Craig McMiken was the leading Wigtownshire driver on Saturday’s GWF Energy Merrick Stages Rally, finishing ninth overall on his home event for the second year running.
It proved a more challenging day for fellow local four-wheel-drive competitors Mark McCulloch, who battled to 16th overall, and Fraser Wilson and Steven Broll, who suffered two punctures on the final stage, and ended the day in 39th place.
McMiken and co-driver Craig Wallace from Kirriemuir were 18th fastest in their Mitsubishi EVO 9 through the opening Craignell stage, two seconds shy of Wilson in his Group N EVO 8, and fourteen seconds slower than McCulloch’s Subaru Impreza.
However, the two Craigs upped the pace on the second short Dallash stage and had a largely trouble-free run through the remaining three.
“We had a bit of a slow start in the morning – I just wasn’t committing to the notes,” said McMiken. “After that it was fine. The stages were great – really fast. On the last one there was a torrential downpour just as we were passing through some log piles and it was very slippy there, but we got away with it. We’re both delighted with the result.”
McCulloch, co-driven for the first time by former Scottish champion Stewart Merry, was sitting eighth overall after four stages, but hit problems on the final 14 miles of SS5 Auchenleck. “We’d been having a decent run, the best was stage three, and then on the last stage we pulled a right front puncture for 10 miles and lost two and a half minutes. That dropped us back from a certain top 10 finish. So the bad luck continued, just as it had on the previous two rounds. But Stewart has been spot-on with the notes all day.”
Port William’s Fraser Wilson and Steven Broll had been hoping for a good clean run in the GpN category on this, the sixth round of the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship. However, just as it had been for McCulloch, the final stage proved to be the sting in the tail.
“We had an overshoot on the first stage because the brakes weren’t warm enough, and we had a spin on stage two, but the run through Glentrool, and the following stage, were both absolutely fantastic,” said Broll. “We were lying 16th overall going into the last stage, but then picked up a puncture on my side about three or four miles from the start. We changed the tyre, and drove another mile and a half, and then there was a puncture on Fraser’s side. After that we knew we were jiggered, so we just crawled out of the stage with our hazard lights on.”
In 21st overall was Sandhead’s Jim Haugh and Dumfries driver Ian Paterson in a Subaru Impreza.
At the top end of the leaderboard, Euan Thorburn from Duns, in a Ford Focus WRC, won his second event in this year’s SRC, and, in so doing, prevented David Bogie, also in a Focus, from winning an unprecedented fifth consecutive Scottish title with two rounds remaining.
Of the 13 retirements, the highest-seeded non-finisher was Castle Douglas driver Jock Armstrong, co-driven by Kirsty Riddick. After setting the second quickest time on stage one, their Subaru Impreza slid well off the road in the slippy conditions on the short Dallash test.
There was standing-room only for the traditional post-rally prize-giving at Wigtown County Buildings, compered by Jim McDowall and former clerk of the course Roy Campbell, who had flown back from Dubai for the event. The awards were presented by Merrick sponsor Nigel Feeney of GWF Energy.
One of the warmest rounds of applause accompanied the announcement that the James Fleming Rose Bowl for Man of the Meeting had been awarded to rally organiser Allan Marshall. He was admitted to hospital for tests after feeling unwell on the eve of the rally, but was allowed home on Saturday afternoon, and was present at the prize-giving.
GWF Energy Merrick Stages: Dumfries and Galloway finishers, with total times:
2. David Bogie (Dumfries)/Kevin Rae (Hawick) Ford Focus WRC 43 mins 06 secs
5. Mike Faulkner (Kirtlebridge)/Peter Foy (Bingley) Mitsubishi EVO 9 44.09
9. Craig McMiken (Newton Stewart)/Craig Wallace (Kirriemuir) Mitsubishi EVO 9 46.25
16. Mark McCulloch (Newton Stewart)/Stewart Merry (Jersey) Subaru Impreza 47.29
20. Garry Pearson (Duns)/Laura Marshall (Newton Stewart) Ford Fiesta R2 48.16
21. Ian Paterson (Dumfries)/Jim Haugh (Sandhead) Subaru Impreza 48.29
23. Lee Hastings (Collin)/Drew Sturrock (Laurencekirk) Subaru Impreza 49.34
24. Iain Haining (Locharbriggs)/Mairi Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Vauxhall Nova 49.59
25. Iain Wilson (Dalbeattie)/Keith Fremantle (Dalbeattie) Vauxhall Nova 50.40
27. Charles Blair (Dumfries)/Mark Roberts (Dumfries) Peugeot 205 Gti 52.17
29. Andy Kelly (Greenock)/Roger Herron (Dumfries) Ford Escort Mk1 52.46
32. James Robertson (Thornhill)/Colin Maxwell (Dumfries) Citreon C2R2 53.36
36. Scott Sloan (Dumfries)/David Sloan (Dumfries) Vauxhall Corsa 54.17
37. Scott Peacock (Bridge of Dee)/Keith Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Peugeot 205 Gti 54.25
39. Fraser Wilson (Port William)/Steven Broll (Port William) Mitsubishi EVO 8 54.47
42. Alan McMorran (Castle Douglas)/Albert Connelly (Castle Douglas) Peugeot 205 Gti 59.35