Af­ter over a year out Subaru Im­preza man shows his class. By John Fife

Motor Sport News - - Rally Reports - Pho­tos: Writ­tle Pho­to­graphic

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. ■

In­au­gu­ral Grampian won by crane driver Weston

Jor­dan won class in Avenger

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