Last weekend’s Tunnocks Mull Rally saw Scottish rally driver Stevie Brown and co-driver Keir Beaton battle against mechanical gremlins for much of the 150 mile tarmac rally, before eventually succumbing with engine failure.
With the opening leg of the rally starting at 7pm on Friday evening, the motoGF backed crew would launch into the first stage in complete darkness, when a malfunction with the spot lamps meant the Subaru Impreza would negotiate the 7 mile stage using just the ordinary head lamps. Before starting the second stage the crew were able to solve the spot lamp problem, but arriving at the first service it was brake problems that would be the main cause of concern.
“We couldn’t see very much at all on the first stage without the lamp pod and we struggled for confidence in there” said Stevie making his third full outing in a four-wheel-drive car. The JRRC Fitness backed driver continued, “At the moment we need to try and get the brakes working, the pedal is going straight to the floor. I think it’s because the fluid is getting too hot because we’re having to left foot brake to keep the car stable as the suspension is too soft for this rally. I’m going to change a few things for the next loop of stages.”
The all new Bunessan stage would see the NRP Signwriting Subaru Impreza bounce back from a difficult first two stages, setting 13th fastest time, but during the final stage of the opening leg the Subaru lost power, forcing Brown and Keir to nurse the car to the finish. Further to their mechanical woes, the crew would collect a two-minute time penalty when they booked into a timing control too early. “We lost a lot of time on the last stage, and the penalty has pushed us right back in the results to 35th. We need to find out why the car’s lost power and try and get back out tomorrow to get more miles in the car” explained Stevie at the end of the opening leg.
With the lack of power traced to fuel starvation with an over-heating fuel pump, Stevie and Keir started the second leg of the event, hoping they could put the problems of the first part of the rally behind them. However with the rain becoming heavier the crew were on the wrong tyres for the slippery conditions. “We’re on a slick tyre, which is meant for dry conditions. We’re going to lose time for sure” explained Stevie at the end of the first stage of the second leg.
On stage 11 Brown and Beaton slid off the road when they drove over a patch of oil on the road, hitting a straining fence post. “As soon as we braked all the wheels locked up, it was like we were on ice” said Stevie. Despite the heavy impact the car was relatively undamaged, and the crew were able to nurse the car through the remaining two stages before the main service halt of the day.
The team worked quickly during service, replacing broken suspension parts, and changing the tyres, but the Subaru still remained down on power. Further drama would unfold on stage 14 when the intercom failed and the Subaru crew would lose further time with a spin. At the end of the second leg of the rally Stevie said “today has been very difficult, but we’re still here and the team can try and find out why we’re down on power.”
As the service team worked to diagnose why the car remained down on power, they discovered a problem with the head gasket, forcing Stevie to make the difficult decision to withdraw from the rally. “If we keep going we could damage the engine further. It’s disappointing for sure, but we can take a lot of positives away from this weekend. It’s only our third event in a four-wheel-drive car, so we’re still learning a lot” said Stevie.
Co-driver Keir Beaton said, “It’s a real shame that we never really had a clean run at any of the stages. But it did give us a good opportunity to treat the event as a test, which has helped us build confidence for future events. For only the third time in the car, Stevie has set an excellent platform to build on going forward into the 2012 season.”
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