Cheviot Stages Otterburn - 28th October 2018

AS Performance North of England Tarmac Rally Championship, Ford Parts Cheviot Stages Round 9 of the North of England Tarmac Rally Championship not only marked the conclusion of the 2018 championship, but it also celebrated the 10th consecutive year of sponsorship from Alyn Stockton at AS Performance, based in Birtley, Gateshead. Alyn has been a stalwart of the championship for a decade now and without him many of the thrills and spills experienced out on stages may never have materialised. He also provides many competitors with top quality competition products and services at some of the best prices you will find. Much thanks goes to Alyn for his continued support of this fantastic championship which provides such close competition on the best tarmac stages the North of England (and increasingly Scotland) has to offer. Heading in to round 9 the championship winning driver had already been decided, with Gordon Morrison holding a lead that was mathematically unbeatable by any other crew. However his long standing co-driver Calum Macpherson couldn’t rest so easy. Clinging on to the top spot by only 4 points over Ian Macdougall in 2nd when counting the best 6 rounds, a good finish was needed. A similar story had unfolded in the battle for 2nd and 3rd overall honours, with a myriad of combinations still possible, it was all to play for. In the classes a particularly close battle was brewing in class 2, with Michael Harbour and Stevie Irwin only 3 points apart either one of them could claim the top drivers spot, although should either of them fail to finish there were 3 other drivers, namely Gary Laverick, Adam Hanner and Barry Lindsay waiting in the wings to punish them for any mistakes. The co-drivers battle was even closer, Ian Macdougall and Ian Middleton separated by only a point, however like a lion in the thicket, Phil Kenny was waiting to pounce being the only one not to have played his joker card. As the rally weekend got underway, crews arrived on Saturday for recce and scrutineering. The weather was cold, but once the overnight dusting of snow had thawed it left mainly dry and bright conditions. The weather forecast for Sunday was for the cold but mainly dry conditions to continue, putting many crews in a jubilant mood as they left on Saturday evening for their overnight accommodation. However what the super boffins at the Met Office hadn’t accounted for was the unique micro climate that the Otterburn ranges have, where normal forecasts do not apply and you can often experience all 4 seasons over the course of any given day. The day of the rally was dark and wet, with everything from rain, sleet and snow falling from the sky, with the mercury barely registering above 2c (36f for the old school). Conditions were truly treacherous, with competitors who had been competing on the ranges since before the dawn of the Pinto saying these were the worst conditions they had ever experienced. The tyre vans made a roaring trade, with those who could buying the best on offer from Messrs Michelin and Pirelli. The rest had to make do with what they had brought with them based on the weather forecast! The first loop of stages got underway at 08:30, consisting of Dudlees, Riverside and Cottonshope. All but 2 registered crews made it round, with the Peugeot 205 of Cameron Craig and Ewan Lees bowing out due to a faulty electrical cut off in SS1. Such a shame considering the massive effort to get the car rebuilt after their off on the Pendragon Stages. Unfortunately the Morris Mini of Peter Ellerby suffered a seized engine in SS3, ending his day prematurely. Edwardo Todd/Andy Brown would also retire after SS3 with suspected head gasket failure. Gary Laverick & Phil Kenny had a nightmare at junction 12 of SS1, overshooting the junction and then with the car failing to restart they relied on the marshals to drag them out and bump start the car, made all the worse by the fact that special stage were streaming live from this very junction! Gordon Morrison/Calum Macpherson took the honours on the first loop, leading Rob Snowden/Mark Fisher by 18 seconds. The Subaru Impreza of Lee Hastings/Cole Hastings clinched 3rd fastest championship crew from Barry Lindsay/Caroline Lodge in the 106 by a mere 3 seconds. The second loop of the same 3 stages would prove to be a lot more eventful for some championship crews as the conditions worsened throughout the day, 4 more crews would retire by the time the loop was complete, 2 of them on the same corner that Gary overshoot on SS1.  By this point a river had former across the road at junction 12, right in the braking zone and many crews found it impossible to stop, shooting straight through the fence and in to one of Otterburn’s finest bogs. Stevie Irwin went out in particular style when he pulled the handbrake in a last ditch attempt to make the corner but unsurprisingly his momentum outweighed the available traction and he almost rolled. Luckily the Yellow Nova stayed belly down, but not before losing a wheel in the process. Ever the optimist Stevie could be seen getting the Nova straight back in to 1st gear and trying to carry on in a Gronholm-esq fashion. Rob Snowden was also seen aquaplaning through the fence and the Sunbeam of Kevin/Jimmy Knox retired in service with a terminal misfire. Meanwhile Ronnie Roughead was forced to retire when the VW Polo S2000 of event sponsor Trevor Gamble suffered rear brake failure, luckily not sustaining any damage as a result.  Barry Lindsay/Caroline Lodge put in a giant killing performance on the second running of the Riverside stage, setting a 3rd fastest stage time which was only 1.25 seconds per mile slower than the WRC Fiesta of Peter Taylor, seriously impressive! This helped to propel them to 2nd quickest of the championship crews by the end of the day. From SS7 to the end of the rally there were a number of large accidents which played havoc with the schedule, SS8 being cancelled completely, and only 5 of the remaining 11 crews having a run at SS11 after Kenny Moore and Richard Wardle in the Avenger had a nasty accident over a yump and required medical assistance, best wishes for their recovery. All told 11 of the 18 starters made it to the end of the rally with a very convincing performance from Barry Lindsay, restoring his reputation after an off on SS1 of the Tyneside Stages. Gordon Morrison pulling out all of the stops to ensure his co-driver could join him on the podium, Calum securing 1st overall co-driver in the championship. There will no doubt be some changes to overall positions as a result of the challenging conditions on Otterburn. Be sure to join us on Saturday 24th November for the championship awards night to see who the winners and losers are, please message the page if you would like to attend. 1 Gordon Morrison/Calum MacPherson Subaru Impreza 50:49:40 2 Barry Lindsay/Caroline Lodge Peugeot 106 GTi 0:53:05 3 Lee Hastings/Cole Hastings Subaru Impreza 0:54:25 4 Graham Malthouse/Owen Malthouse Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 0:55:06 5 Adam Hanner/Wayne Wood Peugeot 205 GTI 0:55:49 6 Stephen Bethwaite/Ann Forster Vauxhall Nova Sport 0:57:03 7 Michael Harbour/Ian MacDougall Citroën C2r2max 0:57:40 8 Gary Laverick/Phil Kenny Ford Puma 0:58:21 9 John Nicholson/Kari Bates Ford Escort RS2000 0:59:40 10 Joel Simpson /Shannon Turnbull Nissan Micra K11 1:00:22 11 Tom Pearson/Jim Stairs Ford Escort 1:01:05