Monday 19 February 2024

Rally - Season opener

The Scottish stage rallying season which opened at Knockhill yesterday with the Grant Construction Knockhill Stages Rally provided the first victory of the year for Hugh Brunton and Terry Mallin.
It was a very determined Brunton who took to the first of the day’s ten stages setting fastest time on all but one. Fresh from his 4th place on the Riponian, the Skoda driver just looked instantly quick on the track and the hill. As the day wore on there were a few smiles before a relaxed looking Hugh was confirmed as the winner.

Mind you, Brunton was never able to relax, Peter Stewart and Kerrie MacGillivray were right on his tail all day. First time out in the Citroen, Peter wasn’t just here to get ‘seat time’ ahead of the East Riding Stages (where he will again join battle with Brunton!) next week, he had his eyes on the main prize too. Victory was not to be as Peter admitted: “I only drove it out on the public road one night last week for the very first time. I tried the ‘launch control’ about six times too and haven’t quite mastered it – yet!” When asked if he tried this on the public road too, he said: “Of course not!” - but I couldn’t tell if he had his fingers crossed at the time.

In third place were Ian Forgan and Chris Lees and they would have been closer to the first two had it not been for a slow time on SS2. “The oil pressure took a dive,” said Ian, “but I couldn’t smell or hear anything and everything felt good so thought it might be something to do with the sensor. So I backed off and cruised round slowly. Fortunately, it was only the sensor.” However, a minute had been lost and that made a difference between going for the win and finishing third.

Unfortunately the fight for the front lost a bit of sparkle when Donnie MacDonald and Andrew Falconer’s VW Golf suffered a woopsie on the fourth stage. Unused to the car, MacDonald suffered a bit of understeer on a greasy right hander on the tight hill section and put a wheel on the grass, which dragged the VW off the road into the glaur. They lost four minutes eventually finishing in 14th place overall.

Barry Groundwater and Ashleigh Will were fourth in the garishly coloured Evo6 but Ross McFadzean and Cameron Dunn ran them close finishing just two seconds behind. Rounding off the top six were Barry Hogg and Andrew Skinner having a run out in the ex-Ross MacDonald Evo9.

Andrew Blackwood and Richard Stewart won Class 1 in their 1400cc Ford Fiesta by well over a minute from the MG3 of Luke Constantine and Antony Coates who were also first placed in the MG3 one-make Challenge. Luke’s ‘wee’ brother Tom was third in class and second MG with Tony Walker. Of the five MGs which started, four finished, with Ruan Lowry retiring with a gearbox problem.

Mark Constantine, father of the two boys and himself an awfy rapid and highly successful Vauxhall Corsa driver in his own right, was very complimentary about the MG3 Challenge as a means of introducing a ‘budget’ category to rallying: “The cars only have about 100hp but they handle really well and brake well and therefore ideal for teaching youngsters how to drive. Luke was driving his car all year last year and was never off the podium places and Tom was on the podium today. That’s great, and both of them want to do Mull this year.” So that means there will be three Constantine drivers on the island this year. Mark added: “These cars will be good for them on Mull, not too quick, but great fun to drive, for their first baptism! It’s important to learn how to finish before trying to win.”

Dave McIntyre and Darrell Clark scored the Class 2 victory from Cole Hastings and Mark Roberts with Drew Barker and Shona Hale third. McIntyre’s paced earned him a superb 12th overall finish as well, and might just have made the top ten had it not been for a misfire on the first two stages which slowed the Citroen. Fortunately, ‘Dangerous Des’ was on the spanners and fixed it for SS3. Cole Hastings did very well too finishing 15th in the MG ZR but whereas his Dad has a propensity for dry stane dykes, young Hastings seems to have a liking for the straw bales at chicanes! As for Drew, once he woke up he was on the pace. Auld man syndrome?

Richard Wheeler and Mark Casey were a tad lucky to win Class 3. As he booked into the Start of SS1, the clutch cable broke on the Escort, but since he was in ‘dead’ time, Wheeler was able to nip back to service, repair it, and get back out without incurring any penalties. Sneaky, eh? But dead legal. They also finished in ninth place overall in the historic spec Escort ahead of the Class 3 runner up Vauxhall Nova of Simon Jennings and Greg Bates.

Other highlights included Andrew Blackwood’s quite sensational 11th place overall in the 1400cc Fiesta, and he might just have made it into the top ten but for a spin on SS9. Equally stunning was Owen Paterson’s 8th overall finish with Scott Sloan in a Subaru. This was only the 18 year old’s third time out in the car which faither Stuart and Uncle Ian said was the ‘old dog’ which had been built from left over parts from their own cars. And he had to contend with a broken engine mounting for the last two stages – speed with maturity!

It wasn’t all fun and games though, Meghan and John O’Kane cowped the Fiesta R2 on its first outing on the fourth stage. It was Megan’s first time in a left hand drive car and it was just a tricky corner on the twisty and greasy hill section that caught them out. Full marks to her though, a bit of panelbeating and some ‘magic’ tape and she was back out to finish the rally – and going well. She’ll be a sight to watch this coming season.

What a grand day out, with even the sun poking its nose out from behind the Hill for a looksee, and to cap it all the Junior 100 Ecosse Challenger youngsters were all out marshalling to see what rallying is all about from the other side of the fence. Nice on lads and lasses.

And finally, a wee thank you from me. I was quite taken aback by the welcome I got and seemed to spend more time chatting and catching up than I did spectating. Hopefully I’ll be out and about on more events this year.

Top Ten:
1, Hugh Brunton/Terry Mallin (Skoda Rally 2 Evo 1600cc) 49m 37s
2, Peter Stewart/Kerrie MacGillivray (Citroen C3 Rally 2 1598cc) 50m 45s
3, Ian Forgan/Chris Lees (Ford Fiesta 1598cc) 51m 11s
4, Barry Groundwater/Ashleigh Will (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo6 2000cc) 51m 35s
5, Ross McFadzean/Cameron Dunn (Mitsubishi Evo 1998cc) 51m 37s
6, Barry Hogg/Andrew Skinner (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9 1998cc) 52m 28s
7, Ben MacDowall/Alison Horne (BMW 130i 2996cc) 53m 56s
8, Owen Paterson/Scott Sloan (Subaru GC8 1998cc) 54m 02s
9, Richard Wheeler/Mark Casey (Ford Escort Historic RS 1999cc) 54m 40s
10, Dave McIntyre/Darrell Clark (Citroen C2R2 MAX 1600cc) 54m 54s

No comments:

Post a Comment