Bulletin 11 - 14th September 2016

Stephen Thompson / David Crosbie, Ford Escort Mk2
Stephen Thompson / David Crosbie, Ford Escort Mk2
Rob Snowden in his Ford Escort Mk2Kenny Moore / Richard Wardle, Hillman AvengerNeil Thompson, Vauxhall CorsaMark and Andrew Constantine in the Vauxhall CorsaDrew Barker and Shona Hale - Vauxhall Corsa

Rob Snowden in his Ford Escort Mk2Kenny Moore / Richard Wardle, Hillman AvengerNeil Thompson, Vauxhall CorsaMark and Andrew Constantine in the Vauxhall CorsaDrew Barker and Shona Hale - Vauxhall Corsa


Thompson takes top points.  Stephen Thompson came away from the Pendragon with the result that he and David Crosbie had been working towards all season with a good turn of speed that was matched this time by some better mechanical fortune. 


According to the metrological seasons, this second weekend in September suggests that we’re getting well into autumn now.  Somehow the scene at Warcop Ranges on this weekend’s Pendragon Stages didn’t come up with the necessary evidence to back up this theory.  Yes, there was some moisture on the rough grass just after sunrise, but the temperature for most of the day was in the mid teens Centigrade with only the occasional cloud covering a warm sun.  And with lots of green still shining on the many trees and bushes, you could easily be forgiven for thinking that this rally was being run weeks earlier this year.


The Dumfries crew of Stephen Thompson and David Crosbie has suffered with mechanical issues on the two rounds of the championship run in Scotland this year.  But on their venture into Englandshire, they finally got their rewards with an excellent 6th overall.  On the opening Pinsent Way stage they were 5th quickest and although the remaining 7 tests weren’t as kind to them, their consistency paid off.  An intermittent misfire, thought to be linked to a crank sensor, slowed progress a little over the afternoon’s 4 stages but the boys were still well happy to finish in 6th overall, take the class win and top championship contenders.


Callum Atkinson took a good set of points from finishing 9th overall in a Peugeot 205 driven by the non-registered Ross Hunter.  And just 6 seconds behind was Rob Snowden in his stunning orange Ford Escort Mk2.  Rob hasn’t competed since Croft in January when a man with lots of money who liked his engine tempted him.  They did a deal and the man got the engine leaving Rob with the money.  This little pile was invested in an upgrade to brand new 2.5 Duratec engine and 6-speed gearbox and they were working a treat.  First time used in competition and Rob was over the moon with the car’s reliability and a great result.  


The Hillman Avenger of Kenny Moore and Richard Wardle was next up in 12th overall.  Yet another one to report a good, clean run at a venue that Kenny very much enjoys.  Not a mark on the car by the end of the day and both door mirrors still intact too.


And finishing right behind was our championship’s current leading driver, Alistair Hutchinson.  Things started well for the opening couple of miles before he coasted to halt and pulled off the road.  It took a fair bit of fiddled with fuses before he found the one for the ecu had failed and once replaced and belted up he realised he was beached on the verge.  A few hefty shoves from the marshals got him on his way, albeit 5 minutes later, to start a fight back from 83rd place.  One fastest time and the remaining six were all top eight times shows just how hard he was pushing to get back up to 13th overall at the end of the day.  A very satisfying drive for our man from Mickleton but the reality was that he only added 2 more points to his championship total due to the dropped scores rule now coming into play for him.


Neil Thompson was next in his Vauxhall Corsa and his day certainly wasn’t problem free either.  On the opening run he snapped the clutch cable and used up all his 15 minutes penalty free lateness cobbling a change before SS2 and then an engine mount failed on the next test.  From a lowly 29th at first service he proceeded to charge of the field to go into the final stage in 12th overall.  Sadly for the lad from Dunfermline, a driveshaft let go in the final stage and the loss of over a minute also dropped him down to 16th and 2nd in class.


Another crew returning after a 7-month break since the North West Stages were the Constantines.  Their little red Corsa made a tardy start before steady progress up to 14th position just after lunch when they had problems with 2nd gear.  To make matters worse and on the very last stage they too lost a driveshaft and ended up down in 21st overall.  Two Corsas both having driveshaft issues on special stage 8, mmm


Just 3 seconds behind and taking the up to 1400cc class honours on the rally were Stephen Bethwaite and Ann Forster.   The morning stages were good with only tyre changes used trying to improve times.  Coming up the penultimate climb before the finish of stage 6, it was a heart in the mouth job as the little Vauxhall Nova coughed and spluttered as they almost ran out of fuel. They pointed the finger of blame at a dodgy gauge.  The West Cumbria MC crew were on it again for the final pair of tests and safely made it to the end.


Barry Renwick and Paul Hughes were our next points scorers in a rather lowly 27th overall.  They probably lost out on the opening stage with the awarding of a notional time.  However, this would pale into insignificance on the first run through Toddygill when they went the wrong way at a split junction.  Their remaining 5 stages were all recorded as top six times but the damage was already done and it was too late to make any real impact on the leaderboard now.


The historic Ford Escort Mk2 of John Nicholson and Peter Littlefield finished right behind Barry’s Proton Millington.  After a steady opening stage ended in 53rd place John made good moves up the timesheets to go into the final stage in 26th place.  Halfway through Haybergill they rolled to a stop when the fuel pump packed in.  About 30 seconds, and 2 places were lost, as he changed across to the spare pump and still record yet another finish.


Whickham Motor Club’s Gary Laverick / Phil Kenny ended the day a mere 3 seconds behind the Escort.  The crew felt mixed emotions at the finish, as this was their best drive this year and their Ford Puma would have finished higher if they hadn’t been stuck behind another similar car for a few miles of Bale Hill 2.  The 30 seconds or so lost were one thing but the engine got rather hot followed so close for so long without cool air and now gives them some concerns.  It got them to the end of this event but will need a good inspection before it’s next run which will hopefully be the Cheviot Rally.


Bruce Lindsay got a late call from the non-registered James Munro to sit in his Peugeot 205.  Bruce was a little concerned before the rally, as he couldn’t understand a word his driver was saying in his braw Scottish accent.  Fortunately, his driver must have listened and understood Bruce as they made it to the finish in 38th place after a clean run.


Drew Barker and Shona Hale were another crew not seen out since the North West Stages and brought the tartan Corsa for another attack on Warcop.  Their day didn’t go according to plan as the wee Vauxhall’s first and second gears would go AWOL intermittently all day.  Given that there are quite a few steep hills to tackle with just a 1400cc motor to drag the beast up to the tops, this all suggests it could be a difficult experience for them.  But they were still smiling at the final control …


Our final points go to Stuart Walker.  His rally will probably be remembered for the maximum stage times he was giving when he struggled through the second pair of tests with a failing alternator.  The timesheets show his penalties as 40 minutes so a loss of about 20 minutes was never going to be recovered and a poor 51st overall was his final placing.


We had quite a few retirements starting with Lee Hastings and Julie McGuire who rolled their Subaru a couple of miles into the rally.  They tried to pass a Darrian, dropped off the edge of the road, came back onto the road, and clipped a very old tree that put the Impreza over.  No casualties but a very frustrated crew.  Terry Martin retired after the Darrian’s gearbox gave up on SS2.  Former champions Barry and Michael Lindsay made a welcome return to our championship after almost 8 months but the gearbox of their Peugeot 106 started giving them some grief after a few miles. They tried a couple of stages with 3rd gear keep jumping out but felt it wasn’t safe to carry on so called it a day.  The same test claimed Kevin Mathers and Craig Forsyth when a ball joint broke off the hub putting them into a ditch.  Alistair Inglis / Tom Hynd rally ended with their Lotus Exige being swallowed up by a Land Rover sized ditch on stage 3.


The next test saw Gareth White and Harry Marchbank leave the fray after a clipping a rock that smashed a wheel and flipped them onto the side.  They slid down the road for 100 yards and left the car looking very second hand by the time it was retrieved from the ditch.  They were 9th overall and leading the 1600 class at the time too.  It was good to have James Thomson out for the first time since the North West Stages in February but he only lasted until stage 6 when he was forced out with bad stomach pains and a ‘thick head’ according to the driver !  Alistair Haw and Chris Lees unfortunately wrote off their Peugeot 205 last month on the Tyneside Stages but managed to salvage some components and build into a bare 309 shell.  The ‘new car’ was going well and they were up to 37th after the penultimate stage before a misfire and then resultant loss of power forced them to switch the engine off.  Our final retiree was Jane Nicol back from living her dream in a Focus WRC on the Galloway Hills the day before.  This time her mount was a 1400 Puma that stopped in the last stage when in 39th place.

Another big thank you goes to Miles Whitelock and Kirkby Lonsdale Motor Club with assistance from Eden Valley Motor Club and Northallerton Automobile Club for yet another testing Pendragon Stages.  The attrition rate of 44% seemed higher this year but it’s a venue that’s still enjoyed by competitors, well most of them who didn’t damage their cars.

We’re only left with the Ford Parts Cheviot Stages Rally run in memory of Keith Knox as our final rally.  Once again Whickham and Hadrian Motor Clubs are co-promoting the rally that will take place on Sunday 9th October.  It’s very likely that most of the roads used on the recent Tyneside Stages will be used once more.  The rally will be using Otterburn Ranges again as crews will attempt 12 stages covering about 60 competitive miles. Entries are now open and the link to the online system can be found at http://www.cheviotstages.org.uk/