A bumper year for rallying

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Rally enthusiast and co-driver, Ian Parker, took the time to reflect on the events of 2019 and share the highs and lows of ‘the select nutters that take up this bonkers hobby.’

2019 was a big year for Argyll locals with the much anticipated return of one of the biggest events in Scotland on the doorstep, Mull Rally, and the continued running of the Mach 1 Stages and Argyll Stages in Dunoon. Three events all within a stones throw of Mid Argyll.

Knockhill Stages, Fife

Jamie Miller was the only local to enter this event, starting his Scottish Tarmac Rally Championship (STRC) campaign for the year in the rapid 1600 Citroen C2R2. Paul Hunter, swapping his pacenotes for spanners, was on hand to assist Jamie throughout the season. Conditions were said to have been tricky as Knockhill has its own micro-climate, which consists purely of rain, wind, snow, ice, wind and wind. Sadly it wasn’t to be at Knockhill for the team with mechanical failure ending their day after stage two.

North West Stages, Garstang

The first closed road event to take place in England, after the approval of closed road rallying for the UK, was the first event for the famous Metro GTi. Unfortunately for Kirsty Mochrie her licence can only be upgraded to stage events from single venue use when she turns 16, so it was the return of the pairing of Innes Mochrie and Paul Hunter to represent Mid Argyll south of the border. The pair, finding the conditions tricky in the narrow lanes after the top seed cars had been pulling mud from verges and ditches, managed to bounce the wee metro over the first loop of four stages until the gearbox had enough on the fifth test.

Border Counties Rally, Jedburgh

Following the cancelling of Inverness’ Snowman Rally earlier in the year, this was now first round of the Scottish Rally Championship (SRC) for Dougie Watt and Ian Parker, and it was interesting to say the least. A glance outside in the morning to see about four inches of snow lying on the roof of the MK2 Escort was a surprise for a start. A very wet and muddy day saw the pair make it to the finish in one piece which is more than can be said for the clutch cable that snapped about one mile into the final stage, however clinching their first class win of the season was the best start to the championship.

DCC Stages, Ingliston

With Kirsty ‘Wee Mo’ Mochrie in the co-drivers seat in the rapid Corsa of Steven Hay (Fife), a fair pace was set by the pair throughout the day sitting as high as 17th until they unfortunately had to take a split early to save damaging the car. Back out the next stage and still setting a blistering top 20 pace in the Corsa, including some hang time on both the jumps.

Jamie, back out in the fit C2, had bad luck once again. This time an overshoot on a square right and a struggle to get the car started again after a stall sadly earned him a stage max on stage two. Still setting top 20 times on the day he ended 32nd which was a fair effort when you include a stage maximum time.

Ian was out this time with Fraser ‘Flat oot Fraz’ Smith (Houston) after winning an entry to the rally at the STRC Awards in January. Flying out the gates and onto their second lap on the first stage then pop, driveshaft burst. Towed in and sorted, both covered in CV Grease, they made it back out for a skid around and on a mission to tear up some old tarmac tyres.

Granite Stages, Leuchars

The Granite Stages, now held at RAF Leuchars would see Eoghan Anderson make a return to the passenger seat for a hurl in the immaculate MK2 Escort of Martin Murray. Smiling ear to ear all day, with Bill eagerly awaiting his return to the service area for the stage report, they finished 27th overall.

Ian was out with Greg Inglis (Montrose) in his fluorescent Orange Lotus Exige and it was eyes on the prize for STRC points for Greg. A clean day saw Greg really getting to grips with the car on some surprisingly fast stages including a tickle of the limiter in fifth saw the pair finish third overall.

Scottish Rally, Dumfries/Galloway

Back together and with the small repairs from the Speyside done it was time for the Furnace MK2 to return to the woods. A steady run over the opening two stages, Dougie and Ian found their feet after the ‘off’ at the Speyside sent them into service lying 44th. From seeing their overall position they knew they had to get back into it on the next stage, however on the road section to start stage three there was issues selecting gear and the pair decided to call it a day – damage limitation was the right call, as the input shaft was on its last legs.

Crail Summer Stages, Fife

Jamie was back on the pace for this one, setting a 16th fastest stage time on the opening test. Sitting 13th overall heading into stage five was impressive given the competition on the day. Bad luck unfortunately, however, was to return.

Eoghan was again out with Martin in the MK2 for a blast. Sadly it was an early bath, retired after stage two but again, as always, enjoying every minute while it lasted.

Argyll Rally, Dunoon

The Argyll rally had been known to have rough and challenging stages the previous two years. Not this time. Ian and Dougie couldn’t believe how good the stages were in comparison to previous years, an absolute joy of an event with the Escort not missing a beat all day on its ‘shakedown’ for the big one. Valuable class points added to the scorecard too, with them ending the event 22nd overall. The rally had struggled with entries this year and will now run in 2020 as a closed road rally, run by Mull Car Club.

Mach1 Stages, Campbeltown

Team Mochrie were back together for this one in the Mighty Metro again and Innes was cutting some questionable shapes in the garage, performing his annual Mach1 rain dance. Taking chunks of time from his first passes of the stages would see them ring the Metro’s neck and clinch 25th.

Jamie’s luck had finally turned, the C2 singing all weekend and netting him a topper of 17th overall and 14th fastest over the final stage too.

Duncan Maclean was back in the driving seat with Ian alongside, giving himself and the car a shakedown before Mull. The freshly rebuilt ‘blue bullet’ was looking superb and managed to finish looking just as sweet. A couple of small teething problems were sorted on the day and the new main focus was to have power steering fitted before Mull – poor Dochy lost about a stone over two days with the effort needed to swing the wee pug around the 90’s and chicanes.

Vetomies Rally Finland, Jyvaskyla

In August Dougie and Ian competed on the Vetomies Rally. A national grade event run alongside the WRC Rally Finland event. Three other crews from Scotland also headed over to sample ‘the fastest rally in the world’. The stages were unbelievable. Fast, cresty, wide, flowing with a brilliantly smooth surface. The whole event was just surreal. The duo finished the event 39th overall and more importantly the fastest Scottish crew.

Grampian Forest Rally, Aberdeen

Once the car had returned from Finland it was quickly jacked up, checked and loaded onto the trailer the same day for the journey north. Due to two DNFs (did not finish) on the Speyside and Scottish, Dougie and Ian had to make the trip to be in with any chance of regaining their class lead in the SRC. Ending the day first in the class meant they were heading into the final round with the lead.

Pendragon Stages, Warcop

Jamie was back out for another counting round of the STRC. Enjoying his day and pushing the wee C2 on in the blistering heat netted Jamie and co-driver Ian Mcculloch (Glasgow) 23rd overall. He must have been relaxed in the heat as in between stages he was off with the overalls and on with the baby lotion, topping up the tan.

Ian was back out with Greg in the Lotus. Another fantastic drive from Greg, finishing ninth with the championship title race firmly the primary goal.

Galloway Hills Rally, Castle Douglas

The final round for the MK2 and an important one – a DNF here could see Dougie and Ian losing the class lead in the championship. A battle with their rival who they had been chasing all season, Paddy Munro, would come down to the last stage, as the pair were six seconds down on Paddy heading into the final test. Probably one of the duo’s best stages all year, the final push to claim the class honours came down to the finish of the last stage on the last rally of the year. One second! They had taken the class win and the championship.

Mull Rally, Isle of Mull

The first event this year for Craig Callander and son Ross would see them prepare Craig’s gravel spec Subaru Impreza at the last minute to take on their favourite event. The ‘Japanese Tractor’ was a fair handful, a light steering alignment issue and a boost problem gave the pair some trouble although finishing 44th overall made up for the hassle. A fair result given Craig’s absence from tarmac for four years.

Returning from the shed with his freshly painted Sunbeam was Alister Macarthur, this time with Claire Tilley (Mull) alongside. The freshly fettled ‘beam was looking and sounding good – crossing the finish 45th overall after two years out of the seat.

Dochy and Ian were back out in the ‘blue bullet.’ All was going well until they had a spin coming over a crest into a square left, losing the bumper and damaging the gear linkage. They managed to get the car back to the end of the Saturday afternoon leg to repair the gear linkage and almost stole the yellow bumper from the recce car until some legends appeared with the duo’s bumper in the back of their Land Rover. Back out onto the 21 mile ‘long one’ on Saturday night and they had an issue – after a heavy landing over a crest the rear shocker bolt broke, making the car a handful to keep in a straight line. They had to finish another two stages before they could make it back to service, so a finish was all they wanted at this point – 64th overall and Dochys fourth finish in a row on Mull.

Without doubt the driver to watch was Innes and his newly acquired co-driver Lewis Griffiths (Wales). The Mighty Metro was spotted airborne at any chance, with the hydro can suspension screaming for a break at each service halt. It was almost all over as the nearside cv joint sheared and the car took a wild turn to the left – both Innes and Lewis thought they would end up IN the Belachroy pub. They managed to make it over the Lochs to the end of the final stage, claiming 41st overall.

Kingdom Stages, Crail

Eoghan was back out with Martin to settle the score from the DNF at the summer stages. Sadly a stage maximum time on stage two scuppered their chances of the overall result they were hoping for, however they did set some impressive times, clocking a 16th fastest time on the final stage.

Jamie, back out for the final round of the STRC, was looking to continue his good run from the Pendragon and set a seventh fastest time on stage three in the extremely wet and tricky conditions. Trying to get his money’s worth from his entry fee Jamie, however, decided to take an extra couple of miles on the penultimate stage. Still, the C2 ran well all day and the conditions suited the car perfectly.

Ian was back out with Greg and this time he was aiming to become the Scottish Tarmac Rally Champion for 2019. They set off with five cars in the same class and they had to win the class to get Greg the honours. Setting the pace early they were leading throughout the event. Finishing the event first in their class and third overall meant the job was done – Greg claimed the championship win.

MSN Knockhill Stages

The last event of the year saw Kirsty back in the co-drivers seat, gaining even more experience on her path to upgrading her licence. Some typical Knockhill weather was in store as Kirsty had her first taste of RWD rallying in the Mazda MX5 of Paul Sheard. Kirsty guided Paul around the very wet stages to claim 27th overall and some valuable points on the board for Paul’s Motorsport News Championship campaign.

Special thanks to Alasdair MacConnell who has travelled many miles to don an orange bib and stand in the rain, wind and heat, all to show his support and play a vital part in any event. And to Gavin ‘Top Tog’ Brown, who has been an avid rally man for years and continued to watch us all through the lens, capturing some of our most heroic moments.

2019 was a busy year, with a few of us still tinkering away in sheds. 2020 will hopefully see the return of Ally and Del Galbraith in their ‘new’ MK2 Escort and Donald Bowness in the giant killing Nova making a return after some time out.

PICS:

Dougie Watt and Ian Parker flying in Finland before winning in Aberdeen Photo: Jii Pihlaja. no_a34_RallyFinland01

Father and son duo Craig and Ross Callendar came in 44th overall at this year’s Mull Rally. Photo: West Coast Photography. no_a42MullRally_CraigCallander

Euan Thorburn took a drama filled Argyll Rally victory, adding to his 2017 win on the event. Photos: Eddie Kelly Motorsport Photography. no_a26argyllrally01

Innes Mochrie, Lochgilphead and Lewis Griffiths finished Mull Rally 41st overall. Photo: West Coast Photography. no_a42MullRally_InnesMochrie