Argyll crews show their drive in second round of championship

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Saturday April 1 saw Dunfermline Car Club host the second round of the Blackwood Plant Hire Scottish Tarmac Rally Championship.

The bumper entry, over-subscribed once again, saw 80 cars take on the eight stages laid out within the Royal Highland Centre at Ingliston, near Edinburgh.

Among the entries were a couple of all Mid-Argyll crews and two co-drivers. This was John Kean and Malcolm McDonald’s first visit to Ingliston in their Saxo-powered Peugeot 205.

Power steering had been newly fitted to the car to cope with the tight and twisty nature of the event. Although this was a vast improvement over the previous set-up, it had a habit of looking up when trying to change direction quickly, so more work needed there.

Apart from this minor niggle, the car performed faultlessly, which is more than can be said for the driver and navigator. A couple of spins and a major trip to the grass didn’t help the stage times.

But it was McDonald who unfortunately let the side down with his inability to count past two. He was clearly trying to make up the time lost by Kean’s spins and managed to bring the car off the stage a lap early at the split and merge – not once but twice. 

This earned two stage maximum times adding nearly six minutes to their overall time – the difference between 39th and 50th place. Not a terribly good day but very much a learning experience, and a finish!

Willie Beattie and Paul Hunter. Photograph: Gavin Brown, West Coast Photos
Willie Beattie and Paul Hunter. Photograph: Gavin Brown, West Coast Photos

Also flying the flag for Argyll was STRC ‘newbie’ Willie Beattie, ably assisted by Paul Hunter. Beattie’s  D A MacDonald/MJ Fabrication-backed Mk2 Escort was immaculately turned out (as you would expect as his other sponsor is Kilmartin Auto Repairs) and sounded absolutely immense round the first couple of stages.

Beattie was neat and tidy, despite Hunter egging him on to get it sideways for the cameras, and this resulted in him starting to climb the leaderboard and beginning to learn the limits of the car. A minor hiccup on stage three and stage seven, with the spark plugs fouling and causing a drop in power, cost the pair a bit of time, but with the knowledge of the stages and the confidence in the car growing, they powered on to an overall finishing place of 22nd which earned them the Best Improvement in Seeding award. Thoroughly well deserved.

Alex Adams and Ian Parker. Photograph: Gavin Brown, West Coast Photos
Alex Adams and Ian Parker. Photograph: Gavin Brown, West Coast Photos

Ian Parker was sitting alongside Alex Adams in his Love Street Coachworks Escort Mk2 but the pair had throttle cable issues and then a failed gearbox which resulted in a DNF.

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Greg Turner and Grant MacNiven in their Red Peugeot 206. Photograph: Gavin Brown, West Coast Photos

Finally, Grant McNiven from Oban answered a last-minute call to navigate for Greg Turner in his competitive class two Peugeot 206, helping McNiven finish in 36th overall and seventh in class.  

The next outings look like Leuchars at the end of May for Kean and McDonald and possibly Crail for the Summer Stages for Beattie and Hunter.

Alan Kirkaldy and Cameron Fair were overall winners. Photograph: Gavin Brown, West Coast Photos
Alan Kirkaldy and Cameron Fair were overall winners. Photograph: Gavin Brown, West Coast Photos

The event was won by Alan Kirkaldy and Cameron Fair in another Mk2 Escort, posting fastest stage times on all eight of the tests to take overall victory by over a minute and a half.

Nigel Feeney and Phil Sandham were second overall. Photograph: Gavin Brown, West Coast Photos
Nigel Feeney and Phil Sandham were second overall. Photograph: Gavin Brown, West Coast Photos

Nigel Feeney and Phil Sandham followed them home in second in the AMS Arnside-prepared EvoX, and the final spot on the podium was taken by a very quick and impressive young talent, Taylor Gibb, ushered round by the experienced Jane Nicol in his ex-Andrew Gallagher Mitsubishi.

Taylor Gibb and Jane Nicol came in third overall. Photograph: Gavin Brown, West Coast Photos
Taylor Gibb and Jane Nicol came in third overall. Photograph: Gavin Brown, West Coast Photos