Mark McCulloch powered his Subaru Impreza to a convincing victory on Saturday’s usedcarparts.co.uk Solway Coast Rally, run over the military ranges at Dundrennan, near Kirkcudbright.
The Newton Stewart-based competitor, co-driven by Elliot Edmondson, finished one minute and fifty-four seconds ahead of Ian Paterson and Jim Haugh, also in a Subaru – who were runners-up for the second year running.
Stranraer’s Jim Sharp, with Amy MacKinnon on the notes, was third, a further seventeen seconds adrift, in a Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9, while New Abbey’s Richard Dickson and navigator Roger Alcorn brought their Impreza back to the Girstingwood Rally HQ in fourth.
The organisers had to cope with a series of incidents throughout the day which caused lengthy delays, and resulted in the event, a counter in the Scottish Tarmack and Five of Clubs championships, being reduced from ten to eight stages.
A co-driver had to be airlifted to hospital in Dumfries with a suspected heart condition after being taken ill at service, while another competitor was taken to hospital by ambulance for precautionary checks after feeling unwell.
A further delay was caused by a big accident involving the Subaru Impreza of David Hardie, who had been targeting a hat-trick on the event, and early on was involved in a tit-for-tat tussle with the eventual rally winner. However, disaster struck on the fifth stage, as co-driver John McCulloch (Mark’s dad) explained:
“It was a very fast right three, and the car just stepped out of line on loose gravel and went one way to the left and then to the right. I actually thought David had corrected it but the car went up a banking and launched itself into the trees. It hit one tree on one side, and then another head on, and we were bounced back onto the road. The impact also caused an engine fire”.
Both were later discharged from hospital following treatment.
McCulloch Junior, who was second car on the road, came upon the crash scene: “It wasn’t nice to come across it I can tell you, and it made it quite difficult to concentrate going into the next stage, but the main thing is they were both OK”, said Mark: “We had made a bad tyre choice for the first two stages, and David took nine seconds out of us. We changed to slicks for stages three and four, and managed to overhaul him, taking a ten second lead into the fifth stage, which is where he had the accident. The rest of the day was all about getting our car to the end. We’re both delighted with the result – it was Elliot’s first ever rally win, and my second. We’ll be back to defend it next year”.
Ian Paterson, co-driven by Jim Haugh from Sandhead, survived a difficult day behind the wheel of his Subaru to take second overall: “Brilliant rally, great stages, fantastic organisation – but incidents everywhere and we had our fair share. We went off the road three times in one stage, but we were lucky, pulled ourselves through, and made it to the end”.
Jim Sharp was happy to get a good run in his Mitsubishi EVO 9 after a season spoiled by fuel pump issues with the car: “We’ve had the car since the start of the year, and we’ve been plagued wth problems. But we seem to have got on top of them, there’s much more torque, and it’s a much nicer car to drive. It was very much a stop-start day. We had a couple of punctures but we got away with that. Some bits under the trees were very slippy – you could see why some people were caught out”.
Richard Dickson, with Roger Alcorn on the notes, was seventeen seconds further back in his Subaru: “The various delays put us on the back foot a bit – when the car has been sitting for a while, the tyres and brakes are cold and it takes a while to get back into the groove. But we enjoyed the day, and despite the various off-road excursions of a number of competitors, no one was hurt, which is the main thing”.
Rally sponsor Richard Stewart, co-driven by Kenneth Marchbank, brought his Subaru Impreza home in seventh place overall, five seconds ahead of that of Dumfries crew Duncan Wardrop and Ian Crosbie.
Another casualty among the 4WD competitors was Dumfries driver Stuart Paterson, alongside navigator Colin Maxwell, who went off in in his Subaru Impreza following brake failure.
The leading 2WD car was the Ford Escort Mk2 of Yorkshiremen Steve Retchless, co-driven by Iain Tullie, who was sixth overall. There were class wins for Scott and Adam Russell, who finished tenth overall in a Vauxhall Corsa, and Angus Lawrie and William Paul in a Vauxhall Nova, who produced one of the “drives of the day” to end up in twelve place.
There was disappointment for Dalbeattie’s Iain Wilson and Keith Fremantle - one of the fancied local crews in the 2WD classes. They came to grief at the end of a downhill stretch on the first stage – their Vauxhall Nova demolishing two gate-posts in the process. It continued a run of bad luck for the pair – following non-finishes on the RSAC Scottish and Speyside Stages rallies.
In his remarks at the prize-giving ceremony, Richard Stewart paid tribute to the organisers, marshalls, medical staff and rescue crews for their efforts and professionalism on what had been particularly challenging event.
The following day, Sunday, Mark McCulloch was back in action, this time as co-driver for Aberdeen teenager Ryan Weston, who was competing in a Toyota Aygo on the Junior Rally for aspiring young drivers, aged 14-17.
The event – which was run as a separate rally in its own right - attracted a field of around 20 cars from Scotland and Ireland – drawn from the Brick & Steel Junior 1000 Ecosse Challenge and it’s Irish equivalent.
However, it did not go to plan for Weston and McCulloch, who went off the road and rolled, after running second for the first four stages behind eventual winner and Ecosse Challenge points leader Alex Vassallo in a Citreon C1.
“Ryan just caught some loose gravel and there was nothing he could do”, said McCulloch: “It’s the first time I’ve rolled in a rally car – and I wasn’t even driving!”
Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Harry Marchbank from Thornhill finished an impressive third amongst the Scottish drivers, sixth overall, in a Nissan Micra.
“This is a great venue for us – with plenty of variety. It gives us experience of using rally notes, which we don’t get at some of the other places we go to, which are basically race-tracks”, said Marchbank.
Senior Rally: Dumfries and Galloway top ten finishers – with total times:
1st Mark McCulloch (Newton Stewart)/Elliot Edmondson (Olney) Subaru Impreza 50 mins 13 secs
2nd Ian Paterson (Dumfries)/Jim Haugh (Sandhead) Subaru Impreza 52.07
3rd Jim Sharp (Stranraer)/Amy MacKinnon (Alva) Mitsubishi EVO 9 52.24
4th Richard Dickson (New Abbey)/Roger Alcorn (Lockerbie) Subaru Impreza 52.41
7th Richard Stewart (Dumfries)/Kenneth Marchbank (Thornhill) Subaru Impreza 55.05
8th Duncan Wardrop (Dumfries)/Ian Crosbie (Dumfries) Subaru Impreza 55.10
Full results can be found at www.scotresults.co.uk