David Hardie – the winner for the past two years - heads an impressive entry of 50 cars for Saturday’s usedcarparts.co.uk Solway Coast Rally, held at the military ranges at Dundrennan.
The engineering company boss will have John McCulloch from Newton Stewart on the notes as he targets a hat-trick on the ten-stage tarmac event in his Subaru Impreza – the car of choice for the eight leading seeds.
Next off the start line will be John’s son Mark - back in action after a tough day on the Speyside Stages Rally last weekend when a broken driveshaft put paid to a top-ten finish. By the time he returns home to Olney in Buckinghamshire, McCulloch’s co-driver Elliot Edmondson will have racked up some sixteen hundred miles driving to and from the two Scottish events.
A threat to the leading pair is likely to come in the shape of hotly-tipped young Lancashire driver Arron Newby. The eighteen-year-old, whose family run the rally car preparation firm TEG Sport at Carnforth, will come north fresh from his latest rally victory in Lincolnshire.
Fourth seeds Ian Paterson and co-driver Jim Haugh, runners-up on the Solway Coast in 2012, will be hoping for a change of fortune after a non-finish on the Speyside, when an intercooler hose failed on their Subaru N10. It was their second DNF in this year’s Scottish championship.
Lee Hastings and Brian Findon, who took the final podium spot last year, start as sixth seeds behind tarmac specialists Stuart Baillie and Lachlan Cowan. New Abbey’s Richard Dickson, with Roger Alcorn on the notes, will also be pushing for a strong finish, along with Stranraer’s Jim Clark, co-driven by Amy MacKinnon.
Stuart Walker and Julie McGuire will start ninth in a Mitsubishi EVO 8, while Cumnock’s Billy McLelland and Auldgirth navigator Helen Brown round off the leading ten crews in an EVO 3.
Dumfries crew Stuart Paterson and Colin Maxwell will be back in action in their Subaru Impreza, while rally sponsor Richard Stewart will have Kenneth Marchbank alongside in the usedcarparts.co.uk Impreza.
Among the 2WD entries, Dalbeattie’s Iain Wilson and Keith Fremantle will be vying for honours in their Vauxhall Nova. The Stewartry crew have had a successful Scottish championship campaign this year, and were leading the 1600cc category going into the Speyside. However, an “off” on the third stage halted their challenge.
Scott Peacock from Bridge of Dee, co-driven by Haugh of Urr’s Keith Riddick, will also be looking for a good performance in front of home support, after surviving a tough day in the Moray forests in his Peugeot 205GTi. Young Murray Coulthard, co-driven by David Crosbie, will be another to watch in his Vauxhall Nova.
On Sunday, the focus will switch to the Junior Rally for 14 to 17 year olds, competing in the F1000 Challenge. The event has attracted twenty entries, including young talent from Ireland as well as Scotland. Each will be accompanied by an experienced “senior” driver or co-driver.
Mark McCulloch will swap seats to help guide second seed Ryan Weston in a Toyota Aygo, while former Scottish champion co-driver Kirsty Riddick will be alongside Craig MacIvor in a Nissan Micra.
Like the senior rally the previous day, the juniors will tackle ten stages, but with a reduced mileage of just under forty competitive miles.
Saturday’s event – a qualifying round of the Five of Clubs Rally Championship and the Scottish Tarmack Rally Championship - will get underway at 0930 from the Girstingwood Rally HQ at Dundrennan, with the first car expected to finish around 1530.
The Junior rally will start at 0900 on Sunday – again from the Rally HQ – with the leading car due back at approximately 1500.
Full details can be found at www.solwaycarclub.co.uk