Friday 29 August 2014

Rally - Scottish Czechs

There's quite a bit of Scottish and British interest in this weekend's ERC round, the Barum Czech Rally Zlin in the Czech Republic, but the bit that made me laugh was the organisers' notes on some of the top international teams taking part, for instance, the Tunnocks World Rally Team.

They featured an interview with Robert Barrable, and added their own insightful comment (and the following is an exact quote): "The team, which name indicates a close relationship with a confection producer, ran through a big change in 2013. Their Škoda Fabia S2000 was replaced with a Ford Fiesta R5 and from the IRC series the squad switched for the WRC2."

It was the words 'confection producer' which got to me. Wars have been started on less. What was it that a certain blue painted famous 'Scot' once said?: "They may take our lives, but they'll never take our teacakes!" Well, it was something along those lines.


Anyway, I don't think it was intentional. A 'confection producer' indeed. Tunnocks is much more than that, but the Czechs won't realise that any criticism of the Scottish diet is likely to arouse hostility. However, they will need to be careful that they don't belittle the producers of such Scottish dietary staples as caramel wafers and shortbread, haggis and Irn Bru, pizza crunch and Co-op loaves -the one with the white bread and black crust! In fact it's just a damn good job they didn't say anything about pies and square sausage, that would have incited a call to arms and more blue paint.

Anyway Robert Barrable and Stuart Loudon run at number 10 in the event with Lancashire's Neil Simpson and our own Claire Mole at 19 in the Skoda Fabia S2000.

Other Brits include top seeds Craig Breen and Martin Scott in the Peugeot 208 T16 with Peugeot team newcomers  Chris Ingram and his furrin co-driver, Gabin Moreau first time out in his Peugeot 208 R2. Chris will compete in the remaining rounds of the FIA ERC Junior Championship the International du Valais Rally (23rd–25th October) in Switzerland and the Tour de Corse in France (6th–8th November.

Another interesting entry comes from JRM who will give its new Group N Subaru WRX STI its competition debut in the hands of Mark Higgins and Carl Williamson and they'll be running at 27.

Elsewhere, the entry includes Alex Parpottas in a Fiesta R2 while Seb Marshall will co-drive for Craig Breen's Peugeot team mate, Kevin Abbring.

Closer to home, the latest round of the Brick & Steel Ecosse Junior 100 Challenge is on tomorrow at Knockhill and features a rather unusual timetable. The rally starts at 3pm and will finish at 8pm. Apparently they get a special rate for circuit use at this time of day. So if you're doing nowt else, pop along and support the youngsters.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Rally - Postcard from Solway

A bit later than planned, or perhaps the postie struggled with the handwriting, but a postcard from the Solway Coast has been received from a certain J Bunnet Esq who visited the region recently. In fact he was attending the Solway Coast Rally in the sunny south west corner of Scotland. We all know who won the rally (and who didn't) but what went on behind the scenes? 

All of everyday life was here, tablet taste trauma, Subaru incest in the garage, giant fibs, Gary Adam (shock!) spotted wearing a smile, and why did the canteen staff hide the tea-trays?

Monday 25 August 2014

Rally - Scunnered!

Took a bit of a scunner to everything last week after the news from Ulster, then Ally Currie’s phone call lightened the mood. Then another downer when the Merrick revealed that it would use the Drumjohn stage for the first time in 6 years.

You see, Drumjohn is the forest stage where Drew Gallacher’s ashes were scattered way back in 1997. Drew was/is always a bit special. In fact it was him who christened me ‘Jaggy Bunnet’ some 40 years ago now. That’s the only reason the name has stuck, but that’s another story for another time.

Then another downer, Kris crashed out while leading in Germany. On the other hand, what a marvellous result for young Elfyn.  I didn’t report on the previous round in Finland because that clashed with the Speyside Stages and I struggled to get a signal, but the Citroen press release arrived this morning. The better news is that they are still upbeat about Kris’ performance – even though they haven’t offered him a contract for next season yet.

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle were lying second going into yesterday’s final leg of Rallye Deutschland but when Latvala crashed out, Kris took the rally lead going into SS16 at Grafschaft.

“The first stage was really very difficult,” said Kris, “When I learned that Jari-Matti had stopped, it didn’t really change my state of mind. I wasn’t affected by the possibility of winning… I was relaxed and focussed at the start of SS16. But I had a pace note that was a little bit too optimistic at the start of the stage. We hit something with the front wheel. I felt a big vibration and we went off on the next corner and crashed into a wall. I’m really disappointed for everyone in the team, who have been working so hard to get results. But we showed that we were on the pace. We’ll have to start thinking about the next rally now.”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal) added: “It’s really disappointing, because we were so close to winning. The team and Kris Meeke had had a perfect rally until this morning. We had wanted to be in position to take advantage of the slightest opportunity. Unfortunately, we were unable to grab it when it came along. Kris had a very good rally. After Finland, he continued to improve his pace. In Australia, he’ll be able to show us what he is capable of again.”

As for Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt they scored their best WRC result to date and topped that with 3 extra points for fastest time on the final Power Stage.

Elfyn Evans said: "It's been a great weekend for us. To take our first stage win was really nice and the fourth place was something we would definitely have taken at the start of the rally. We weren't too far away from Andreas [Mikkelsen, third place] at the end either, but it wasn't our objective to push for the maximum result this weekend. It was more about learning the characteristics of the car on these stages and getting round safely, and I think we managed to do that.”

"We've been there or there abouts on the set-up and the tyre choice all weekend and the end result is a great one for the team. It always gives you a little boost when you manage to beat your team mate. Mikko [Hirvonen] didn't make it easy and I'm sure he'll be on the pace in Australia. But hopefully this won't be the last time we give him a run for his money this year!"

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, added: "Elfyn's [Evans] performance this weekend has probably been the most encouraging result that I have seen from any young driver. If you look at what he's done with the experience he has, it's been a very special result.”

Mind you the week ended/started on a bit of a cheery note last night when watching the highlights of yesterday’s bunfight in Belgium accompanied by the soundtrack of a couple of dozen angry washing machines. Maybe rallying isn’t so bad after all.

Top Ten Leaderboard:
1. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:07:20.2
2. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +40.7
3. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +58.0
4. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:03.6
5. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:10.5
6. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:22.7
7. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:52.8
8. Dennis Kuipers / Robin Buysmans (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +9:18.1
9. Pontus Tidemand / Emil Axelsson (Ford Fiesta R5) +11:35.4
10. Ott Tanak / Raigo Molder (Ford Fiesta R5) +11:37.2


Other Brits:
15, S. Moffett (Ford Fiesta R5), 3:21:24.7
22, A. Fisher (Citroen DS3 R3t), 3:33:49.3, (4th WRC3)
27, R. Tuthill (Porsche GT3), 3:39:25.6
29, E. Boland (Subaru Impreza R4), 3:39:46.0
30, T. Cave (Ford Fiesta R2), 3:41:31.9, (2nd RC4)
48, J. Brown (Ford Fiesta R2), 3:52:59.5
56, M. McCormack (Ford Fiesta R5), 4:09:07.8

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Rally - Be inspired

It’s not been a good year for rallying. There have been personal tragedies and sporting difficulties to face and endure, and there are times when we all question what we’re doing. For despite all the efforts of those who organise and participate in sports events, and ensure they are safe while striving to keep others safe, accidents will inevitably happen. We all cope in different ways, some walk away from the sport, while others try harder to make it better.

Inevitably, some will question why we do it, and the older we get the harder it is to answer.

Last night I got a phone call from 16 year old Ally Currie who has entered this year’s Mull Rally in October. Yup, you’re way ahead of me - he’s only 16, but his 17th birthday is on Friday 10th October. He’ll be out of bed like a burst spring on Friday morning to drive his Peugeot 106 down to Scrutineering on Friday afternoon and then on to the start ramp later that evening.

Not possible you might think, but this lad has petrol pumping through his veins and gears between his ears. In fact he ‘spectated’ on his first Tour of Mull Rally when he was only a few days old with his Mum at the foot of their garden by the roadside and he’s been steeped in the sport ever since.

He has been competing in the 14-17 year old Brick & Steel Junior Challenge up here when time and budget allows so he’s already quite experienced. Naturally, he has completed his BARS course and has a Competition Licence. More recently he went over to the Isle of Man and “spent a fortune” on a 12 hour intensive driving course and passed his Driving Test first time. That earned him a full Driving Licence – at 16 years of age.

Come the 10th of October he will be legally entitled (at 17 years of age) to drive on UK roads on his IoM Licence. I think that will make him the youngest ever MSA Competition Licence holder to start a ‘senior’ event. How’s that for dedication and forward thinking?

He’s working all the hours he can get at his job with Inverlussa Marine on the island and then going home to work on his car. He’s also working hard to generate sufficient sponsorship to cover the costs and expenses, but he’ll be there.

And that’s why the sport will endure. And that’s what keeps us coming back for more. Be inspired? You betcha.

Sunday 17 August 2014

Rally - Timothy Cathcart

Tragic news from Northern Ireland. Timothy Cathcart lost his life in an accident on Friday night on the Ulster Rally and co-driver Dai Roberts was airlifted to hospital where he is reported to be in a 'stable' condition.

The Cathcart name is known to us all, with Timothy's Dad Ian and Uncle Roy already well known in the sport, but for this to happen to a 20 year old is just unthinkable.

The crew crashed on the third stage. When news emerged of the fatality, the top crews waiting to start Leg 2, just switched off and pushed their cars into parc ferme while the organisers took the decision to cancel the rally.

Timothy contested his first full season of rallying last year in a Ford Fiesta on the British Championship, and we first saw him over here on the Border Counties having  a run out in the new car to gain some additional experience. Then he was back for the Jim Clark.

This year he switched to a Citroen DS3 for his British Championship campaign and we saw him again on the Jim Clark and the Scottish, but it hasn't been a good year for the sport, and this latest news is quite simply inconceivable.

He was a polite and lovely young man and our thoughts must be with his family and friends now. Also we must think of the family of Dai Roberts. Goodness knows what they are going through just now, having lost Dai's brother Gareth to a rally accident two years ago.