Saturday 18 March 2017

Rally - Bittersweet Border

If ever an event demonstrated the extreme highs and the bitterly dispiriting lows that rallying can generate, it was today’s Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally. Going into the penultimate stage, Greg McKnight was on course for the best result of his short career. He was lying second, 17 seconds behind Jock Armstrong. This was sensational stuff.

The yellow Lancer set off in hot pursuit of the orange Impreza, but one thing more important than power and speed, is brakes. And Greg didn’t have any. Half way through a brake pipe burst. He made it to the stage finish and crimped off the pipe. He dropped to fourth place. Bad enough. Then in the final stage, two punctures, both on the driver’s side. If this was a film script, the audience would be hurling pop corn at the screen in corny disbelief. He finished fifth, poor reward for glorious effort.

At the rally finish, Jock said: “Greg’s day will come. That was some drive.” Finishing second was a relieved Mike Faulkner. Relieved, because the new car was proving its worth: “The car’s good, it’s all about me now. We enjoyed the battle with Greg and Rory. We stretched our legs a bit on that final stage and managed to catch Rory.”

As for Rory Young: “We had a wee bit of an ‘incident’ in a ditch in Elibank. We were almost on our side, it was one of those moments when you think to yourself, ‘is this going over or is it going to come back?’ Fortunately, it came back. That was scary. It was very fast.”

Another happy man was Mark McCulloch having got to the root of his Snowman problems: “The solenoid in the diff pump was jamming so we got it fixed and it was fine today.” But he too had a scary moment: “It was a flat in 5th gear moment in Yair. We came round a left hander and the tail went out, and just kept going, hit a banking and bounced us back on to the road. I backed off after that!”  

That meant Greg McKnight finished fifth, still a fine result but not what might have been. Heart wrenching, but that’s rallying.

Just ask David Bogie. He punctured a tyre and at the next corner the Skoda just understeered off the road: “I tried to drive it out the ditch,” said David, “but it just kept digging itself in.” That left CA1 team mate Fredrik Ahlin to take the first victory of the new BRC season from Tom Cave and Osian Pryce, with Euan Thorburn in 8th place after 2 punctures.

The wet and skittery conditions claimed more than their fair share of victims. More ‘offs’ than a school full of trapeze learners, but most of them got back on with little more than embarrassment and some time loss. Like Shaun Sinclair who set some scintillating times, but an off on the second stage cost him a maximum. No damage, just off in the glaur and beached. At least he kept going. Steven Clark lost out on a top four placing when he too skited off the road and got stuck.

1, J Armstrong/ Swinscoe, 43m 32.4s
2, M Faulkner/P Foy, 44m 02.9s
3, R Young/A Cathers, 44m 14.6s
4, M McCulloch/M Hendry, 44m 33.8s
5, G McKnight/L Marshall, 44m 56.4s
6, P Stephenson/P Walsh 45m 39.7s
7, I Wilson/W Rogers, 46m 13.0s
8, I Baumgart/M Dickson, 46m 32.6s
9, M Binnie/C Mole, 46m 32.9s
10, J Wink/J Forrest, 46m 36.9s

Full report in Wednesday’s Motorsport News!

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