Tuesday 27 February 2018

Rally - Bob Shepherd

Robert Alexander Shepherd. Many of you will know the name and more of you will recognise the face, even though the majority of Scottish rally fans won't know what he did, but Scottish rallying lost a true friend and sporting ambassador on Sunday. Bob Shepherd, the founder and Dealer Principal of Station Garage at Torphins and Aberdeen, the main Mitsubishi dealer in the North East, passed away all too suddenly and unexpectedly at the weekend. He was only 61.

He was a big man with a big heart. When he got excited he could talk faster than a turbocharged exhaust on the over-run and that excitement was infectious whether watching rally cars or rugby players. Over the years he has 'helped out' both the Speyside Stages and Granite City/Grampian Stages Rallies with the loan of vehicles and equipment while 'helping out' many drivers from the McRaes and Robbie Head to local drivers such as the McCombies and John Wink and many, many others. In fact, he would help out just about anyone with a Mitsubishi, and even some who didn't!

Bob didn't use the term 'sponsorship', he preferred the phrase 'helping out' and that's just what he did. No big fanfares or grand gestures, just a nod and a wink. He even got embarrassed when you tried to thank him.

One of his proudest possessions was a 2001 Ford Focus World Rally Car last driven by Colin McRae. He didn't drive it himself, he just wanted to have it. A true rallyholic.

He actually sponsored the Granite City Rally in 2008/9/10/11 and when he opened his new showroom on the north west corner of the city he hosted a Roadshow. That was a grand night. He invited customers and rally fans for an evening's fun and entertainment with top rally stars and a certain MC who was imported from Lanarkshire for the occasion.

Afterwards, Bob invited his guests back to a local hotel for a lock-in. But one thing stands out, Bob made sure his guests were fed and 'watered' first before he himself relaxed, indulged and enjoyed the company. I remember how that evening  started but I don't recall how, or when, it finished.

That generosity and kindness extended to rallies and test days where his motorhome acted as a magnet for waifs and strays in anoraks. One thing was certain, there would invariably be a big pot of stovies bubbling away on the gas ring when Bob was about. He actually mixed and brewed the local delicacy himself and dished out portions that would test the pulling power of an L200. Thus fortified a Marshal, Official or even humble Press reporter could withstand the rigours of a north east winter.

His other great passion was rugby, and at least it's some little comfort to know that he was actually there last Saturday.

His family and friends will miss the staccato commentary, the laughter and the kindness, and he will be a very sad loss to the rest of Scottish rallying too.

Sunday 25 February 2018

Rally - Knockhill capers

John Marshall and Scott Crawford won the Grant Construction Knockhill Stages Rally, but only after a day long tussle with David Hardie and Mark McCulloch. In fact, James Gibb got the hammer down first, but a spin on the third test cost him the rally lead, thereafter it was a fight to the finish between the two Subarus.

The top seeds had to contend with icy conditions till the sun rose over 'the Hill' and burned most of it off, leaving a few icy patches in the dips and shadows to catch out the unwary. In fact, the sun shone so brightly, it was almost warm. I said, 'almost'.

Number 1 seed Marshall was first to feel his way round: "There was ice all the way and I had to decide whether to follow the tracks left by the Course Cars or take the 'proper' racing line and drive on the ice!"

Although Gibb spun off in the Lancer, Gordon Morrison didn't fare quite so well. His Subaru smacked a gatepost and great plumes of smoke and clouds extinguisher powder rose dramatically into the still, bright air. Fortunately, it was only oil dripping on to a hot manifold and there were no flames.

First time out in his new Skoda Fabia, John Rintoul fell victim to the conditions too, the Skoda just slithering off the road and into a hole.

Hardie closed the gap to Marshall over stages 5 and 6, but lost time on the penultimate test when the car stalled twice. It did it again on the final test and the car slid off the road within sight of the finish line.

That incident promoted Ian Paterson to second place: "I only had four soft tyres for the front and two wets for the rear," said Ian, "The car was sliding about quite a bit by the finish - but it was good fun."

Lee Hastings therefore scored a surprise third: "If it hadn't been for an ECU problem on the first stage, I might have been more in the mix. The car stalled at the hairpin and I just lost too much time," he said.

That meant Donnie MacDonald just missed out on the podium. "I was far too cautious on the first stage, I dropped half a minute to the other boys, that was just too much to pull back." Mind you he was still quite cheerful at the finish: "That's the first single venue event I've finished. Usually I break something at these type of events."

Gibb finished 5th with Tom Blackwood rounding off the top six and scoring top 2WD in his Escort. First time out in his new Mk2, Iain Wilson was 7th while first time in a rally car for over 12 years was Willie Paterson finishing 8th in a Lancer.

Unaware of Hardie's problems, Marshall went into the last stage with a far from secure lead, but what to do? Stick to the pace and hope it was enough, or go hard and risk a mistake?

He went for it. "That was inch perfect," he beamed, "I tried to match the time on the previous stage - and took 5 seconds off it. After last weekend's troubles, that was the icing on the cake."

1 John Marshall/Scott Crawford (Subaru Impreza) 41m 56s
2 Ian Paterson/Alan Paterson (Subaru Impreza)  +00.34s
3 Lee Hastings/Cole Hastings (Subaru Impreza) +00.50s
4 Donnie MacDonald/Alison Horne (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +00.58s
5 James Gibb/Paul Tonner (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo8) +01.08s
6 Tom Blackwood/Gordon Winning (Ford Escort Mk2) +01.46s
7 Iain Wilson/Chris Williams (Ford Escort Mk2) +)1.46s
8 Willie Paterson/Euan O'Neill (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) +02.01s
9 Joe Cunningham/Marc Fowler (Vauxhall Corsa) +02.05s
10 Stevie Irwin/Ian Middleton (Vauxhall Nova) +02.51s

Thursday 22 February 2018

Rally - Knockhill on Sunday

Full Entry list for this Sunday's (25th Feb) Grant Construction Stages Rally now in the on-line mag. First car gets underway at 8.30 am at the start of 8 Special Stages.

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Rally - Snowman Blethers

In a land far beyond Perth, where snow and ice held hilltop and mountain in frozen grip, and polar bears prowled the forests looking for lost rally spectators, there were other tales to be divulged behind the scenes at the Snowman Rally. There were tears and sweary words, auld gits and auld crocks, and the Skoda jokes just refuse to go away. It could only mean one thing, the Scottish forest rallying season had come out of hibernation.

Monday 19 February 2018

Rally - WRC Sweden

Ireland's Craig Breen and Cumbria's Scott Martin scored the result of their lives at the weekend when they finished 2nd overall in Sweden on this year's second round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Unfortunately, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi  team pairing provided the only good news from the 'home' crews.

In winning the event, Thierry Neuville became only the third non-Nordic driver to win the WRC's solitary pure winter rally and end an agonising 12-month wait after crashing out of a comfortable lead last year.

Breen grabbed second place on Saturday morning when Andreas Mikkelsen spun and despite the fervent attentions of the Norwegian's Hyundai, Breen kept his cool to hold him off by just 8.5sec at the finish.

Kris Meeke had a torrid time. Running fourth on the road, and hampered by clearing snow for the later runners, Kris suffered a fairly innocuous impact with a snow bank which damaged the turbo of his C3 WRC. That meant retirement for the day resuming the competition under Rally 2 rules.

On the other hand, Craig was delighted, saying at the finish: “I'm absolutely on top of the world! It has been an incredible weekend. I have always really enjoyed this rally in the past, but I have to say that I surprised myself this weekend in that I was able to fight at the front throughout the race, without making any mistakes. I used to think that quick rallies weren't suited to me, but that doesn't seem to be the case any more. In any event, my C3 WRC was perfect here and it's great to secure this result for the team – the guys have worked really hard for this."

It would therefore be just a bit too easy to claim that those running later on the road had an unfair advantage over those at the front. Of course those conditions did indeed hamper the front runners, but given the nature of the terrain and the changing surfaces, those who did benefit from 'cleaner' roads still had to make the most of the opportunity and not fall off or fall victim to snowbanks.


The fresh snowfall ahead of the rally also greatly hampered the M-Sport squad with Sebastien Ogier effectively acting as lead snowplough. He eventually finished in 10th place overall while Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt also endured a luckless weekend finishing 11th overall after a puncture on the early stages dropped them back.


Elfyn said: "It’s not been the easiest of weekends. It’s probably fair to say that we were struggling for some pace through the early stages, but then when the puncture set us back we didn’t have any chance with the road position. It’s certainly not the weekend we wanted, so we just need to put it behind us and look forward to Mexico."


At the finish there was apparently a wee bit of 'team management'  when Elfyn unfortunately incurred a time penalty which dropped him behind his team mate in the Final Results. Ogier also contrived to 'hang back' on the approach to the final 'Power Stage' so that he wasn't first on the road. The ploy obviously worked as he was second quickest, picking up a valuable 4 extra points although he has now dropped to second place in the WRC title chase behind new leader Neuville.


Rally Sweden (Torsby):
Final Results:

1. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 2:52:13.1
2.  Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +19.8
3. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +28.3
4. Esapekka Lapp / Janne Ferme (Toyota Yaris WRC) +45.8
5. Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +54.4
6. Mads Østberg / Torstein Eriksen (Citroen C3 WRC) +1:15.3
7. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:04.9
8. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:52.2
9. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3:44.4
10. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +8:45.4


Championship Points:

1. Thierry Neuville - 41
2. Sébastien Ogier - 31
3. Jari-Matti Latvala - 23
4. Esapekka Lapp - 23
5. Ott Tänak - 21
6. Andreas Mikkelsen - 21
7. Craig Breen - 20
8. Kris Meeke - 17
9. Hayden Paddon - 10
10. Elfyn Evans - 8