16 Ecosse J1000 crews made the long trip west to the Machrihanish Air base for Rounds 4 and 5 of the 2023 season. The 2 days were sunny and dry, allowing the crews to push their cars hard.
Taking maximum scores on both rounds and the overall win it was an almost perfect weekend for Rian Walker and Stuart McBride. Finally taking a win on home soil, the Citigo crew were unheaded all day Saturday. Sunday morning saw them drop 2 seconds on the opening 2 stages before an incredible run over stage 11 took 16 seconds out of the opposition. That left them with a good margin over the final stage, wrapping up an excellent weekend.
2nd on both days, Oliver Phillips and Barry Young were experiencing the Toyo Tires for the 1st time. The opening stages were spent learning how the new tyre worked but they were on the leading pace by the end of day 1. Sunday started with 2 fastest times before they were knocked reeling by that time from Walker on 11 and had a small argument with a bale. They were back on the pace for the final stage and maintained their record of finishing on the podium on every round this season.
Thomas Milne and Neil Jeffrey’s Micra was sporting new brakes and had been worked on after it’s late engine issues at Crail. Once the brakes were properly bedded in, they were absolutely flying. 3rd overall was about the maximum that could be expected from the Micra on these fast stages. Neil, as always, was very happy with his driver’s performance. With the tight confines of Kames next time out, the Nissan should be one to watch once again.
It was tight from 4th to 6th after the 2 days.
Ruan Lowry and Ian McRae had started steadily on the Saturday, Ruan feeling he was too relaxed in the morning. They began to push harder in the afternoon and had a small argument with a bale on a long left hander and almost completely messed up a chicane. Sunday saw them survive a big 2-wheel moment, close to going over if you believe Ian, although Ruan reckoned he had it under control.
Lauchlan Hunter and Richard Simmonds ended up just 9 seconds away from the Citigo at the end of the event. Saturday started well but brake issues quickly developed in SS3 and 4. That meant a big lockup and visit to a field. Once the bias valve was changed the afternoon was better despite a loose wishbone in stage 5. The exhaust manifold gasket fell to pieces on the 2nd stage on Sunday but that was also quickly sorted and Lauchlan was rewarded with the prize for top novice for round 5.
Only 4 seconds away from the Yaris, Ollie Forrester and George Myatt were finally happy with the Citigo’s suspension setup after more tweaks since Crail. The brakes were also sorted, and they had found the correct tyre pressures. That meant Ollie could spend the day building his pace without the car fighting him and they ran well, taking top novice honours on the Saturday. Sunday was more tricky, the car developing a mysterious inconsistency in power delivery and they damaged a front wing in an argument with a barrel.
William Paterson was making his J1000 debut with SRC front runner Mark McCulloch in the hotseat of the very tidy blue Micra. Saturday was a good start, William learning the rallying game and getting quicker after they made a couple of tweaks to help the handling. Sunday was also very good, William getting quicker all the time on the way to 7th at the end of the 2 days.
16 seconds behind the Micra at the finish, Alfie Letham and Craig Wallace enjoyed a tricky rally. A visit to a field after the flying finish of stage 1 was followed by getting stuck in a ditch in stage 2. That left them running further back after being recovered and they caught cars for the rest of Saturday, although their times were very good. Sunday was a bit smoother, but they were still troubled by some of the understeering issues they had suffered at Crail. Craig was nervertheless happy with Alfie’s progress behind the wheel once again.
Thomas Babb and Paul Gribben started the rally with a nudge on a bale in SS1, thankfully with no damage. On SS4 they understeered on a hairpin and dunted a kerb but again they didn’t do any damage to the car. The afternoon they were really running well, enjoying a good battle with Paterson and McCulloch. The Sunday morning, they survived a massive 70 mph spin into a ditch on the 2nd stage. That did some bodywork damage, but the real damage was to Thomas’s confidence. Trying to build back up they also had to deal with running out of brakes on the final stage after a character-building Sunday.
Freddie Johnson had Simon Mills in the hotseat for the 1st time, the VW Up running and raising money for the Race Against Dementia charity. SS1 wasn’t a great start when Simon accidentally made them do an extra lap. After that the Saturday went pretty well as Freddie continued to learn the rallying game. The final stage of the day did involve a trip into the undergrowth, but Freddie felt it was his best day in the car so far. Sunday was also solid although they did win the unofficial competition for most mirrors sacrificed with an impressive 9 lost over the weekend.
Aaron Dickson and Alan Edwards spent the Saturday with Aaron rebuilding his confidence after their Kames rollover, getting quicker as the day wore on. Sunday started with a split exhaust manifold, the team very grateful to Joe McKeand for lending them his welding equipment to sort it. The engine was also clearly on the way out, using oil at an alarming rate. All they could do was fill it to the brim and hope it would survive the day, which thankfully it did.
11 seconds further back, JJ Jutley and Ted Runciman had started quickly, mixing times with the Citigo’s and Ups. There were a couple of moments early on and they chewed through a set of tyres very quickly on Saturday morning. On SS8 they managed to park the 107 on its side but thankfully the only damage was a punctured tyre. Sunday was less successful, they were not on their Saturday pace and were finding the car was struggling for top speed in comparison to the previous day.
Daniel Campbell-Hill was the 2nd driver making his debut at Machrihanish, the Up pilot joined by the experienced Chris Hamill. They were the 2nd crew to do an extra lap in stage 1 and they slipped off the road in SS4 but did no damage. During the rest of the event Daniel was getting visibly more confident with every stage, Chris saying he didn’t really have to give Daniel any advice on how to drive or help with his cornering lines.
Lucy Cree and Chloe Fleming had made a steady start by their standards on the Saturday. Lucy saying she was struggling to find grip on the opening stages. The pace and aggression was then ramped up in the afternoon but unfortunately the gearbox would go in the 7th test. Having already loaned out her spare a great effort from the team got the car sorted overnight and Sunday was very good, Lucy showing much more confidence than she had on the Saturday and pleasing co-driver Chloe once again.
Jack Ryan and Robin Nicolson were the crew who had received Lucy’s spare gearbox after their own unit blew up on SS1. The drama wasn’t over when a bolt went through the sump by accident while they were changing the gearbox. Thankfully Freddie Johnson’s team had a spare and the Up was back out by Saturday afternoon. On Sunday things went better with 3rd in the round 5 points, although there were still issues with Robin making a couple of uncharacteristic navigation errors. The Up was looking a bit 2nd hand by the finish after a very character-building weekend.
Enduring the most character-building event, it was unfortunately a short weekend for Amie Wallace and Keith Morris. The Aygo crew falling foul of the organisers after a mix up on one of the Saturday morning stages saw them travelling the wrong direction. That sadly saw them excluded for the rally. Taking it on the chin, it doesn’t appear to have dampened Amie’s enthusiasm and she will be back.
Competitors return to the narrow twisty confines of Kames for Round 6 on August 20th.
Image courtesy of Becksport Media