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