Bulletin 10 - 7th April 2017

Nigel Feeney and Phil Sandham, Mitsubishi EvoX © West Coast Photos
Nigel Feeney and Phil Sandham, Mitsubishi EvoX © West Coast Photos
Stevie and Louise Hope, Ford Escort MkII © West Coast PhotosGareth White / Harry Marchbank, Peugeot 208 © West Coast PhotosStuart McBride / Shona Hale, Vauxhall Nova © West Coast PhotosEd Todd and Andy Brown, GTM Coupe © West Coast PhotosTom and Sue Hynd, BMW Mini Cooper S © West Coast PhotosNigel and Helen Harkness, Vauxhall Corsa © West Coast Photos

Stevie and Louise Hope, Ford Escort MkII © West Coast PhotosGareth White / Harry Marchbank, Peugeot 208 © West Coast PhotosStuart McBride / Shona Hale, Vauxhall Nova © West Coast PhotosEd Todd and Andy Brown, GTM Coupe © West Coast PhotosTom and Sue Hynd, BMW Mini Cooper S © West Coast PhotosNigel and Helen Harkness, Vauxhall Corsa © West Coast Photos


Feeney returns to take top honours.  Our 2015 champion driver Nigel Feeney didn’t have a good year in 2016 with an updated Subaru Impreza and so armed with a new, to him, Mitsubishi EvoX, the recent DCC Stages was going to be an interesting rally.  Pre event testing had gone well but over the opening stages you could sense that Nigel was cautious and not expecting too much.  This nervousness was ill founded as the afternoon runs produced similar times that were good enough to see Nigel and co-driver Phil Sandham take a superb runners up spot in the rally and top championship points.  The driver’s comment at the finish suggested that the event had been fairly uneventful … apart from nearly running out of fuel on the penultimate stage (again ?)


And the story of our second placed championship crew could read very similar too.  The husband and wife pairing of Stevie and Louise Hope didn’t register last year after 3 good scores the previous year but wheeled out their pretty Ford Escort MarkII once more to kick off this year.  During the morning runs Stevie wasn’t happy with the handling of the car so lots of time was spent with fine adjustments.  A wee spin on the 3rd test didn’t help either but they were safely inside the rally’s top ten.  The afternoon was better as Stevie felt happier with the suspension and pushed on to 7th overall after SS7.  At final service, the man from Coltness looked up the valley westwards and was greeted with lots of dark clouds heading in towards the stage.  He decided to bolt on a set of wets but the rain never materialised so he lost out over the final 5 competitive miles as he tried to save the rubber for a wet stage one day ahead.  The time lost wasn’t too bad and they didn’t lose any places either.


Richard Stewart managed to hitch a late ride with the non-registered George Auld and their Ford Escort managed a good run to finish just 4 seconds behind Team Hope.  A further 7 seconds adrift in 9th overall and taking the class 2 victory were Gareth White and Harry Marchbank.  As ever, the man from St Boswells was in max attack mode driving the Peugeot 208 and the bodywork of the French car would suffer against the stout straw bales that littered the stages.  It was no surprise to find the car at the finish without any glass in the driver’s door and a few ripples down his side of the car too.  They also lost about 10 to 15 seconds when coming to rest against a bale on the fifth test; oh and the small matter of both door mirrors left on the stages after swiping bales !


Finishing just outside the top ten were Kenny Moore and Richard Wardle.  The Coltness driver driving his lovely Hillman Avenger to yet another trouble free finish.  His times of each pair of tests were remarkably similar during the morning and in the afternoon runs they were identical.  Not sure if that meant he was on his limit the first time through a stage …  He was kind of grateful for some crews who didn’t baulk him in the stages as well.


Ian Forgan returned with the little Ford Ka that still had a 2 litre motor squeezed under the bonnet but without his usual co-driver Kathryn.  Instead, the man from Fife called upon Chris Lees to sit with him and read the stage diagrams.  The driver admitted to a little experiment with DMack tyres from the off but agreed it was not a good move.  A switch back to his usual Kumhos showed a considerable time gain and Ian felt happier in the car too.  The consistent times continued through the rest of the day and they ended the day in 14th overall.


The best part of a minute further back was Stevie Irwin and Ian Middleton in the wee yellow peril of a Vauxhall Nova.  The gear linkage caused some grief in the early morning but a swift bit of welding restored fluent movement through the gears.  After that, Stevie decided to select championship mode as on each of the final three pairs of stages he was a few seconds slower through on the second run.  They were well content with their placing of 16th overall at the final control.  The battle plan worked as both Stevie and Ian played their Jokers on the rally too, so Stevie moves to be the top driver while Ian jumps to fifth in the co-driver’s table.


Another new crew pairing of Stuart McBride and Shona Hale were our next points scorers in an excellent 19th place.  On the previous qualifier, Stuart had a day long battle with Stephen Bethwaite where the pair were scrapping over seconds for the class win.  Unfortunately this time out the 1400cc Vauxhall Nova didn’t have similar opposition to fight with so he aimed for the bigger boys.  A few dramas with aforementioned bales knocked the offside headlight adrift and changed the shape of the front wing but didn’t really slow their progress on the way to another class win.


Team Fury was our next finisher in a rather lowly 21st position after an almost cracking drive.  As is the norm with our crew from Durham it was 100% effort but not always 100% reward.   It was all going so well - despite competing a stage stuck in 2nd gear and another stuck in 3rd gear - up to the second last stage and an amazing 7th overall and class win was there for the taking with just one more stage to complete.  It all went wrong well into SS8 after landing from the jump over roundabout, when the rear wheels locked and they blocked the narrow road and therefore stage.  The GTM was stuck in gear again and had to be freed manually before they crawled out and received a stage maximum.  Poor reward for a great run by the ‘Wee Beastie’, but what might have been …


Tom Hynd and his wife Sue were next in a very unusual BMW Mini Cooper S.  They’d only just taken delivery of the car from well-known organisation down Burnley way and hadn’t even driven it before the flag dropped on the opening test.  They were learning about the car for most of the day with a few niggling issues to sort out for the next rally.  Breaking a driveshaft on stage 6 cost them over 3 minutes and restricted them to 25th overall but Tom would go home happy with a car that he feels has lots of potential.


Our final finishers were yet another husband and wife team, this one being the Spadeadam crew of Nigel and Helen Harkness.  They suffered for most of their last outing at Croft with head gasket problems that troubled them to the finish but had the problem sorted out for this rally.  Although halfway through stage 6 the motor in their Vauxhall Corsa started to misfire and thoughts of déjà vu surfaced.  But by the time they’d crossed the flying finish of the run, the problem had sorted itself out.  A precautionary change of plugs in service didn’t do any harm either and they safely made it to the end in 34th overall.


Our list of retirements is a short one that’s headed by Alistair and Colin Inglis.  They were running their lovely white Lotus Exige in second overall all morning until the first afternoon run.  Across the south side of the stage near to the A8 on a tightening left, the car left road, slipped onto the grass and travelled backwards into a tree.  Gladly both Alistair and Colin were able to walk away unharmed.  Chris Singer and John Gilbertson decided not to attempt any of the afternoon stages after a few problems in the morning.  This was the first time out for the boys in a Citroen C2R2 and they discovered an issue with the engine mount on the end of the gearbox during the second stage; they tried a quick fix; attempted the next pair of stages but the problem resurfaced and they found themselves stuck in gear and with no clutch so they decided to save the car for another day.  Don Whyatt was a last minute replacement co-driver in a beautiful Vauxhall Chevette that only lasted two and half stages before the diff gave up. And our final retiree was Rob Snowden in his orange Ford Escort MarkII.  It was Rob’s first visit to Ingliston and he was quickly on a good pace settling into 9th overall after SS2 before the gearbox started to fail – sometimes not staying in gear and sometimes just changing gear all by itself !!


A special mention must go to Colin Harkness and his team at Dunfermline Car Club for another well run rally.  It’s always a different challenge over the roads of Ingliston, as we don’t tackle anything quite like it during the rest of the year.  And once again, the tremendous facilities of the Highland Hall as rally headquarters were a great asset too.


We’ve now done 4 events and already there’s a pattern developing at the top of both overall tables.  All the top 6 scorers have made good use of their Jokers but those who will play their wildcard in the second half of the season will make swift progress upwards. Stevie Irwin takes over at the top of the driver’s table ahead of Neil Prior, Mark Constantine, Rob Snowden, Kenny Moore and Ian Forgan.  While at the head of the co-driver’s section we see that Peter Littlefield is still in front of Andrew Constantine, Tom Rogers, Richard Wardle, Ian Middleton and Jessica Swift.  And throughout the classes, it’s still very open with no one monopolising his or her particular class.


We now have a break of almost 2 months before the competition starts up again back in England.  It’ll be the turn of North Humberside Motor Club to host their new rally, the NHMC Warcop Stages over some familiar territory for regular championship contenders.  The team under the guidance of David James are progressing well with their preparations and expect to publish the Supplementary Regulations for the rally about the middle of this month and full details will be available from the new website of http://www.nhmcwarcopstages.org.uk/


All images courtesy of West Coast Photos ©