost concentration a bit after that looking at temperatures and pressures."

Holding fourth place is Quintin Milne: "I've got my sensible head on today. I'm here for the the points." That's not to say he wasn't trying: "You know I didn't put a foot wrong for the last 8 miles of that stage," he added, "and felt I was driving really well - then I saw Jock's time - and went up and shook him by the hand. He took a chunk of time out of me in there. Fair play to him."

Donnie MacDonald is fifth: "Those were the hardest stages I've ever done. I can't see at the best of times, even when I'm wearing glasses. I couldn't see 'f' all in there."

Sixth is Barry Groundwater: "The first stage was a nightmare. I couldn't see a thing. The second stage made up for it. It was brilliant. An excellent stage."

Mark McCulloch is going well but the Subaru feels down on power and he thinks the turbo is needing to be changed. In worse trouble are Chris Collie and Bruce McCombie. The turbo on Chris' Lancer slackened off at the manifold and it's puffing like an old tar boiler. The turbo on Bruce's Lancer has failed completely and he's hoping to change it at service.

Andy Horne is just outside the top ten in 12th place first time out in his new Focus WRC: "I made a pig's ear of the first stage. I was off in the first 100 yds, but the second stage felt better" and then he grinned like a bag of Cheshire cats.

Leaderboard after 2 (of 4) stages:
1, E Thorburn, 24m 06s
2, J Armstrong, 24m 27s
3, M Faulkner, 25m 02s
4, Q Milne, 25m 18s
5, D MacDonald. 25m 39s
6, B Groundwater, 26m 12s
7, M McCulloch, 26m 14s
8, C Collie, 26m 21s
9, A Inglis, 26m 23s
10, F Wilson, 26m 33s

Friday 25 April 2014

Rally - Q20 - Quintin Milne

Ahead of this weekend's McCombie Builders Granite City Rally I thought it appropriate that 20 Questions visits a top driver in the North East, one who was willing to endure this Scottish version of the Spanish Inquisition. 

Although it feels like Quintin has been around for years, he hasn't really, he's only really done three full seasons of rallying so far, but spread out over 14 years. It just seems like an awful lot more!

Thursday 24 April 2014

Rally - Granite entries

Record entry for Granite City Rally? It looks like we’ve all been mis-informed about this weekend’s Granite City Rally. It seems as though there has been a last minute rush of entries!

Earlier today I received a Press Release, but not from the rally organisers or sponsors. Honest, this is an actual quote from the full page Press Release issued by a professional PR person:

“ Over 300 cars taking part in the event on Saturday, April 26 will be lined up at the Thistle Hotel Aberdeen Altens, which is being used as the start for the first stage of the rally.”

I’ll save the author’s blushes by not mentioning any names, but a wee bit more research might have been in order before committing finger tip to keyboard.

Mind you, it set me thinking. Is that what ‘normal’ folk think when you mention a rally to them? Is this a sign that our sport doesn’t do enough to publicise and promote itself.

On the other hand, maybe my stuff ain’t so bad after all!

Rally - News & Gossip

There’s a wee bit of News and some Gossip in the rally mag. Stevie Brown is coming out to play for the first time in a year and a half and there’s News from the Merrick Rally. After that there is the Gossipy bit from Kames. Not much, but it would appear that there is marital strife in the Struthers household and young Drew is in the middle of it, ex-rallyist (but for how long?) Alick Kerr turned up for a nosey, and Jordan Black appeared with his new car - and a new safety device!

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Rally - Kames report

That's the Kames April Rally and Junior Rally report now in the rally mag. News and Gossip to follow - fairly soon!

Rally - Granite City

Full Entry List and Timetable for this Saturday's McCombie Builders Granite City Rally now in the rally mag. Unfortunately, spectator details are rather sparse with no information havig been released officially by the organisers. However, the 4 special stages are listed with times.

Sunday 20 April 2014

Rally - Feeney wins Kames

"Job done," said Nigel Feeney at the end of the Kames Rally today, "we did have a wee engine problem with the car, but the boys at TEG Sport know what it is and said it would be all right to run toay. Still, first time out in the car I thought Colin (Gemmell) and Graham (Bruce) would have been in front."

Just 18 seconds behind the Impreza was Gemmell's older version: "I was using the same tyres as I did at Ingliston, but I'm doing the Granite City Rally next week - I'll buy new tyres for that."

Derek Connell was a delighted third overall in the wee Nova: "I was really pleased with that, mixing it with the four wheel drive boys. but I don't think that will happen next week. I'm doing the Granite so I need to get it ready in forest spec for that."

Graham Bruce's 'bodge' held out: "A bit broke off the end of the driveshaft so we 'wurzeled' it by packing it out with a big nut and rubber do'nut, and it held it out till the end."

Alex Vassallo won the Junior Rally in his Citroen C1: "Apart from that slight problem with the gearshift early on, there were no problems" while Dylan O'Donnell held on to second place with his Nissan Micra: "I just need to go quicker next time."

Michael Robertson moved up to third place in his Aygo when Craig MacIvor cowped his Micra on the penultimate test. Michael was having problems all afternoon with his exhaust continually falling off - so did the last four stages after removing it altogether!

Andy Struthers just pipped Brodie Balfour for fourth by 7 seconds with a better run over the afternoon stages and Michael Dickie rounded off the top six.

Kames Rally leaderboard, after 16 (of 16) stages:
1, N Feeney 24m 57s
2, C Gemmell, 25m 15s
3, D Connell, 25m 52s
4, G Bruce, 26m 04s
5, N Thomson, 27m 30s
6, L Taylor, 27m 56s

Junior Rally
1, A Vassallo, 26m 47s
2, D O'Donnell, 27m 33s
3, M Robertson, 28m 07s
4, A Struthers, 28m 43s
5, B Balfour, 28m 50s
6, M Dickie, 30m 26s

Rally - Kames

Car 66 - are you OK?
Kames was shrouded in thick mist earlier this morning, or it may have been low cloud up here in the Muirkirk Mountains, but given its past meteorological record it could have gone either way. Fortunately, as the sun rose, it burned off the mist to bathe the complex in bright sunshine and long dark shadows, but with a cold edge to the breeze in the shade. Marvellous, absobluidylutely marvellous.

At the half way point, Nigel Feeney leads first time out in the ex Rob Swann Subaru Impreza: "My own car still isn't finished, so I bought this," said Nigel, "and the plan is to get the feel of if before the Jim Clark Rally next month."

Only 21 seconds behind him is Colin 'Tyres' Gemmell in the Impreza, only he's not complaining (much) about tyres today: "I put a back wheel on the grass on the third stage," said Colin, "and half spun, but I couldn't get reverse so I dropped about 12 seconds."

In third place is Derek Connell going very well in the wee 1400 Corsa with the Lancer of Graham Bruce in fourth place after breaking a driveshaft, but still going.

Alex Vassallo leads the Junior Rally in his Citroen CC1: "We broke a gearshift cable on the second stage,"said Alex, "but didn't lose any time." 20 seconds behind is the Nissan Micra of Dylan O'Donell with the similar car of Craig MacIvor only 6 seconds behind him.

Michael Robertson is top Toyota Aygo driver in fourth place ahead of Brodie Balfour's Aygo and Andy Struthers' Micra, but Brandon Walsh will have homework tonight. First time out in his new Citroen today he clipped a lorry tyre sized marker which tipped the wee car on to its roof. It wasn't a fast accident and it didn't strike anything hard, but the cooling system is damaged so he's out.

Kames Rally leaderboard, after 8 (of 16) stages:
1, N Feeney 10m 59s
2, C Gemmell, 11m 20s
3, D Connell, 11m 27s
4, G Bruce, 11m 50s
5, J Black, 11m 52s,
6, N Thomson, 12m 09s

Junior Rally
1, A Vassallo, 11m 44s
2, D O'Donnell, 12m 04s
3, C MacIvor, 12m 10s
4, M Robertson, 12m 20s
5, B Balfour, 12m 42s
6, A Struthers, 12m 44s

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Rally - Dakar Peugeot

It would appear that Peugeot is getting seriously sexy these days. Following the recent debut of its T16 R5 rally car comes news that Peugeot, Red Bull and Total will contest the 2015 Dakar with another brand new machine.

Peugeot has opted for a rather different approach to its rivals going for 2WD as opposed to all wheel drive. That decision has enabled Peugeot to fit bigger wheels and permit more suspension travel.

The 2008 DKR currently sits on 37-inch diameter Michelin tyres but there is no decision as yet which engine will be used although it is expected that it will follow current trends and be smaller (probably 1.6 litres) and turbocharged.

Peugeot also intend to keep drivers, Carlos Sainz and Cyril Despres, with Carlos commenting: “The philosophy behind the 2008 DKR marks a radical break and packs a high number of new ideas. The end result is like no other two-wheel drive car. It is very compact and that’s good. Having done the last two Dakars in a two-wheel drive car, I am convinced it is a solution that can win the event.”

So there you go. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Rally - Q20 - Jock Armstrong

The latest victim (subject?) of 20 Questions is the effervescent Jock Armstrong. Although supposed to be a short interview with brief answers, this Q20 didn't quite turn out that way, not with Jock. So get a cup of tea ready before you start reading. 

In fact Jock could be described as a lost talent. 'Lost' in the sense that there was a time when he might just have made it into the exalted ranks of professional rally drivers, and from there, who knows? I've always rated him more highly as a driver than he does himself. So which one of us is/was right?

Monday 14 April 2014

Rally - Kames on Sunday

Full entry list for this Sunday's Kames Rally and Junior Rally in the Rally Mag now. Sixteen stages with the first to get flagged off at 9.00 am. Nigel Feeney will also have his new Subaru out and Jordan Black is hoping to debut his Citroen C2.

Saturday 12 April 2014

Ralkly - Weston's ways

Dave Weston flies the Saltire in Somerset. Third behind Perez and Petch who tied on 42m 28s with Weston 28 secs behind the two Fords in his Impreza. Not bad for someone who’s rally rusty. Bogie retd, Thorburn not there. 

Also looks like Dave Weston Jnr is 40th and 10th in class in the 1400cc Proton. 

Weather dry, cold and bright in Somerset so hopefully the good folks of the south west are getting back to somewhere near normal after those horrific waterlogged pics on the News.

Rally - Weston third

There was a bit of a panic for a minute or two when there were no Scots in the top ten in Somerset after SS7 (of 12) but it would appear that it was a timing anomaly rather than anything more serious. No doubt Kirsty was on the case, and it’s sorted now. 

Dave Weston is curently third overall behind Steve Perez and Stephen Petch with two stages to go. Rally leader Paul Bird has disappeared in SS10, reportedly having gone off. 

 Young Weston is hovering around 45th place and 10th in class. Fingers an everything else crossed!

Rally - Somerset latest

After SS6 of 11 in Somerset, Paul Bird leads Steve Perez by 13 secs and Stephen Petch a further 11secs behind. Dave Weston is first non Ford 7 secs behind Petch - 31 secs cover the top four. Young Weston still going well in the Proton.

Rally - Somerset BTRDA

David Bogie retired his Focus WRC on the first stage of the Betta Somerset Stages this morning, Rd3 of the BTRDA Championship, with a failed ignition coil. 

The two Ford Focus' of Paul Bird and Steve Perez lead with Dave Weston/Kirsty Riddick third in the Subaru, while Ryan Weston/Mark McCulloch are going well in the 1400cc Proton.

Rally - Ingliston tales

Apparently, this is a design icon
That's the News and Gossip from Ingliston in the Rally Mag now. Needless to say it is all perfectly (well, nearly) true and (almost) accurate in every detail. 

From dripping blood to electric shocks, from squished nuts and artful car liveries, to a visit from Racing and Rallying royalty!

Friday 11 April 2014

Rally - DCC Classes

That's the roundup of the Classes now on-line in the Rally Mag, but due to the sudden cessation of rallying after the 6th test I didn't manage to get round everyone to gather their true tales of adventure - and misadventure. I did manage to get some Gossip though and that will go up later once I have sorted fact from fiction - or as best I can!

Rally - DCC Stages report

That's the main report from last weekend's DCC Stages Rally in the on-line Mag now, Class roundup and Gossip will follow. Good event - with an electrifying conclusion!

Road - See-through bonnet

Invisible bonnet, or if you are an American reading this, then perhaps I should use the term ‘invisible hood’. And no, it’s not a late April Fool.

Land Rover have been tinkering again. This time they have come up with an idea which makes the front end of a vehicle invisible to the driver. Using cameras located in the vehicle’s grille they can present a view of the terrain immediately underneath the car on to a Head-Up Display inside the car. The end result is that the driver can see the ground underneath the front of the vehicle ‘through the bonnet’.

The technology allows drivers to see not only the nature of the terrain they are driving over, but the angle of the front wheels at any given moment – crucial when tackling deeps ruts or avoiding sharp rocks.

But I can’t help thinking that half the fun of driving an off-road vehicle in difficult off-road conditions is that drivers have to use skill, judgement and feel when negotiating difficult obstacles. The system even works under water, thereby negating the need for drivers to walk (wade?) the course beforehand to see how deep and how difficult such a crossing might be.

Which was all part of the fun of driving such a vehicle I thought? Now you won’t ever need to step out the car and get mucky. Mind you it will have one saving grace. When the hoi-poloi go shopping they will be able to mount kerbs without damaging the alloys!

Sunday 6 April 2014

Rally - Mads podium

Mads Østberg scored a podium finish in Portugal having tackled the final day’s 3 stages with three new soft tyres out of the five he took with him. He was third overall going into the first stage of the final day and scored a stage win on SS15 before tackling the Power Stage. He grabbed third place in this final test, adding a bonus point to the fifteen he claimed for finishing third overall in the rally. Those 16 points he scored have now consolidated his third place in the Driver’s World Championship standings.

Khalid Al Qassimi with Chris Patterson alongside finished in thirteenth position in his Citroen DS3.

Things weren’t quite so good for Kris Meeke who retired on the Friday’s first full day of competition. On the 7th stage of the event, he put the Citroen off the road: “We braked a bit late into a right-hand corner,” said Kris, “It was a spot where there wasn’t much grip and where Elfyn Evans went off this morning. The notes just weren’t accurate enough.”

He was not alone. Marty McCormack was lying in 19th place overall and 9th in the WRC2 when he punctured a tyre and the Fiesta R5 slid off the road on the penultimate stage of the rally! Young Alastair Fisher was lying 42nd overall and 5th WRC3 at the overnight halt on Saturday despite a puncture on the last stage of the day, but then retired on the first stage of the final day.

Rally - Top Irish/Brit

Robert Barrable and Stuart Loudon scored another strong points-scoring finish in Portugal finishing 6th in WRC-2 and 16th overall in the Tunnock’s World Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5.

This was the first time that the 26-year old Irish driver had ever returned to a round of the FIA WRC, having made his series debut in Portugal last year. Torrential rain during the recce made the fast and twisty gravel mountain roads in the Algarve region extremely slippery. As conditions dried out during the four-day event, the road surface changed from muddy and wet, to dry and dusty from one corner to another, making the notoriously tricky gravel event even more of a challenge.

Co-driven by Stuart Loudon, Robert’s first gravel event since last November’s Wales Rally GB started well, as his tactics of keeping clean and fast lines paid dividends. Another good run on Day 3 saw Robert move up two places to 7th even after surviving a huge fifth gear sideways moment, when the rear of his Tunnock’s car stepped out of line on a narrow mountain ridge.

The three stages on the final Day 4 were the trickiest of all, with mud, deep puddles and slippery sections, with the team making up another place in the CA1 Sport-run Fiesta R5.

Afterwards Robert said: “I’m very pleased to have finished sixth in Portugal. We haven’t done a gravel rally in five months, so it’s understandable that we weren’t able to challenge for a podium finish this time. 20 cars started in WRC-2 and the calibre of drivers, in terms of both speed and gravel experience, was very high, so we’re happy enough with what we achieved this weekend.”

“Rally Portugal is a very difficult and technical event, the conditions throughout were very tricky, with patches of mud and puddles that were trying their best to throw you off the road, so I’m pleased nothing caught us out.

“It was also good to have a battle on the final day with Al-Kuwari, because it kept everything really interesting – and I was very pleased to finish ahead of him.”

Stuart added: “We’ve completed all the stages, had no real dramas and gained a lot of experience, so it’s been another really productive World Championship rally for us. Having totally different conditions to what they were on the recce made this year’s Rally Portugal a real challenge, and right up until the end the changing road surface was catching people out.

“We’ve come over blind crests and it’s been a dry road ahead and then we’ve come over the next crest and it’s all mud and water in front of us, and that’s made this event extremely challenging. Rob has done a great job reading the road all weekend and a fantastic job to bring the car home in one piece.”