Stock Rod world champ Lee loves hitting the track
Fife has the distinction of being the home of not one but two World Champions. Gordon Moodie (Windygates) won his in the Formula Twos at Bristol whereas Lee McGill from Kirkcaldy won his in the Stock Rods at the Cowdenbeath Racewall.
Away from the oval Lee is the Technical Sales Manager at McGill Motorsports and just to keep himself busy is the manager at Blairadam Lodge. Mind you at weekends he can be seen racing his ORCi Stock Rod at the Cowdenbeath Racewall.
Lee first started racing in 2005 in the BriSCA Formula IIs after his father Tony retired. “I enjoyed my time in the formula IIs” he quipped with a smile on his face “although I raced mainly for fun and didn’t travel too often. I hadn’t raced in the minis prior so it was a bit of a culture shock when I raced the formula II.”
“I managed to win quite a few races though although my main claim to fame was winning the Turner trophy at the Racewall and the Norman Cowie memorial trophy at Crimond. Without travelling I ruled myself out of qualifying for World Championship semi-finals. I did have a good Scottish Championship but when I was in with a chance of winning got taken out”.
“I decided that I would turn to ORCi Stock Rod racing so I bought the car that Jim Pitcaithly had raced last year. I severely tore the nerves in my left arm and neck which caused the loss of all feeling and movement for a few weeks and still struggle after a race, so that ruled out any of the contact classes for a few years. I find stock rod racing very frustrating having raced full contact formulas prior. I now have to hold myself in check when trying to improve my places. When I started I was just too impetuous when trying to pass and got penalised, which dropped me places, damaged my car and didn’t do my arm any good. When the season started I raced from the blue grades and only three meetings to get my car sorted out before the ORCi Championship came along. It was hard to adjust but I had moved up from blue to the red grade”
“I qualified well for the ORCi and as a result was on the outside of the front row with Mikey Bethune alongside on pole but behind him was the World Champion Stephen McCready. First bend jockeying for position left me bouncing off the wall and as a result restarted in around ninth place. Once I knew that the car was alright I began to make up places and as we started the last lap I was third and on the tail of the leaders. Stephen and Niall McFerran were fighting for the lead and on the last bend I made my bid to win. However Mikey dived inside of me, Stephen was getting collected from all angles but managed to finish first but by the time I crossed the finish line I was fourth!”
“The World Championship was at Cowdenbeath but should have been in the south west but the Autospeed Promotion felt that it would be a bigger draw in Scotland although they ran the meeting. We were seeded into groups and would run in 5 minute sessions which would determine our grid position – a similar set up to the National Hot Rod World Championship.”
“I had changed my setup for the World, I had changed almost everything about the car – a lot of people thought I was wrong to do so - but I was to prove them wrong. It had started to drizzle in the afternoon and the track was a bit wet when we went out so our times were a bit slower. Despite the drizzle there was a semblance of a racing line. Right at the end I managed to put in the fastest time but I had exceeded the five minutes by a couple of seconds so it was disallowed. I wasn’t too chuffed but when they explained it to me I accepted their decision although it dropped me from pole position to sixth on the grid.”
“The rain continued to fall and the track was getting greasier so I changed the set up of my car to a “wet” one. I wasn’t that nervous on the grid and whilst I wanted to win if it didn’t happen that it is what it is.”
“With it being wet the best place to start is on the outside line where you get the most grip and when the race started I got away well. After three laps I was in second spot and then in the lead by lap six. I was kinda cautious when I was lapping back markers until the second placed driver began to catch me but after lap ten or so I decided it was all or nothing and I just went for it. It was a forty lap race and I was easing away from second place all the time. I had a couple of “hairy” moments when lapping back markers when they clipped me and got me off line heading towards the infield marker tyres, but thankfully I was able to hang on. When I crossed the finish line it was a marvellous feeling and I finished on the tail of the fourth placed driver and was half a lap ahead of the second placed driver. I was then mobbed by the McGill clan. The presentation afterwards was brilliant and so too was the parade lap and a big thank you to Gilmore Engineering for sponsoring the meeting.”
“Right after the World was qualifying rounds for the Open Scottish. In my heat on Saturday night I picked up damage which sent me crashing into an infield marker tyre and we spent a good part of the night fixing the car. In my heat on Sunday the engine began to breathe heavily. We decided that we would remove the engine after that race and get it stripped whilst it was in one piece rather than it blow up, dispelling peoples suspicions. Thankfully it was found to be alright.
“The engine was rebuilt and everything was brand new for the Scottish Championship but what a disaster that turned out to be. I drove the car to my grid position and it stopped. No matter what it wouldn’t fire up. Turned out that the new rotor arm had broken. The car ran fine in the heats after it had been replaced but the cars handling wasn’t good so I doubt if I could have won the Scottish, James Gray deserved the win.”
“Our last race of the season was for the Si Laing Memorial trophy and I had a good race. I was fighting for the lead until I was sideswiped which upset the handling of the car. I carried on but couldn’t challenge so had to settle for second place.”
Mikey came up to me afterwards and said “That that was getting close. What was I asked? He said the points championship. I didn’t realise that at the end there was only 15 points between us. Maybe I should pay more attention”
“I am having a new car for next season and it will be built by Jim Pitcaithly. I am keeping the old car in case I wreck the new one but I will use the same engine. Crawftune rebuilt it after the World so it has only done a couple of meetings. The World this year is in Northern Ireland so we will hopefully have a few meetings over there to get the car dialled in. My fiancée, Joy, comes from Northern Ireland so we can visit her family when I go racing. I am not sure if I will do many of the other Championship races due to our budget and my number one priority in life is baby girl Ivy – but we will decide nearer the time.”
“I have a great bunch of helpers with Graham, my brother Dean, Justin Lithgow and Lee Buchan, John, Crawford and Russell but there are many others that turn up when needed. Jim Pitcaithly is another who turns up when I have problems and fixes the issues. Amongst my sponsors are McGill Motorsport, D. McGill Electrical, Blairadam Lodge, JP Fabrications, Crawftune Engines, C-Thru Windows, Gilmour Engineering but there are many others that step in when I need help. It is the usual saying “If it wasn’t for them it would not be possible.”
“Roll on 2019 we have a few more things to try!”