Carlisle Stages Rally Overall Review
David Henderson & Chris Lees wrapped up their 1st KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship title with a win on the final round of the season, the Carlisle Stages Rally, after another final stage shootout.
5th fastest in stage 1, the Fiesta crew had made their traditional steady start but were speeding up with every stage. They climbed to 4th after stage 2 and 3rd after a fastest time in 3 to head into service 10 seconds away from the lead.
Out for the 2nd loop and they recorded 2nd fastest time in stage 4 before another fastest time in 5 brought them up to 2nd equal with John Wink & Neil Shanks with 1 stage remaining.
For their part Wink & Shanks headed into this round with a chance of 3rd in the overall championship if they could beat Michael Binnie & Kirsty Riddick. The i20 crew had an incredibly consistent morning, setting 2nd fastest time on all 3 stages to hold the lead at service by just 6 seconds from Binnie & Riddick’s Fiesta. Michael & Kirsty were able to hang on to 2nd despite breaking a driveshaft.
The Fiesta crew would be fastest through stage 4 to draw level with the i20, before pulling clear to lead by 2 seconds over the tying Wink & Henderson with 1 stage to go. Unfortunately, it would all go wrong, the blue Fiesta sliding into a ditch and out of the event.
That meant the tie for 2nd was now the fight for the win. Both crews had a clean run but it was Henderson & Lees who would come out on top by 7 seconds at the finish. Wink & Shanks recording yet another podium, with 2nd guaranteeing 3rd in the championship after a very strong season in the i20.
For Henderson & Lees it was a 3rd win on the bounce and another final stage charge in 2023. A big weekend for the Fiesta crew as they took their 1st Scottish Championship title.
Behind the top 2 it was another strong weekend for Mark McCulloch & Michael Hendry in their home-engineered Proton Satria. Fastest in stage 1 they were never outside the top 4 for the the rest of the day and rounded out their season with 3rd. The Proton is now a definite R5/Rally 2 challenger and will absolutely be one to watch in the 2024 season after a strong end to 2023.
Jock Armstrong & Hannah McKillop headed into the weekend still in with a chance of the title, but luck wasn’t on the Impreza’s side, clipping a hidden concrete block in stage one and puncturing a tyre. Jock reckoned he was less than a foot out of line. They followed that up with a stall in stage 2 and discovered that the hit on stage one had broken a front track control arm. They nursed the car through stage three to make sure the mechanics could sort the issues at service. The rest of the day they were on a charge, eventually finishing 5th and losing out in the title battle. Still, 2nd in the championship is an incredible achievement in a 20-year-old car.
Having already wrapped up the Albyn Garage Challengers title Scott Peacock & Craig Wallace were out for a lap of honour. Scott was still suffering slightly with a brake issue that plagued him on the Galloway Hills and was also trying out some different tyres. Despite the issues it was a solid end to the season, the Evo 8 taking an excellent 10th overall and another Challengers win.
John Crawford headed into this round knowing an Autsohop 2wd win would give him the driver’s title. With Ashleigh Will alongside John was 2nd to Paddy Munro & Dave O’Brien early on but would take the lead after Paddy dropped time with a stall. The white MK2 then would hold on all the way to the finish and John would take the win and with it the driver’s title. Harry Marchbank taking the navigator’s title.
Out for the 1st time since his big Grampian accident last year Gordon Murray had clearly not lost his touch in the big Escort. With Peter Carstairs alongside Gordon grabbed 15th overall, 4th in the 2wds and the Haddo Energy Super Seniors win. Jim Robertson wrapping up the Seniors title in his Escort with 18th overall despite issues with a bad misfire.
Jordan Anderson just needed a finish to take the Groundwater Lift Trucks Subaru Cup driver’s title. Anderson and co-driver Harry Stubbs were pushed hard early on by cup rivals Mike Moates and Gary McDonald before Mike and Gary hit driveshaft issues. Despite a daylong misfire, Anderson kept his head to take 16th and the driver’s championship with McDonald wrapping up the navigator’s.
Meghan O’Kane and Aileen Forrest headed into this round with the Ladies driver’s title still undecided. Unfortunately for Aileen her Lancer E9 refused to start after the mid-event refuel zone and she was out. That left Meghan to charge to the Lady driver title along with an excellent 21st overall and a win in the Moates Offshore Juniors despite a visit to a ditch in the morning.
The Junior navigator’s title was still to be decided, Greg Alcorn needing a finish to take the title from the passenger seat of Scott Gourlay’s Peugeot 205. Despite gear linkage issues they did what they needed to do, finishing in 24th overall.
A separate report covering the class winners will be, as always, published in the next couple of days.
images courtesy of AF Motorsport Media