Words and Photos by: Blue Passion Photo/Hero
Last week saw the 16th running of the Scottish Malts, organized by Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation, which turned out to be a classic that will go down on rallying history for one of the closest finishes in the events chronicles. After 5 days and nearly a thousand miles around stunning glens and many whiskey distilleries, the top two were tied exactly on the same penalty. A count back system was used on the ‘furthest cleanest’ rule, and that gave victory to the Lotus Elan of Graham Walker and Sean Toohey as they had a clean run through the first regularity section; the eventual second place crew of Dan Gresly and Elise Whyte had dropped just one second – but it was enough.
Overall Results Scottish Malts 2018
- Graham Walker / Sean Toohey – Car 1 – Lotus Elan 2:01
- Daniel Gresly / Elise Whyte – Car 40 – Porsche 911 2:01
- Bill Clyndert / Jacqui Norman – Car 4 – Bentley ¾ ½ 2:24
- Test Pilot Award – Best Performance on Tests: Daniel Gresly – Car 40 – Porsche 911 SWB
- Clockwatchers Award – Best Performance on Regularities: Jacqui Norman – Car 4 – Bentley 3/4 ½
- Concours d’Elegance : Jeff Senden – Car 17 – Lancia Aurelia B20
The 16th running of the Scottish Malts, organized by Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation, turned out to be a classic that will go down on rallying history for one of the closest finishes in the events chronicles. After 5 days and nearly a thousand miles around stunning glens and many whiskey distilleries, the top two were tied exactly on the same penalty. A count back system was used on the ‘furthest cleanest’ rule, and that gave victory to the Lotus Elan of Graham Walker and Sean Toohey as they had a clean run through the first regularity section; the eventual second place crew of Dan Gresly and Elise Whyte had dropped just one second – but it was enough.
83 crews started the event from all across the world, including teams from America, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, Ireland and France: all quite happy for the very positive weather forecast that seemed to ward off the snow of 2016 edition. 12 Porsche, 10 Austin Healey, 8 Jaguar and 7 Italian cars (with 2 Lancia Aurelia) were the largest fleets, followed by 5 Aston Martin, Mercedes, MG and Triumph. The spectacular Gleneagles Hotel would provide the perfect back drop for the start of “The Malts”, despite a rude awakening for competitors and organisers as a fire alarm sounded just after midnight: while the fire brigade was investigating, some competitors were already asking for a delay allowance – others fancied some kind of night rally, all enjoying the free bar!
The first day was supposed to ease competitors into the event, through easy regularities on leafy lanes around Loch Leven and a test at Driftlands Circuit – last used on LEJOG in 2017 when it was covered in snow! A visit to St Andrews (for a lunch on the dramatic clifftop setting of The Fairmont Hotel, a golfer’s paradise) with a “catwalk” in front of the Cathedral and the University, proved to be the main turning point for the event and the majority of crews. Most had by now already used their ‘joker’, designed to allow crews to make one mistake without being heavily penalised; Walker and Toohey took the wrong road and the mistake costed them 55 seconds, reduced to 5 by the end of the day. The only crew not to have a joker applied to their times eventually finished in third place overall and was truly a magnificent achievement for the 1934 Bentley 3/4 1/2 of Bill Clyndert and Jacqui Norman, who received a standing ovation at the prize giving from fellow competitors and organisers.
Day one finished back in Crieff Hydro, which would be the first of two nights here with a route that would take in more of Perthshire’s rolling countryside. Day two was a lot simpler, with more concentration needed on timings rather than map reading: it was extremely tight at the top, with twenty seconds separating the top 8 crews. After the first coffee & test at The Ballathie House, on the banks of the River Tay, the daily dose of “historical beauty” was provided by the lunch at the Glemis Castle, legendary setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. Competitors couldn’t fail to be impressed by the majesty of the Castle’s turrets and towers, nestled at the end of the mile-long drive: many of them had time for a “car selfie”…
Drivers would also have their first chance at opening up the throttle on the first special test of the event, made even more spectacular as the pre-war cars rumbled round in front of a Spitfire, on display there. On Regularity 2/5, an unexpected deep ford gave a bit of refreshment (too much for some of the convertible cars??) to the competitors and a lot of fun to the Hero photographers, trying to take the best shot without getting soaked.
The final main control of Leg 2 was at the The Glenturret Distillery, home of The Famous Grouse Whisky, with a private tour of the distillery to round off a busy day.
The trek northwards on Day 3, the most picturesque of the event, began with some regularities on narrow roads along beautiful rivers and lakes, followed by a test in the Edinchip Estate and a coffee stop at the well known Killin Hotel, where everybody could marvel at the Falls of Dochart, as the melting snow contributed to raise the water levels. The run after coffee took the crews along the A82 and after an old Malts favourite, The Glen Orchy regularity, the run up started through the dramatic and imposing scenery of The Glencoe Pass: mountains covered by snow and shrouded in mist, lakes like mirrors and lattices of tiny gravel roads, included the Glen Etive road, where James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 was upstaged by the view in the 2012 James Bond film “Skyfall”. All of a sudden, two R.A.F. Typhoons ripped the sky and broke the sound barrier, guiding the last on the road to the lunch at the Ballaculish Hotel, situated in a breath-taking lochside setting at the foot of Glencoe. An iconic test through the whiskey barrels took place at the Ben Nevis Distillery, one of the oldest licensed distillery in Scotland dating back to 1825, nestling at the foot of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain at 4,406 feet above sea level. As we headed to Inverness, the strains and rigours of the previous days were taking their toll with a number of crews finding themselves parked up on the side of the road, needing assistance from the HERO assist on event service crew. Unfortunately, we would also see the demise and retirement of Paul Bloxidge and Ian Canavan, who had worked their way up to second overall: the Porsche 911 would drop a cylinder, making it virtually impossible to get up some of the steep hills of the day. The legendary Loch Ness Monster Regularity and the absolutely spectacular Suidhe Viewpoint preceded the descent to lower grounds and into the heart of old town Inverness, the Capital of the Highlands.
77 cars started day four tackling the opposite side of Loch Ness, amongst the impossibly tall conifers, winding single track roads, Kincraig Castle for lunch and more distillery visits on the schedule, including Glen Ord, Glenmorangie and Balblair. A wondrous drive past the Struie Hill Viewpoint, one of Scotland’s finest, above the Dornoch Firth and a short regularity on the edge of the northerly Sutherland Mountains marked the turn south-wards before heading to Balnagown Castle, the Scottish home of Mohamed Al Fayed, surrounded by fields of yellow daffodils, for a test where the marshals saw the cars scattering in any directions around the cones to find the right way to the finish line.
Another reshuffle in the overall rankings saw the gaps between the top three crews extended to their biggest margins during the whole of the event, a mere 18 seconds.
The last day would also involve a number of private estates and controls in lay-bys to catch out those thinking the run back to Gleneagles would be an easy one. Two stops at the Tomatin Distillery and Dalwhinnie Distillery (the highest in Scotland), good flowing roads on the first Regs and a link section under a blu sky and a shiny sun took the crews into a valley housing the ‘official centre of Scotland’, then across the bleakest of moors, before arriving at Blair Castle. This magnificent white landmark, the ancestral home of the Clan Murray, owned still by the Duke of Atholl, the commander of the only legal private army in Europe, the Atholl Highlanders, hosted the lunch halt and a challenging test through its grounds before the cars continued their way South to visit the last two distilleries of the week, Edradour (the smallest in Scotland, run by just two men) and Blair Atholl Distillery, in the lovely town of Pitlochry. Once again, the HERO crews were granted passage across the dramatic Logierait Bridge, built in 1865 to carry passenger trains across the River Tay.
Graham Walker and Sean Toohey looked nervous as they headed into the first regularity and, by their standards, they didn’t have a good day. Zeros and ones suddenly turned into threes and fours. For the chasing pack there was hope. The gap was tightening for Dan Gresly and Elise Whyte and others were also closing in. By the time the crews reached the finish line, there were 5 crews standing a good chance of taking anoverall win, it was nail biting as the results crew crunched the numbers with the champagne on ice until the moment of truth. The final result was decided on count back after two crews finished with exactly the same penalty. One second is all that would separate them after 5-days of intense competition. The Malts will be back in 2020 to find out more about this exhilarating event: see more at www.heroevents.eu.