Safety is top priority for Merrick rally

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The man in charge of next month’s GWF Energy Merrick Stages Rally says he will not hesitate to cancel part of the event if safety is compromised.

Strict measures will be in place on the Wigtown-based event following recent incidents, including the tragic death of a spectator on the opening round of this year’s ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship in Inverness.

Clerk of the course Allan Marshall has set up a special sub-committee of his management team to fine-tune all aspects of the event’s safety plan in readiness for the rally on Saturday, September 7.

“The safety of competitors, spectators and marshalls is always our number one priority, but this year it’s been brought into sharp focus by recent incidents,” said Mr Marshall.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work with the local Forestry Commission Scotland office to identify specific spectator areas along the route. I’ll also be emphasising ‘no-go’ areas this year. It’s equally important to impress on people where they shouldn’t be standing, such as the top of log piles, the outside of corners or close to the edge of the stage – all things which have been observed on events this year.

“I’ll be instructing my course cars that if spectators don’t behave, I’ll have no qualms about stopping or cancelling a stage. At the end of the day, I want everyone to go home safe.”

This year’s Merrick is the sixth round of the SRC, which is currently led by four-times champion David Bogie from Dumfries in a Ford Focus WRC. He will face stiff competition from the likes of Euan Thorburn from Duns, Banchory’s Quintin Milne, who is currently second in the drivers’ points, and Jock Armstrong from Castle Douglas.

Two former champions are among the entries so far: Aberdeen’s Dave Weston, who took the Scottish crown in 2006 and is now back in the series after a two-and-a-half-year absence from rallying, and Jon Burn, who won the title in 1999 in an MG Metro 6R4.

Local drivers aiming for a strong finish in front of home support will include recent Solway Coast rally winner Mark McCulloch and Port William’s Fraser Wilson.

For the third year running, the start, finish and Friday night scrutineering of the cars will take place in front of the County Buildings in Wigtown, which also act as the rally headquarters.

Competitors will tackle five classic stages in the Galloway forest, totalling some 44 miles, with central servicing at Glencaid, near Glentrool. As in previous years, there will be a Trophy Rally over the final stage for competitors unfortunate enough to retire earlier in the day, and organisers are offering a discounted entry fee to all overseas competitors.

Full details can be found at www.merrickstages.co.uk