Tuesday 29 May 2018

Rally - RSAC Scottish

That's the main reports and fastest stage times from both the RSAC Scottish 4WD and RSAC Scottish 2WD rallies now published in the on-line mag. News roundup will follow with all the stories that didn't make the headlines! Nowhere else will you get such a full and comprehensive account of proceedings on  the day.

As for the photo, that was taken after the rally cars had left Lockerbie on Saturday morning when the RSAC ladies had completed their signing-on paperwork duties and turned their attention to a more important matter which was taking place in an English kirk far to the south. Such was their intense scrutiny of events taking place on the telly, the photographer wasn't noticed sneaking in behind them. And their verdict? "Dress lovely, tiara terrible!"


Sunday 27 May 2018

Rally - Bash, break, thud

What a carry-on at yesterday's Granite Stages Rally at Leuchars. 50 cars started the Senior Rally and 24 finished. On the other hand, 13 Juniors started their own separate event at the same venue and all 13 finished. And there's more, the competition was much fiercer and much closer amongst the Juniors than their elders and betters! Who's teaching who these days, eh?

What a marvellous competition, just a pity we couldn't see any of it. Under current motor sports rules and restrictions no spectators were allowed and everyone else confined to the Service Area, so all we have are the stories and tall tales. What a pity, but then as I've always said, rallies are first and foremost for competitors, not for spectators.

Alan Kirkaldy was the fastest man round Leuchars all day - and one of the best survivors. He was a tad lucky though. On one stage he caught another car after the stage split and there was a slight 'altercation' on the approach to the following bend. Either the car ahead braked early or Kirkaldy braked late, but they touched. Slightly more than 'ae fond kiss' but all that was needed was some tank tape for both machines afterwards.

Co-driving for Kirkaldy was newcomer Eoghan Anderson. He had actually won a seat with Kirkaldy at the STRC awards last year when he won the charity raffle. He might not be so brash next time such a prize is offered.

First time out in a newly built Subaru, Ian Forgan with 14 year old daughter Sarah, were second while Ian Paterson was third, also with a 'new', but rather more care-worn, co-driver, his cousin Alan Paterson.

Alan Gardiner in the Mk1 and Colin Gemmell in the Mk2 had a rare old tussle for fourth, but the 'drives of the day' finished 6th and 7th. Finlay Retson scored 6th in his Fiesta R2 while Michael Harbour was 7th in his Citroen C2 just 17 seconds behind him. These two going at it like a pair of Jack Russell's spotting the same rat.

They were the fortunate few of course, because Gordon Morrison broke his exhaust manifold, Alistair Inglis his gearbox, both John Rintoul and Tom Morris were sidelined with steering problems and Lawrence Whyte whacked a concrete lamp post - but you'll have to wait till later in the week for the full story, Ed.

Meanwhile away from this unruly bunch, the Juniors were going about the serious business of clean and fair competition. At the 6 stage (out of 11) mark, 4 seconds covered the top 4 places, how close was that? Sadly, rally leader Andrew Blackwood broke his gearbox and then missed the next stage while the boys changed the 'box so that he could get back and re-join the fray although not in the hunt for top points. So cruel, eh?

Johnnie MacKay took up the top spot, but there was a frenetic duel for second place just inches from his bumper. Lewis Haining and Oliver Hunter ended the rally tied on times with Haining getting the place courtesy of a quicker time on the opening test. Archie Swinscoe was fourth just ahead of Amy McCubbin.

As ever, there will be a full report from the rally in the on-line mag later in the week.

Senior Top Ten
1, A Kirkaldy, Escort Mk2, 65m 53s
2, I Forgan, Subaru, 67m 02s
3, I Paterson, Subaru, 67m 57s
4, A Gardiner, Escort Mk1, 68m 17s
5, C Gemmell, Escort Mk2, 68m 54s
6, F Retson, Fiesta R2, 69m 45s
7, M Harbour, Citroen C2, 70m 02s
8, R McCallum, MG Maestro, 70m 51s
9, A Wallace, Lancer Evo6, 71m 09s
10, J Christie, Lancer Evo9, 71m 41s

Junior Top Ten
1, J MacKay, Suzuki, 58m 51s
2, L Haining, Skoda, 59m 07s
3, O Hunter, Peugeot, 59m 07s
4, A Swinscoe, Skoda, 60m 53s
5, A McCubbin, Skoda, 62m 18s
6, F Anderson, Citroen, 62m 27s
7, C Davidson, Nissan, 62m 55s
8, J Hall, Nissan, 65m 58s
9, A Paterson, Peugeot, 69m 25s
10, A Webster, Nissan, 72m 02s

Friday 25 May 2018

Rally - The Citroen decision

Much will be said over the coming  days and weeks about the rights and wrongs of Citroen WRT's decision and announcement. All of it will be conjecture and pure fancy because none of us will ever know the truth. All we have at present are our own thoughts and opinions. The trouble is, we're unlikely to get the real truth until such times as Kris buys his M&S slippers and luxury towelling dressing gown, lights a candle and sits down to write his memoirs.

On that basis there are a number of considerations to take into account. Perhaps the main one has to be Citroen's adjustment, or lack of it, to the fact that they are no longer the top team with the best car. That period has come and gone, like McLaren in F1.

To us outsiders, it would appear that Citroen have not adjusted to that concept as well as McLaren. That's down to a number of factors. McLaren is a small-ish company steeped in the tradition of motorsport and only too well aware of the fragility of reputations and expertise - and of course the old saying, "You are only as good as your last result".

On the other hand, Citroen is a huge company in its own right and part of much bigger corporate conglomerate so there are many more Directors, Managers and individuals to fight with to get the budget. Expectations run very high at international corporate level and patience is in short supply. I suspect that much of this additional pressure was felt by and shared amongst the rally team personnel, including drivers.

Coming just after the 'Sebastien Loeb era', one wonders if the Citroen hierarchy simply expected things to continue as before. The truth of the matter is, other teams have caught up in terms of technology. The C3 is still a good car, it's just not the best any more. Could they accept this 'new order', or more to the point could they accept constructive criticism? Publicly Meeke was very positive and supportive of the new car, as any team leader should, but privately, could the engineers accept Kris' opinions and suggestions?

One wonders if that was why Loeb was brought back. A second opinion was sought. Perhaps to see if he substantiated what their other drivers were telling them. Remember, Loeb did say the car was good on tarmac - although he didn't really comment about its gravel capability.

No-one knows what team orders were given this year, but it was widely thought that Kris would go for the win - where he could - while Craig went for points and experience and Stephane was being groomed for the future.

This latest crash gave the team the perfect opportunity to dispense with Kris and Paul's services and will undoubtedly give the current team leadership some respite and somewhere else to lay the blame, while they prepare Plan B. One can only imagine the pressure the team was under to deliver the kind of results that the top Citroen hierarchy expected. In that way, this decision might be regarded by some as the easy opt out. The trouble is, Kris is one of the very few drivers who have the raw speed and talent to flatter a less than perfect car, no matter how small those imperfections may be. But he is having to take risks to achieve the results they want.

You only have to look at the stage timing on WRC events. Drivers are now fighting over thousandths of a second per stage. That's crazy. Driving flat-out means there is NO margin for error. If you drive at 99% you lose out, if you drive at 100% you have a chance, if you drive at 101% you won't make the finish.

Meeke has the raw speed to challenge at the top but he needs the tools, the equipment and the support, like any other top driver. If any one of those ingredients is past its sell by date, then it is much easier to lay the blame elsewhere. To us it's a sport, to Citroen, it's business.

That's not to say Kris is blameless, he has had his moments, eh? But that's what make him such a charismatic, gifted and ultimately, one of the fastest men on earth.

Mind you I'm biased. I thought the youngster had something the first time I saw him. That was 18 years ago on the Galloway Hills. He was driving his Peugeot 106 on his first Scottish gravel rally and he was a sight to watch. A year later, he returned with his Dad's Subaru. First time out in 4WD he won it. And he won it in style. A star was born - and I still regard him a star.

And whilst it might be easy enough for us to question the authority, knowledge and experience of someone's employers, that's not so easy for a paid employee to do!

Rally - Granite Stages Entry

Granite Stages at Leuchars Rally on Saturday. Full Entry List for this non-spectator event on-line. And to find out what happened on the day, there will be a full report in the on-line mag later in the week as usual.


Rally - Meeke out at Citroen

Shock news from France this morning, or maybe not!

Brief and to the point, Citroen WRT issued a Statement last night, full text of which follows:

-  Due to an excessively high number of crashes, some of which were particularly heavy and could have had serious consequences with regard to the crew’s safety, and given that the risks involved were unjustified by the sporting stakes at play, Citro├źn Racing WRT has decided to terminate the participation of Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle in the 2018 WRC.

The decision becomes effective from the 2018 Rally Italia Sardegna and we will shortly be announcing the team’s line-up of crews for the remainder of the 2018 season. The entries of C3 WRCs for Craig Breen / Scott Martin and Mads Ostberg / Torstein Eriksen still stand for Sardinia.

Pierre Budar: “This wasn’t an easy decision to make because it effects a driver and a co-driver, but it is largely founded on safety issues which come under my preoccupations as Team Principal. We have consequently chosen to make this decision as a preventive measure.”

Thursday 24 May 2018

Road - Daft Idea Time

At the recent SMMT Test Day at MIRA, Honda UK took the wraps off its latest bout of automotive lunacy.

A few years back year we had Gordon Shedden driving/riding their 135mph lawnmower, but if it's not road legal how do you get it to the Park to cut grass?

Easy put it in the back of a pickup. But not just any pickup. A bunch of highly intelligent 'eedjits' at the Honda Swindon manufacturing plant came up with the ideal wheeze. A pick-up built out of a Civic Type R!

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the resultant vehicle is only a concept and Honda has no plans to put it into production. The two seater features a solid bulkhead and flat rear floor while retaining the iconic rear wing which, rather cleverly, is movable to allow direct and unfettered access to the rear of the truck. 

Using the same powertrain, suspension and gearbox as the standard road car, it is estimated that 'Project P' as it's called, will complete the 0-62mph sprint in under six seconds and reach a top speed of over 165mph.

How stupid and pointless is that? Who cares. I want one.