Voyonic Grampian Forest Rally Overall Review
David Henderson and Chris Lees took the Voyonic Grampian Forest Rally win by just 3 seconds in one of the most competitive and closely fought events the KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship has seen in recent years.
Only 9 seconds covered the top 5 crews after almost 44 miles of very slippery and challenging Kincardineshire stages to the south of the Milton of Crathes base.
The opening stages had belonged to the new partnership of Michael Binnie & Emily Easton-Page. The Ford Fiesta R5 crew were fastest on the opening 3 stages and 4th fastest on stage 4 to lead at 2nd service by 10 seconds. This was despite intercom issues and the car overheating and going into road mode on SS4.
Stage 5 was where things would dramatically change at the front, a sudden heavy downpour making the surface incredibly slippery. Binnie and Easton-Page would roll the Fiesta out of the lead on this stage, thankfully without injury.
Henderson and Lees were 3rd after 4, delayed on the morning loop slightly with a wrong tyre choice. They were equal fastest with Finlay Retson & Paul Beaton in stage 5, despite flirting with the trees themselves. That left them with a three second lead going into the final stage where 2nd equal fastest with their nearest rivals gave the Fiesta Rally2 team the win.
It was all very tight behind Binnie & Easton-Page in the morning, championship leaders Jock Armstrong and Hannah McKillop’s Subaru Impreza headed into 2nd service tied on time with team-mates Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry in their Proton Satria Evo.
After Binnie’s off, McCulloch & Hendry were 3 seconds down on Henderson & Lees with just one stage to go. Mark & Michael also survived their own trip through the scenery on stage 5. Amazingly they would tie over the final stage, unable to close that gap to the leaders.
Armstrong & McKillop were also pushing hard right to the very end, fastest time on the final test giving them the final step on the podium, only 2 seconds off 2nd place and consolidating their positions at the top of the championship standings.
Equal fastest time on the penultimate stage had put Retson & Beaton on the podium going into the last stage, but a 2 second advantage was flipped to a 2 second deficit with the Impreza crews fastest time over those final 7 miles.
Rounding out the top 5 and only 2 seconds off 4th place was another impressive and solid performance from local driver John Wink and co-driver Neil Shanks in their Hyundai i20 R5. John reckoned it was “the most flat-out 5th place he’s ever had”.
With both Steve Bannister and Matthew Robinson making the trip north Stuart Egglestone & Brian Hodgson had made a last-minute decision to do the same. It was a good call from the Ford Escort MK2 crew, the Pinto powered car taking top Autoshop 2wd and Albyn Garage Challengers honours, Brian describing it as “the ride of a lifetime”.
Peter Stewart & Harry Marchbank took 2nd in the two-wheel-drive ranks, 13 seconds down on the Escort, both Peter and Harry saying they couldn’t have gone any harder in the Peugeot 208 R4 and were blown away by the times Egglestone and Hodgson were setting.
Scott Peacock & Craig Wallace were 2nd Challengers, just 1 second down on the 208.
Robert Proudlock & Steven Brown were flying once again in their Opel Adam, battling early on with the Stewart 208. Not only taking 3rd in the Challengers Robert also took another Moates Offshore Juniors win along with 21st overall; this result helping to strengthen Robert’s bid to take back-to-back Junior titles.
Jordan Anderson & Harry Stubbs took another Groundwater Lift Trucks Subaru Cup win, paying back Jordan’s dad and the team for their hard work after their Scottish accident. Jordan was unhappy with his tyre choice on the morning loop but the car was much better after a change of rubber in service. The red Impreza finished just 26 seconds up on Mike Moates & Gary McDonald. The Moates Impreza battling all day with the returning Thomas Rapson & Michael Sutherland and taking 2nd by a mere 6 seconds at the finish.
Jim Robertson & Mike Curry guided their Mk2 Escort to another Haddo Energy Super Seniors win. It was another clean run, Jim able to take things a bit easier than he had on home soil at the Scottish and enjoying a close battle with the more modified Escort of Brian Ross & Nikki Addison, the Historic car winning out by just 3 seconds at the finish.
There was another close battle for top Ladies honours between Aileen Forrest and Meghan O’Kane. Both were given nominal times on stage 2 after coming across Sandy Arbuthnott’s off and they were separated by just 6 seconds after 2 stages. Things then started to go slightly wrong for Meghan with mysterious engine issues in the middle loop, dropping 14 seconds in SS4. A visit to a ditch would follow for the Fiesta but the 2 drivers dead heated on the final stage to finish just 15 seconds apart.
All of which gave Aileen a win on her home event after another good battle, conquering this event after her big off into a river last year.
images courtesy of AF Motorsport Media