Silver Lining for Retson’s Maiden Forest Rally Victory on 25th Speyside Stages
The 2023 edition of the McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages was a big one for the 63 Car Club organizing team. Marking their 60th anniversary, 25 years of the Speyside and 10 years of McDonald & Munro sponsorship by treating the competitors to two stages in the dark on Friday night along with its traditional Saturday format.
Taking the initiative on the Friday night, Finlay Retson and Paul Beaton were fastest on both the opening stages in the dark to take a seven second lead to bed with them despite catching another competitor on stage one. Finlay describing the woods in the dark as “mega” and drawing on his Mull and British Rally Championship experiences of night-time rallying.
On Saturday they kept the pressure on, setting 4 fastest times and never being outside of the top seven to pilot their Fiesta Rally 2 to their first win as a team and Finlay’s first win on gravel. Paul very impressed with his young charger although he did mention he had to reign him in from showing off too much in the spectator areas.
Snowman winners Jock Armstrong and Hannah McKillop had struggled with their new spotlight setup on the Friday stages but still ended the day tied for 2nd. Saturday they were even more consistent than the rally leaders. Never outside the top five times all day until stage ten where an issue with the exhaust overheating dropped them 15 seconds to the Fiesta in one go. They rounded the day out with a fourth fastest time to hold on to 2nd, 29 seconds down on the Fiesta.
With regular navigator Neil Shanks on Clerk of the Course duties, John Wink had once again installed super-sub Will Atkins in the hotseat of his Hyundai i20. Admitting to being too cautious in the dark they were 7th overnight. Saturday was much better, setting a string of top five times as they battled with good friends and rivals Michael Binnie and Claire Mole.
Binnie and Mole were competing in John Forrest’s Fiesta R5 for the 1st time. Fourth overnight they had been delayed when the engine mysteriously cut out on the 1st gravel stage of Saturday. After that they were on a charge, setting three fastest times as they chased after the Hyundai. After 11 stages the two crews were separated by just one second at the finish with Wink and Atkins holding on to the final podium position. John joking at the finish that it was all under control, and he was “just managing the gap”. Another excellent result to back up his fantastic 2nd place on the Snowman.
Peter Stewart and Harry Marchbank took their 2nd two-wheel-drive win of the season in their Peugeot 208 R4. It was another good run with Peter getting happier with his driving as the event wore on. Peter reckoning it was the best rally they’ve had since moving into the 208. The Peugeot finishing 27 seconds clear of a titanic battle for 2nd two-wheel-drive between the Ford Escort MK2s of Paddy Munro and David O’Brien and Dougal Brown Lewis Rochford. Paddy and David winning out by just 1 second.
Scott Peacock and Craig Wallace took top honours in the Albyn Garage Challengers this time out. Troubled by diff problems on the Snowman they were much happier with their Evo 8 on the Speyside. The only real issue was the exhaust manifold parting company with the turbo in stage 7. A quick repair in the Huntly regroup keeping everything together, taking an excellent 16th overall as they continued to push their new car.
John McIlwraith & Heather Grisedale made it 2 wins out of 2 in the Groundwater Lift Trucks Subaru Cup. They struggled a little with the dust in the dark and John got carried away with the handbrake in Cooper Park on the Saturday morning. They also had some small issues getting the tyres switched on in the shorter stages but enjoyed a good battle with fellow Impreza crew Scott Mutch & Greg McDonald until Scott & Greg retired in stage 8. John & Heather surviving to take 19th overall.
Taking his 1st Moates Offshore Juniors win of 2023, reigning Junior champion Robert Proudlock continues to get quicker and quicker in his Opel Adam R2. Guided as always by Steven Brown, Robert was absolutely on it all event, tweaking the setup in service to get more pace out of the car. They survived a couple of small moments in the afternoon to round off a great drive with 21st overall and a class win.
Jim Robertson took his 2nd Haddo Energy Super Seniors win of the year in the BDG MK2. With regular navigator Mike Curry under the weather Jim had drafted in Graham Wild for the Speyside. He made sure Graham’s long drive from Lincoln was worth it with an excellent run, thankfully free of the niggling problems Jim had experienced on round 1. 37th overall and 3rd in class made it a successful weekend as Jim continues to get used to the power of the BDG.
After some more tuition from Tom Cave, Aileen Forrest produced one of her best drives yet on her way to the Ladies win. Aileen & co-driver John running very strongly to 42nd overall. They had to be on it as Meghan & John O’Kane were pushing them all the way in their 2 litre Fiesta. The Evo and Ford swapping times all event with Aileen eventually getting the win. That battle is going to be one of the highlights of the rest of the season.
images courtesy of AF Motorsport Media