I like summer in Scotland, in fact it is probably my favourite day of the year, today however the mizzle and smirr greeted each and every competitor on day two of the Scottish Malts with a firm handshake – straight to the face. Whilst the weather wasn’t a patch on yesterday’s afternoon sun however, the roads that fell under tyre first thing this morning were more than a match for anything that had come the day before. Indeed, they were better, and those that had the fortune to be able to look out of the window (i.e., not the navigators!) the leaden skies laid on an ever-changing drama, as the road climbed up into the clouds that were hiding the peaks of the Grampian Mountains.
The morning was a busy one, with three regularities, the first of which offered up a cutely placed timing point very close to the start, just to check those in the cars were awake and alert. A quick glance down the detailed results will show anyone who is interested just who is a morning person and who needs the day to come to them a little more. Any calamities would certainly have quickly been forgotten or forgiven though with the quality of the driving on offer, and if that still didn’t do it then the piles of cakes at morning coffee would surely have assuaged even the most competitive.
A hill climb test kicked off the days speed-based activities, with a short but very sharp climb up to Kincardine Castle, the Victorian building aping something much older, although no less grand for it. Anyone watching the cars make their assault on its summit would have seen that they were aping much more junior machines, particularly the mass of Porches that careered up the test as if they were fresh from the crate. The noise of all the engines reverberating off of the trees was a treat for the sense though, there aren’t many better sounds than finely tuned motors under load, particularly in a setting such as this.
The provisional scores at lunch had seen a small lead appear for Malcolm Dunderdale and Anita Wickins in their Renault, with the yellow Elan of Graham Walker and Sean Toohey dropping just a few more seconds than the pair in the little French machine. After the scenery and grandeur of the morning, the afternoon put the route firmly back on the Whiskey trail, with no less than four distilleries on the route, including Tomintoul, Glenfarclas and Tamdhu. The ancient red doors of Glenfarclas provided a corridor for the second test of the day to funnel through and the historic railway yard at Tamdhu played host to tests 3 and 4 of this leg.
Tamdhu in particular caused many problems for those with a less than miniscule turning circle, with the Bentley Le Mans proving exceptionally difficult to navigate around the cones, if anyone see’s Andy Buchan tonight then please offer him a shoulder massage, as after that particular workout I think he will need one. The small crowd watching appreciated the efforts of the big Bentley though and cheered and clapped as it made its way through the test. The only car that elicited a bigger cheer was Ed Abbott’s Jaguar XJ-S, with the aforementioned pilot offering up a masterclass of machine control as he navigated the test with the poise and accuracy of a ballet dancer, although with a V12 soundtrack.
At the end of day, the two cars at the top had traded places once again, and the final days results showed a near immaculate day for the little yellow Elan, whilst the Gordini had drifted 12 seconds apart from the Lotus, with most of the penalties seemingly picked up on the days tests. There was also a change for third, as rally stalwarts Paul Bloxidge and Ian Canavan progressed one place up the order from yesterday. The VW mounted pair have so far gone quietly about their business, starting near the tail of the field each day, although tomorrow with the cars heading out in order of driver surname, they will be heading off near to the front of the field and no doubt doing what they can to progress up the scoreboard on day three. But first some sleep, and time to reflect on a day dominated by the landscape and the weather.
*The Shires host Round Two as the Challenge Increases