Saturday 29 February 2020

Rally - Snowman Preview

Full Entry List with short Preview and list of Programme Retailers for next Saturday's (7th March) Coogie Urquhart Snowman Rally at Inverness now in the on-line mag:

Road - Ford S-Max ST-Line

Some folk might regard the Ford S-Max as a bit of a barge, but that would be unkind and unfair, because the ST-Line model thinks it's a speedboat. Its stability and poise are impressive and it turns in just like a Focus. 

But here's the thing, after a cross country trip to Stranraer it reminded me of a mid 1970s Ford Granada. Not in a bad way. In a good, a very good way. Funny how the mind plays tricks on the old memory box, eh?

Anyway,a  couple of folk at Knockhill last week asked me what I thought of it. 

The full review is here:

Thursday 27 February 2020

Road - A good day

Some days are better than others. Today was one of the good ones. Jaguar was in Scotland with a selection of the latest F-Type models for members of the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers to drive and assess.

The mid cycle model refresh outwardly shows changes to the nose, tail and light clusters while the chassis has been tweaked based on feedback from the SVR. The V6 engine has been dropped in favour of a new 450PS supercharged V8 while the 575PS supercharged V8 has been retained.

Naturally the job was to drive them all and appraise their merits ahead of the 2020 Scottish Car of the Year awards.

On one of the jaunts I stopped at Polkemmet Country Park to take some pics. So there I was, crouched down on my hunkers, trying to be creative with the camera when a big black nose poked its way into my lens. It belonged to a Labrador, all wet nose, big eyes and wagging tale. Its owner, an elderly, tall, but stooped, white haired gentleman approached apologising profusely.

There was no need of course, it was just a lovely, big black lump of canine friendliness. But the chap asked what I was up to, not in an officious nosey way, but curiously interested.

Then I found out why. Although he had arrived at the Park in a beat up old Shogun he told me that back at home he had a 1992 Jaguar XJS V12 and a 2002 S-Type R amongst his collection of 5 cars. He was also a long time member of the Jaguar Driver’s club, hence his interest.

So I filled him on the spec of the car I was driving and answered as many of his questions as I could. I nearly missed my lunch!

That capped a lovely day out in the snow (!) with some of the UK’s best examples of British engineering and automotive excellence.

Personal favourite was the 450PS AWD car. The grip was phenomenal and the performance ferocious - even on dry-ish roads. We-ell, somebody's got to do it!

Tuesday 25 February 2020

Rally - Pacenotes Magazine

The February issue of the Northern Ireland based 'Pacenotes' Rally Magazine is on sale now and there's a cracking guide to all of the 2020 main UK rally championships. Not just the various Irish and Northern Irish series' but both the Scottish forest and tarmack championships, the BRC  and BTRDA competitions, and also the Protyre and Historic championships plus the three main Manx based events.

It contains a full and comprehensive rundown of all the dates, events and information you need to plan your year and well worth the cover price of £4.50 alone - or 5.25 Euros if you've still got some left in your holiday fund!

Elsewhere there's a memory stirring feature on Citroen's early days in the World Rally Championship with the Citroen Visa (Yes, seriously!), Michael Orr's personal insight on this year's Dakar and reports from the Christmas Cracker, Christmas Stages, Grizedale Stages and Jaffa Stages rallies plus the historic Killarney Rally of the Lakes.

Just don't make the mistake of thinking this is an Irish magazine. It's a British magazine covering events and personalities right across all corners of the UK and Ireland.  And if your local newsagent can't find it, there's always a subscription to be had.

Sunday 23 February 2020

Rally - Knockhill Stages

Alan Kirkaldy made it look easy. Second fastest on the opening stage of 8 he was fastest on the next one and then just kept on going. Over a minute clear at the half way point he finished over 2 minutes clear of Donnie MacDonald by close of play.

A wet, slushy track and a snow capped Knock Hill greeted competitors on their arrival, and there was no warm welcome from the mercury either. If you had a thermometer, the liquid stayed well hidden in its wee bubble at the foot of the scale! The sun and blue sky did make an appearance in the afternoon, but the temperature stayed firmly in the permafrost zone.

Given those freezing conditions, Alan and Donnie did their bit to cheer up the huddle of human icicles in the shelter at the Hairpin. Forget ‘racing lines’ these boys looked as though they were auditioning for the title of Drift King Scotland as they tyre smoked all the way in, round, and out of the tight uphill bend on SS7. A little bit of magic to crack frozen cheeks into a smile.

Kyle Adam was first 2WD car home in 3rd place just ahead of John Marshall debuting his new Skodaru. His total mileage in the car prior to today was a 3.5 mile run out at Race Retro on Friday.

Robert Marshall was 5th actually tying with 6th placed Andrew Kirkaldy who lost out badly in the slush in the first stage and spent some time in the sheuch on the 7th.

Joe McKeand was a sensible 7th ahead of the top 1600 runner Des Campbell who stole the show with Steven Hay in the 1600 Corsa until the engine suffered a mighty bang in SS5. These two were fighting for podium places early on till the track dried out, and before the Corsa made a passable impression of the nearby Mossmorran complex with a flare-out and smoke. Lots of smoke.

90s star Jock Threadgall made a one-off appearance in Nigel Atkinson’s Lancer to celebrate his 60th  birthday and finished 9th ahead of young Harry Chalmers. Mention must be made too of the 11th placed runner, Michael Cruickshank’s 1 litre Micra. Think flea on the back of a cheetah.

Scott MacBeth was holding 2nd place till a turbo pipe blew off the Lancer in SS6 and Trevor Gamble retired his Fiesta R5 when it started overheating.

The real star of the show? Shona’s Mars bar cake – not so sure about the chocolate banana cake though!

(Full report and all the embarrassing details will follow in the on-line mag later in the week)

1, A Kirkaldy/C Lees (Ford Fiesta R5) 40m 36s
2, D MacDonald/A Falconer (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 42m 53s
3, K Adam/S Brown (Ford Escort Mk2) 42m 56s
4, J Marshall/S Crawford (Skodaru) 43m 03s
5, R Marshall/L MacDougall (Subaru Impreza) 43m 12s
6, A Kirkaldy/P Carstairs (Ford Escort Mk2) 43m 12s
7, Jope McKeand/C Shanks (Subaru Impreza) 43m 27s
8, D Campbell/C Forsyth (Peugeot 206) 43m 44s
9, J Threadgall/K Atkinson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 44m 53s
10, H Chalmers/E Muir (Subaru Impreza) 45m 07s