WESTON WINS, POINTS HAUL FOR MACCRONE
After over a year out Subaru Impreza man shows his class. By John Fife
Dave Weston and his co-driver Aled Davies won a closefought first Coltel Grampian Stages Rally by six seconds last weekend but, going into the final stage, John Maccrone, Euan Thorburn and Garry Pearson were all tied on identical total times for second position.
As the rising sun lit up the Crathes Castle backdrop, 93 cars and crews headed out into the forests of Aberdeenshire on this penultimate round of the ARR Craib Scottish Championship. One man had a particular incentive to do well. A win would give Garry Pearson the 2016 title, but others had different ideas in mind.
Weston for instance. Once again he had hired a Melvyn Evans Subaru for his local event, but when the car turned up, the steering wheel was on the wrong side. More used to left-hand-drive machinery, Weston nevertheless set fastest time in the right-hand-drive S12B on the opening stage, but by only one second from the tying Thorburn and Pearson. Maccrone got off to a slow start. “The ‘stage mode’ button didn’t work: we did the stage in ‘road mode’” he explained.
Pearson responded to the opening gambit in the second stage, the Ford Fiesta R5 one second quicker than the Weston Subaru, followed one second later by Thorburn. Maccrone and Jock Armstrong tied on fourth quickest.
Mark Mcculloch, who was sixth, had cause to smile at first service: “That’s the first time I’ve taken time out of Mike (Faulkner). I’m pleased with my pace,” said the previous weekend’s Solway Coast winner.
Then it was into the 16-mile Drumtochty test. If fortune favours the fast, Weston seized it with both hands. The Subaru was a full eight seconds quicker than Thorburn’s Peugeot 208 T16 R5 and 10 seconds quicker than Maccrone’s Ford Fiesta R5. Pearson wasn’t far off the pace trying to mix speed with safety, 16 seconds down on Weston, but this feverish battle lost reigning champion and Pearson’s closest contender, Armstrong.
“I got the first six hairpins just right,” said Armstrong, “then I came to junction 13. I was too quick in and it was either the loose or a ditch.” He dropped over 30 seconds with one mistake, making it a fourway fight at the top.
Also in bother was Faulkner, losing well over two minutes with a puncture. “We thought we could just drive out on it,” said the Mitsubishi driver. Another in trouble was Shaun Sinclair, retiring his Subaru with a severe vibration. “I don’t know what it was,” said Sinclair, “but it got so bad I had to stop, then I couldn’t get gears.”
At least he was parked on the road, Freddie Milne’s Mitsubishi was ‘parked’ nose-first well down a banking and going no further.
After a cautious start, Maccrone was building up speed and, on the fourth test was only a second behind Weston, with Thorburn tying with Pearson as third quickest.
In the penultimate test, Maccrone hit the front by a second from Pearson with Armstrong and Weston in their dust, but not Thorburn. “I broke a rear driveshaft,” he said, “and with no chance to change it, that meant a steady run through the final stage.”
Going into the final five-mile stage, Weston had a 14-second lead over the pursuit, but with Pearson, Thorburn and Maccrone all tied on the same time, there was little prospect of taking things easy.
It was the same for Pearson who observed: “I need to be semi-sensible. If the other guys want to take risks, let them. They’ve got the hard job to do.”
There was little chance of catching Weston, but Maccrone closed the gap by eight seconds after a serious charge through the Durris greenery. Just five seconds slower than Weston was Armstrong tying with Mcculloch and Bruce Mccombie. Thorburn was a further two seconds back with Faulkner, while Pearson was a steady eighth quickest.
Maccrone therefore took top ARR Craib Scottish points denying Pearson his first national title, so that fight will be decided on the final round next month. Mcculloch’s sixth place ensured that it won’t simply be a two-way fight for the title, as he still has an outside chance of lifting the title should Pearson and Armstrong strike trouble.
Mccombie just missed out on sixth place: “I’m still in ‘holiday mode’ just back from Portugal,” he said.
Greg Mcknight on only his second outing on gravel in a four-wheel-drive car finished an excellent eighth giving the old guard good reason to look over their shoulders on future events. Barry Groundwater scored ninth with Faulkner reduced to 10th after yet another puncture in the final stage. ■
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