The curtain came down on the 2014 ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship in dramatic style on Sunday, with Jock Armstrong winning his seventh “Galloway Hills” and securing third spot in the series.
The Castle Douglas ace, with Paula Swinscoe on the notes, was trailing the previous weekend’s Cambrian Rally winners Dave Weston Jnr and navigator Kirsty Riddick by nine seconds going into the final Dalbeattie stage.
However, while the Aberdeen driver spun his Subaru Impreza WRC and got stuck in a ditch “for a good two minutes”, Armstrong was in impressive form to “nail” the victory in his Subaru.
He finished twenty-two seconds ahead of David Bogie who, with Kevin Rae alongside, used the event to fine-tune his Ford Fiesta R5 in preparation for next month’s Wales Rally GB. Bogie was also confirmed as runner-up in the championship behind Borderer Euan Thorburn, who took his first Scottish crown on the previous Colin McRae Stages round.
Desi Henry and Damien Duffin, one of twenty-four Irish crews who took the ferry over for the “Hills”, clinched the final podium spot overall in a Mitsubishi EVO 9, with Dougal Brown and Lewis Rochford from Inverness capping an impressive season by finishing third of the SRC- registered competitors in their EVO.
In increasingly wet and miserable conditions, Weston and Armstrong set identical fastest times through the opening Glengap stage, ahead of Bogie, Henry, and Newton Stewart’s Craig McMiken who was fifth quickest in his EVO 9. Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy, also in an EVO, went into the event dueling with Armstrong for third in the championship, but were hit by turbo problems, and dropped down the leaderboard.
Armstrong lost six seconds to Weston at the very start of the second Laggan O’Dee stage: “We waited so long, perhaps a good ten minutes, and then when it came to go, I hadn’t put the car in gear!”. Meanwhile, Bogie and Henry held station in third and fourth respectively, but McMiken and co-driver Craig Wallace came to grief when they crashed out about two miles in. It resulted in McMiken being taken to hospital by ambulance for checks, but it was later reported that “while a little sore, everything was fine”.
The leading positions, with Brown and Rochford now lying fifth, remained the same through the next three stages – including the “super special” at Auchenlosh – and then it was on to the last Dalbeattie test for a final showdown.
Armstrong arrived back at the finish in Castle Douglas in upbeat mood but still unsure about whether he was first or second, before word filtered through about Weston’s problems:
“The pressure was really on”, said a delighted Armstrong: “That Dalbeattie stage is really tricky, but when we came out I said to Paula that we had got some really good lines in there, along with good exits at most of the corners, so I felt confident driving back to the finish. And then word came through that we’d nailed it. I was beginning to think I’d never achieve a seventh win on my local rally, so it’s a fantastic feeling”.
Co-driver Swinscoe summed it up as “the zenith of a challenging but enjoyable season”.
For his part, Bogie was more than happy with the significant changes to his car, which will set him up for his international debut in Wales in mid-November: “I was really encouraged with our pace, given that we were running at reduced power, with new tyres and different fuel, to comply with WRC regulations”, said the five-times Scottish champion: “We made changes to the suspension – again that improved the car – and we found a better grip level with the tyres, so all these changes for Wales Rally GB have worked perfectly”.
In sixth overall, Borderer Dale Robertson wrapped up his campaign in winning the Mitsubishi Group N championship by just three seconds from Wigtownshire rival Fraser Wilson: “We gave it everything to win the GpN category – including eleven new tyres on the car during the day, I’ve never used so many on one round “, rued Wilson, who was co-driven by Jane Nicol: “We were trading stage times with Dale all day, and it was nip and tuck, but we lost it on the super-special stage. We also had problems with the diff and speed-sensor on the car – I’m not sure whether that had any effect – but to just miss out by three seconds, what can I say – terrible!” The Port William driver did have the consolation of winning the Class 10 championship – after earning the required points by crossing the start line.
Mark McCulloch from Newton Stewart, with Sandhead’s Jim Haugh navigating, had a “pretty poor, but good fun event” on the way to thirteenth overall, eighth of the championship-registered competitors in his Subaru Impreza:
“We lost fourth gear at the start of stage three – so I was trying to go between third and fifth and it’s been pretty hard work, especially in the last Dalbeattie stage which was really a fourth gear stage”, explained McCulloch: “But we’ve held on to a top ten in the championship, that’s the main thing”.
Charlotte McDowall – daughter of Newton Stewart garage owner Jim – was on the notes for Irish competitor Derrick Jobb: the pair surviving a challenging day to finish just inside the top forty in a Mitsubishi EVO 9.
For full results go to www.scotresults.co.uk
News and updates of all SRC rounds can be found at www.scottishrallychampionship.co.uk
Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally: Dumfries & Galloway finishers with total times:
1st Jock Armstrong (Castle Douglas)/Paula Swinscoe (Withnell) Subaru Impreza 46 min 43 sec
2nd David Bogie (Dumfries)/Kevin Rae (Hawick) Ford Fiesta R5 47.21
5th Mike Faulkner (Kirtlebridge)/Peter Foy (Bingley) Mitsubishi EVO 9 49.25
7th Fraser Wilson (Port William)/Jane Nicol (Edinburgh) Mitsubishi EVO 9 49.33
8th Dave Weston (Aberdeen)/Kirsty Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Subaru Impreza WRC 49.37
13th Mark McCulloch (Newton Stewart)/Jim Haugh (Sandhead) Subaru Impreza 50.20
26th Angus Lawrie (Castle Douglas)/George Myatt (Dumfries) Vauxhall Nova 53.43
27th Keith Riddick (Haugh of Urr)/Andrew Falconer (Inverness) MG ZR 54.10
29th Lee Hastings (Collin)/Michael Cruickshank (Crieff) Subaru Impreza 54.42
38th Derrick Jobb (Fintona)/Charlotte McDowall (Creetown) Mitsubishi EVO 57.29
39th Chuck Blair (Dumfries)/Mark Roberts (Dumfries) Peugeot 205GTi 58.05
43rd Scott Peacock (Bridge of Dee)/Albert Connelly (Castle Douglas) Peugeot 205GTi 59.18
46th Niall Cowan Jnr (Dumfries)/Amanda Ann Morrison (Isle of Mull) MG ZR 60.39
47th Scott Sloan (Dumfries)/David Sloan (Dumfries) Vauxhall Corsa 62.32