The Welsh forests were cloaked in thick mist this morning as competitors in the WRGB National Rally left the Service Park and headed south. Already the windscreen wipers were busy, and despite pre-event fears that the stages would dry out, they didn’t. In the Scottish vernacular, they were wet and guttery. A layer of slimy mud coating the Welsh gravel and a 20 mile opening test just to get the juices flowing – if only they could see it!
Rising to the occasion was Bruce McCombie who ended the first day leading the Nationals from Luke Francis and Roger Duckworth. Wug Utting was 4th ahead of our own Iain Wilson. In fact there were four Scots in the top ten at close of play with Scott McCombie 7th and Fraser MacNicol 8th. A tremendous start to the weekend.
Not so fortunate were twice winner, Mike Faulkner and Lee Hastings. Both succumbed to the poor visibility. Mike hit a rock on the left of the road which spun the Lancer across the road ending up well off on the right. Luck was with Lee for a change, as he managed to get back on, and continue: “I got further than Craig Breen, because I had already passed his accident. There was a 200 yard straight into a Right7, but I couldn’t see it in the fog.“
Bruce was awfy lucky too: “Halfway through that first one I was already thinking about stopping. The car was overheating. It continued to overheat all day so we had to keep an eye on it.” He was also worried about tyre choice: “It was dry and warm when we left the Start this morning, but when we got to the stages they were wet and guttery. We were on KM6s. It was the right choice.”
Iain Wilson had his troubles too: “We did 12 miles in Hafren with a left rear puncture – it made the right handers interesting. In the first stage we followed the car in front for 6 miles, but he couldn’t see us in the fog. It made following him a bit tricky at times too for us.”
Scott McCombie reached the overnight halt in an excellent 7th place: “We’ve got a banging noise, we think it’s a driveshaft.” Turned out it was the rear diff, so the boys set to work in the floodlights to change it. “We’ve also had no anti-lag all day,” he added, “so we were struggling a wee bit. You really miss it when you don’t have it, and we were having to drop gears to get out of the corners.” He was also using MRF tyres for the first time and the open pattern seemed to be working well in the skittery mud.
Fraser MacNicol was 8th despite overheating trouble of his own: “The fan is not working. It’s fine when the air is running through it, but when we stopped at the finish line of the final stage, it spat out all its water. Getting through the Friday afternoon traffic back here was nightmare.”
Jim McRae was 15th in the Firenza and was delayed in SS3 when he had to stop because a car ahead was on fire. Carl Tuer was 18th in the MG and h too was delayed in SS3 although happy enough considering it was his second time out this year – and he only did two stages on the Border Counties! Tom Coughtrie did the final stage on 3 cylinders and the boys are hoping a change of ignition pack will cure the Escort for tomorrow. Geoff Goudie not only had fog to contend with on the first two stages, his windscreen misted up. Double fogged! Barry Groundwater blew a turbo on the third stage. Simon Hay got a maximum time on the final stage and it would appear that Ian Forgan’s new Subaru developed a mechanical fault in the final stage too. And on the first stage of the day, Kevin Robertson broke his Mitsubishi’s gear linkage.
On the International front it would appear also that David Bogie is out. He bent a steering arm on the first stage this morning, limped through SS2, but it broke on SS3 and the car struck a tree. That boy has no luck on this event, eh?
And the funniest thing of the day? Surely the lovely wee lassie from Wales TV trying to interview the Doric rally leader from north east Scotland. If it ever makes TV it will need two sets of sub titles.