Team Octane didn’t let a complete lack of preparation prevent a spirited and successful drive on the Scottish Malts rally
The third morning kicks off with the Dunmosie test and we do well now that I am able to moderate the throttle pedal and follow instructions. We enjoy the loose track through Rosarie Forest – where elegant Anna-Marie Hardt impresses us with her spirited driving of the immaculate Jaguar SS100 – and a visit to Strathisia distillery. Lunch at the quaint Huntley Castle restaurant is absolutely delicious, where the haggis, tatties and neeps are drenched in thick whisky sauce. The afternoon consists of more superb driving and visits to Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, and the Cooperage and Macallan distilleries, with bottles of Scotch gifted all the way.
At this point we determine we are lying 14th overall, second in class and fastest on the tests, which is damn impressive since Clive has never navigated and is doing so without a tripmeter. But we are baulked by an expired Mercedes-Benz 190SL on the Macallan hillclimb, which knocks us back a bit.
The mist rolls in on Thursday morning and I hit a cone head-on on the first test (tip: Tony Davies had advised us to hit a cone rather than go the wrong way around, as you lose fewer points), then we stop at a control at the eerily quiet and moving Culloden battlefield.
Mentioning battles, we notice that ex-artillery officer Angus Forsyth, driving the green E-type V12, is wearing a Glengarry Tam O’Shanter throughout. ‘It belonged to my grandfather, who was killed defending Hong Kong against the Japanese. He was the last man standing and this is a replica of his original Glengarry, which I still have,’ he says.
With the sun shining, this is some of the best driving I have ever experienced anywhere in the world. Motoring along the lochs on smooth roads with sparse traffic is special but we make a Horlicks of the Nessie’s Revenge stage, then make up for it with a great drive with Ben Williams and John Francas in the disconcertingly rapid Citroën DS21 (see panel, bottom right) before lunch at the Invergarry Hotel, sitting outside in the sun, enjoying more… haggis.
Clive’s pencil is once again a stub so I hand over my faithful Swiss Army knife and find the Jaguar’s interior is filling up with pencil shavings at an alarming rate. But thank goodness I brought the knife along!
That afternoon the roads get even better and the special test at Inveraray Castle is fast and challenging. We finish at the beautiful Loch Fine Hotel for a few beers in the sun, followed by a couple of dozen oysters with Angus Forsyth and Robert Lumley (see Octane Cars , next issue).
The final day includes the memorable Rest and Be Thankful hillclimb, which is an awesome blast up the mountain on a loose track. We stop and watch overall winners Graham Walker and Sean Toohey showing how it should be done in the quick and neat Lotus Elan S1. With the spectacular Highlands scenery enjoyed, the teams head back down through Scotland to the Turnberry Hotel for the final gala dinner with Lord David Steel of Aikwood – himself an experienced historic rally competitor – as the guest of honour. Supper? Well, haggis, of course, introduced by a piper in full tartan regalia.
The Scottish Malts Regularity has been astonishing; glorious countryside and magnificent roads, where we have met great people from as far away as Hong Kong, America and all over Europe. The Jaguar XK140 was faultless and Clive can now add ‘rally navigator’ to his impressive CV.
He was learning the art of rally navigation from scratch and initially I’d been a bit worried he might not enjoy the complexity of it. But he gave the Malts his best shot and became really competitive – lack of a tripmeter, jammed stopwatch and tricksy odometer notwithstanding.
Going off-piste with just a pencil and penknife, Clive summed up the whole escapade by exclaiming: ‘I have not had this much fun since leaving university!’ End Thanks TO Hero Events, www.heroevents.eu, and Russell’s Vehicle Movement Specialists, +44 (0)1280 850426, www.russellstransport.co.uk. The next Scottish Malts takes place from 28 April to 2 May 2014. The similar-format Hero Summer Trial is in South Wales, 11-13 July 2013.