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Speyside Stages - Saturday 21st August 2004

As the team were not doing the full championship it was decided that Ian would drive on a gravel rally at some point during the year. The way that the calendar worked out saw the Speyside Stages in Elgin as the most suitable event. Gordon didn't fancy the job of co-driving so Stevie Graham from Cumnock was drafted in to navigate for Ian.

The rally consisted of 9 stages, starting as usual with the two short spectator stages round Cooper Park in Elgin city centre. These went fine with the second run being a bit slower than the first due to a missing a gear on the long straight.

With the two spectator stages out of the way it was on to the forest stages. Stage 3 had to be shortened by the organisers as the original exit road from the forest had been washed away in the heavy rain that had fallen in the week leading up to the event. At just over 3 and a half miles it was a nice gentle introduction to rallying on gravel. The stage went well with no problems. This was the first time Ian had driven on gravel with route notes so it took a bit of time getting used to the car and the notes.

Stages 4 & 5 were the same stage being run twice. When the car left the start line on stage 4 it started misfiring and wouldn't run properly. The problem got worse throughout the stage and the car was really slow towards the end. Stage 5 was a rerun of the stage and started almost immediately. The car was going very slowly by now and Ian had to limp through the stage.

A service halt was next and Sam & Brian had a look but couldn't find anything obviously wrong. Stage 6 was the longest of the day at just over 15 miles and would show whether the car was going to run properly or not. The stage went without a glitch as the car ran with no problems.

A quick service between stages 6 and 7 showed that combustion gases were getting into the cooling system. A suspected cylinder head failure was diagnosed. Sam's advice was to keep the heater on and hope that the engine stayed cool enough to get it to the end.

Stage 7 went very well with Ian trying quite hard as we were now getting towards the end and he was getting more used to the car and the notes.

On the way to stage 8 there was a heavy shower which made the last two stages quite slippy. Not wanting to have any mishaps so close to the end, Ian was quite cautious over these last two stages as they were quite treacherous with the rain that had fallen.

There were no further problems to the end and Ian finished 46th overall and 14th (last) in class. A very good day was had by Ian and Stevie who enjoyed their outing.

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