THE fast and unforgiving lanes of Berwickshire beckon for a number of local crews competing on this weekend’s Jim Clark Rally.
Newton Stewart’s Mark McCulloch, and Minnigaff co-driver Laura Marshall will resume their respective campaigns in the BRC Challenge.
Both have been buoyed by strong results on the Pirelli Challenge Rally at the end of April: McCulloch finishing fifth overall in his Ford Fiesta ST, despite picking up two punctures, and Marshall celebrating an impressive class win alongside Duns’ teenager Garry Pearson in his Nissan Micra.
Meanwhile, Mark’s dad John will be on the notes for Dumfries Subaru Impreza driver David Hardie on the National Rally – a round of the MSA Asphalt Rally Championship – where the pair currently sit fourth in the points. Stranraer’s Jim Sharp, co-driven by Amy McKinnon, will also be competing on the National in a Subaru.
Local garage owner Jim McDowall has an equally busy weekend ahead alongside son Jamie.
The pair have entered their Hillman Avenger for the Historic event, and on Sunday will switch to a recently acquired Ford Focus RS for the Reivers Rally, the fourth round of the MSA Scottish Rally Championship.
The Reivers is the only tarmac round of the Scottish series, and the Port William duo of Fraser Wilson and Steven Broll will be looking to get their campaign back on track after two successive non-finishes in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6.
However, the pair know the stages well and scored a third in class on last year’s event, while competing in a Vauxhall Nova.
Elsewhere, defending Scottish title-holder and current points leader David Bogie from Dumfries is targeting a third consecutive Reivers victory, as well as his third win of the 2011 championship.
On Sunday, he plans to use his family’s 23-year-old MG Metro 6R4 – the same car in which his father John won the Reivers rally in 2002.
Bogie will make the switch from his regular Mitsubishi Evo 9, which he will use on Friday and Saturday’s International Rally - the fourth round of the British championship, which he also leads.
“The tarmac roads can be really sore on a car – the engine, transmission and other components - so it would be really stupid not to have a back-up plan for the Sunday”, explained Bogie: “The Metro is being brought up from its base in Lincolnshire, and so as not to waste the opportunity, we’ve decided to use it on the Reivers. It’s a very enjoyable car to drive, and despite the fact it’s 23-years-old, the same age as myself, I still think it can be competitive, and we can win the rally in it”.
He will face stiff competition from the likes of Jock Armstrong from Castle Douglas and Mike Faulkner of Kirtlebridge.
Armstrong has had mixed fortunes over the first three rounds – a third place on the Snowman, was followed by a non-finish on the Border Counties, while a puncture meant he could only manage seventh overall on the Granite City.
Armstrong took the final podium spot on last year’s Reivers, and believes better settings on his Subaru Impreza could lead to improved stage times, compared to 12 months ago.
With regular co-driver Kirsty Riddick travelling to compete on the Barbados Rally, Armstrong will be joined by top Irish navigator Barry McNulty.
Following a fourth place finish on the Granite, Mike Faulkner moved into second spot in the drivers’ standings overall – eight points adrift of Bogie.
With navigator Peter Foy, the Kirtlebridge-based driver is aiming for “a solid result to leave us in a good position to attack for the rest of the year”.
“Although I’ve had some great results on tarmac in single makes, the Jim Clark has never been particularly good to me”, admitted Faulkner: “The Berwickshire roads are very difficult, very fast where late braking is key to a good stage time but the grip varies a lot – particularly if it’s wet
- and it’s very easy to get caught out”.
Kirkgunzeon farmer Rory Young competes on his second SRC round of the season so far in his Mitsubishi Evo 5, alongside regular navigator Allan Cathers from Carlisle. Young has achieved some solid results on the Reivers – with three top 20 finishes in the past thre years, including tenth overall in 2009.
Meanwhile, Richard Stewart from Dumfries, with Kelso navigator Carin Logan on the notes, will be looking to make amends for a non-finish last year after his Subaru Impreza suffered mechanical problems.
Among the 2-wheel drive contestants, Thornhill’s Jim Robertson (Citreon C2R2), co-driven by George Myatt, will be attempting to extend his 3-point advantage in Class 4 over Graeme Schoneville of Carluke in a Honda Civic.
The first car will be flagged away from Duns town centre at 0845 on Sunday, with the leaders returning around 1645.
Full details can be found at the event website www.jimclarkrally.com
For news of all SRC rounds, go to www.scottishrallychampionship.co.uk