Bulletin 21 - 23rd October 2017

Mark Jasper and Don Whyatt, Ford Escort MkII James Ward | Chicane Media ©
Mark Jasper and Don Whyatt, Ford Escort MkII  James Ward | Chicane Media ©
Rob Snowden and Andy Brown, Ford Escort MkII  James Ward | Chicane Media © Stevie Irwin / Ian Middleton, Vauxhall Nova  James Ward | Chicane Media © Neil Prior and Peter Littlefield, Subaru Impreza  James Ward | Chicane Media © Stephen Bethwaite / Ann Forster, Vauxhall Nova  James Ward | Chicane Media ©

Rob Snowden and Andy Brown, Ford Escort MkII James Ward | Chicane Media © Stevie Irwin / Ian Middleton, Vauxhall Nova James Ward | Chicane Media © Neil Prior and Peter Littlefield, Subaru Impreza James Ward | Chicane Media © Stephen Bethwaite / Ann Forster, Vauxhall Nova James Ward | Chicane Media ©


Jasper takes top points while Snowden takes title.


After many years of experiencing different rallies at the Otterburn Military Ranges, we’ve known that the local weather is a microclimate all of it’s own.  The summertime Tyneside Stages run in June to August of yesteryear have often brought out all four seasons in one day so the current autumn rallies can’t offer any new surprises.  Although, the recce day had brought some rain the rally would start under dry, cloudy skies with quite a breeze blowing up on the hills.  However, some sunshine did make an appearance during the day and managed to battle away any rain.  And come 8:30 our own championship battle would be fought out for this year’s titles.  The main contenders in this battle had too much on their minds and left any battles for the rally win to others in more powerful cars and also with fewer distractions.


Mark Jasper managed to take the top points on our earlier visit to Otterburn this year despite missing the recce.  This time he arrived earlier on the Saturday but just in time to be the last man to join the recce.  He made a solid start on Sunday and by mid morning his black Ford Escort MkII was in a comfortable 7th overall.  Later on he would lose the use of his paddle shift so had to resort to moving the gearstick by hand and then on the last stage before final service, Makendon, a misfire developed.  The problem couldn’t be solved in the short service time available, so the Stafford baker had to live with the engine not running properly between 4,000 and 6,000 revs but he and Don Whyatt didn’t lose any places and ended up one place better than the recent Tyneside Stages in 7th overall.


Taking second points in the co-drivers section was Harry Marchbank.  Harry has usually been found sitting in with Gareth White but this time moved into a Subaru Impreza driven by the non-registered Liam Harkness.  Apart from an indiscretion on the opening run at Cottonshope that caused a bit of panel damage to the front panel and offside front wing, there were no other issues to slow them down as they moved up to finish in 9th overall.


Next up it was our two title hopefuls looking for the glory.  Rob Snowden felt uneasy on Saturday night as his orange Ford Escort MkII developed a misfire when putting the car back on the trailer after scrutineering.  It took a while to trace the problem in the wiring loom and eventually a fix was made.  Rob’s attitude to the stages was steady away and see how things develop.  His championship rival Stevie Irwin was in contrast quite chilled.  He felt that his Vauxhall Nova couldn’t match Rob’s Escort for power at a venue with quite a few long straights.  Stevie’s plan was just to go out and try and hard as he could and then who knows.  After the morning’s loop of 4 tests run twice, Rob had indeed been the quicker of the two on every stage to hold a lead of 52 seconds.  It all looked comfortable for the Malton man but every time he jumped into the car, he had a nagging doubt about whether the engine would start or even if it would cut out.  The afternoon stages were run in the opposite direction – anticlockwise – and perhaps this helped Stevie and his co-driver Ian Middleton as they managed to claw back a few seconds before Rob took charge again up the hilly Makendon test.  And Rob managed to extend his lead by 19 seconds over the final 2 stages to end up in 12th overall with Stevie right behind yet 1 minute and 16 seconds adrift.


It meant victory and more points for Rob to become champion driver but also a solid result that confirmed his co-driver Andy Brown would become the new top co-driver.  The man from Durham only linked up with Rob at Warcop for the first time in May and the partnership has grown quickly in just a handful of rallies.


For Stevie and Ian, Sunday night was a little disappointing after leading the championship since early April.  In the end Rob and Stevie accumulated exactly the same number of points, 100.  But with the dropped scores rule, which event a Joker is played, some mechanical reliability and even some good old luck can all help decide a year long contest.   It’s no shame for a little 1600cc engined car to give 2.5 litre one a good run for it’s money as plenty will confirm over the years having had to concede to a certain Peugeot 106 !


Phil Sandham hitched a late ride in Richard Slinger’s Ford Escort MkII and after a steady start they moved up the order from 33rd to finish in 14th overall as Richard got to grips with the venue.  It also ensured some vital points for Phil as he was able to clinch 3rd overall championship co-driver.


Neil Prior and Peter Littlefield had a character-building day as on the opening lap they discovered that the front differential of their Subaru Impreza was not working.  It wasn’t a fixable job so they struggled through the rest of the day in 2-wheel drive only.  They did however move up the leaderboard from 37th to 19th at the final control so perhaps they were starting to get the hang of rear wheel drive.  Neil was more than happy to finish the rally as he also claimed 3rd overall driver in our championship too.


And our final finishers were Stephen Bethwaite and Ann Forster.  An almost trouble free day mechanically apart from the front nearside wheel bearing / tie rod assembly that starting to give some noises / concern late on but it all held out and the West Cumbria crew took 20th overall and would you believe it, another class win.


Our list of retirements is longer than our finishers this time and the first to leave was late entry Nigel Feeney who brought along his rare Mini Countryman WRC to tackle the range roads.  Sadly it stopped in stage 3 with a bad misfire traced back to a new spark plug that failed on the road section to SS1 and in his haste to change it Nigel didn’t refit the retaining clips on one of the coil packs.  This loose coil pack caused the misfire and resulted in a stage maximum on Watty Bells1 and ultimately going OTL;  Callum Atkinson retired at first service with the Ford Escort of Steve Bannister suffering from a bad misfire whilst in 23rd position;  Bruce Lindsay was with Michael Farmer and they were forced out after the first loop of 4 stages when the clutch cylinder burst on their Ford Focus, they were in 25th overall;  John Nicholson and Kari Bates lost the back end of their historic spec Ford Escort MkII on the second run out of Cottonshope and they dropped off the road just after the second bridge and down towards a stream;  John Stone lost all his engine coolant after hitting a pothole and breaking a pipe support which meant the pipe was now rubbing on the Ford Fiesta’s driveshaft which soon wore through the pipe.


Shona Hale was another to sit alongside a non-registered driver, Jim Sharp, and they retired after a quick off in Quickeningcote2 and then found their Mitsubishi Evo6 was ‘undriveable’;  father and son Alistair and Joe Hutchinson left the fray on SS8 when halfway through the test and in 11th overall after clipping a concrete bollard and dropping off the road into a ravine.  Their Renault Clio took a big hit on the driver’s wing / front panel but the crew were safe;   Heather Grisedale linked up with the non-registered Greg McKnight in his new Ford Escort MkII and none of them had been on Otterburn before. They were lying in 8th overall at second service but retired with gear selection problems;  Chris Lees was sitting in the recently rebuilt Ford Escort MkII of Ricky Wheeler but retired on the 3rd lap with a head gasket issue and finally the Knox brothers, Kevin and Jimmy, retired their BMW E36 from 30th overall after a nearside driveshaft snapped on the first afternoon runs.


Thanks must go to Andy Kobasa and his team from Hadrian and Whickham Motor Clubs for their sterling efforts in producing yet another Cheviot Rally.  The options on roads availability over the Otterburn Ranges hasn’t improved over the recent times but Andy managed a different itinerary that competitor feedback suggests found a lot of support.  It didn’t help much on the day when the Armies of the world out on exercises decided to block a public road on a link section of the rally that was agreed to use by the Police and the Army during route planning.  It caused a small distraction but the event carried on with minimal time loss. These military ranges still offer some of the best challenges in the land for rally folk and reaction from crews is still on a positive note.


A quick ‘heads up’ for our final event of the year that will take place on Wednesday 8th November.  Get the date for the 2017 Awards Presentation into your calendars now when our guest speaker will be Louise Aitken-Walker


Images Courtesy of James Ward | Chicane Media ©