Day 1, Gleneagles to Cameron House.
The stunning backdrop of Gleneagles was the starting point for this year’s 2014 Scottish Malts Classic Reliability Trial and Tour.
The competitors were led away by the stunning 1934 Bentley 3 ½ Litre of Markus and Brix Kirchgeorg at 08:30 precisely. 53 cars made the start, and after the ceremonial start, flagged away by Clerk of the Course Peter Nedin, the competitors were into their first regularity, a practice section to allow newcomers to find their feet. The section was called Springbank, a gentle 2.7 mile introduction to regularity rallying that started just off the A822 north west of Auchterader.
So as to keep the competitors on their toes, just over half a mile separated Springbank from the first competitive regularity, Torlum. This was a longer affair, and a little more testing as it totalled 14.26 miles. Straight away, last years winners, Graham Walker and Sean Toohey were in a tussle with long term adversaries Mark and Sue Godfrey, the MGB mounted pair throwing down the gauntlet and cleaning the section, Walker and Toohey dropping a second for booking late into the first timing point. It was obvious from speaking with the Lotus crew that they want this win, Graham pacing up and down this morning prior to starting the event.
Another crew that had a fantastic run on the first section of the day are Barry and Roma Weir, lying in third up to lunch, the Mercedes Pagoda proving to be nimble in the twisty Scots lanes. A visit to The Famous Grouse distillery was next up, crews having time to take in the sights and sounds of the Glenturret Distillery and briefly catch their breath before the next regularity named Path of Condie. Starting from Dunning, this was the first properly competitive section of the day, the 10.1 miles deceptive with many blind crests and not as map features. The navigation on the event is straightforward, competitors are supplied with a “Tulip” style roadbook, this describes the junctions and distances covered by the competitors, the tricky nature of the Scottish lanes, and the skill of the Clerk of the Course means that this apparently easy presentation can and does gain results.
Next stop,a coffee halt at The Boathouse Bistro, Kinross was welcomed by all, this was followed by a test in the Scottish Bus Museum grounds, several crews being caught out by the tight cones, some clipping them, some reading the test diagrams incorrectly and missing sections out. The husband and wife pair of Mark and Sue Godfrey started to stamp their authority here, a stunning display of car control from Mark saw his MGB take fastest time of day, albeit briefly. The charging Porsche 911 of Daniel Gresly and Christian Prunte pipping them by one second, then Pauline and Dood Pearce outsmarted Gresly in their Sprite changed the whole look of the test and equalled the 50 second benchmark. Cometh the hour, and Paul Crosby stepped up, the green 911 stopping the clock one second sooner than the rest of the pack, Crosby and his navigator Phil Martin-Dye ending up the victors on this tight and twisty test.
Two regularities would see the event start to make towards the overnight halt at Loch Lomond, it was here on the first regularity that Walker/Toohey booked into a timing point late, they dropped 22 seconds and slid down the leaderboard to fourth. What seemed an easy affair on Garadbhan, the final regularity of the day, saw some crews lose time to local traffic, the almost straight roads, with blind crests interspersed catching many out, this is just south of Brig O’Turk and takes in some wonderful scenery which is mixed with an almost lunar landscape as forestry work is carried out leaving the view to open up magically.
A short visit to Glengoyne Distillery was welcomed before the final driving test of the day at Lomond Shores, this large car park was transformed into a maze of traffic cones for this popular test, with spectators gathering to watch these wonderful vehicles slide and skid around the tarmac surface of the car park. Graham Walker took top honours here, throwing the Lotus around in 59 seconds, Mark and Sue Godfrey responded by posting a time three seconds adrift whilst Crosby/Martin-Dye and Stephen and Thomas Owens both matched up on 66.
This has been an enthralling day with some drama already, we have a long way to go and things can change. One thing for sure, The Malts has not lost its magic!
Day 2, Loch Lomond to Skye
Day two dawned over Cameron House bathed in misty sunshine, crews awoke relatively early, and the sound of classic cars starting reverberated across Loch Lomond. The overnight leaders, Mark & Sue Godfrey were cautious about the previous days success with Sue saying “We’re very happy to be leading, but it’s early days with a long way to go, we’ll keep trying.”
The first regularity of the day was Glen Fruin, this favourite is used on Le Jog as well as The Malts, winding along the steep banks of the Glen, this section rapidly gains height and then loses it equally as quick in a series of steep, downhill not as map hairpins. Unfortunately, this section had to be cancelled, a farmer was moving cattle and to safeguard the stock as well as the cars, a re-route took place. Pre-planning by Clerk of the Course, Peter Nedin and his team saw the event shift slightly without any time lost, crews were able to re-join just a little way along the route, and still take in the Glen Douglas link section before the star of the day, Rest and be Thankful.
As the competitors lined up, the excitement in the air was palpable, seasoned campaigners were obviously looking forward to this wonderful hill climb, recently re-surfaced and resplendent in its new coat, whilst newcomers seemed in awe of the nature of the section. The run up to Rest is almost as exciting as the competitive section, it meanders and rolls its way up the course of an old military road, its primary use is as an emergency by-pass should the main A83 road become blocked. Several competitors were spectacular, Graham Walker/Sean Toohey waving a front wheel in the air on a tight hairpin right, the Lotus squealing under pressure and hanging its tail out in protest. Steve and Julia Robertson had a superb run, so good in fact that Steve mistook the stop line for a stop astride and set off again! Quick thinking by Julia saw them get the car under control and have their card chipped as Steve reversed the MG B V8 back over the line. Oliver and Aileen Kreyden were having great fun; the Father and Daughter team from Switzerland spoke about how Aileen was taking part on her first event and was improving rapidly with her navigation, much to her Father’s pride and delight, their smiles at the top of Rest were as wide as the valley below.
From Rest, it was out into a regularity taking in Gleann Mor, a beautiful wooded valley running alongside a small river, a short section that made a loop to the southwest of Rest and be Thankful. Travelling along Loch Fyne to Inveraray, The Malts found its way to Inveraray Castle, a fast flowing test to let the drivers have their fun before a longer regularity took in Loch Awe. The section started on the south west side of Loch Awe, and although the navigation was pretty straight forward without many roads to take, the nature of the route, with its little side roads to catch the unwary and blind crests took time from many. The next section, RS 2D from Taynuilt to Cornell was named Glen Lonan, rising and falling on the hills alongside the Glen, the width and surface of the road with many not as map bends is a beautiful piece of road, it drops to The Falls Of Lora, where a delicious lunch was served and the event took a short break.
Heading further north, The Malts took in a test at Oban airfield, the scenery starts to change after Oban, the Great Glens and Bens rise high from the Loch coasts and the views from the road here are quite stunning. A stop at Ben Nevis distillery for coffee saw a good amount of spectators keen to catch up with what is obviously a popular event not only here in Scotland, but some making the journey from England to spectate also. A short 6.75 mile regularity section named Cruim Leacainn was the final regularity of the day, crews then headed to Glenelg Ferry via Spean Bridge, Loch Cluanie and Glenshiel before a passage check prior to boarding the ferry. As crews waited to take this community owned classic turntable ferry, a real sense of camaraderie was obvious with tales of the days adventures being swapped before the event split into several hotels around Skye. The weather has been superb, we don’t know if it will be as kind tomorrow as we tackle the infamous Pass of The Cattle and Applecross in the morning and head to our furthest north point at Ullapool.
We cannot issue results at this point due to lack of internet connectivity in some establishments on the Island, we apologise and will post as soon as we possibly can.
Day 3, Skye to Strathpeffer
Competitors awoke on the beautiful Isle of Skye to a stunning day, the first control was situated at Skye Airport, and crews were thrown straight away into a test also at the airport which combined speed as well as car control. As we waited to take cars in, many crews watched a submarine on exercise in the bay, a fantastic sight as she circled the Islands in the bay.
The test was to Graham Walkers liking, with Sean Toohey on the notes, the Manchester businessman trounced the opposition with a stunning 67 seconds time, beating Chris White/Ken Woodham in their Healey 100/6 into second with 72 seconds, Mark and Sue Godfrey had a three way tie
The run out from Skye back to the mainland was stunning. The bright blue skies scattered with wispy clouds as we crossed over the Kyle of Lochalsh took many a competitors breath away before the run into Plockton Airfield for a second test. Fastest time of the day went to Paul Crosby/Phil Martin-Dye in their 911, Crosby just one second up on a raft of competitors on 45 seconds penalties incurred. If Rest and be Thankful is the favourite test of many, Applecross, or The Pass of the Cattle, has to be the regularity section par excellence. This tight, sinewy road snakes its way over moorland, between deep valleys hewn by glaciers and then crests in a series of sweeping the tight hairpins with views to make the jaw drop. It then descends into Applecross village alongside the sea and feels like you are surfing over the ocean you are that close. This is Scotland’s answer to The Stelvio, it may even surpass it. Felix/Katharina Pfirter had an amazing run with no penalties, the MGB singing along happily and lifting a wheel in salute on the steeper hairpins, several crews also cleaned the section, but a chink appeared in Mark and Sue Godfrey’s armour, they dropped a second on the final part. with Daniel Gresly/Christian Prunte and David and Melanie Roberts in their Porsche 911 into third equal on the test with 73 seconds. A drive of note came from the ever improving Father and Daughter pairing of Oliver and Aileen Kreyden on 77 seconds.
Up to Loch Torridon, with the scenery taking on so many different colours as the light changed, also changing was the weather, the bright but breezy day giving way to cloud and showers as the event stopped for coffee before heading down to Ledgowan House via many lochs and lanes. A run up to Ullapool and back down past Oykel Bridge, was the next part of the longest day, the final competition, a regularity section just south east of Oykel, the not as map route catching a few competitors out, resulting in a slight shift of places in the top ten. From here The Malts wound its way in a southerly direction to finish in the Strathpeffer area, it is here we overnight.
The Godfrey’s remain dominant in first place, leading by 20 points; it is looking like their grasp on the gold medal and first overall is strengthening. In second, and after yet another consistent day are Richard Dresner and Colin Mackenzie with 39 penalties. Third sees Barry and Roma Weir, they are now being pushed hard by Walker/Toohey for fourth and this battle is becoming enthralling.We start our loop of the distilleries tomorrow, and even though it may seem like a day off, there are a few stings in the tail to ensure competitors are kept on their toes.
Day 4, Strathpeffer to Strathpeffer, Distillery loop.
It’s been an interesting “Scottish Malts”, we have visited many familiar distilleries, roads we have used on this and other events past, but Scotland always has something new to offer us.
We have had some amazing weather for the first couple of days, however, it didn’t last and the rain took hold in the afternoon of day three and went into day four. The event means many different things to the competitors; some are here for not only the competition, but to introduce their friends to the sport, HERO and of course the magical Scottish roads. One couple who have really enjoyed the event are Colin and Jacqui Wilson. I spoke with them about their love of Scotland and why The Malts, Jacqui said; “We had our honeymoon in Scotland, and have always had a special affinity with the place. Colin and I adore the roads and the scenery, so this is the perfect way to combine the both.”
Father and Son appears to be a theme running through the event, Mike and Ollie Donald travelled all the way from New Zealand to take part in The Malts this year. Having Scots roots, they have spent time with relatives in Scotland before the event, and are hopefully visiting more before their departure. They have got to grips with the Arrive and Drive BMW 1602, and have been consistent throughout the event, even as newcomers to regularities. Mike and Ollie have been showing some fine form behind the wheel, thoroughly enjoying the tests and scenery.
Dick and Brett Foster have come from the United States of America to be with us in Scotland, Dick has problems hearing in car with background noise, and it is a hark back to the golden days of road rallying to see him using an intercom to talk to Brett as they navigate their way around in the Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV. Speaking with Brett during the event we asked what made it so special to be on The Malts. “My Father has been rallying for over 60 years, he’s 77 now and this could possibly be the last ever event we do together. He’s had the same navigator for almost all those years, and they are big boots to step into. We have had an amazing time, the memories of sharing time with my Father and the stunning scenery and roads in Scotland have made this magical. My daughter is six now and one day, who knows, maybe she will come to Scotland and navigate for me.”
Our final crew being profiled are, once again, Father and Son. Tony and James Darwent have brought their stunning Healey 100/4 for a very special birthday. Their beloved vehicle turns sixty this year, and what more fitting way to celebrate than to stretch her legs in the beautiful Scottish scenery. The Healey is a family treasure, named Betsy Pipsqueak, the whole Darwent family have access to Betsy and are regularly seen competing in the UK and Europe. So why Betsy Pipsqueak? Betsy is a family name and pipsqueak was given by Tony’s wife who said, “Betsy Pips up the hills and squeaks down them!” and so her name was born.
We set off this morning in pretty damp, dark conditions, rain threatened but didn’t materialise as the event set off at 08:30 from Ben Wyvis Hotel, Strathpeffer. A short link section to the west took crews on a loop of the Stratconon’s it was an easy start to the day, not many crews losing time but the scenery, even through the mist, was there to be admired. This day is traditionally when the distilleries are visited, this year was no exception and first off the mark was Glen Ord, just over 6 km from the end of the regularity, this was the start of a visit to many of Scotland’s oldest and most famous purveyors of the grain.
South East of Glen Ord is the industrial town of Inverness, here, two tests took place to keep the drivers happy, rain over night had made the tests slippy, most drivers commenting on how they had enjoyed the testing conditions on an old army base. It was then on to Culloden, site of the famous battle of 1746. A visitor centre here provided us with coffee before the short link to a longer regularity that took in roads in and around Culloden and Assich Forests. A wrong slot in here cost Stephen and Thomas Owens dearly, adding penalty points and dropping them slightly down the order. A longer link and then a meaty regularity took the event towards Charleston of Aberlour, this beautiful area is home to several distilleries, namely Cardhu, Aberlour and one that is known as the Rolls Royce of single malt whisky, Macallan. Another interesting feature of the day was a visit to The Cooperage; this now produces most of the barrels for the Spey side distilleries, bar Macallan, who prefer to import their barrels directly from Jerez, Spain, something they maintain improves the character of their product.
Just to make sure the crews didn’t fall asleep after their lunch at Dowans Hotel, a brace of short regularities were next on the list, heading just south of Aberlour to Glenfiddich distillery. A visit to Glenlivet was the final distillery before heading back towards Inverness and a final section of regularity, a tricky triangle near the village of Dallas caught some crews out, multiple junctions in a short piece of road making the navigation tricky and accurate use of trip meters was the order of the day.
It was a lengthy run back into Strathpeffer, and as we enter the final day of competition it would appear that Mark and Sue Godfrey have it all to lose, Graham Walker/Sean Toohey have made huge inroads into the Godfrey’s previously unassailable lead, they sit just 17 penalties behind, can Mark and Sue hold on?
A superb drive from Richard Dresner/Colin Mackenzie has seen them consistently in the top ten all week, they sit now in third being harassed by Daniel Gresly/Christian Prunte. Nigel Perkins and road rallying legend David Kirkham have been climbing their way through the results all week, a superb day today has seen them take fifth, as Barrie and Roma Weir slip out of contention.
Day 5, Strathpeffer to Gleneagles.
Day 5 dawned bright and early for the final leg of the 2014 Scottish Malts Classic Reliability Trial and Tour. The leaders from day one, Mark and Sue Godfrey had it all to lose, as the ever present Graham Walker and Sean Toohey were pushing them hard, and were there to pounce should the Godfrey’s make a mistake. A beautiful Scottish morning greeted us as we left Strathpeffer for the last time; the event headed out to Inverness, and a superb test along Leys Castle was first up. A narrow road snaking underneath trees, the road having a smattering of mud from a recently passed heavy goods vehicle’s tyres made things interesting for crews. The event had a couple of regularities today; the sting in the tail was to be the last of the day, Loch Tummel, where Clerk of the course Peter Nedin had revised the route instructions to include more speed changes
Heading south, the roads around Nethy Bridge, Tomintoul and on towards Braemar made for stunning scenery, with the bright blue sky and high cumulus clouds made the final day all that more special. Walker and Toohey had made a slip on day one that would cost them dearly, the 24 seconds dropped would come back to haunt them, and even with some stunning performances on the maps and behind the wheel, the cause was lost. After a morning coffee halt at Balmoral Castle, the event wound its way down through the Spittal of Glenshee, a lithe and demanding road with many corners over blind crests, even though this was a link section, the road commands respect.
Lunch was served at the Dalmunzie Hotel on the Spittal of Glenshee, this would be the last lunch we shared on this year’s event as crews then headed out to Pitlochry and a regularity just to the south named Loch Tummel. This 12.6 mile regularity could have swung the result to Walker/Toohey, but the Godfrey’s cruised on to hold their lead, swapping times after this final section, they knew the event was theirs.The run in to Gleneagles was quite a lengthy one, and road closures along the way prompted quick thinking once again from the organising team, by-passing Crief for the final time, the crews arrived at Gleneagles to a champagne welcome and a host of spectators revelling in the fantastic atmosphere The Malts has. One of the happiest crews were long time competitors Richard Dresner/Colin Mackenzie in their E type Jaguar. The pair have competed on The Malts several times, and this was their best result to date with a fine third overall, fending off Daniel Gresly/Christian Prunte in a Porsche 911.
We come to the close of this year’s event, and after a ceremonial dinner held in The Ballroom at Gleneagles, the awards were presented by HERO Honorary Club President, Lord Steel of Aikwood. HERO would like to thank all the Marshals who followed the event and made it such a success. Also, the event partners, EFG International Bank, Octane Magazine, Hagerty Classic Car Insurance, DD Classics, Gleneagles, Motors TV, Orianda 1937 and Arrive and Drive for their support in making this event such a success. We look forward to seeing you on the Scottish Malts 2016, where we will start from Cameron House Hotel on the shores of Loch Lomond.