Thorburn moves ahead with Granite win
Euan Thorburn increased his lead in the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship with his second win of the season on Saturday’s third round in Aberdeen.
The Duns-based competitor, driving a Ford Focus WRC, completed the four Kincardineshire forest stages on the McCombie Builders Granite City Rally in a total time of 44 minutes 02 seconds.
Runner-up Jock Armstrong was a further 37 seconds back in his Subaru Impreza: the Castle Douglas driver finishing just over a minute ahead of third-placed Mike Faulkner in a Mitsubishi EVO.
Defending champion David Bogie, a three-time Granite winner, was forced to retire his Ford Focus after the first stage with engine problems.
“There was thick fog on the first stage – so it was a real wake-up call – it was difficult to commit fully”, said Thorburn, who was co-driven by Paul Beaton from Inverness: “Then David went out, and we had to manage our lead after that. But it worked out well and we had no problems with the car. They were long stages which is what we prefer. We’ve never started that well in the Scottish championship, so to have built up a wee cushion after three rounds is a new experience. It’s a real confidence boost ahead of my home event, the Jim Clark Rally”.
Once he had negotiated the tricky opening stage, Armstrong, with Paula Swinscoe on the notes, got into his stride, and was second quickest to Thorburn through the remaining three tests – indeed there was only a second between the two on the six and a half miles of SS3 Drumochty:
“I was very happy with the times across the day, but the final stage was again quite difficult – you were in and out of the fog. The conditions were changeable and it was a challenge right until the end. But the car has gone well, and I’m happy to finish second – it’s points on the board”, said Armstrong.
For his part, Faulkner, alongside navigator Peter Foy, was fortunate to finish, after problems with the diff pump on the EVO meant he had to drive the last two stages with rear-wheel drive only:
“Luckily the final stage was a bit faster and more open than the previous ones, so we could carry the speed, otherwise I doubt whether we’d have made it to the end”, admitted Faulkner.
Banchory’s Quintin Milne, with Martin Forrest of Aberdeen navigating, was a further seven seconds behind in fourth overall in his EVO. It was Milne’s thirteenth successive finish in the championship, and moved him back to second in the drivers’ championship – eight points adrift of Thorburn:
“It’s been a good day for us, but the car didn’t feel quite right. Jock (Armstrong) is going to give me a hand to get the suspension set up right because I’m losing the odd second here and there compared to last year. The car is mega over the big jumps, but I seem to have lost the feel – it used to be like a go-kart, really precise”.
The Inverness crew of Donnie Macdonald and Andrew Falconer brought their Mitsubishi EVO back to the finish in fifth place overall – a great morale boost for the pair after two back-to-back non-finishes:
Said Macdonald: “I’m absolutely delighted – the car was perfect, and we got the pace up to where we wanted to be today”.
Newton Stewart’s Mark McCulloch was sixth in his Subaru Impreza. despite a niggling power-loss problem early on, and worries about an over-heating engine at the finish:
“They’re both issues we’ll look at, but overall the handling of the car is excellent, we’ve definitely got that sorted”, said McCulloch, who was again co-driven by Jim Haugh: “We’re both working well together, and that was vital today, with the fog. I knew we were close to Barry (Groundwater) and despite the conditions, decided to throw caution to the wind on the final stage and commit totally to Jim’s notes. And luckily what he said was right!”
In the event, Groundwater finished a further seven seconds adrift in his EVO. The Stonehaven driver, with Neil Shanks of Elgin navigating, summed up his day on his home rally as “reasonable”.
Bruce McCombie, meanwhile, whose family sponsored the event, recorded his third successive top-ten finish behind the wheel of his “new for 2014” Mitsubishi EVO:
“I probably enjoyed the third Drumochty stage the best – it was more open – and then the fog came down again on the final stage. So very changeable through the day, but a good result for us nonetheless”, said McCombie, who was alongside Michael Coutts from Torphins: “I feel I’m getting to grips with the EVO – there’s plenty more to come, I think, but it’s probably down to the driver, rather than the car”.
Alistair and Colin Inglis, from Montrose and Edzell respectively, were ninth overall in their EVO, while one of the biggest smiles of the day came from Andy Horne, co-driven by Jim Howie, who was debuting his “newly acquired” Ford Focus WRC – a big change from the DAM 4100GTi of recent years.
“I was hoping to make it into the top ten, but I wasn’t certain we’d make it, to be honest”, said Horne: “The car is very capable, and I need to learn to trust it. That will only come through more seat-time but this has been a great start”.
With both Inglis and Horne not registered for the championship, Portlethen’s Chris Collie, with Mark Fisher on the notes, ended a difficult day ninth in the points in his EVO:
“I had a front-right puncture in the last stage with three or four miles to go”, rued Collie: “But I needed the points, because I missed the Snowman and had a DNF on the Border Counties”.
Tenth in the points, twelfth overall, went to Wigtownshire Mitsubishi EVO driver Fraser Wilson, who won the Group N category by just two seconds from Andrew Gallacher, also in an EVO. However, as Wilson explained, it was a fraught final stage:
“We went in with a fifteen second advantage over Andrew, but we came to a hairpin and stalled the car. I started it up and moved too quickly, and it stalled again. So we nearly threw it all away”, said Wilson, who was co-driven by Jane Nicol from Edinburgh: “Then the diff pump failed – I don’t know if it lost us any time, but we were hanging on by the skin of our teeth by the end”.
Gallagher, with Phil Sandham navigating, had to settle for the runners-up spot in GpN, while Duns driver Dale Robertson, co-driven by Paul Maguire, was a further seven seconds back in third, fourteenth overall.
Yorkshireman Steve Bannister, with Hawick’s Louise Sutherland navigating, was the first home of the SRC-registered 2WD drivers in his Ford Escort Mk2, in twentieth spot overall, two seconds behind the Ford Fiesta R2 of John MacCrone, who is not contesting the championship.
Ken and Gordon Wood, from Insch and Huntly respectively, were the clear winners in Class 9 in their Triumph Dolomite Sprint, and Graeme Schoneville from Glasgow, with Michael Hendry co-driving, made sure of Class 7 in his Honda Civic Type-R.
“We were very pleased with the second stage, but the third test didn’t really suit the high-revving car, it was too twisty. The fourth stage was just awesome – motorway stuff, very pleasing to drive”, said Schoneville.
Paisley’s Alasdair S Graham, with Laura Stuart of Alford on the notes, took maximum points in the 1600cc category in his Vauxhall Corsa, ahead of the Ford Escort Mk2 of Thornhill crew Greg and Chris McKnight.
Iain Haining from Dumfries, co-driven by Mairi Riddick of Haugh of Urr, bounced back from an early scare (“I had to drive twelve miles without brakes”) to take his second successive Class 3 victory in a Vauxhall Nova. Chuck Blair and Mark Roberts from Dumfries were a further nineteen seconds behind to take the runners-up spot. They were also the leading Peugeot 205 crew, ahead of Blair Brown from Kinross, and Duns navigator Richard Simmonds.
Young Ayr driver Derek Connell dominated Class 2 in his Vauxhall Corsa, on what was only his fourth gravel event:
Said Connell: “It’s a great win for us. The fog was pretty bad in places, and Laura did an excellent job on the notes – she had to be really precise”.
The fourth round of the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship is the Jim Clark Reivers Rally on Sunday, June 1st.
Granite City Rally Top Ten Results with total times:
1st Euan Thorburn (Duns)/Paul Beaton (Inverness) Ford Focus WRC 44 mins 02 secs
2nd Jock Armstrong (Castle Douglas)/Paula Swinscoe (Chorley) Subaru Impreza 44.39
3rd Mike Faulkner (Kirtlebridge)/Peter Foy (Bingley) Mitsubishi EVO 45.44
4th Quintin Milne (Banchory)/Martin Forrest (Aberdeen) Mitsubishi EVO 46.07
5th Donnie Macdonald (Inverness)/Andrew Falconer (Inverness) Mitsubishi EVO 46.40
6th Mark McCulloch (Newton Stewart)/Jim Haugh (Sandhead) Subaru Impreza 47.21
7th Barry Groundwater (Stonehaven)/Neil Shanks (Elgin) Mitsubishi EVO 47.28
8th Bruce McCombie (Banchory)/Michael Coutts (Torphins) Subaru Impreza 47.40
9th Alistair Inglis (Montrose)/Colin Inglis (Edzell) Mitsubishi EVO 47.54
10th Andy Horne (Inverness)/Jim Howie (Kilmarnock) Ford Focus WRC 47.57
Full results can be found at www.flyingfinish.co.uk