Brits hit trouble on opening loopposted in RSCOT16 | 10 | 2010

    THE OPENING loop of three stages through the Perthshire forests brought drama to the first morning of RallyScotland as all three leading Brits — Kris Meeke, Guy Wilks and Alister McRae — all hit trouble. But as the cars headed back from Tummel Bridge to Perth for a much-needed 20-minute service, it was Wilks who led his Skoda team-mate and IRC champion-elect Juho Hanninen by 5.4secs.

    Ironically Wilks, who started in the dark this morning (pictured) leading after last night's opening two stages at Scone Palace, was the first to hit problems.

    Having seen Meeke edge into a slender 4.0s lead after the first run through the 10.7-miler at Craigvinean, Wilks almost wrecked his car and halted his rally when he clattered into a rock face. The car survived, but with substantial damage to the front left of the bonnet.

    "We came to a tight left-hander, tucked the front left into the edge of the track and the tyres got far more grip than we'd expected," the 31-year-old from Darlington, aiming to repeat his RallyScotland victory of 12 months ago, explained after getting to the end of the 9.4-miler at Drummond Hill. "That pitched us straight into the rocks.

    "The damaged was pretty severe and we found ourselves stuck. We managed to get the car into reverse and get going again, but once we did I was convinced the bonnet was going to fly up at any time and I was worried about the radiator. The delay cost us about 18-seconds."

    That meant Meeke entered stage five, the 11-miler at Errochty, with a healthy 19.8s, but that evaporated less than a mile into the stage. Totally committed, and clearly intent on establishing an insurmountable advantage after Wilks troubles in the previous stage, Meeke slewed his Peugeot S2000 wide in a fast left-hander and emerged from the deep ditch with a right-rear puncture.

    The handicap slowed him progressively through the remaining 10 miles and he emerged 59.1s slower than Hanninen's fastest time. The 31-year-old from Dungannon was clearly frustrated as he pulled to a halt at the end of the stage.

    "That was a wild ride," he sighed before pausing and letting out a beastial-type roar which illustrated his huge pent-up frustration far more than any words could. His co-driver Paul Nagle quietly comforted him with an: "It's ok." Meeke, competing in the Peugeot for the final time before switching to the World Rally Championship with Mini next year, quickly regained his composure.

    "It's a huge disappointment and frustration," he continued. "It's going to be tough from here, but we'll be fully committed this afternoon." But while Meeke at least had a car capable of competing on the second run through the three stages this afternoon, McRae was left stranded in Errochty after the battery of his troubled Proton packed in. But while he was left to walk out from the stage, his words from earlier in the morning indicated the core problem.

    "It was a bit of a disastrous start to the day," McRae said at the end of stage four. "We've stopped a few times already this morning with an electrical problem and we eventually traced it to a loose alternator wire. Hopefully it'll last now and we can get it back to Perth for service at lunchtime and get it sorted for this afternoon." Obviously the problem re-appeared in Errochty and stopped the Proton completely.

    The problems meant Wilks headed back to service at Perth leading the rally by 5.4secs from his Skoda team-mate Hanninen. The Finn is 7.2s ahead of Norway's Andreas Mikkelson, who hit a deer in the opening stage at Craigvinean, with Meeke fourth, 38.4s off the lead. The prospect of an all-out assault by the Irishman this afternoon is a mouthwatering prospect.

    One of the most impressive performances of the morning came from double Hankook Scottish Rally champ David Bogie. The 22-year-old from Dumfries not only leads the GpN cars, but lies sixth overall.

    "Yeh, the morning's gone fantastically," Bogie said after parking his Mitsubishi Evo IX. "The traction's good but the car is bottoming out too much so we'll raise the height of the car for this afternoon and stiffen the suspension. That should help us get through tis afternoon."

    There were problems though for fellow Scots Euan Thorburn and Dave Weston jnr. Duns-based Thorburn had been pushing for the top 10 but lost it all when the driveshaft of his Mitsubishi broke a driveshaft as he left the startline at Errochty.

    "It happened right at the start of the stage and cost us big time," Thorburn, who dropped over two minutes, said. "It's a nightmare and it's wrecked the rally for me."

    But while Thorburn was able to continue, Weston jnr's rally was halted in Errochty within yards of McRae when his Subaru Impreza ground to a halt.

    After the 20-minute service at Perth, the remaining drivers head back out for another run through the three stages which caused so many problems this morning. With reports of rocks having been kicked out into the stage by the drivers, more problems and punctures are expected.

    RallyScotland: Standings after Stage 5 of 12:

    1. Wilks 33mins 53.2secs

    2. Hanninen -5.4s

    3. Mikkelson -12.6

    4. Meeke - 38.4

    5. Neuville -57.7

    6. Bogie -1:36.8

    7. Greer -2:05.3

    8. Cronin -2:19.9

    11. Thorburn -3:34.6

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    Jim McGill

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