Rally crews survive tough conditions

Derek Connell and Minnigaff's Laura Marshall at the Border Counties rally
Derek Connell and Minnigaff's Laura Marshall at the Border Counties rally

Wigtownshire competitors faced challenging driving conditions on Saturday’s Brick and Steel Border Counties Rally – the second round of the ARR Craib MSA Scottish championship.

While not as treacherous as 12 months ago, there was fresh snow on the two opening stages in Kielder Forest. It made tyre choice difficult, and required a high degree of confidence behind the wheel.

Newton Stewart’s Mark McCulloch and navigator James Haugh emerged as the leading local crew, finishing 11th overall, and ninth of those registered for the SRC.

McCulloch brought his Subaru Impreza back to the finish in Jedburgh following a scare which, at first service, looked as though it could lead to early retirement.

“It felt as though we had no boost on the first two stages – it was just going off the power the whole time – and we were all for calling it a day,” explained McCulloch. “It turned out it was actually a coil lead going into the engine, and it was dropping us to three cylinders. Once that was sorted, stage three felt like a first stage for us so it took us a while to get going. The main thing is we got to the end – which we didn’t think was going to happen earlier in the day – and got some good points on the board. There’s still a bit to go with the car, but I’m happy with the progress.”

Following a third in the Group N category on the season-opener in Inverness, Port William’s Fraser Wilson went one better this weekend and took the runners-up spot. He was 13th overall in his Mitsubishi EVO 9, alongside new co-driver Jane Nicol from Edinburgh.

“Those first couple of stages were very slippy – it was difficult to commit fully,” said Wilson. “But it slowly improved as the day went on and we’re happy with where we finished, given the conditions. We had no major problems with the car, and Jane and I are working well together. We’re in a good position heading to the next round in Aberdeen.”

Craig McMiken, with navigator Craig Wallace, also had a decent day, finishing 14th in his EVO 9. The Newton Stewart driver was one of those who fared better on the difficult opening stage. He was eighth fastest, 28 seconds adrift of the eventual rally winner David Bogie, and just a second shy of last year’s event winner Quintin Milne.

Among the 2WD entries, which ran at the front of the field, Minnigaff navigator Laura Marshall helped steer Vauxhall Corsa driver Derek Connell from Ayr to an excellent runners-up spot in Class 2. It was only his second Scottish championship event, and his third competitive outing on gravel.

“The conditions were so changeable – snow on the first stage, a bit of snow on the second, and then dry by the time we got to the third, so it was difficult to know what was coming. But I thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Connell.

At the top end of the leaderboard, five-time Scottish champion Bogie, driving a Ford Focus WRC, led from start to finish to take his third victory on the event – 47 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. It was his first win of the 2014 SRC, following a puncture on the opening round.

“We had a bit of a misfire at one stage, but it was nothing serious,” said the Dumfries-based driver. “Overall, our pace was pretty good, and I felt comfortable in the car. It was important to get the win.”

Jock Armstrong, who was competing for only the second time with navigator Paula Swinscoe, achieved his first finish on the Border Counties in the last four attempts. The Castle Douglas driver ending the day fourth overall, third in the points, in his Subaru Impreza.

“We’ve had a little bit of luck today – there were several ‘moments’ which could have gone either way. The first stage wasn’t easy, particularly with dislodged snow, but we were second quickest behind David,” said Armstrong. “Once I’d got my head round the conditions it was a case of keeping the car on the road and going for the finish. And Paula and I were really getting into the groove with the notes.”

The third round of the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship is the Coltel Granite City Rally in Aberdeen on April 26.

For news of all SRC events, go to www.scottishrallychampionship.co.uk

Border Counties Rally – Dumfries & Galloway finishers with with total times:

1. David Bogie (Dumfries)/Kevin Rae (Hawick) Ford Focus WRC 43 min 23 sec

4. Jock Armstrong (Castle Douglas)/Paula Swinscoe (Chorley) Subaru Impreza 44.43

11. Mark McCulloch (Newton Stewart)/James Haugh (Sandhead) Subaru Impreza 47.00

13. Fraser Wilson (Port William)/Jane Nicol (Edinburgh) Mitsubishi EVO 9 47.19

14. Craig McMiken (Newton Stewart)/Craig Wallace (Kirriemuir) Mitsubishi EVO 9 47.19

18. Lee Hastings (Collin)/Drew Sturrock (Laurencekirk) Subaru Impreza 48.53

28. Iain Haining (Locharbriggs)/Mairi Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Vauxhall Nova 52.06

32. Iain Wilson (Dalbeattie)/Keith Fremantle (Dalbeattie) Vauxhall Nova 52.33

33. Callum Atkinson (Lauder)/Keith Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Ford Fiesta ST 52.41

34. Greg McKnight (Thornhill)/Chris McKnight (Thornhill) Ford Escort Mk2 52.43

43. Charles Blair (Dumfries)/Mark Roberts (Dumfries) Peugeot 205GTi 54.42

45. Derek Connell (Ayr)/Laura Marshall (Minnigaff) Vauxhall Corsa 54.49

47. Jim Robertson (Penpont)/Colin Maxwell (Dumfries) Citroen C2R2 54.56

53. Donald Peacock (Bridge of Dee)/Rory Bruton (Haugh of Urr) Peugeot 205Gti 55.49

65. Scott Sloan (Dumfries)/David Sloan (Dumfries) Vauxhall Corsa 1.10.04

Full results can be found at www.flyingfinish.co.uk