Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton have endured a couple of barren seasons over the past two of years, but it all came good today. Lying second going into the final stage of the ‘Dunoon Presents the Argyll Stages Rally’ a blistering time earned them their first outright victory since the Malcolm Wilson Stages way back in 2015.
“I didn’t think that was going to happen after the first stage,” said Euan, “We punctured a front tyre and dropped 17 seconds to Jock.”
Running first on the road wasn’t a big advantage though: “I was the route marker,” said Jock, “the first 3 miles of the stage was just grass with two black lines through it. It was wet and it was slippy, it was like driving on green snow.” Even so, he managed to take another second out of Thorburn on the second test.
Thorburn hit back with fastest times on the next two stages and when the fifth stage was cancelled it all came down to the final test high on the hill overlooking Dunoon. The orange Subaru went into the stage with a 4 second advantage and came out with a 4 second deficit.
“It was drier than the first run through that stage this morning,” said Euan, “and the grip was more consistent. Plus I got the finger out and had a real push.” The Fiesta finished the stage 8 seconds quicker than the Subaru and victory was his.
Armstrong was lucky though: “We hit something and it broke the exhaust manifold. Even so, Euan was flying.”
In third place was Shaun Sinclair: “I was quite pleased with my time on the final stage. I was only 2 seconds down on Jock – then I saw Euan’s time. I don’t know where he got that from. He was on a different planet.”
Mark McCulloch was fourth: “I was just too slow this morning,” said Mark, “I had set the suspension up for the first stage but it was all wrong for the second one! Still I’m happy with my result, just not my times.”
Mike Faulkner finished a fighting fifth having slipped off the road on another slippery grassy section of the third stage: “We punctured on the first stage,” said Mike, “but we spun on the third test. We just got two wheels on the grass over a crest and that was it, we were off the road and on the grass.”
Steven Clark rounded off the top six with Duncan MacDonald top 2WD runner in 13th place overall just 23 seconds clear of Mike Stuart. “The rear tyres were down to the cord at the end of the first stage,” said Duncan, “but they didn’t go down.” Mike Stuart was lucky too: “We were off big style in the first stage and bent all the link bars on the rear axle.”
And that was the story of the rally. The first 3 miles of the first 10 mile stage hadn’t seen a vehicle for years and was wildly overgrown plus it was wet turning to mud, then there was a good section of road followed by a badly repaired stretch which caused a string of punctures. The organisers consulted some of the drivers and the Stages Commander wisely deciding to cancel the afternoon’s return visit. And therein lies forest rallying’s biggest problem, you can only go rallying on the roads that Forest Enterprise allow clubs to use.
If Argyll is to return to the glory days of Scottish rallying then clubs must be allowed access to better quality roads.
1, Euan Thorburn 32m 38s
2, Jock Armstrong, 32m 42s
3, Shaun Sinclair, 33m 09s
4, Mark McCulloch, 34m 02s
5, Mike Faulkner, 34m 33s
6, Steven Clark, 34m 37s
7, Simon Hay, 34m 50s
8, John Wink, 34m 58s
9, Stephen Lockhart, 35m 06s
10, Michael Binnie, 35m 25s