Upon the famed battlefields of Culloden is where our Heroes began battle on leg three of the 2021 Scottish Malts, within the realm of Cawdor Castle and the wretched Lord and Lady Macbeth. It was a day that would see bad luck strike a number of crews, with some of the most testing regularities yet, but who would rise triumphant from today’s Scottish Play, and who would suffer a Shakespearian tragedy?
It didn’t take long for the curse of Macbeth to strike some crews, with a tricky ford on the second regularity possibly washing away the chances of current leaders Graham Walker and Sean Toohey, as Grahams yellow Elan became more yellow submarine and the engine stalled in the dark waters of Muckle Burn. According to Sean, 25 seconds were lost, but it would remain to be seen what the consequences would be in terms of places at the end of the day.
At least the sun was shining, with the muck and mirth of the previous day a distant memory and people out along the route enjoying the passing of the cars as they travelled through the countryside. The altitude wasn’t quite as impressive as the day before, but there was still the odd low cloud adding a mystical mist pocket to add to the drama of the landscape, particularly in Cawdor Wood. How very apt.
The locations were just as grand as well, with a fabulous coffee stop in the grounds of Brodie Castle, that had been erected by Clan Brodie in 1547, although this version was restored in the 1800’s after the original had been burnt to the ground by Clan Gordon in the 17th century. After the antics in the ford, the odd competitor might have been tempted to resort to similar clan wars, but with tremendous cheese scones on offer thoughts of sabotage would soon have been forgotten, I’m sure.
There were more history lessons in the afternoon, with a resumption of distillery visits, including the famous Glenfiddich, although at one point in the day it seemed there was a still on every corner, such is the clamour for the spirit in these parts and a post lunch dram must have been tempting. It may have been especially tempting for Malcolm Dunderdale and Anita Wickins, who had left lunch in the lead of the rally for the second day in a row, but just one second behind were a resurgent Daniel Gresley and Elise Whyte, getting to grips with the 911 and the maps.
Elsewhere across the day bad luck befell cars 20 and 45, the Alfa Romeo’s of Judith Keiper and Katharina-Rabea Muller, and John Evans and Adam Harvie-Clark, the Italian machines suffering gear box problems and drive shaft failures. At the sharp end though, the afternoon’s regularities and solitary test had done a bit of sorting out. The slender lead held by the little blue Gordini had slipped away, and the wee Renault was now 11 seconds adrift in third and being threatened from behind by Graham Walker and Sean Toohey, who had dried out somewhat during the afternoon.
Second place then is now in the hands of Paul Bloxidge and Ian Canavan, who were very much out of the Gulags and on the up, Paul driving around the afternoons test as though the Spanish authorities were hot on his tail and dropping just 12 seconds all day. Sitting proudly atop the table though are top alcohol chargers Daniel Gresley and Elise Whyte, despite an error on the test that threatened their day, but even this uncharacteristic moment of indecision from the pair wasn’t enough to spoil their day. Their march on the summit may be timely, but with Messrs Bloxidge and Canavan on the case the final two days are likely to be anything but plain sailing.
*The Shires host Round Two as the Challenge Increases