Monday 28 February 2022

Rally - Mixed results in Sweden

Kalle Rovanperä scored an emphatic victory at Rally Sweden winning by 22 seconds after Toyota GR Yaris team-mate Elfyn Evans crashed out in a snowbank on the final morning. Rovanperä now leads the series by 14 points after round two of 13.

Five different drivers led during a fast and furious opening day with Rovanperä regaining the initiative early on the second leg, but Evans remained hot on his heels before his untimely exit.

Evans and Scott Martin were fighting to overcome a 10sec penalty imposed late on Saturday night when the car slammed into a snowbank in Sunday's opening speed test. The front of the car was damaged too badly to continue.

After a disappointing opening round last month, second place for Thierry Neuville provided a timely boost for Hyundai Motorsport. Esapekki Lappi eventually finished 8.6 seconds behind Neuville to promote Hyundai into the top spot in the manufacturers' championship. Takamoto Katsuta made it three GR Yaris cars in the top four, a further 1min 48.8sec adrift.

Gus Greensmith and Jonas Andersson overcame a troubled opening leg, when a trip into the snow and gearbox problems delayed them, to end fifth in a Ford Puma. Craig Breen and Paul Nagle retired on the second stage after getting stuck in a snowbank. Once free from the snow, the car was driven back to service where it was repaired for the Saturday stages but the car suffered an electrical issue and was forced to retire.

Oliver Solberg was in the midst of the lead battle on the opening day, but throttle problems on his i20 N cost time on Saturday and he dropped to sixth.

Despite a 1m 40s penalty Chris Ingram and Ross Whittock finished 14th o/a and 7th in WRC2 in their Skoda Fabia Evo.

Junior WRC

Robert Virves kicked off Rally Sweden in strong form but crashed on stage two. Reigning champion Sami Pajari then seized the rally lead but retired due to a fuel pump issue. He returned on Day 2 taking five stage wins in a row but was denied a clean sweep of stages by Jon Armstrong on the final stage of the day.

William Creighton and Liam Regan ended Day 1 in third place and held that position throughout the rally. First time on snow McRae Kimathi prioritised finishing over performing and emerged fourth overall on Day 1 also maintaining that position throughout the rally.
Meanwhile Jon Armstrong and Brian Hoy exceeded everybody’s expectations with the 2021 runner-up hitting the ground running ending Day 1 in second place. Lauri Joona held the overnight lead in on Friday night, 7.7 seconds ahead of Armstrong.
Saturday saw a true dogfight breakout between Joona and Armstrong as the lead changed three times throughout the day. Armstrong led following Saturday’s opening stage, but Joona responded on the following stage holding Armstrong off until the last stage on Day 2 which saw Armstrong take the stage win and re-take the lead.
Joona hit back on Sunday morning with a stage win, before Armstrong scored a fastest time on the following stage to go one second faster than Joona, putting himself exactly half a second ahead and then extended his lead on the penultimate stage of the rally to three seconds.
On the final Wolf Power Stage, Armstrong lost just three tenths of a second to Joona, claiming the opening victory of the season and arguably his most convincing victory in Junior WRC to date.

Jon Armstrong, said: “I'm a bit surprised. First of all, I did not think I would be starting the season as it all came together very late, so I was just happy to start. The fight against Lauri was very intense, I don’t think I have had such a tough fight against anyone before. I can’t believe it, to come here and win is crazy, I thought a podium would be good, to take the win is something else. Me and Brian worked really hard, got on really well and the notes have been really good. What a start to the championship.”

The series pauses for an early-season break before returning at the Croatia Rally on April 21-24. The asphalt event is based in capital city Zagreb.

Final positions
1. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris 2hr 10min 44.9sec
2. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 +22.0sec
3. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota GR Yaris +30.6sec
4. T Katsuta / A Johnston GBR Toyota GR Yaris +2min 19.4sec
5. G Greensmith / J Andersson GBR Ford Puma +3min 20.4sec
6. O Solberg / E Edmondson SWE Hyundai i20 +5min 39.4sec

FIA World Rally Championship (after round 2 of 13)
1. K Rovanperä 46pts
2. T Neuville 32pts
3. S Loeb 27pts

Manufacturers Championship
1. Toyota Gazoo Racing 83pts
2. M-Sport Ford 59pts
3. Hyundai Shell Mobis 47pts

Sunday 27 February 2022

Rally - McRae at Knockhill

Over the years, Knockhill Race Circuit has named many of its corners and straights after famous racers on two and four wheels. Admittedly some corners were re-named for a while with the likes of 'Real Radio Hairpin', 'SEAT Curves', 'Scotsman Corner' and the 'John R Weir Chicane'.

Despite that, circuit fans stuck stubbornly to the 'proper' names, 'Taylor's Hairpin' named after Scotland's only World Champion on 3 wheels, Jock Taylor, 'Duffus Dip' (after motorcycle racer Alan Duffus), 'McIntyre' (after the late, great Bob McIntyre) and thankfully the only other name by which the Esses are recognised is, 'Chicane'.

Thankfully we still have the Hyslop, Stewart and Brabham Straights, and the Clark, Leslie's, and Butcher's corners, and it's only right that the Butcher name is revered in this fashion. It was Derek who saved the original 1974 track from reverting back to farmland in 1983.

And now a new name has been added to this iconic list as Knockhill approaches its 50th anniversary (excavation work started on the original track layout in 1972) and one that marks the sport of rallying.

As of now, there is a new corner called 'McRae's', the right-hander at the bottom of Duffus Dip, which turns from the track on to the loose Rallycross stage. So named as it combines the two disciplines of rallying and racing.

Jim McRae was actually at the Grant Construction Stages Rally the other week, for two reasons, one the naming of the corner and the other in connection with the planned McRae Rally Challenge on July 2nd and 3rd. At this event, there will be an official ribbon cutting ceremony.

The McRae and Knockhill names are intertwined with Scottish motor sport with Jim, Colin and Alister all having both raced and/or rallied around the circuit and its special stage over the past 40 years.

Picture shows Jim with Jillian Butcher and Stuart Gray. Job done, eh?

Friday 25 February 2022

Rally - The 'Highland Line'

Donnie's Racing Line ... As reported in the full report published in, Donnie MacDonald used the unique 'Highland Line' approach to the awfy tight Hairpin at Knockhill. As he later explained, this was deliberate - for two reasons. One he wanted to see how the new Fiesta Rally2 handled, and Two, he needed to practice getting the tail out ahead of next weekend's Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship forest season opener in Inverness.

As you can see from the pics, the 'Highland Line' commences with a big heave into a  sideways approach, then slide, tweak, slide some more, start to straighten, get on the power and exit. Ya Beezer!



Rally - The Entertainers

That's the full report from the Grant Construction Knockhill Stages Rally now published in the on-line mag. This is the only publication in the world where you will  read such a complete review of the day's adventures - use it or lose it!  

Pics show the top four which are actually the top three - since there was a tie for third place! If the Burnside Piling Scottish Tarmack Rally Championship can keep up this level of competition then we're in for some serious entertainment this season.


Wednesday 23 February 2022

Rally - WRC Sweden this weekend

I know this isn't a Scottish rallying story, but I couldn't resist it, there is a connection. On this weekend's Swedish Rally, the 27 year old East African Rally Champion will make his WRC debut. The only trouble is, he had never seen snow before till he got to the pre rally test last week.

His name is McRae Kimathi and he drove an M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally3 to the African junior title last year.

And with a name like that you know where it came from. Apparently he idolises the late 1995 World Rally Champion adding: "Colin McRae was my hero – I was named after him. In terms of current drivers, Sébastien Loeb is my favourite. I just love his driving style."

Sweden’s sub-zero temperatures and snow-plastered roads are a far cry from the baking heat and dusty rally tracks the 27-year-old is familiar with, but he’s up for the challenge.
“I’m actually so excited, but I’m just scared of the cold!” Kimathi joked on arrival in Norway for a pre-rally test in the four-wheel drive Ford Fiesta Rally3: “We’re not really used to that type of weather – it’s normally sunshine all day long. I've never been on snow before or anything like it, so it’s a completely new experience."

“The car is really fantastic and so good to drive. For this year, there are a few new upgrades and there will be a bit more power and torque, so it could be more of a challenge.”

Here's hoping the young man does well, eh?

Tuesday 22 February 2022

Obituary - Alistair Smith

Alistair Smith, 1951 - 2022

Another shock for Scottish rallying. Alistair Smith passed away last week after a short illness. He had been on a family holiday last November and fell ill shortly after returning home.

Alistair was a long time member of Scottish Sporting Car Club and a stalwart of Scottish national rallying from the mid 1970s to the end of the 1990s and briefly appeared back on the scene when his son Steven came of age to drive in 2006. He would have been the first to admit he was no headline grabber, he was there for the sport, the challenge and the fun and seemed to enjoy building rally cars as much as driving them.

He worked in the family business which dealt in the wholesale and commercial supply of carpet underlay. However, it was a love of cars and a desire to go rallying that led to his first foray into the forests.

With wife Mary navigating their Ford Escort Mk1 on the 1975 Arbroath Stages Rally, they won their class first time out and were awarded a prize for the best improvement on seeding.

In 1980 he registered for Division 2 of the Esso Scottish Rally Championship although only a couple of events were tackled that year with new co-driver, Charles Turner. The following year he ended the season 28th overall in the national championship and 4th in the 1301-1600cc class. With a 2 litre engine in the car for 1982 he finished 5th overall in Division 2 and was placed 7th in the over 2 litre class which combined both Division 1 and 2 drivers.

He was now classified as a Division 1 driver and several changes of co-driver ensued which included primarily Gordon Hastie and Alistair Reid. He finished the 1983 season 20th overall in the Championship standings - one place behind a chap called Andrew Wood!

Things took a step back in the mid 1980s but he reappeared in 1988 and '89 in an RS2000. With only 3 events under his belt in '88 he finished 33rd in the end of season championship points table and followed that with 32nd place in '89.

Another time-out was called due to house and family building although he still contrived to spend many hours in the garage. A Ford Cosworth was obviously the way to go but such an option was out of the question. "I couldn't even afford the engine let alone a whole car," recalled Alastair.

So he built his own contender, from a Ford Sierra XR 4x4. He went through numerous 2.8 and 2.9 V6 engines, one of which was the result of a deal done in a layby with a van near Otterburn in the dead of night, and another sourced from a 'one-owner' car - in this case, the one owner was the Strathclyde Police Traffic department!

With Russell Fair now in the hot seat he managed two finishes in 1994, 37th on the Weldex and 23rd on the Weir Toyota. He started 1995 with 11th on the Snowman Rally and followed that with his career best result on the Valentine Rally and his first top ten finish, 7th overall. He was 23rd on the Weldex and 8th on the Perth Scottish National Rally.

At the end of 1996, he called it a day with 15th on the RSAC National and 17th overall on the season ending Rally Alno in Ayr.

By this time, son Steven was karting although Alistair was building a Peugeot 205 for the Peugeot Challenge. Sixteen year old Steven's rallying baptism was co-driving for his Dad in the Peugeot on the 2004 Galloway Hills where they finished 67th overall.

Latterly Alistair's 'free' time was spent under the bonnet or underneath Steven's various Peugeots and Escorts as he pursued his own rallying activities and that's the final image that many of us will have. Alistair in his element and in his ovies, serious when called for, but otherwise grinning from ear to ear and enjoying the whole atmosphere round the rally and the banter with other crews.

He wasn't an extrovert or a show-off. He made friends easily and was excellent company when the fever of competition had died down. Alistair was a 'proper gent'.

He will be sorely missed by Mary and sons Steven and Andrew, their family and friends, and Alistair's wider circle of rally friends and acquaintances. Our condolences to them all.

Funeral Details:

Tuesday 1st March, 3pm at South Lanarkshire Crematorium, Sydes Brae, Blantyre G72 0TL

NOTE: The full version of this Tribute is here:

Rally - Knockhill Stages

Donnie MacDonald and Andrew Falconer won last Sunday's Grant Construction Knockhill Stages Rally first time out in their new Ford Fiesta Rally2. Only 17 seconds behind at the finish after ten stages was the Ford Escort Mk2 of Kyle Adam and Steven Brown displaying a remarkable feat of car control in atrocious weather conditions.

However, the absolute best battle of the day was the fight for third place which ended in a  dead heat between Des Campbell and Craig Forsyth (Peugeot 206) and Steven Hay and Cameron Dunn (Vauxhall Corsa). The bump stops in both cars took a  severe hammering given the way the 'wee' cars were chucked around Knockhill's tarmac track and hillside wilderness. That battle alone was worth the visit.

Des Dastardly and The Haystick
There will be a report and photo in Thursday's 'Motor Sport News' and a full report in the on-line mag at the weekend.

Top Ten:

1 Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer (Ford Fiesta Rally2) 54m 49s

2 Kyle Adam/Steven Brown (Ford Escort Mk2) +17s

3 Des Campbell/Craig Forsyth (Peugeot 206) +37s

4 Steven Hay/Cameron Dunn (Vauxhall Corsa) +37s

5 Gareth Dalgliesh/Kenneth Dalgliesh (Subaru Impreza) +4m 03s

6 David McIntyre/Andy Brown (Citroen C2R2) +4m 34s

7 Andy Scott/Laura Connell (Ford Fiesta S2000 Turbo) +5m 14s

8 Graham Bruce/David Aitken (Ford Escort) +6m 09s

9 Alistair Brearley Jnr/Keith Atkinson (Suzuki Swift Sport) +7m 34s

10 Andrew Blackwood/Richard Stewart (Ford Fiesta ST) +7m 53s