After the last 2 litre National Saloon meeting at the Cowdenbeath Racewall I bumped into a spectator, Auchterarder’s Ian McLaughlin, who was wishing he had been out there racing instead of being confined to a spectating role. Ian had won the Scottish Championship earlier in the season but had been injured in a spectacular climax to the race.
I enquired to his present state of health and was told “I am fine now. I could have raced this weekend but on reflection it was probably better that I didn’t” he quipped. “I had two broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder blade, but I am fine now. I was off work for 6 weeks but the week prior to the Scottish I started another mechanic – how fortuitous.”
“I started the season with the same car and had just refreshed the car over the winter months. The car went well and I picked up a lot of good results as the season progressed. Ross Watters was my main rival at the start but Luke Grief soon caught up and it was basically the three of us at the front of the charts.”
“The first of the Championship races at the Racewall was the National Championship and as usual there was a big turn out of cars. There were three qualifying heats for Sunday’s race and I started off with a second place in heat one and then a sixth in heat two. In my last race I ended up ninth but despite having reasonable results I started Sunday’s race on in the second group of cars. The race itself was a big disappointment and I had to retire from the race with a broken spring guard. I had it fixed and came home in the runners up place in the Raymond Gunn Tribute race and then ended up in third place in the Allcomers afterwards.”
“The car continued to run strongly at the Racewall and was still in the top three in the points when we headed down to Skegness for the UK Challenge weekend.”
“On the Thursday night I won the final so was looking forward to the weekend. There was a big turnout of saloons for the UK but the car wasn’t as good as I would have hoped after my win on Thursday. I just couldn’t get the car running as well as I would have liked and as a result I just struggled to get into the results.”
“Back at the Racewall things were going alright on the run up to the Scottish. I had checked the car over in the garage and was happy with the set up. I went out for practice and found that the car was on song. It was probably the best that it has ever run. I went back into the pits and changed tyres and got ready for the championship. The grid for the Scottish is a drawn one and we are all looking to get as near to the front as possible. I drew 12th which put me on the outside of row 6. Could have been better but on the other hand it could have been a lot worse.”
“When we took to the track you could feel the tension in the air. We started the cars on the command of “lady and gentlemen, start our engines.” We then had slow warm up lap and when the green flag appeared I floored it. The car didn’t seem to be as good as it was in practice – could have been the change in tyres – it was the only thing that I had changed.”
“Ross Watters went charging off into the lead but I was slowly making headway picking up places every lap or so until I got through into second place. Ross was almost the length of a straight ahead of me but I wasn’t going to give up. Then it all changed when the yellow flags appeared and we slowed down . There were now two back markers between me and Ross. When the race restarted Ross got away well but by the time that I had cleared the back markers he had a useful lead. I think it was three laps later that there was another stoppage but this time there was no one between me and Ross.”
“I had noticed that my car was faster than Ross’ and whilst he made another good start, he pulled out 4 or 5 car lengths from me, but once we settled down I began to close. When the 5-laps-to-run board appeared I knew that I had to get a move on. I began to close the gap and with three laps to run I was on his back bumper. I looked in my mirror and noticed that Graeme Shevill was in close order. I forced my way though into the lead with Ross’s car brushing the wall which slowed him a bit. I was now leading.”
With 2 laps remaining I thought I had a decent lead but then came across Marc Honeyman who was just restarting after a spin. I had to go around him and that lost me time and as I entered the straight Graeme managed to get up on the inside line. As we crossed the start/finish line to start the last lap Graeme was just ahead but his car was a bit taily. I managed to change line on the turnstile bend and we were side by side going down the back straight and heading into the pit bend.”
By now the crowd were on their feet and you could hear them over the sound of the engines and they were certainly cheering on their favourite.
Ian then recalled the final moments of the race “All of a sudden I was a passenger ass Ross launched his attack. He hit me hard going into the bend, my car seemed to turn left and hit the wall hard. I was basically a passenger and hit the wall hard again. I looked in my mirror and saw Ross and Graeme spinning. I put my foot down but didn’t get too good a response. I later found out that the gearbox bellhousing had cracked and I wasn’t getting as much drive as I should have. Once on the straight I was hoping that no one was going to get ahead and I just had crossed the line when a blue car shot past. It turned out it was Kyle Irvine but I had made it before he did! My car stopped against the turnstile bend wall. I was feeling happy but a bit sore. The paramedic appeared at the side of my car and it was only when I tried to loosen my Hans device did I realise just how sore I was. Someone helped me to loosen my helmet and take it off. I got out of the car and started to walk to the centre green.”
“I remember getting presented with the trophy and going round on the control car but when I got back to the pits I was checked over in the ambulance. I then decided that I was going to the hospital and Victoria drove me to the one at Perth. I got a full examination and that was when they told me the full extent of my injuries. That was my season over. I had never thought that I would win the Scottish Championship - I had never had much luck before but despite my injuries was delighted that I had.
“Ross phoned me to see how I was. It was a racing incident and I would have done exactly the same had I been in his position.”
“I wouldn’t have done the National Series if I was fit to race it. There was too much travelling at the end of the season plus all the double scoring meetings were down south.”
“I will have my car ready for the start of the season and with the World Final being at the Racewall next year I will have to look at meetings where there are World Ranking points on offer. I don’t really want to have to rely on the last chance qualifying round to get into the World but I will have to see how things go.”
“Without the help and encouragement from my mum, Agnes, and dad, John, I couldn’t have raced and really any success that I have achieved wouldn’t have been possible without them. The rest of the team Gary, Fraser, Neil and Victoria; the twins, Molly and William; oh and Ross “the boss” McLaughlin of microf2 fame”.
“Sponsorship comes from W. McLaughlin and Sons, RS Coaches, G West Farriers, Griffen Bodyshop, Tullibardine Smithy, Norco, Paul Meldrum Removals, K West hairdressing and A9 Auto Services which is the business I started in 2014. Really without the mechanics and sponsorship I wouldn’t be as competitive as I am – it is really appreciated”.