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Car 74, Don Murray and Andy Philip had a thoroughly uneventful run in Don's newly acquired NessRallySport Subaru Impreza, to 53rd overall in our first outing in the car. 

As a result of an electrical fault just after Don took delivery of the car it only arrived back in Inverness in the small hours of Thursday morning, complete with a new wiring loom, and fresh from its pre-event preparation by Tim Finch Rallyesport in Wigton. The first time we sat in the car was on Friday afternoon, and the first time Don drove the car was en route to sound check. 

This made for a 'gently-gently' approach on Saturday as we got used to each other, as well as the car. Our only outing together was a brief appearance at Crail back in November, when we retired after SS2 with electrical problems in the Evo. This was the first time either of us had competed on gravel since last year's Granite City rally. So, new car, new pairing, new tyres and new service crew, so a big learning curve all round. 

A steady run through the first stage, after bogging down on the first hairpin saw us emerge from SS1 in a perfectly acceptable 63rd place. SS2 was a scary experience, with a very slippy surface, and huge drops, so again caution was the watch word. Stages 3 and 4 were equally uneventful as we got familiar with the notes, and also the handling characteristics of the car, which is a lot milder than the Evo was. Spent a large part of the day struggling with understeer, but new wheels with a wider track and a change back to Pirelli tyres will hopefully cure some of that before the car appears next. 

SS5 was packed with crowds from the very start, and once at the top of the hill we were blinded by the bright sun right into our faces. Not helped by the fact that our carefully fitted Stornoway Gazette sunstrip blew off on Friday morning before the event even started. Only other incident of any note was a straight on into one of the pallet chicanes when the brakes locked at near walking speed necessitating a reversing move to get through. 

Sounds like a dull day, but that would be an unfair reflection. It lacked the drama and grief Don became used to in 2007, but it was none the worse for that. Stages were awesome, and the organisation ran perfectly from our perspective over the whole weekend. The car didn't miss a beat and we got to spend some time getting used to each other, and on the back of that have decided to do all the other gravel rounds of the championship together. 

Our thanks go to our loyal supporters Macritchie Highland Distribution and Ness Properties. Also a mega thank you to Tim Finch, and his crew Adam and Warren, who were incredibly professional all day, and made us feel like a works team every time we came in to service. They also ran Mike Moates and Phil Coulby in the KA as well. Tim still has capacity and staff to allow him to offer a rally day service deal for up to 2 more crews (he has asked me to point out!), so if anyone is interested in finding out more you can speak to Don on 07850 749643 and get some more details, or Tim himself on 07702 636923. 

A massive closing thank you to HCC for such a superb event and to all the officials and marshals who gave their time so we could go and play. Next event - Borders Rally on the 5th April.

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