1974 winners return for Galloway rally

Keith McCleary and Ivor Clark's 1974 Galloway Hills Rally winning car, and Ivor Clark (left) and Keith McCleary with the Mitsubishi Evo 4 they will use on the 40th anniversary event.

Keith McCleary and Ivor Clark's 1974 Galloway Hills Rally winning car, and Ivor Clark (left) and Keith McCleary with the Mitsubishi Evo 4 they will use on the 40th anniversary event.

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The winners of the inaugural Galloway Hills Rally in 1974 will be back together to mark the 40th anniversary of the event on Sunday, October 27.

In recognition, driver Ivor Clark and navigator Keith McCleary will carry No 1 on the door of their car, a Mitsubishi EVO 4, belonging to Ivor’s son, Steven.

Forty years ago, it was Keith who drove the pair to overall victory in his Mk1 Ford Escort Twin Cam.

Both were neighbours in Gretna and colleagues at a tractor dealership in Carlisle. Their love of rallying saw them enter several local events in the Escort – which they tinkered with in a local hayshed.

The Galloway Hills win was a notable triumph, the duo leading home 76 finishers from an entry list of 96 crews.

“I remember the rally very well,” said Keith. “We started in Castle Douglas, there were seven stages, and we finished in Girvan. I remember less of the celebratory party afterwards though!” Their service crew that day was two mates in a car, filled with tyres and essential spares.

Keith continued to compete in local rallies, until his final outing in 1985. Ivor took his sport more seriously, winning the Group 1 Castrol Autosport Championship in 1979.

Today, the pair remain near-neighbours, and have served 48 and 46 years respectively at the same dealership.

Like many enthusiasts, the motorsport gene has been passed down the generations in the Clark family, with Steven winning the Scottish Co-Drivers’ Championship in 2006, and twice finishing as fourth overall Scottish driver. Ivor’s daughter Alison is GoMotorsport’s regional development officer for Scotland, and even eight-year-old grandson Lucas now has a set of spanners.

Several other entries from the first running of the Galloway Hills will either compete or officiate at this year’s event, which is jointly organised by the Solway, Machars and East Ayrshire car clubs, and counts as the final round of the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship.

Alan McMorran from Castle Douglas, who has been a “Hills regular” in the intervening years, will line up for the start in his Peugeot 205. In 1974 he drove a Hillman Imp alongside navigator Bernard Burney.

Another original driver was Micky Rankin in an Escort. Forty years on, he again hopes to compete, this time in his “brand new” Escort Mk1.

Sheila Laird – wife of current Solway Car Club president, Tom – and Stewart Robertson, the Solway CC vice-president, were entered at No 19 in an Escort Twin-Cam. Stewart will act as a safety officer on this year’s event, while Tom and Sheila will be out on the stages marshalling.

Dom Buckley senior and Jimmy McRae finished second and tenth respectively on the first event, both in Escorts. Buckley became one of the country’s leading rally preparation experts, while McRae went on to win five British championship in the 1980s.

The first entry list, and those for the following years, also reveal strong family links with the present day.

In 1974, Alan Peacock was behind the wheel of an Escort 1300, and this year his brother Donald and nephew Scott will go head to head in Peugeot 205s.

Andrew Gallacher, son of multiple Scottish champion Drew – who won the first of his three Galloway Hills in 1975 – is entered in his GpN Mitsubishi EVO 9.

Meanwhile, Ian Paterson from Mouswald, co-driven by Jim Haugh, will start his 30th Armstrong Galloway Hills in his Gulf Oil-liveried Subaru Impreza.

It would have been Paterson’s 31st start on October 27, if he had not been forced to sit on the sidelines one year because of ankle surgery.

Full event details can be found at www.gallowayhillsrally.co.uk as well as on the event’s official Facebook page,www.facebook.com/gallowayhillsrally or Twitter feed, @GallowayHills.