Reports

Scottish Report

The new venue used for the Scottish Service Area proved a big improvement on Heathhall. Thankfully the tarmac surface helped when the skies opened and I am sure I saw Noah at one point rounding up his animals for the ark.

First home was Alex Pirie and Frazer Skene who had rectified an electrical problem allowing them a clean run.

Chuck Blair and Mark Roberts were out on their first event in their new car and despite this they set some good times and finished in second place. They thought they had a faulty coil pack which caused a misfire but it may have been a loose pump in the fuel tank that caused the problems.

Third home were Andy Struthers and Ali McIlroy who had a clean and steady run.

Gina Walker  and Richard Simmonds had a puncture on the second stage and on SS4 they parked in a ditch so early bath for this team.

Ross Hughes was going well until a gear linkage problem caused him to retire after SS6.

Elvin Smith was taking it steady and had a new co-driver for his third event but retired after SS7.

Thanks to Aitken-Walker Cars for providing the champagne for the finish.

See you all in Dunoon for the next round, as this is a new event please get your entries in ASAP

 

Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally 18th of March 2017

 

Elvin Smith/Jamie MacTavish

The first gravel rally of my career was fantastic! How the car felt and how it reacted to driver inputs, it was as if I was driving on butter or some soft spongy subsistence. The whole two days never had a moment were I could relax or catch my breath either on the first day by trying to rush to get to signing on or scrutineering where we just got there with a minute to spare after rushing up from Fife with everything.

On the second day (the day of the actual rally) where I was always in the car and never had anytime for anything, the only food I had were two rolls at the very start of the day. Due to unforeseen accidents cancelling stages and giving us less time by the end of the day I was drained of fuel for my body and all energy was gone but I felt amazing in knowing that I had completed my first gravel rally with an almost 'alien' car due to non existent seat time in a rally car for longer than a year. We finished 63rd out of 120 starters while also starting at the back with the worse road surface. The only damage to the car being a missing rear spoiler and shattered rear window being due to taking jumps on the last stage flat out. All in all it was a great adventure being back into rallying after my time away in between being in the Junior 1000's and now in the Ecosse C2 Challenge but I'm glad to be back! Also have to thank Graeme Mack for building the car and also showing up on the day to help with car, my service crew also my best pals Jamie Morgan and Christopher Hampson for getting dirty so I didn't have to to keep the car working and making everything a lot funnier and lastly but not least my co-driver Jamie MacTavish for sitting in the car and having the balls to stay in the car while I was going through the stages, all round a great time and looking forward to the next one!

 

Gina Walker/ Richard Simmonds

This was the first round of the Ecosse Citroen C2 Challenge and the first event of the year for the team.

This year we have been very kindly given the use of David Martin's 2016 Challenge winning car.

We had done a small amount of testing in the car, but the decision was to  use this event to learn the car and to get seat time as it was 6 months since our last event.

Scrutineering was on Friday night which went without any major hick-ups, and we were treated to an amazing firework display as the BRC crews headed off for their first 2 stages, before the competitors briefing.

Saturday morning our first stage SS3 Wauchope, from the DVD this looked to be a fast, flowing stage unfortunately for us, as we came round a L6 corner 3 miles from the end and were greeted by a queue of cars stopped on stage by a crew who had managed to park their car on its roof across the stage. Car returned to its wheels and pushed to the side, we drove in convoy to the end of the stage, where we were given a notional time which was 1 minute and 15 seconds down on the leading C2's, an almost impossible task to get back as the cars are so similar.

SS 4 Hyndlee we got a good clean run setting second fastest Challenge time through this stage.

Heading back to first service the engine light came on, we had a little panic to ourselves. Jack and Victor now joined by David Martin jumped into action, but could find nothing wrong. The instruction was given not to push, but to bring the car home in third spot.

SS5 Elibank 1 unfortunately this stage was cancelled due to an incident and we received another notional time, this time the leading Challenge cars received the same time.

SS6 Yair 1 another good run with third fastest Challenge time dropping 9 seconds from the leading car and 2 from the second.

Second service of the day no change with the engine light. Some new tyres on the front and sent out for the final three stages.

SS7 Cardrona a slight mishap with a large bale didn't slow us down too much setting second fastest Challenge car again.

SS8 Elibank 2 we had used the earlier drive through as a recce, making a few adjustments to the notes. Another third fastest time dropping 8 seconds to the leading car and 3 from the second.

SS9 Yair 2 the final stage a repeat of SS6 and another second fastest Challenge time.

We had a good day and delighted to have finished third in the Challenge, though a little disappointed that due to the notional time we were not able to be involved in the battle for the win.

We would like to thank the organisers, safety crews and marshalls who helped make this a great event.

A big thank you to David Martin for lending his car and for servicing along with Jack and Victor. To Louise and Mandy for providing food and support along with Allana and John braving the rain on the stages. And our sponsors Aitken-Walker cars and H & S Joinery.

 

2016

Galloway Hills Rally

So once again the Ecosse Challenge returned to the forests of Galloway for the deciding round of the countries premier one make challenge. Whilst a number of the titles were already settled on the previous round, the overall title and the podium positions were still up for grabs as the teams arrived in a wet and wild Castle Douglas for scrutineering and signing-on the Friday night.

David Martin and Gina Walker were fighting for the overall Ecosse Challenge – although David held the upper hand, Gina could take 1st spot if she got to the end David failed to finish. Although she sat comfortably in 2nd place before the rally and had already taken the Junior title, Gina could still lose 2nd place if Ross Hughes finished and she didn’t. So it was all to play for.

6 stages over a very compact area in Galloway forest park faced the crews and the day turned dry and bright which was a contrast to the wet and windy Friday when the shakedown and scrutineering took place.

Into Stage 1 and Ross Hughes and Richard Crozier immediately took the fight to David Martin and Douglas Humpreys finishing 2 seconds ahead. Gina Walker/Richard Simmonds were only 8 secs behind whilst Andy Struthers/Alisdair McIlroy were a further 19 secs behind coming to terms with the standard gearbox back in the car following troubles with the good one.

On stage 2 David redressed the balance taking 2 seconds back but Gina was only 1 second behind. Andy had to deal with a puncture and was a minute behind the rest.

On to stage 3 and Ross and Richard turned the wick up and took 14 secs from David. Gina was delayed by an incident on the stage and dropped a lot of time however she ended back to service on the end of a rope the engine seized.

After service and Ross and Richard continued to extend their lead and David and Douglas decided that there was too much to lose and settled down to a pace that ensured a finish. Andy and Ali also maintained a steady pace to ensure a finish.

So Ross Hughes and Richard Crozier finished first C2 on the day and this was enough to secure 2nd overall in the challenge. David Martin was assured of the overall title once Gina retired but he made sure with a strong 2nd place on the day. With her non finish, Gina slipped to 3rd in the overall championship, however was very pleased with her pace on the event and also that she had already wrapped up the junior championship on the previous round.

So that brings the 2016 Ecosse Challenge season to a close. Summing up it has been a pretty good year with some great competition and the challenge spec car is now also starting to show that it also competitive at SRC class level. Overall numbers could have been better but with a number of new parties showing intent the outlook for 2017 for the Ecosse Challenge is very bright.

 

 

Grampian Stages Rally

Familiar territory but at a different time of the year and with a new team at the helm was the story of this years trip to Aberdeenshire. The new organising team had pulled together a very compact route based around a central service at Milton of Crathes and a very picturesque star and finish at Crathes castle. And they also managed to organise the weather with everything taking place under sunny skies.

4 crews arrived at the start, holidays and other commitments meaning a couple of the regulars were missing. Once again David Martin had Neil Ewing in the co-driver spot and there was the possibility that he could win the overall title if the other crews had misfortune.  Following his win on the Scottish, Ross Hughes was present but his regular navigator Kirsten Dallas wasn’t – having been stationed at Crathes castle all year, just in time for the rally to come around she gets shipped out to St Kilda! So Alisdair McIlroy, without a seat due to Andy Struthers partying in Magaluf, stepped in to help out. Gina Walker was back in the wee silver car and Richard Simmonds was back in the passenger seat as there was no clash with his BRC commitments. Alex Pirie and Frazer Skene were back with the black car now all fixed up following their inversion on the Speyside.

Into the first stage and David and Neil knew that they had to take the fight to the other and they set a scorching time 15 seconds quicker than Ross with Alex and Frazer a further 3 behind, getting themselves back into the groove after their 4 month lay-off. Gina and Richard got round safely with no issues. Alex had the wrong rear springs fitted and the rear suspension was overheating making the handling difficult.

On the second Stage Alex was back to his usual self and finished much closer to David only 4 second adrift. Gina and Richard set a much quicker time but were now about a minute behind the others. Sadly stage 2 claimed Ross and Alisdair when they slid off the road and landed in a ditch  -crew OK and car doesn’t look too badly damaged.....

Into service and nothing much much to report apart from Len freshwater’s brand new Subaru overalls which were requiring a roll in the mud to make them look a bit more authentic. After service the crews would tackle 2 stages the first being the monster 16 mile test in Drumtochty. Any chance of making time up disappeared for Alex and Frazer when they punctured near the end of the stage and they finished up a further 31 seconds behind David and Neil. Gina and Richard also lost the chance to make up ground when they were yellow flagged mid-stage and were subsequently given a notional time.

Into SS4 and David and Alex set the same time and Gina was also much quicker despite a spin. They were also concerned that the car was running a bit hot.

It was back to service again and then the crews were faced with the final 11 miles over 2 stages. David held a 53 sec lead over Alex and it was unlikely that this could be overturned in the short mileage remaining. And that’s how it was to be and David and Neil ended up winners by a margin of 55 seconds over Alex and Frazer. Gina and Richard kept up the steady pace and brought the overheating car back home in 3rd place which was enough to seal the Junior championship for Gina and take the overall championship decider to the final round.

So on to Castle Douglas in September when we will find out who the overall champion will be – David or Gina......

 

Scottish Rally

With the Jim Clark rally cancelled due to lack of entries, the 2016 Ecosse Challenge crews had a further 3 weeks to wait for their return to competition which meant that almost 2 months had passed sine the crews had last been out on the stages. With the cancellation of the Jim Clark the challenge will now be decided on the crew’s best 4 scores on the 5 rounds contested.

Sadly other commitments meant that only 4 of the regular crews appeared at the Dumfries start of the RSAC Scottish Rally. David Martin returned again with the experienced Neil Ewing reading the notes. Gina Walker appeared with a repaired car after the Speyside indiscretion and Edwin Cook returned undeterred by the visit to the scenery. Andy Struthers and Alisdair McIlroy appeared having had quite a bit of testing and shakedown in the past week and likewise Ross Hughes and Kirsten Dallas had managed to squeeze a test in during the long break between rounds.

Into the first stage at Twiglees and David Martin set quickest time albeit only 0.2 of a second quicker the Andy Struthers who had clearly benefitted from the extra seat time and was now back on the pace after their Border Counties accident. Gina Walker dropped some time as the car was overheating slightly but not as much as Ross and Kirstin who were delayed at the scene of another competitor’s accident and were given a notional time a minute and a half adrift of the other challenge competitors. By the time the crew’s arrived back at service David and Neil’s lead was just over 6 secs over Andy and Ali.

Despite the problem time on SS1 Ross and Kirsten started posting class leading times and by stage 4 had overhauled Gina and Edwin who had punctured. David Martin had to call it a day after SS4 when a landing in a big hole burst a wishbone bush making the car too dangerous to drive even on the road. By the time the remaining crews made it back to service Andy and Ali had a 38 second over Ross and Kirsten.

On stage 6 Ross and Kirstin clawed back another 10 secs and with Stage 7 being cancelled by the organisers, the stage was set for a final stage fight-off between the crews. Andy and Ali put the car off on the first corner of the stage bringing an end to their hopes of a 2016 win. However their pace throughout the rally was very impressive. Gina and Edwin also went off and got stuck in a ditch ruining their chances of a podium finish.

Seeing all of their rivals off into the scenery, Ross and Kirstin backed to off to ensure the finish and with it took their first Ecosse Challenge win on what was only their third forest rally. They also showed an impressive turn of pace which can only bode well for the remaining rounds.

So once again the Ecosse Challenge has produced tremendously close competition and with only 6 points separating the first three in the championship, things are looking good for the final 2 rounds of the championship.

 

Speyside Stages

The 2016 Ecosse Challenge moved up north for Round 2 the McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages which started in Elgin with 2 short blasts of tarmac around Cooper Park in the town centre and then moved out to 7 seven challenging forest stages in Moray and Aberdeenshire. There was also a calendar change to April from its usual August slot which provided a different challenge when it came to road conditions.

After their successful start to the championship on the Border Counties, David Martin and Gina Walker returned for round 2 and both had procured the services of very experienced navigators for the event in the shape of Neil Ewing and Edwin Cook. Andy Struthers/Alasdair McIlroy returned in their freshly repaired car following it’s roll on the Border Counties and the back up team of father Drew and Big Barrie had had a fraught few weeks between events getting the C2 straight and looking presentable. Also present were Ross Hughes and Kirstin Dallas hoping to get a finish after their off on the Border Counties.

Joining the party for the first time in 2016 was Alex Pirie who missed the Border Counties as the car wasn’t ready. Looking for a good result on what is his home event, Alex had mechanic Frazer Skene in the navigators seat on what was his first rally.

Jordan Black was missing from the entry list having been caught out with the event’s date change having already agreed to organise a friend’s stag doo in Ireland. Also missing was Graeme Sherry and Cameron Fair who did turn up at the Speyside but unfortunately not in a C2 (despite what the results said) They have been unable to complete the new car in time as they have been too busy playing with Graeme’s latest purchase, an ex-works Chevette so they dug out one of the old 205s and brought it to Elgin .

The 2 blasts around Cooper Park are not a good indicator of how the event is going to go particular since the Ecosse Challenge competitors have to use the control forest tyre rather than slicks, so in the end Alex came out on top with a 2 second lead over David with Ross Hughes only another second behind.

So the competitors moved in to the forests with 3 stages to do before rocking up to service in Huntly. Alex Pirie used his previous experience of the C2 and local knowledge of the stages to pull out a lead of 20 seconds over David Martin. Gina Walker was trying to keep in touch with the leaders and Ross Hughes and Kirsten were settling in and producing very respectable times on what was only their second outing in the car. Andy and Alisdair were settling back in to things following their big accident on the last event and this was reflected in their early times.

At first service in Huntly there was very little to report from all of the crews with just routine service required. The crews then tackled another 2 stages before returning back to service. However David Martin had now got the bit between his teeth and managed to reverse the earlier deficit to Alex and turned it in to a 1 second lead! Gina and Ross held position although the gap was shortening. And Andy and Alasdair continued to get their feel back in the car and there was a noticeable improvement in their times.

Once again it was only routine service before crews left to tackle the remaining 3 stages before the finish back at the college in Elgin. And it was here that we finally got some action! On SS9 Gina and Edwin ran wide into a ditch and the car went over onto it’s roof and landed back on its wheels. There was damage to the drivers side and some broken glass but more worrying was the fact that the radiator was damaged and the car was using a bit of water. David Martin extended his lead by a further 16 seconds over SS8 & 9 so it was all to play for on the last stage. Alex and Frazer went all out to pull back the deficit and it all went horribly wrong when they rolled into a ditch. Spectator help was required to get the car out and it looked pretty bad with damage to the front and roof and lots of broken glass but they managed to get it back to the finish albeit now at the back of the C2 field. David and Neil brought their car home unscathed to take his second 2016 Ecosse Challenge win and as a bonus secured 2nd in Class 4 ahead of a C2R2.

Gina managed to nurse the car through SS10 and had enough in hand to keep ahead of Ross Hughes and Kirstin Dallas who’s times were improving throughout the day. Andy and Alisdair also posted much improved times on the later stages showing that they are back in contention after the Border Counties mishap. Kirstin took maximum points in the Co-Drivers championship with Alasdair second, both happy to have points on the board after their non scores on the Border Counties.

David Martin extended his lead over the other crews in the driver’s championship and looks forward to being back on home territory for round the Jim Clark Reviers rally in early June. And with the C2s showing some great completion on the first 2 rounds, the Jim Clark is looking very tasty indeed!

See you all in Kelso on Sunday 5th June.

 

BORDER COUNTIES

2016 got underway in the middle of March with the usual trek to Jedburgh for the Border Counties. Following last year’s introduction of the Citroen C2  to the  challenge, 2016 saw the entire championship change to sole use of this vehicle.

As is usual at the start of the season there was the rush to get cars ready and a couple of registered competitors failed to make the start but fully intend to be present on the next round in Elgin in April. Despite this, a field of 5 cars took the start line in Jedburgh on Saturday morning. 2016 regulars Jordan Black and Andy Struthers were joined by seasoned front wheel drive star David Martin, along with newcomers Gina Walker and Ross Hughes.

Lanark plumber,  Jordan Black, with Scott Erskine as a one-off in the nav seat, returned for their third season in the C2. The car was resplendent in a new chrome livery provided by long time EC friend Joey Stuchlak and was now running as it should following last year’s performance issues.

After a successful 2015 learning the new car, RSAC scholarship winner, Andy Struthers returned with the car that was debited on the Galloway Hills last year. Joining Andy is for 2016 is Alisdair McIlroy who sat beside Steven Bellshaw last year in the 205s.

David Martin from Belford in Northumberland joins the Ecosse challenge in 2016 after many years of successful competition in the 1400 BTRDA series in a Astra.  In his newly built car, only driven for a couple of miles before the event, David was joined on the BCR by experienced co-driver Claire Mole.

Gina Walker from Duns in Berwickshire, has moved from 4 legs to 4 wheels by joining the Ecosse Challenge.  After successfully competing in the equestrian field, the daughter of 1990 Ladies World Rally Champion Louise Aitken Walker, has decided to try her hand at rallying in 2016. And the year has got off to a great start when Gina was announced as winner of the RSAC scholarship for 2016. For the BCR, Ecosse Challenge veteran Richard Simmonds occupied the left hand seat.

Ross Hughes, an engineer from Lanark was the final entrant in his new self-built car and the BCR would be his first ever rally. Joining Ross is countryside ranger Kirsten Dallas from Crathes in Aberdeenshire.

Not present on the BCR but scheduled to appear on the next round, the Speyside stages in Elgin at the end of April, are Ecosse Challenge regulars, Graeme Sherry/Cameron Fair and also Alex Pirie.

 

Border Counties Rally.

The classic stages in the Tweed valley plus 2 runs at Craik faced the competitors as they crossed the start line at Jedburgh for round 1 of the 2016 Ecosse Challenge.

On the first run of Craik, Jordan Black and Scott Erskine were first out of the block posting a time nearly 30 seconds quicker than the rest of the field. This was heartening following last year’s performance issues that dogged their season. David Martin/Claire Mole were next in the times pleased with their performance despite their lack of seat time in the car. Gina Walker/Richard Simmonds and Ross Hughes/Kirsten Dallas both set good times for their first time in the forests. Stage 1 however claimed Andy Struthers/Ali McIlroy when they left the road and rolled the car. No damage to the crew but the car looked pretty bad. Later inspection has shown the damage to be panels only.

Stages 2 & 3 saw David Martin claw some time back on Jordan,  who was complaining about an intermittent misfire. Gina and Richard continued to post solid times as they got better used to the car. Ross and Kirsten never made it back to service – a rear brake caliper came loose on stage 2 and jammed the back wheel. This was rectified at management service by removing the offending part leaving only 3 brakes working, however this caught them out when they left the road on Stage 3. End of rally but pleased by their performance on their first rally.

Back to service and Jordan was nursing a small lead but was concerned about a misfire which had developed. On the way to Stage 4 the car broke down, made it through Stage 4 but finally died on SS5. David Martin continued his steady progress as he continued to learn the car and Gina Walker also got quicker as the day got on. And that was how they stood as they returned to the Finish back in Jedburgh.

So we had a great start to the 2016 Ecosse Challenge with some great competition. And things can only get better as the field gets bigger and the drivers get more accustomed to their new cars. See you all in Elgin on 23rd April for the Speyside.

 

SPEYSIDE REPORT

The Ecosse challenge moved back north again for the usual trip to Elgin for the Speyside Stages. Competitors were looking forward to the tough forests of Moray and Aberdeenshire but also the return of the short blast of tarmac in Cooper park which returns after an absence of a few years.

C2

Jordan Black and Harry Marchbank arrived at Elgin hoping that the performance issues that dogged them on the Scottish had been resolved. Andy Struthers/Pete Weall had to withdraw their entry for the Speyside as their new car was not completed in time. Championship co-ordinator   Andrew Pemberton’s car appeared at Elgin in the hands of local crew Alex Pirie/David Law. Alex and David appeared for a couple of seasons in the 205s a few years ago and are a welcome addition to the C2 challenge.

Cooper Park didn’t hold any surprises in the C2s with Alex and David getting used to the new car in which they had only driven for minimal road miles. Into the forests and Jordan and Harry found they had not resolved the lack of performance issues and were struggling to maintain a decent pace. Meanwhile Alex and David grew in confidence as they got familiar with the car and their times improved greatly as the day went on.

Having resigned  themselves to dragging the slow C2 round to the finish so they would get valuable points, Jordan and Harry’ day got worse when a rock jammed in the back wheel and they dropped a further 3 minutes having to stop and remove it.

Alex and David got quicker and quicker as the day went on and brought the rally first spec C2 back to the finish in Elgin in 40th overall and 1st in Class. Jordan and Harry managed to get to the finish some way back but got some useful points to maintain their lead in the championship.

205s

5 205s made the long trip north to Elgin and were looking for a close battle in the classic Speyside Stages. First of all there was the 2 short blasts around Cooper Park which can’t win the rally but can sure lose it. The front runners all came through unscathed but Thaarique Fazal/Amanda Burney had a scary moment when the HT lead came off on the jump and the car ground to a halt before the flying finish. 3 minutes were dropped trying to find the problem.

Into the forests proper and Donald Peacock/Scott Peacock stretch out a slight lead over Steven Bellshaw/Alasdair McIlroy and Simon Hay/Calum Jaffray. Unfortunately Douglas Cameron/Paul Wood didn’t make it out of the first forest stage after a driveshaft failed, this coming after many nights trying to cure the electrical issues that have dogged him on previous events.

Back into the woods after first service and Simon and Calum set quickest time in SS6 but to no avail as they retired on the next stage with a broken balljoint. Meanwhile Donald maintained his lead but Steven was not far behind. Despite the earlier time loss Thaarique was now having a steady run.

Into the final 3 stages and the expected battle between the front 2 didn’t materialise as Steven had a rear axle bearing fail and had to slow down and nurse the car back to the finish, albeit holding on to 2nd place. Thaarique and Amanda were the only other 205 finishers and got another 3rd place following their similar result on the Scottish.

So Donald and Scott ran out as winners for the 3rd time on the trot and move into the lead in the championship. However only 9 points separate the top 3 and all have dropped a score now. So there could be quite a battle on the remaining 2 rounds!

See you all on the McRae in October.

Stephen Smellie

 

SCOTTISH REPORT

After a gap of nearly two months the Ecosse challenge the competitors were raring to go when they congregated in Dumfries at the end of June for round 3, the RSAC Scottish Rally . 45 miles in the Ae and Eskdalemuir forests faced the crews who took part.

C2

The usual C2s were back out for the Scottish. Jordan Black has had a busy time since the Granite having had to repair the extensive body damage sustained in the roll on that event. The car required a roof, back quarters and a bonnet but luckily the car was still straight. Harry Marchbank continues on  the notes. Andy Struthers/Pete Weall returned still in the championship co-ordinator’s car as his own car is still in build.

Championship sponsor Wayne Bale of C2MotorSports.com had made the long trip up from Dorset to see the Scottish C2 competitors in action and give his encouragement.

On to the stages and Jordan was complaining of a down on power engine and this was backed by his times on the stages. Andy and Pete were much closer on time than you would expect for their lower specification car and was able to set quickest C2 time on 4 out of the 7 stages. However a spin and a puncture on SS5 dropped 16 seconds which handed Jordan and Harry the category win back at the finish in Dumfries

205s

6 of the regular 205 crews appeared in Dumfries to do battle. In the gap between the Granite and the Scottish some of the crews tackled the Jim Clark Rally whilst others didn’t bother and just had a rest. Simon Hay/Calum Jaffray  had another good class result, whilst Andy Chalmers had another non-finish. Steven Bellshaw gave the Jim Clark a miss as the car required a full engine rebuild.

So onto the Scottish. Notorious for being slow starters Simon Hay/Calum Jaffray went straight out the traps and set the pace on SS1 8 secs quicker than Donald & Scott Peacock.  Stage 1 saw the demise of 2 of the contenders, Andy Chalmers/Mark Runciman didn’t make the start of the stage as queuing for the delayed start led to both overheating and the fuel pump failure. Douglas Cameron/Paul Wood also stopped in stage with an overheating coil, which is a return to the problems they had on Granite and which they thought they had cured.

On SS2 Donald and Scott pulled back 4 secs on Simon/Calum only to drop  a further 3 secs on the Heathhall super special. Steven Bellshaw/Alasdair McIlroy lay in third some way back with Thaarique Fazal/Amanda Burney in 4th place

Back at 1st service Donald was complaining of inconsistent brakes and this was traced to a loose wheel bearing. Steven Bellshaw explained that his poor times the first two stages was due to the throttle cable falling off and not allowing full throttle.

After service it was on to the classic Eskdalemuir stages of Twiglees and Castle O’Er – Steven Bellshaw was back on the pace with the throttle problems fixed and set fastest time on Twiglees with Donald Peacock 1 second behind, he too now much happier with the car. Simon Hay couldn’t get into the groove on Twiglees and this showed in his time which was 23 secs behind Donald. In Castle O’Er, Donald took 8 seconds out of both his pursuers who set identical times. Thaarique and Amanda continued round in 4th place. Unfortunately Steven and Alasdair didn’t make it back to service due to a cracked gearbox casing. All the other crews had very little to report at service.

So on to the last 2 stages and Donald and Scott consolidated their lead over Simon and Callum and ended up finishing the day 40 seconds ahead and take their second victory of the season. Thaarique and Amanda brought the car home for their best ever finish in the 205 challenge.

The Ecosse challenge now heads back North to Elgin in early August for the Speyside Stages rally. See you all there!

 

 

SCOTTISH PREVIEW

Now in its 13th year the Ecosse Challenge continues to offer a low cost introduction to top flight rallying in a controlled environment. Having used Peugeot 205 Gti 1.6 cars as the basis for the championship since its inception in 2003, the championship committee recognised the need for a replacement for the 205 as many of the cars are approaching 30 years old and now eligible for Historic rallying. The car chosen for the future years of the Ecosse Challenge is the Citroen C2 1.6 16V which is the spiritual successor to the 205 Gti and like the 205 has a strong rallying pedigree with 2 time world champion Sebastian Ogier having cut his teeth in the French C2 challenge.

For the 2015 season the Ecosse Challenge has introduced a main class for C2 cars with a set of regulations close in spirit to the 205s but with the added benefit of a car with much more modern technology and more importantly good availability of base cars at a reasonable cost. The championship estimates that a top spec car capable of both Challenge and SRC class wins can be built for approx £8000. There is also a cheaper alternative where a car can be built to SRC Rally First regulations which uses a much reduced specification but allows competitors to get out in the forests for under £4000. In conjunction with Wayne Bale at C2Motorsports.com, who can provide all the parts necessary to build a competitive C2, the championship organisers have organised a substantial prize fund for the winners and runners up of each round, including free entries to Ecosse Challenge rounds and vouchers for parts at C2 Motorsports.com. The 205s will continue in their existing form and guarantee to continue to provide very close competition as they have done in previous years.

The season so far

Two rounds have taken place so far, the Border Counties and granite city rallies. 2 C2s have made an appearance so far with a number of cars currently in construction. Jordan Black has carried out much of the development work on the C2 in 2014 and was glad to be back in “proper” competition. Round 1 resulted in a non finish when a brake caliper came loose and jammed in the wheel and round 2 wasn’t much better when a heavy roll in the spectator area resulted in major body damage. However, temporary windscreens, plastic, tank tape, bin bags were all used to make the C2 wind and water tight and dogged determination to get to the finish resulted in the category win when his nearest rival went off the road.

Andy Struthers is graduate of the Junior 1000 series and for the early part of this years is tackling the challenge in the car built and owned by Ecosse Challenge co-ordinator Andrew Pemberton. This car is prepared to SRC Rally First specification so is a much lower spec than Jordan’s car. Andy, who has experienced navigator Pete Weall with him on the notes had a very steady run to take the win on the BCR, however on the Granite an off on the first spectator special and then a slide into a ditch on the final stage when in the lead by 2 minutes, handed the category win to Jordan.

The 205s continue to provide very close competition. Simon Hay followed up his win on the BCR with a solid 3rd place on the Granite and leads by one point from Steven Bellshaw with Douglas Cameron a further 5 points behind. Donald Peacock is the class of the field time wise and is not far behind in the points despite a non-finish on the BCR with engine failure. On home ground on the Scottish rally, it will be interesting to see if Donald can close the gap to his rivals.

 

GRANITE CITY REPORT

Round 2 of the 2015 Ecosse Challenge took place at the Coltel Granite City Rally on the May Bank Holiday weekend. A new organising team in place had made some significant changes to the event including a new start venue at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference centre which inlcuded a short superspecial blast through the car park – twice! However the main competition took place in the fearsome Aberdeenshire forests.

C2

Both C2s present on the BCR were back to do battle on the Granite. Jordan Black had repaired the problem areas that caused retirement on the last round and now has former  junior driver Harry Marchbank in the navigators seat to the end of the season. Andy Struthers/Pete Weall once again used the car belonging to championship co-ordinator Andrew Pemberton which had benefitted from some further development to the suspension and underbody to make it “Granite-proof”.

Jordan and Harry set off, completing the 2 superspecials without any issue and set a respectable time on SS3. However it all went horribly wrong on SS4 when a “too quick” approach to a tightening right hander saw the car end up on it’s roof.  It was quickly put back on it’s wheels and they made it back to service with quite a bit of damage. The short service meant that the service crew only had time to remove the broken glass and tailgate and the guys had to don big jackets and googles for stages 5 & 6.

For Andy  and Pete the superspecial curse hit them – on the first run through the AECC car park they got the braking wrong on the last corner and hit a fence. The car looked worse than it was and the bumper was refitted having been retrieved from the incident site by Digby! Apart from that they had a pretty steady run through the rest of the stages and at first service it was noticed that a bolt was missing from the front brake caliper.

Stages 5&6 were tackled by both crews without any further issues, however Jordan and Harry looked like they had frostbite when they returned to service.

Going into SS7 & 8, Andy and Pete had a lead of over 2 minutes so no-one expected the final result to be any different when the cars returned to Aberdeen. However Andy slid off into a ditch on the final stage and despite the valiant efforts of the crew  to extract the car it remained stuck. Unfortunately that put paid to the EC win as well as the Class1 win where they had a lead of 4 minutes gboing into the last stage.

So Jordan and Harry sprayed the champagne when they got back to Aberdeen which was some reward for their grit and perseverance shown by them and their service crew. The crew also win a free entry for the next round of the Ecosse Challenge, the RSAC Scottish Rally in Dumfries at the end of June. Andy and Pete hope to be contesting the rally in their own car which is currently being built.

205s

6 of the regular 205 crews ventured north to a cold but sunny Aberdeen to do battle in the Granite stages. None of the 205s had issues on the two superspecials but things were to change dramatically once in the forests.

Things to note at the start, Donald Peacock had a rebuilt engine following the death rattle on the BCR, Andy Chalmers had fixed the front end damage after his baulking incident/off on the BCR and Steven Bellshaw had not only a new livery but also had 2014 EC205 champion Chuck Blair on the notes hoping for some of his magic touch to rub off. Douglas Cameron had a fixed exhaust after their troubles on the BCR.

Like they had done on the BCR, Donald Peacock/Scott Peacock set a scorching time on the first forest stage 9 secs quicker than Bellshaw with Andy Chalmers/Martin Maccabe and Simon Hay/Calum Jaffray close behind. At this stage we lost Thaarique Fazal/Amanda Burney who succumbed to gearbox issues in stage.

The tide turned in SS4 with Simon Hay setting fastest time with Donald and Steven only a couple of seconds behind. Douglas Cameron/Paul wood continued there steady run in 4th place, however Andy Chalmers/Martin Maccabe stopped in the stage with a broken driveshaft.

At first services crews had only minor issues to report and headed for the next 2 stages. In the 7 miler in Drumelzie, Donald and Scott set a blistering pace finishing a full 10secs ahead of Simon and Calum with Steven/Chuck a further 7 secs behind. In SS8 Drumtochty Donald added to their albeit only being 4 seconds ahead of Steven. Douglas and Paul had a torrid time in this stage with mysterious fuelling issues which meant they dropped further back.

Again nothing much to report at 2nd service and the crew set off for the final stages with Donald and Scott enjoying a lead of 30 secs over Simon and Calum with Steven/Chuck a further 3 secs behind.

Into SS7 and Donald and Steven set the same time with Simon dropping 3 seconds which would mean that 2nd and 3rd  would go into the last stage on exactly the same time.  Douglas and Paul seemed to have a car that was now running cleanly and had a steady run through SS7

So on to the final 10 miles in SS8 Swanley. With the win in the bag  Donald backed off and Steven went for it setting fastest time and securing second place. Simon sadly dropped 12 secs after a slide into a banking but was happy with 3rd place in the end. Douglas had another clean run and comfortably brought the car home in 4th place.

In the drivers championship tables Simon Hay maintains his championship lead albeit by only one point from Steven Bellshaw. Douglas Cameron sits third 6 points off the lead and with this win, Donald Peacock is now back in contention for overall honours.

In the co-drivers Calum Jaffray leads Paul Wood by 5 points with Scott Peacock jumping into third place with today’s win.

Crews now head to Dumfries at the end of June to resume the fight on the RSAC Scottish rally which is home territory for the Peacocks – join us there to see if local knowledge pays off in the end.

 

 

GRANITE PREVIEW

The 2015 Ecosse Challenge finally got underway with the Border Counties Rally. From the usual start outside Jedburgh town hall the organisers had moved the rally to stay entirely in Scotland and were going to use the classic stages in the Tweed Valley not used competitively since the late 90s which is before some of our competitors were born!

In the new C2 class:

First rally for our new car which is destined to take over from the 205 in years to come. Two C2s were ready in time for the BCR with the promise of more to come as the season progresses.

Jordan Black/Stuart Loudon led the field away from Jedburgh. Having spent 2014 building and developing the car, Jordan was looking forward to his return to “proper competition” However disaster struck on SS4, a front brake caliper came loose,

jamming up in the wheel and breaking the short driveshaft. Andy Struthers/Pete Weall occupied the other C2 to start the rally. Look at the facts  –  first “adult” rally/first time in the forest in a new car that isn’t his. All a bit much for a 17 year old! But he kept his head and made sure he got to the finish. Car performed impeccably only thing to report was the lack of handbrake cables at service which was something that also afflicted Jordan’s car. With Jordan not finishing Andy wins the first round of the C2 challenge his prize being a free entry on the next round, the Granite City Rally in May. Andrew Pemberton, series

co-ordinator was very pleased to see the car get to the finish trouble free. This car, which he built and owns, is built to SRC Class 1 “Rally First” specification  which provides a low-cost way of going rallying in both the SRC and Ecosse Challenge.

In the 205 Class

Seven 205s crossed the Jedburgh start line and hopes were high for the close competition that we had seen in recent years in this category.

Donald Peacock/Scott Peacock was first out of the traps on stage 1 14 secs quicker than Andy Chalmers/Martin Maccabe. This performance was done without any intercom,  Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray lay in 3rd place a further 10secs behind happy with his steady run through the 1st Stage.

Steven Bellshaw appeared at the BCR in a different car having purchased Blair Brown’s 2013 car once they realised that the damage inflicted on the Snowman couldn’t be repaired in time. He viewed the car on Monday, did the deal and picked up the car on Friday night and travelled straight down to Jedburgh for scrutineering. Now that’s commitment. Unfortunately he didn’t get a clear run through Stage 1 as the car wouldn’t rev cleanly however this was rectified at service being traced to a blocked engine breather

The Ecosse Challenge newcomers Douglas Cameron/Paul Wood and David Hunter/Scott Hunter were next on the leaderboard both happy to have come through unscathed on their very first special stage as drivers. And bringing up the rear was

Thaarique Fazal/Amanda Burney although their time was not a million miles away.

The drivers then went into the loop of the 3 classic tweed valley stages and this is where it was all to change! The Peacocks left service concerned about noises coming from under the bonnet and by the end of SS4 this has turned into a death rattle ending their day prematurely. Andy Chalmers set the quickest 205 time on SS3 but had been plagued by their poor seeding and was catching cars all day. His rally also came to an end in an SS4 ditch, undamaged, though having been baulked by another competitor for 2 1/2 miles.

Simon Hay had another steady run on SS3 but turned the wick up on the next 2 and created a gap that no-one was going to bridge with only one stage to go. With the car now performing as it should Steven Bellshaw now started producing good times. Douglas Cameron lost the rear section of the exhaust on SS3 and dragged the rest of the system around the next two stages which allowed David Hunter and Thaarique Fazal to claw back some time.

Into SS6 and Simon Hay set yet another superb time ensuring that he became the first 205 winner in 2015 along with 2nd place in Class 3 on the rally. Steven Bellshaw maintained second place and was delighted with the way the car was now going. Quite a battle was had by the 3 remaining 205s. Douglas Cameron finished 3rd with David Hunter 45secs behind. On SS6 Thaarique set a time to beat both Douglas and David but it wasn’t enough to jump either of them in the overall standings. Quite an

improvement in performance so Amanda must be doing something right!

So a great start to the 2015 season, see you all at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre on the 2nd May

 

For more information visit: www.ecossechallenge.co.uk

 

Border Counties Rally

The 2015 Ecosse Challenge finally got underway with the Border Counties Rally on Saturday 21st March. From the usual start outside Jedburgh town hall the organisers had moved the rally to stay entirely in Scotland and were going to use the classic stages in the Tweed Valley not used competitively since the late 90s which is before some of our competitors were born!

C2 Class

First rally for our new car which is destined to take over from the 205 in years to come. 2 C2s were ready in time for the BCR with the promise of more to come as the season progresses.

Jordan Black/Stuart Loudon led the field away from Jedburgh. Having spent 2014 building and developing the car, Jordan was looking forward to his return to “proper competition” . Despite his gearbox woes leading up to the rally and lack of match practice the pair were going well stage 1 and stage 3 and it looked as if his gearbox troubles were behind him. However disaster struck on SS4, a front brake caliper came loose, jamming up in the wheel and breaking the short driveshaft. So a disappointing end to the day although there was some encouragement with the times they had set.

Andy Struthers/Pete Weall occupied the other C2 to start the rally. Look at the facts  –  first “adult” rally/first time in the forest in a new car that isn’t his. All a bit much for a 17 year old! But he kept his head and made sure he got to the finish. Car performed impeccably only thing to report was the lack of handbrake cables at service which was something that also afflicted Jordan’s car. With Jordan not finishing Andy wins the first round of the C2 challenge his prize being a free entry on the next round, the Granite City Rally in May. Andrew Pemberton, series co-ordinator was very pleased to see the car get to the finish trouble free. This car, which he built and owns, is built to SRC Class 1 “Rally First” specification  which provides a low-cost way of going rallying in both the SRC and Ecosse Challenge. This also gave Andy another trophy as he won the SRC Rally First Class 1.

We also hope to have another C2 joining the crews on the Granite with Sue Hynd/Tom Hynd very hopeful that their car will be ready to tackle what is their home event.

205s

7 205s crossed the Jedburgh start line and hopes were high for the close competition that we had seen in recent years in this category.

Donald Peacock/Scott Peacock was first out of the traps on stage 1 14 secs quicker than Andy Chalmers/Martin Maccabe. This performance was done without any intercom, a new battery failing almost immediately and one wonders what the time would have been like with had he been able to hear Scott calling the notes.  Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray lay in 3rd place a further 10secs behind happy with his steady run through the 1st Stage.

Steven Bellshaw appeared at the BCR in a different car having purchased Blair Brown’s 2013 car once they realised that the damage inflicted on the Snowman couldn’t be repaired in time. He viewed the car on Monday, did the deal and picked up the car on Friday night and travelled straight down to Jedburgh for scrutineering. Now that’s commitment. Unfortunately he didn’t get a clear run through Stage 1 as the car wouldn’t rev cleanly however this was rectified at service being traced to a blocked engine breather

The Ecosse Challenge newcomers Douglas Cameron/Paul Wood and David Hunter/Scott Hunter were next on the leaderboard both happy to have come through unscathed on their very first special stage as drivers. And bringing up the rear was Thaarique Fazal/Amanda Burney although their time was not a million miles away.

The drivers then went into the loop of the 3 classic tweed valley stages and this is where it was all to change! The Peacocks left service concerned about noises coming from under the bonnet and by the end of SS4 this has turned into a death rattle ending their day prematurely. Andy Chalmers set the quickest 205 time on SS3 but had been plagued by their poor seeding and was catching cars all day. His rally also came to an end in an SS4 ditch, undamaged, though having been baulked by another competitor for 2 1/2 miles.

Simon Hay had another steady run on SS3 but turned the wick up on the next 2 and created a gap that no-one was going to bridge with only one stage to go. With the car now performing as it should Steven Bellshaw now started producing good times. Douglas Cameron lost the rear section of the exhaust on SS3 and dragged the rest of the system around the next two stages which allowed David Hunter and Thaarique Fazal to claw back some time.

Into SS6 and Simon Hay set yet another superb time ensuring that he became the first 205 winner in 2015 along with 2nd place in Class 3 on the rally. Steven Bellshaw maintained second place and was delighted with the way the car was now going. Quite a battle was had by the 3 remaining 205s. Douglas Cameron finished 3rd with David Hunter 45secs behind. On SS6 Thaarique set a time to beat both Douglas and David but it wasn’t enough to jump either of them in the overall standings. Quite an improvement in performance and Amanda must be doing something right!

So a great start to the 2015 season and the Granite in six weeks time can’t come quick enough. See you all at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre on the 2nd May.

 

SCHOOL'S OUT - THE McRAE

There was an end of term atmosphere as we arrived at the Breadalbane Campus in Aberfeldy for the final round of the 2014 Ecosse Challenge, the Colin Mcrae Forest Stages. Signing-on had been moved to the cafeteria area and the tables were supplied with tubs of Tunnock's latest chocolate-coated delights. Very moreish as I discovered by sampling one or two (or three....). Well, it would have been rude not to.

Thanks to Chuck Blair and Mark Roberts generously not registering for Challenge points, maximum points were up for grabs for those battling for the final standings. Adrian Stewart was concerned that he was developing an attraction to ditches after he visited several last time out on the Merrick. When asked what their strategy for the rally would be, co-driver Tom Hynd replied "dangly bits out". Not the exact wording but what would be needed if they were to beat Blair Brown and Richard Simmonds to second place in the Challenge. Blair was taking his preparation seriously, watching the DVD of the stages so often he had almost learnt them by heart. That is what is known as doing your homework.

Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray had been doing the maths to work out what they needed to do to move up the standings. They also invested in new tyres to replace those lost to punctures on the Merrick. Steven Bellshaw reported "the usual problems" but had fitted new bottom arms and was hoping for better luck to end his season. Scott Peacock's work overalls were less than pristine thanks to an oil leak in his 205. That was not the end of his problems as the car refused to start when they went to take it off the trailer for scrutineering. Andy Chalmers had another dramatic run-up to an event when he got a message to say that one of his service crew had gone off the road on the way down. First reports sounded serious but thankfully these proved inaccurate and both he and his car were OK.

The rain which started on Friday evening didn't let up all night and it was still coming down as the crews headed out for the first three of what would be very slippy stages. The school has a system to block mobile phone signals so that the pupils can't use them in class but I don't think that was the cause of the intercom problems which affected several crews. Adrian and Tom lost theirs after SS1 which contributed to a big sideways moment in SS2 while Blair and Richard used hand signals in SS1 before fixing the problem ahead of SS2. They did have a bit of a problem when the notes didn't seem to match the road. Andy Chalmers and Martin Maccabe had a miscommunication moment which led to a big slide towards a large tree om Martin's side ( that's how it's supposed to be, isn't it?) Thankfully a ditch stopped them but they lost a bit of time before a group of spectators got them back on the road. Martin was impressed by their expertise, even helping him do up his belts. It wasn't communication issues which gave Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray a moment on a long 300 over crest when the car went from one side of the road to the other and back again. They held it and made it safely into service. The same could not be said for Steven Bellshaw as the hoped for luck did not appear and collision with a log pile ended his rally in SS1. Also out of luck and the running were Scott Peacock and Craig Service when further electrical gremlins forced them to retire before service.

It was back to the forests for two more stages before a second service and one more stage. As they arrived back for sevice at Aberfeldy, it was beginning to look as if the battle had been decided. Adrian's new found fondness for ditches had cost him dear as he spent 30 seconds getting going again. At the same time Blair was "flying" according to Richard who had to speed up his delivery of the notes to keep up with him. Even Tom Hynd's use of mind games could not prevent them being beaten. If ever there is a GCSE in psychological warfare, Tom is the man to teach it.

Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray were looking very happy as they felt that everything had clicked into place and they had "really gelled". Also smiling were Andy Chalmers and Martin Maccabe. They had really enjoyed the last two stages and could see that they were getting close to the times of those ahead of them. It was only the time lost in the morning that left them with a gap to the others.

There was just time for a helping of Paul Brown's delicious soup as the cars headed out for the final stage. Adrian and Tom sportingly conceded that Blair and Richard deserved to take the win. This meant that the leaders had to tread that fine line between going fast enough and staying on the road. There was also the potential target of Chuck and Mark just ahead of them but common sense prevailed and they held it all together to come home to their first ever win in the Ecosse Challenge. As Blair is now eighteen, there would be no problem letting him have the champagne to spray. Adrian and Tom avoided any more ditches to finish second while Simon and Calum took third. Andy and Martin's progress was halted near the end of SS6, robbing them of fourth place. Andy's plan for next year is to be better organised in order to get to the events earlier and to avoid dramas!

Elsewhere, Chuck and Mark did all they needed to do by staying close to Bert Haining meaning that they have all but claimed the overall class 3 victory in the SRC. Duncan Campbell took third in the event's class 4 while Ross MacDonald and Matt Johnstone were not far behind as they used the rally as a shakedown before they head off to Wales for Rally GB National. They had a terrific result last year so we wish them all the very best for this one. Grant Inglis and Robert Gray were out in their new toy - a Mk2 Escort. So unused to rwd after 5 years of driving front wheel drive cars, Grant felt as if it was his first ever rally. I'm sure he will soon re-adjust and we wish them well for next year.

Schools always like to welcome back former pupils who have gone on to greater things and the Ecosse Challenge is no different. Firstly there was former champion John MacCrone getting some mileage in his Ford Fiesta prior to his home rally on Mull. Then there was Euan Thorburn who, with Paul Beaton, took not only a superb overall win on the rally but clinched the SRC title as well. This is richly deserved after coming so close on previous occasions and we send them our heartiest congratulations.

My school was nothing like the one used as Rally HQ although it was quite good, some might even say approved, and called itself a public school. This was carved into the stonework above the door. Or, at least it was supposed to be. Unfortunately the stonemason stopped halfway through the word "public" to go for a couple of pints and when he returned missed out one very important letter. The whole thing had to be chiselled off when someone noticed a few years later. A couple of my class-mates have gone on to work for heads of state mainly in the field of extracting information from poor unfortunates as efficiently as they extracted dinner money from their fellow pupils, as I can testify.

Now I have an appointment with the headmistress. She mentioned something about a caning. Oh wait, that's nothing to do with this. Forget I mentioned it.

Richard

 

TWICE AS NICE - THE MERRICK

 

The Chinese believe the number two brings good fortune as the word sounds the same as those for "easy" and "bright".They have a proverb that says "Good things come in pairs" and names often have a word repeated to enhance this benefit. Examples of this are the great classical pianist Lang Lang and Edinburgh Zoo's star attraction, the panda Tian Tian. If you crossed them would you get a piano-playing panda? That would certainly have the crowds flocking in while diverting their attention from the fact that pandas are pretty rubbish when it comes to producing offspring.

The same cannot be said for competitors in the Ecosse Challenge as not one but two of our drivers are soon to be the fathers of twins! Very best wishes to Chuck Blair and Duncan Campbell. You could teach those pandas a thing or two. Be careful though as I think there are laws about that sort of thing. It probably means that we won't be seeing much of them in the stages next year. Chuck and Duncan I mean, not the pandas. I doubt if they would fit into a 205 or a C2 but it would be great PR.

When he arrived at the start in Wigtown Chuck Blair said he was feeling "pooh". He wasn't so much referring to the character from the children's tales as to a "number two". Entitled to feel like a bear with a sore head was Andy Chalmers who finally made it to Wigtown at one o'clock on Saturday morning and asked "who has been sleepng in my bed?" The answer was obvious as he was still there - a member of another 205's service crew. A more serious health woe was that of Richard Simmonds who had trouble with the vision in one eye and was contemplating an eye-patch. Given the history of smuggling in the area and the fact that John Paul Jones, the founder of the American Navy was born nearby, the pirate look would have been appropriate. Better to omit the parrot though.

Both the Peacocks were bright eyed and bushy tailed with Donald excited to have a "professional" co-driver in Kirsty Riddick sitting with him while Scott was hoping for another good run on home soil despite a "small off" in the test stage. Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray were looking for a good result having fitted a new clutch in their 205 while Thaarique Fazal was hoping to bring his new car home "but not last". His old car was written off when he admitted having got carried away on the Scottish.

Into the stages and Blair Brown and Richard Simmonds set fastest time in SS1, beating Chuck Blair and Mark Roberts by four seconds. Chuck and Mark then set fastest time in SS2 by five seconds giving them a one second lead as they arrived at service for the first time. Once again the Ecosse Challenge was providing close competition. Adrian Stewart and Tom Hynd lost a lot of time (and a body panel) in a ditch in SS2 while Blair Brown dropped a few seconds when, thinking he knew the junction, set the car up to turn left when it was a straight on. That's why we have co-drivers.

Electrical gremlins hit both the Peacocks with Donald's 205 refusing to start in SS1 and Scott stopping in SS2 with a faulty connection to the master switch. Both managed to cure their problem and were still running although Scott conceded that he had lost too much time to the leaders. Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray's hopes of a good result were dented by the first puncture of the day while Thaarique Fazal and Chris Jones were still getting to know their new car. That probably explains why Thaarique didn't switch on the fan before the start of SS1 causing the engine to overheat and lose water. They survived but the car's handling was badly affected by unbalanced tyre pressures.

The crews then did one more stage before returning to the remarkably midge-free service area. Chuck Blair and Mark Roberts were leading by 11 seconds despite suffering their first puncture in two years while Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray were running out of decent tyres after further damage. Adrian Stewart and Tom Hynd had visited another ditch as Adrian admitted he had been "trying too hard". He was full of praise for the bunch of spectators who got covered in mud pushing them out of the ditch. The beers for them are on Adrian! This meant that Blair Brown and Richard Simmonds were faced with the decision on whether to chase for the win or settle for second which would move them up to second place in the championship. Andy Chalmers was getting quicker with every stage which caused co-driver Martin Maccabe to ponder if sleep deprivation was a tool for performance enhancement. Scott Peacock and Craig Service were just enjoying their run despite difficulties with the intercom while Donald was trying not to do anything silly, like putting it in a ditch, with a "superstar" sitting next to him. Thaarique Fazal and Chris Jones were starting to find their feet after the initial problems and beginning to pick up the pace.

After a bowl of Paul Brown's delicious soup (Minestrone this time), it was two more stages and back to Wigtown for the finish. Chuck Blair was feeling a lot better as he and Mark Roberts sprayed the victory champagne. They certainly had plenty to celebrate as they had clinched the 2014 title as well as taking Class 3 honours. They were followed home by Blair Brown and Richard Simmonds who played the long game and now sit in second place in the Challenge with one more round to go. They also took second in Class 3 which means that for the second rally in a row, these crews have secured the top two places in the class. Andy Chalmers and Martin Maccabe took third and Andy was delighted to have finished third equal on time with Bert Haining. Donald Peacock was relieved to have avoided embarrassment by keeping it on the road to take fourth while Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray were about down to the canvas as they arrived back in fifth. Adrian Stewart and Tom Hynd avoided any further ditches in sixth which drops them to third in the Championship. Scott Peacock and Craig Service were next home ahead of Thaarique Fazal who did get a finish but was the last of the 205s.

While some of the titles have been decided there is still plenty to play for on the last round at the Colin McRae Forest Stages so it is very sporting of Chuck Blair and Mark Roberts to declare that they will not register for Challenge points on that event. This means that maximum points will be up for grabs among those fighting for final positions.

The various appearances of the number two in this report convinced me that the Chinese might be right so I put on a lottery ticket using numbers with a two in them and guess what? That's right, two of them came up.

Bye bye,

Richard

 

NIP AND TUCK ON THE SPEYSIDE

Growing old or maturing? Accept the wrinkles and saggy bits or seek a remedy? I don't feel any more mature than I did forty (fifty?) years ago and as I wouldn't want to have bits lifted and stretched until my beard ended behind my ears nor have injections of botulism. I'll just have to grow old gracefully. The market for cosmetic use of botulism (as botox) is around $2.5 BILLION so how long before someone looks at uses for ebola? The world is not what it was in my day.

It's OK, I'm, not heading for the retirement home any time soon. It is just that the Speyside showed that there is life in the old dog yet. That's the Peugeot 205 I mean as the top three places in class 3 were filled by our crews. Not bad for a car that is now eligible for historic events!

This was still to come as we gathered at the temporary rally HQ in Elgin as the Town Hall is showing its age and is undergoing a face lift. I am not a fan of that period in British architecture and could suggest a different course of action. Mind you, after I was on Channel 4 asking for the Scottish Parliament building to be blown up it won the Stirling Prize for Architecture so what do I know?

Honda Civics were a bit thin on the ground this time out. Duncan Campbell and Gavin Chisholm had had to fit a new engine and the only one they could get in time didn't comply with our regs. Ross MacDonald and Matt Johnstone were hoping to have their transmission problems sorted but when they managed to contact the guy doing the work, he promise to have it done by the Monday. Not a lot of use. Matt was out spectating while Ross was at home lubricating a drive-shaft so that he could shove it where a drive-shaft was not designed to be shoved. All this meant that Grant and Robert would be concentrating on honours in class 4.

In the 205s, things were shaping up for a cracking event. Chuck Blair and Mark Roberts would be looking for revenge after finishing second on their home rally while Scott Peacock who is following his dad, Donald by dispensing with razor blades is getting settled with new co-driver Craig Service who has registered for the rest of the season. Blair Brown and Richard Simmonds have made some changes to the camber and castor while Andy Chalmers has fitted a new air-flow meter. Andy had a problem when co-driver Martin Maccabe was forced to call off so a big thank you to Susan Stranks who put the word out and to Ross Jarrett who stepped in to the breach. Thaarique Fazal was hoping for a less dramatic run after losing all his brakes on the Scottish.

Signing-on was made even more pleasant by rallying's answer to the Great British Bake Off. It was a close run thing between the banana and pecan loaf and the gingerbread, both courtesy of Bill Sturrock. Eat your heart out Mary Berry.

The weather forecast was for heavy rain to arrive at some point but it was dry as the cars left the ceremonial start in Cooper Park. How long before we get to use it as a stage again? The commentators on the PA were DIGB and yours truly. A double act to match Coulthard and Jordan? More like Laurel and Hardy but nobody complained.

At first service Grant Inglis and Robert Gray had struggled with a loose subframe that was causing the car to bounce in the stages. Duncan Campbell and Gavin Chisholm suffered a broken trackrod end which put them off. With help from other competitors they got back on, got it repaired and managed to stay within the time limit.

Chuck Blair and Mark Roberts said they had "visited every ditch" in SS1 but were delighted to be ahead of Bert Haining who they were using as a benchmark. Scott Peacock and Craig Service lost the back brakes in SS1 when a stone cut a brake pipe. Adrian Stewart and Tom Hynd were second 205 despite their car doing an impression of a shopping trolley in terms of its handling. Keeping it on the road was obviously thirsty work as Adrian fitted a drinks supply behind his seat. Blair Brown and Richard Simmonds admitted that they were "just not quick enough" while Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray had "a wee moment" in SS3.Andy Chalmers was settling well with stand-in co-driver Ross Jarrett and was having fun without pushing too hard. He reckoned there was still time to pick up the pace. Steven Bellshaw suffered electrical problems twice in SS2 but managed to fix it with a bit of tape. Sadly Thaarique Fazal's hopes of a drama free rally were dashed by a roll in SS2. By the look of the pictures, it will need more than cosmetic work to get the 205 back out.

Jordan Black and Ewing Leeming, fresh from course car duties on the Scottish, were continuing their campaign to get the Citroen C2 sorted but this was hampered by the new suspension parts not arriving in time for them to be fitted. The gearbox was also giving them problems.

Lunchtime and one of the attractions of this rally is the service area at Huntly Mart or to be precise, the cafe there. The steak pies are awesome and there are home made cakes to finish off. Is there no end to this baking? Competitors are supposed to be well-honed athletes whose bodies are temples but I saw plenty heading for the bacon rolls and chips and none for the salad bar. Yes, there was a salad bar! The only temples are like Roman ones - ruined.

Grant and Robert had further problems as they returned for second service. The sumpguard had been forced up and was hitting the engine. A rubber mat from the cab of the service van was pushed in to provide cushioning.

Chuck and Mark confessed to "BIG" moments in SS4 and SS5 but were on a high as they shared equal time with Bert Haining. Chuck claimed he was going to concentrate on points for the Ecosse Challenge but I wasn't convinced that he could resist the temptation to try to beat him and I don't think Mark was either. Adrian and Tom were still finding the handling of their 205 a problem but were still pushing to hold second place. Blair and Richard had returned to a smoother style which was producing results while Scott and Craig were being slowed by problems with the notes. Andy and Ross had damaged a rim which cost them few seconds while Steven picked up a puncture although it didn't slow him too much. Simon and Calum knew they were going to have to "put the foot down" if they wanted to move up the leader board.

As we arrived back in Elgin for the finish the predicted rain arrived but didn't dampen the spirits of the crews. Grant Inglis and Robert Gray survived their mechanical issues to take the Honda Civic class while Chuck Blair and Mark Roberts were more than satisfied with their work to take the 205 victory. Adrian Stewart and Tom Hynd hadn't had the easiest day but were rewarded with second place ahead of Blair Brown and Richard Simmonds. Andy Chalmers took a fine fourth place while Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray rounded out the finishers. Scott Peacock and Craig Service ended their rally well off the road in SS6 and Steven Bellshaw was forced out in SS7 due to mechanical problems.

At the prize-giving that evening it was great to see our top three finishers also pick up trophies for taking the first three places in class 3, showing that perhaps the 205 is not so much ageing as maturing.

More good news is that I discovered the perfect answer to the problems of getting older - a bottle of Speyside's finest. After a couple of large drams the wrinkles disappear and my looks seem to resemble those of a film star. What do you mean, Lassie? No respect for the elderly.

Slainte,

Richard

 

SCOTTISH DUST by Stephen

After a 2 month layoff crews returned to action in Dumfries for the RSAC Scottish Rally. Crews were faced with  7 dusty stages in Dumfries and Galloway.

The usual Civic crews started off their battle which was cut short after SS2 when Duncan Campbell/Gavin Chisholm hit a rock after an overshoot and this resulted in a burst radiator. This was replaced in Management service but the water loss remained in the next stage resulting in a damaged engine meant which the yellow Civic came back to Dumfries service on the end of a rope. Grant Inglis continued without any major issues to record their second Civic class win of the season.

9 205s left Dumfries and the pace was initially set by Scott Peacock. First casualty of the day came on SS2 when Blair Brown/Richard Simmonds rolled their car, partially blocking the stage for some of the other challenge competitors. Both crew were fine and the car is not as bad as initially thought being mainly panel damage. Adrian Stewart/Tom Hynd were also in the wars in SS2 with extensive damage to drivers side sill and door.

 

Donald Peacock was holding his own all day in a personal battle with son Scott and his former navigator Keith Riddick who was making his driving debut in Scotland in his MG ZR. A good finish was denied when Donald has to retire with driveshaft failure on SS7

 

At the finish there was a query over a number of stage times and once finally resolved Scott Peacock run out as top 205 with Chuck Blair/Mark Roberts 2nd. However with Scott not having a registered Mark was 1st Registered Navigator with Tom Hynd 2nd

 

WHERE THE FOG ARE WE? THE GRANITE CITY RALLY

Not so much an east coast haar, more a pea-souper. About as thick as the pea soup my mum used to make. You could cut off a slab and put it between two slices of bread. The weather certainly made for tricky conditions in the stages around Kincardineshire. It also prompted Peter Weall to raise this point: the notes say that the stage is straight with 400 to the next call but visibility is only 100. Do you trust it and put the foot to the floor or do you err on the side of caution? You could gain a few seconds or you might find the car ahead of you stopped on the road. Or the local equivalent of the yeti taking advantage of the conditions to go for a stroll. I suppose it depends on whether it is the brain or the dangly bits that have the final say. Yeti (yetty?)sounds like it might mean something in Doric. Hope it's not rude.

Now, I need to retrace my steps to Friday evening so stick close together or you could get lost. It wouldn't be a rally without a few last minute dramas the night before. First of these went to Jordan Black when his service vehicle broke down on the road up. A big thanks to Ian Rae for going to the rescue. David McLoughlin had to call in the services of Peter Weall when dad Michael was delayed getting back on shore. Plus the starter motor on his 205 needed a bit of attention from a hammer. Steven Belshaw's car wasn't running right - "just the usual Peugeot". Blair Brown's service crew worked late into the evening getting his new car finished and set up while Adrian Stewart's guys had to change a bearing at the back. Scott Peacock was reunited with Keith Riddick as Sue Hynd was forced to call off due to illness. Get well soon, Sue.

We all groped our way to the start as the weather showed no sign of lifting. Richard Simmonds hadn't had the best nights sleep due to a combination of rain hammering on the roof of his caravan and the snoring of one of the other occupants. David McLoughlin was in a similar state as his two year old son was unwell and up during the night. The wee lad looked a lot better at the finish as he waited to welcome his dad home,

The healthy eating message seems to be getting across as Richard Simmonds had two bananas for breakfast while Blair Brown had a bowl of porridge. Perhaps too big a bowl as his service crew had to unbend the gear lever which resembled a banana after two stages.

It was good to see Ross MacDonald and Matt Johnstone back out in their Honda Civic despite Ross having just bought a new house. We'll all be up for the house-warming. Both he and Grant Inglis were looking for a good result as they had both fitted new drive shafts to their Civics.

Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray were looking to score some points on their home event as was Steven Belshaw who had Keith Boa on the notes. Thaarique Fazal was delighted to have made it and was determined not to finish last which shows that everyone has their own target to aim for. Co-driver Paul Wood was going to have his work cut out keeping him under control. Thaarique wasn't feeling 100 per cent as he had spent a couple of hours earlier in the week standing by the roadside when his road car packed in. He does a huge mileage in his job as a doctor and is looking for a reliable car that can cope without denting his rallying budget. Any ideas, please contact him.

It was service after two stages and the weather was beginning to clear. SS1 had been extremely tricky thanks to the fog and a slippery road surface. However that wasn't what put Ross MacDonald and Matt Johnstone out. One of the brand new drive shafts broke as they drove out of a ditch. Duncan Campbell and Gavin Chisholm were struggling with a handling problem that left the Civic feeling vague and reduced their confidence. This all left Grant Inglis and Robert Gray leading the Civic class althoght they were just happy to be running at all after their previous problems.

In the 205s, Chuck Blair and Mark Roberts were having another close battle with Blair Brown and Richard Simmonds with one fastest stage time each giving Chuck and Mark the lead by four seconds. There had been a few scary moments with Chuck only just spotting a rock as they hurtled along flat out in 5th. Then they got a bit close to a log pile. Then they caught a Subaru. Blair and Richard were suffering a bit from a strong smell of petrol in the car but it didn't slow them. Their performance was all the more remarkable given that Blair has never driven a car in fog. not even on the public road. Adrian Stewart and Tom Hynd had a bit of a panic in service when the reults showed them as having retired. It turned out to be a hiccup with the results system and was soon sorted. Special thanks go to the marshal who spotted the problem and took steps to ensure it was sorted and they could continue. Andy Chalmers and Martin Maccabe were really enjoying themselves with Andy describing SS2 as "fantastic". They had an interesting moment when they crossed a bridge sideways. The length of a 205 must be close to the width of those bridges so there wouldn't be much room for error. Let's hope there is footage on youtube.

Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray were having a steady run but didn't want us to tell them how well they were doing in case it jinxed them! David McLoughlin and Peter Weall lost a lot of time in SS1 due to a faulty electrical connection while Steven Belshaw and Keith Boa lost even more when they slid off into deep mud in a spot where there were no spectators. They only got going with the help of another crew who had gone off and were lucky not to go OTL. Scott Peacock and Keith Riddick were having fun as they resumed their competition in the game of "Horse". At that point the score was 2-all. Thaarique Fazal's hopes of not finishing last were dashed against a log pile which destroyed the radiator. Jordan Black and Ewan Leeming failed to get to service as the suspension on their new Citroen C2 failed in SS2.

Back to Aberdeen for the finish and the fog close in like something from a horror film. Grant Inglis and Robert Gray were relieved to have finished the rally as well as delighted at having taken victory in the Honda Civic class. Duncan Campbell and Gavin Chisholm were also grateful to be home with more points on the board to maintain their lead in the championship, given the handling problems they endured all day. At least they have plenty of time to get it sorted for the Scottish. In the meantime, Grant is going to navigate for Gavin in his (Gavin's) newly restored SAAB 99 on this weekend's Pirelli Rally. Yes, the navigator is driving and the driver is navigating. I'd love to see some in-car footage of that.

In the 205s, Chuck Blair and Mark Roberts held on to their lead to take their second win of the season despite a close encounter with some rocks at the flying finish of SS4 while Blair Brown and Richard Simmonds battled with a car jumping out of gear to seal a fine second place. This also gave the two crews second and third in Class 3 in the rally so it meant a good haul of trophies to take home. Scott Peacock and Keith Riddick didn't let their game of Horse distract them too much as they took third spot (the final score was 3-all). Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray arrived home in fourth while David McLoughlin and Peter Weall secured fifth. Andy Chalmers and Martin Maccabe were more than happy to finish in the points with sixth but Andy is convinced that the engine is needing replaced with a newer, more powerful unit. Steven Belshaw and Keith Boa got back in time to pick up their first points of the season in seventh. Adrian Stewart and Tom Hynd rolled out in SS4 but both are OK and the car doesn't look to badly damaged according to their service crew.

With former 205 driver Euan Thorburn taking the rally win and previous champion John MacCrone finishing first 2wd, it was a petty good day for the Ecosse Challenge, past and present.

To the many of you who will be competing on the Jim Clark Rievers, I wish you a successful event and look forward to seeing you all in Dumfries for the RSAC Scottish Rally. Andrew Pemberton and I are involved in the organising of the rally but we will be there to see you.

Guess what song has just come on the radio? "I can see clearly now" - probably not the soundtrack to coverage of the rally. If you go on to youtube and look for scottishrallytv, you will see footage along with interviews. Asking the questions is former 205 co-driver Kirsty Marshall so she knows what she is talking about.

Which is not something I can always be accused of!

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT - THE BORDER COUNTIES RALLY

I have for a long time been of the opinion that nutrition is one of the keys to successful rallying. It has become a priority for me ( some might say an obsession) to seek out sources of high quality food rather than relying on the standard rallyburger. The Border Counties provided some tasty examples of this.

Driving down to Jedburgh in Spring sunshine, I hoped that this was a sign that the weather was going to be kinder to us than last year but I was to be disappointed. Arriving at Rally HQ, I was greeted by our scrutineer, Willie Greig and Diane, along with their new puppy, Misty. Now, like all puppies, Misty looks and acts cute but don't be fooled - I hear that Willie is training her to sniff out a technical infringement at fifty paces. Diane suddenly became my best friend in the whole world ever when she produced two boxes of krispykreme donuts and offered me one. This is definitely high quality food.

It wouldn't be a rally if there were no dramas in the run-up. Grant Inglis and Duncan Campbell had paid a visit to the rolling road and both were a bit puzzled by the results. In Grant's case, so much that he almost forgot to get the car MOT'd. Challenge newcomer Andy Chalmers had a bit of a panic when his 205 failed scrutineering due to the engine cut-off not working but he soon had it sorted. Blair Brown was using his old car as the paint job on the new one was not up to standard. The engine certainly is though as it has been subjected to one of Willie's legendary microscopic inspections ensuring there won't be any horrible surprises in future. Less fortunate was Thaarique Fazal whose 205 developed a fuel problem which defied the efforts of his service crew to solve. This left his co-driver, Paul Wood free to take on a job on the rally alongside his partner, Stacey who was in Rally HQ.

Aa we whiled away the hours at signing-on, Bill Sturrock tempted me with one of his home-made meringues. This reminds me of Andy Cameron's joke about the man who goes into a baker's and asks "Is that a donut or a meringue?" Answer "No, you're right enough." Later we were joined by Challenge Co-ordinator Andrew Pemberton who took the opportunity to chat to people and deliver our latest promotional material. More on that later.

As Stephen and I headed to our B&B, the rain which had started earlier was turning to sleet. It looked like it was going to be a tricky day in the woods. Saturday morning was dry and bright in Jedburgh, giving no indication of what lay in store. As the cars lined up for the start, Stephen and I were busy handing out this season's must-have accessory - the Ecosse Challenge cap. Sue Hynd made sure that she and Scott Peacock were wearing theirs when they were interviewed on camera by the new film crew. When the BBC pulled the plug on their coverage of the SRC, The Beck family stepped in to ensure that your efforts were recorded for posterity. Robert tells me that the SRC has a youtube site and the plan is to get the footage up there. There is also a hope that highlights will appear on Motors TV at some point.

Stocked up with fresh from the oven pies from the excellent butcher in Jedburgh, Stephen and I headed down to the Service Area in Kielder as the weather took a turn for the worse, turning the forest into a Christmas card scene and ensuring that it was going to be a very demanding test for all.

As the crews arrived after two stages, the descriptions ranged from "slippy". through "very slippy" to "f*#@ing slippy"! In the Honda Civics, Duncan Campbell and Gavin Chisholm survived a big moment in SS1 but Grant Inglis and Robert Gray didn't get the chance to tackle the conditions as their transmission let go as they left the start line of SS1.

In the 205s, Chuck Blair and Mark Roberts were setting the pace with fastest times on both SS1 and SS2. Tom Hynd says that his job this year is to use his experience to tell Adrian when to push. It certainly seems to be working as they took second spot on both stages. Due to a marshal's error, they were given a time that was two minutes quicker than their actual. This meant that the results showed them as leading the entire 2wd field. The service crew have taken a print-out to have it framed! Adrian wasn't going to take chances and was putting fresh rubber on front and rear. Scott Peacock was more subdued than usual but c0-driver Sue Hynd said that he had gone really well in SS2. A brief cut-out in the engine after the stage was perhaps a sign of what was to come later. Dad Donald was back out doing the Southern Cup and had a spin in SS1 and a bit of a moment at a chicane. New co-driver Rory Bruton was on a steep learning curve and looked a bit shell-shocked. Don't worry Rory, it will be OK by the Scottish in June. Andy Chalmers, with Challenge regular Martin Maccabe on the notes was still encountering mechanical problems. The gear linkage snapped, leaving them to do the whole of SS2 in second gear while there was no return spring on the brake pedal forcing Andy to lift it with his toe. All of this combined with the conditions meant the had done a fantastic job to be still  running.

The crews headed back out and Diane produced they donuts once more. So overwhelmed by these delights was I that I stepped back straight into a deep, icy puddle. Saved the donut though. Stephen and I headed off in search of results and then it was time for a pie before the start of second service. As I said, regular nutrition is vital.

The crews had done two more stages and things weren't getting any easier. Duncan Campbell and Gavin Chisholm who only needed to stay on the road to pick up maximum points, had a big moment in the Civic in SS4 when the car went one way, then the other. As Duncan said, "The last thing you needed in front of you was a bridge." Which was exactly what was in front of them. I recall Petter Solberg having a similar moment on the Monte Carlo Rally a few years ago but his rally ended there.

Fatest 205 in SS£ were Blair Brown and Richard Simmonds but a problem with the airflow meter slowed them in SS4.Second fastest in SS3 were Chuck Blair and Mark Roberts while Adrian Stewart and Tom Hynd were keeping the presure on in third. On SS4. it was Chuck and Mark back on top with Adrian and Tom in second. According to Mark they went into a ditch in SS4 but managed to drive out of it although the water was up to his window. When Tom Hynd commented that it didn't seem to have slowed them, Chuck replied that it had cost them 30 seconds!

Scott Peacock wasn't looking happy when he and Sue Hynd arrived with their 205 suffering a few problems. One of the attractions of the Ecosse Challenge is that everyone will chip in to help a fellow competitor stay in the rally and they were soon getting help from Adrian's service crew. The problems were solved and the 205 headed back out but sadly they went OTL and out of the results. Another crew not to feature in the final results were another pair of newcomers to the Challenge, Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray who went off in SS3. Father and son duo of David and Michael McLoughlin, in only their third rally, were learning a lot and had a moment in SS4. They didn't elaborate as Mum was looking horrified at the thought of her nearest and dearest visiting the scenery. Donald Peacock and Rory Bruton were happy to still be in the running after almost putting the car on its side in SS4.

There was just time for a welcome bowl of soup courtesy of Paul Brown before we headed back to Jedburgh to meet the crews at the finish.

In the Honda Civic class, Duncan Campbell and Gavin Chisholm held on to clinch the win and get their 2014 campaign of to a great start. In trhe 205s, fastest time in SS5 was shared by Chuck Blair/Mark Roberts and Blair Brown/Richard Simmonds meaning that Chuck and Mark were the winners. They also picked up second in class 3 in the SRC. Adrian Stewart and Tom Hynd remained consistent to take second with Blair Brown and Richard Simmonds in third. In fourth place were David and Michael McLoughlin who were happy to have survived a tough day. Donald Peacock and Rory Bruton were making great progress and were third fastest in SS5 but as they are not doing the whole championship, they don't affect the result. Sadly SS5 saw the end of the rally for Andy Chalmers and Martin Maccabe when an off prevented them from taking what would have been some well-deserved points.

As we waited for the prize-giving to begin, I experienced a wardrobe malfunction. Before you get too excited, this was not in the same league as Janet Jackson at the Superbowl and no nipples were exposed. My lovely new red EC sweatshirt had deposited fluff all over my equally new blue shirt. Stephen dashed off to the local four candles shop to purchase a lint roller to give me a good rub-down to remove the offending red stuff and allow me to take the stage looking as smart and professional as I ever do.

From what I saw of the competition on this rally, we are in for a cracker of a season and I can't wait for the next round. From then we will be using a pair of feather flags to highlight our presence in the Service Area and make it easier for you to find us.

See you in Aberdeen and if anyone can recommend a good source of pies there, please let me know.

Richard

 

GENTLEMEN - START YOUR ENGINES!

Yes, the new season starts here. OK, I know that some of you will have done the Snowman, the WRC has held 3 rounds and the Australian Grand Prix has just finished but the Ecosse Challenge 2014 kicks off in Jedburgh this weekend. It seems like years since the end of last season and the prize-giving is a distant memory so it will be great to be getting back out into the woods where, hopefully, the only bears will be the good folks from Coltness CC and none of the polar variety that were surely lurking in Kielder last year.

Whether you are an "old hand" returning for another crack at the title or joining us for the first time, we welcome you all and wish you the best of luck. I hope you enjoy a close battle where victory is decided by the narrowest of margins, just to kep you on your toes but most of all, I hope you have great fun. You might not think it's fun when you are standing by the roadside in the pouring rain with the car stuck in a ditch but you will laugh about it later, honest! Just remember those poor(?) souls who spent millions building a Formula 1 car for it only to complete less miles than there are in SS1. That should cheer you up.

At signing-on I will be modelling our latest designer clothing range. Anyone impressed enough will be able to purchase these items and orders can be taken.

See you on Friday,

Richard

 

BORDER COUNTIES PREVIEW

 

The 2014 Ecosse Challenge starts here! The Border Counties is the first of six rallies on which the Honda Civic 1600s and Peugeot 205 1.6 GTIs will battle it out for class honours. Strict regulations, tightly enforced ensure a level playing field where the deciding factor is the skill of the competitors. This leads to close competition with victory usually taken by only one or two seconds. On one rally last year, the top three cars were covered by seven tenths of a second! This means that crews have to push from the start while being only too aware that a visit, however brief, to one of Kielder's infamous ditches could ruin the chance of victory.

While this will be the first event for some of the crews, those who are also competing in the whole SRC have already started their season, with mixed fortunes, on the recent Snowman Rally. In the Hondas, Duncan Campbell and Gavin Chisholm got off to a great start with 25th overall while Keir Beaton and Stuart Loudon were not far behind in 29th. Ross MacDonald and Matt Johnstone were delayed by a broken drive shaft but managed to get a finish at 63rd. Not so fortunate were Grant Inglis and Robert Gray whose gearbox let go and Adrian

In the 205s, the new pairing of Scott Peacock and Sue Hynd were quickest, taking 43rd overall, not far ahead of Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray in 49th. RSAC Scholarship winner Blair Brown with Borders co-driver Richard Simmonds fought back from punctures and drive shaft problems to finish 70th whilst Adrian Stewart and Tom Hynd car suffered clutch failure.

One other car to watch out for is the newly built Citroen C2 of Jordan Black and Alan Todd. 205 Challenge regulars for several years, they are looking to the future and a possible replacement for the 205 as it nears the end of a long and successful life in rallying.

Last year's Arctic weather was not kind to competiors so let's hope Spring is here for this year. So if your reading this while stuck in a snowdrift, try to spare a thought for them.

 

THE NIGHTS ARE FAIR DRAWIN' IN - A SEASONAL TALE

 

Double, double toil and trouble. Fire Burn and cauldron bubble. Eye of newt and toe of frog; wool of bat and tongue of dog; adder's fork and blind-worm's sting; lizard's leg and owlet's wing. Right, that's dinner sorted so pull a chair up to the fire for a tale of the battle for a crown that doesn't involve blood-stained daggers.

 

It was bleak mid-winter, the North wind did blow and snow piled up silently in the forests around Jedburgh as the 2013 Ecosse Challenge began on the Border Counties Rally. Mounting their trusty steeds, OK Civics and 205s, our valiant band of warriors endured trial by ice and polished snow in their efforts to land the first blows of the campaign. In the Civic class, Grant Inglis and Robert Gray took the spoils while Callum Atkinson and virgin co-driver Craig Forsyth took 205 honours. Luck, both good and bad, played its part in the story. The unluckiest crew were Graeme Smith and Laura Marshal who fought desperately with the conditions only to find themselves OTL at the finish. Perhaps the luckiest were Jordan Black and Alan Todd. It was only when they got the car back home that they discovered the exhaust had been pushed up against the petrol tank causing a fuel leak. While there was relief amongst all those who finished, the most relieved was Blair Brown on his first run through the forests after graduating from the Junior 1000 Challenge.

 

Spring was definitely in the air as we headed North for the Granite City Rally. A sign that the competition in the 205 class was going to be close came at service when 2nd to 4th were covered by 2 seconds. When you are leading by a comfortable margin, it is always a dilemma - do you push or do you back off? It wasn't to be resolved here. Duncan Campbell and Gavin Chisholm chose the former and went off, handing victory in the Civic class to Grant Inglis and Robert Gray while Graeme Sherry went with the latter and suffered problems which dropped them down the leader board. Stll plenty to discuss there then. Scott Peacock and Keith Riddick took a moment to master the art of champagne spraying as they took their first win in the 205s - just a pity there weren't more people at Duthie Park to witness it. Jordan Black and Alan Todd showed true Challenge spirit by pushing their 205 through the finish after the engine siezed when it ran out of water.

 

Summertime and the living was easy as we joined up with the boys from the BRC in Dumfries for the Scottish Rally. The dense fog which hung over parts of the stages turned out to be larger than usual clouds of those local horrors, the midges. A great incentive to keep the car on the road. A new engine in their Civic brought a deserved change of fortune for Graeme Smith and Laura Marshall as they took not just their first win of the season but their first points. And I don't mean the kind on your driving licence. Callum Atkinson had teamed up with the more experienced Sue Hynd for this round and it paid off as they took first place in the 205s. The competition was getting even closer as the top 3 in the class were covered by seven tenths of a second - exactly the same gap as between first and second in the British Grand Prix. Many teams in Formula 1 would happily sell their grannies to be that close to their rivals, so when Ferrari announced that their second driver for 2014 would be a rally driver I puzzled over which of our heroes it must surely be. Dreams of watching Callum, Chuck or Graeme powering their way round Spa or Monaco (while enjoying the free tickets and VIP hospitality that would surely come) were dashed when they  said it was a bloke called Kimi. Call him a rally driver? What did he ever do in the Ecosse Challenge?

 

From the South West it was back to the far North for a Speyside Rally that was much changed from previous years. Nine stages and no Cooper Park were radical enough but having DIGB as the start commentator was a whole new dimension altogether. Many crews were still stunned by their interview when they arrived at the start of SS1. Victory over the fast improving crew of Ross MacDonald and Matt Johnstone meant that Grant Inglis and Robert Grey got their hands on the Civic crown  An engine blow-up ended not only the rally but also the season for Duncan Campbell and Gavin Chisholm. In the 205s, Callum Atkinson and Sue Hynd held off Chuck Blair and Mark Roberts to take the win but there was still all to play for in this class. Probably because he saw how much fun his wife was having in the 205, former championship winner Tom Hynd returned to sit with Adrian Stewart as he continued to build his pace in the 205. Another familiar face was that of Scott Erskine who was sitting with Jordan Black. It is always good to see old friends returning to the Challenge.

 

It was back to the South West as we made our way to Wigton through rain storms so fierce they seemed to herald the arrival of the apocalypse. Thankfully the 4 horsemen failed to turn up and the weather cleared in time for the start. The only thing that didn't clear was a problem in the new car of Scott Peacock and Keith Riddick. The lads had worked night and day to build it after destroying the old one on the Solway Coast a couple of weeks earlier. On the Saturday morning, seeing that it wasn't going to run, Scott's dad, Donald sacrificed his entry to let them use his car. I wonder how he felt when they got home and found that the problem was that there was no petrol in it? When Scott and Keith encountered problems which ended their chances of the title, they offered their new tyres to Callum to give him the best chance. Gestures like these are what makes the Ecosse Challenge such a great way to go rallying. As they left the start, there was a new target in sight as TV personality, Tony Jardine with olympic gold medalist Amy Williams on the notes was using the rally as part of his preparation for Rally GB. There is a lot of work still to be done as 4 205s beat them. At second service, Chuck Blair and Mark Roberts were leading by 2 seconds but their lead was in jeopardy thanks to a major problem with the rear suspension. Attacking it with determination and large hammers, they hoped it would hold through the final stage. It did but back in Wigton they endured a nail-biting wait until the stage times confirmed that they had secured their first victory in the Ecosse Challenge. A second place finish for Callum Atkinson guaranteed that he would take the crown in the 205 Challenge. Blair Brown had his first experience of ending a rally in a ditch while Thaarique Fazal had his first experience of collecting silverware when he won the Trophy Rally. Graeme Smith has abandoned his Civic which he probably thinks has had a spell put on it given the amount of bad luck he has suffered. He was out in dad's Subaru and having great fun until the engine let go.

 

And so, we reach the final round in our quest and arrive in Aberfeldy for the Colin McRae Stages to find the place under siege. This was not a marauding army but massive media attention thanks to the appearance of 2 olympians as Amy Williams, back for more with Tony Jardine, was joined by Sir Chris Hoy co-driving for Jimmy Mcrae. It certainly created a great atmosphere and the huge crowds of spectators were treated to some great rallying as Ross MacDonald and Matt Johnstone took their first win in the Civic class. This was excellent preparation for their entry in Rally GB. Callum Atkinson's drive in SS6 was described by Sue Hynd as "awesome" as he claimed the SRC Junior title. Thaarique Fazal was keen to demonstrate the new skills he had learned from Louise Aitken-Walker as he hopes to progress next season. If Jordan Black had thought about switching to rear-wheel drive cars, this may have been put on hold with his 205 acting "like an Escort" and giving him a couple of frights.

 

Now our tale is ended. The crowns are firmly on the heads of the victors and nobody has been murdered. Though there are one or two folk that I haven't seen for a while. The points tables are all published on the website and those collecting trophies at the prize-giving will be contacted soon.

 

The Galloway Hills Rally wasn't a round of the Challenge so DIGB and I went down to marshal as quite a few of our competitors were taking part. They had mixed fortunes but a special mention must go to Chuck Blair and Mark Roberts. When they arrived at the finish, Mark was holding the end of a rope which ran through the car and out the back where the other end was tied to the exhaust, holding it and most of the rear suspension in place. Nothing seems to stop these guys!

 

If you want to see something to chill the blood, check out the Rally Chicks Calendar and the photo of Laura Marshall. The look in her eyes as she wields a huge spanner suggests the caption: "Wha daur meddle wi' me". Not me, that's for sure.

 

It's time for bed and "the sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care". Don't have nightmares. Do you think the trees in the garden seem to be getting nearer to the house?

 

Richard