Monday 30 April 2018

Rally - WRC Argentina

Ott Tänak recovered from an incident on Friday's first stage of YPF Rally Argentina to score his third WRC win. He hit a rock and damaged his Toyota's steering on that opening test, but on his fight back to victory, the Estonian set 10 fastest times out of 12.

Thierry Neuville kept his title hopes alive with second place in the Hyundai i20 ahead of team mate Dani Sordo. In doing so, Neuville has narrowed the gap to championship leader Sébastien Ogier to 10 points, helped by a maximum five bonus pts for winning the final Power Stage.

As for Ogier, the Fiesta didn't quite have the pace of its rivals in Argentina and typical of the man he looked to the 'long game' and settled for a sensible run through Saturday's thick fog to finish 4th. Even so, he had to fend off a determined final day charge from Andreas Mikkelsen on Sunday.

In the second M-Sport car it was really good to see Daniel Barritt back with Elfyn Evans completing the top six. They didn't quite mange to find the pace which brought them within 0.7sec of victory 12 months ago.
At the finish, Elfyn commented: “All things considered, sixth place isn’t a bad result and it was good to get some solid points on the board. But the pace just wasn’t there this weekend. It was disappointing and not what we came here to do. We need to do some analysis to try and understand why that was. The engineers will study the data, I’ll study the onboards, and hopefully we can get back on it in Portugal.”

Running 3rd on the road, Kris Meeke got off to a bad start on Friday with a  puncture on the final stage of the day costing him over 2 minutes as he and Paul had to stop and change the wheel. They eventually finished a disappointing 7th in the Citroen C3. Afterwards, Kris said: "Apart from the frustration of not being able to bring home the result that we deserved, the main thing for me is that the upgrades introduced this weekend to the C3 WRC enabled us to be a lot more consistent. I felt confident throughout the weekend, even when fighting for the podium. I felt that I had the situation under control at all times and we need to keep going in this direction."

Craig Breen got a 10 second penalty for being late at a Control on Friday, but that was a minor issue compared to Day 2's trouble when he rolled his C3 out of sixth place and damaged the roll cage.

As for Jari-Matti Latvala, his Toyota Yaris struck a rock breaking the front right suspension when holding third place. The damage became terminal when an oil pipe split.

Next round of the WRC is Rally de Portugal on May 17-20.

1. Tänak/Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:43:28.9
2. Neuville/Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 37.7
3. Sordo/Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:15.7
4. Ogier/Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:58.6
5. Mikkelsen/Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 2:02.6
6. Evans/Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 3:06.3
7. Meeke/Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) + 3:25.7
8. Lappi/Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 4:32.6
9. Suninen/Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 5:38.6

10. Tidemand/Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +12:15.8

1. Sébastien Ogier – 100 point
2.Thierry Neuville – 90 pts
3. Ott Tänak – 72 pts
4. Andreas Mikkelsen – 54 pts
5. Dani Sordo – 45 pts
6. Kris Meeke – 43 pts
7. Esapekka Lappi – 40 pts
8. Jari-Matti Latvala – 31 pts
9. Elfyn Evans – 26 pts
10. Craig Breen – 20 pts

Hyundai WRT – 144 pts
M-Sport Ford WRT – 129 pts
Toyota Gazoo Racing – 124 pts
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 93 pts

Sunday 29 April 2018

Rally - Deja vu

I experienced a really unsettling and physical sensation of deja vu at the Pirelli Rally yesterday. Whether it was an age thing, too much fresh air or a 'double-shot' in my coffee at the catering van, who knows, but it was triggered by one sound and one sight in particular.

While strolling through the Kielder Service Park the sensation was initially sparked by the sound of a two-stroke Saab and as I swung round I caught sight also of a Mk1 Escort being fettled alongside a Ford Anglia with another Mk1 passing by. Just one of those strange occurrences that make your neck hair bristle.

For a few short seconds, this could have been anywhere 40 years ago. There was nothing around the conifer lined natural amphitheatre in the depths of Kielder Forest to indicate age or even the decade. Only the modern vans gave the game away.

I mentioned this to Ian Wilson who was looking forward to his first ever gravel event with his Mk2. As he looked around the Historic array he expressed a tinge of regret that he missed the heyday of the sport as I reminisced about the heroes of that time and their feats of bravery, skill and endurance in what were relatively unsophisticated machines. And when I suggested that I thought I had seen the best of the sport, he said: "You might just be right!"

Of course that all changed abruptly when the Historic cars moved on and the BRC 'heavy duty' brigade arrived spearheaded by large trucks, big tents and lots of kit, instead of Transits, CFs, estate cars and roof racks. Changed days.

The sport is very different now and who is to say it is better or poorer. Of course there are those who look at the current crop of S2000, WRC and R5s and reckon the sport is far too expensive and such machines should not be allowed in rallying. In that respect nothing has changed.

Back in the 1970s, an ex-works car was around 4 times the price of a good clubman car - and that is still the case now, it's just the total figures are bigger. Much bigger.

Other things have changed too. Central servicing, groundsheets, fuel bunkering, no overnight sections, limited day time running, route notes, tyres, transmissions, brakes and engines, not to mention safety equipment and diet sheets!

The challenge is still there, and although the speeds are higher, the distances are shorter. Rallying has lost its sense of adventure and endurance, to be replaced with speed and precision. And who is to say which is right. I wonder what will give me the shivers next time, eh?

Rally - Scots in Kielder

There wasn't much need for saltire waving cheerleaders in Carlisle yesterday with just two Scottish drivers in the top ten of the Prestone British Championship opener.

English domiciled Scot Alex Laffey and Patrick Walsh finished 7th while Lawrence Whyte and Stuart Loudon were 8th, but remember, this was only Lawrence's fifth rally! John Wink and John Forrest put their 'oops bumpsadaisy' in Elgin behind them with a confidence restoring 12th overall while John Morrison and Peter Carstairs were 2nd in the National class and 16th overall in the Lancer. 

Elsewhere, Kirsty Riddick co-drove Jonathan Greer into 5th place so technically she was highest placed Scot.

Sadly David Bogie and John Rowan crashed out on the first stage of the day giving the Skoda a helluva sore dunt on its nose and napper, although both David and John climbed out ok. Scott MacBeth and Neil Shanks had a slightly longer run, but retired after SS3. A bolt sheared in the gearbox mounting in SS2, but in SS3, the whole mount gave way taking the clutch cable with it. Also putting the car on to the trailer after SS3 were Finlay Retson and Tom Hynd. The Fiesta R2 developed an oil leak during the first 3 stages and despite leading the BRCCA class were forced to retire at service when they couldn't fix it. Heartbreaking, eh?
There was even less glory in the 'Historic & Rally2' event with Dave Robson guiding Matthew Robinson into the runner-up enclosure behind the similar Mk2 of Paul Barret, while Callum Atkinson had to bear the brunt of a daysworth of Yorkshire 'wisdom' keeping Steve Bannister company in 8th place.

Angus Lawrie and Paul Gribben got 2nd in class with an excellent 14th overall on such fast stages with the Corsa, while Carl and Rob Tuer debuted their new Vauxhall engined Suzuki Swift and scored a cautious 23rd o/a and 4th in class. Another crew debuting a new car was Caroline Carslaw and John Duke finishing 49th o/a first time out in the LHD Fiesta R2 while Alan McMorran and Albert Connelly pedalled the Avenger in to 51st o/a and 2nd in class.

As ever David Hayton's Mk1 looked mint at the rally start, but not so after SS2. He and Derek Adamson found a boggy hole on the outside of a left hander and spent some quality time together in the middle of nowhere before the arrival of the pull-me-out squad.

In the oddly named 'National B5' event (comprising 5 of the day's 8 stages) Reay MacKay and Keir Beaton scored a win first time out in the Dom Buckley Fiesta R5 with John McIlwraith and Scott Young 6th in their Impreza. Ian Wilson and Chris Williams were 7th first time on gravel with the Mk2 but were lucky to survive a 180 degree spin on the approach to a chicane which ended with the Escort's tail-end amongst the bales. Bob Adamson and Laura Marshall were 8th in the Fabia S2000 while Brian Ross and Mark Fisher were 9th in the Evo6 after knocking the boost pipe off the turbo in SS2 during a slight 'off'.  Alistair Brearley and Paul Barbet rounded off the finishers in 12th place in the Mk2 after a day spent practicing the ark art of Route Note calling and implementing.

Tommy Heard and Greg McCutcheon were going well till the penultimate stage when they went for a picturesque drive through the heather and bracken instead of following a perfectly good gravel road!

Thursday 26 April 2018

Rally - Speyside report

Main report from the McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages Rally now in the on-line mag. With new co-driver John Rowan, David Bogie scored his 9th win on this event and stated at the finish that it would be nice to come back next year and go for 10! 

Over a minute behind in third place were CA1Sport team mates Rhys Yates and Alex Lee, but splitting the two Skoda Fabia R5s in perhaps the 'drive of the day', were Jock Armstrong and Cameron Fair in the TegSport Subaru Impreza. 

Oh, and the sun shone. And it was warm. So warm in fact that the Struthers team legged it down to the local superstore and came back with two packs of double chocolate Magnums. Just one thing wrong with that, they were wee ones, not full-sized! Still, very welcome - and totally scrumptious.

Full report here, with full class roundup to follow at the weekend.