Armstrong wins 8th hills rally

Jock Armstrong scored a dramatic eighth Galloway Hills Rally victory last weekend and with it, secured the 2016 ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship title at the Castle Douglas based event.

Local hero Armstrong played second best to SRC leader Garry Pearson for much of the day, but in a in a nail biting twist, took a final stage victory when Pearson’s Fiesta R5 dramatically caught fire, ending his fight for the championship and hopes of a rally win.

Mike Faulkner took an impressive second overall on the event with Dumfries ace Mark McCulloch securing the final step of the podium in third.

Organised by Solway, Machars and East Ayrshire Car Clubs, the Castle Douglas based event attracted a 90 car entry but all eyes were undoubtedly on the SRC title fight which would be fought out across six stages in the Dumfries and Galloway forests to the north-west of Castle Douglas. After five hard-fought rounds across Scotland, Armstrong and Pearson were separated by just 10 points and the championship would be played out during the final round of the series between the two drivers.

First blood would go to Armstrong and co-driver Paula Swinscoe who bagged a slender one second lead in their familiar Subaru Impreza on the opening stage of the event over Fiesta pilot John MacCrone with Stuart Loudon alongside. Pearson and co-driver Robbie Mitchell were down in third in their similar machine but soon vaulted into the rally lead after an impressive run over the second stage. MacCrone failed to emerge from the second test after getting the Fiesta beached, leaving Mike Faulkner and co-driver Peter Foy to slot into third spot in their Mitsubishi E9.

At the halfway point of the day, Pearson had opened up a seven second lead over Armstrong. Just three more stages separated Pearson from taking his very first Scottish Championship title.

Armstrong had other ideas however; closing the gap to the leader to just two seconds after stage four. But the biggest blow was yet to come for Pearson. A time only good enough for fourth on the penultimate stage saw Pearson drop down to second place as Armstrong recorded a time 14 seconds faster.