Wigtownshire drivers Mark McCulloch and Fraser Wilson were both in fine form on Saturday’s third round of the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship in Aberdeen.
McCulloch finished sixth overall on the McCombie Builders Granite City Rally, while Wilson kept his campaign well on track by winning the Group N category. There was also a win for Minnigaff co-driver Laura Marshall in the 2-wheel drive classes.
Newton Stewart’s McCulloch, co-driven by Jim Haugh from Sandhead, powered his Subaru Impreza to his third successive championship top-ten finish, despite a niggling power-loss problem early on, and worries about an over-heating engine at the finish: “They’re both issues we’ll look at, but overall the handling of the car is excellent, we’ve definitely got that sorted”, said McCulloch: “Both Jim and I are working well together, and that was vital today, with thick fog on the first stage, and intermittent fog on the last. I knew we were close to Barry Groundwater going into the final stage, and in order to leapfrog him, I decided to throw caution to the wind and commit totally to Jim’s notes. And luckily what he said was right!”
Meanwhile, Wilson and navigator Jane Nicol from Edinburgh had built up a fifteen second cushion over their nearest Group N rival going into the fourth and final stage. However, as the Port William driver explained, it did not go quite to plan: “We came to a hairpin and the car stalled. I started it up and moved off too quickly, and it stalled again. Then the diff pump failed – I don’t know if that lost us any time - but we were in danger of throwing it all away, and by the end we only won the class by two seconds. We were hanging on by the skin of our teeth, but it’s a great result. I’m really chuffed”.
Laura Marshall and Vauxhall Corsa driver Derek Connell from Ayr were also delighted with their emphatic win in Class 2 – after taking the runners-up spot on the previous round in Jedburgh: “The fog was really bad on the opening stage – you could only see a couple of feet in front of you at times”, said Marshall: “It was a case of getting the notes out there very precisely, and making sure Derek knew exactly what was in front of him. Normally it’s one corner ahead, but with today’s poor visibility, it was two corners, so he knew what was coming up”.
Newton Stewart’s Acky Curran, co-driven by Ross Williams, survived a tough day to bring his Vauxhall Corsa back to the finish in Aberdeen in 59th place overall, out of 84 classified finishers. Given there had been a last minute crisis leading up to the event, Curran was more than satisfied: “Last Wednesday, we had a big issue with the engine. There was little I could do with the time available, so I ended up using a Corsa engine which had been lying at the back of the garage for the past five years. It was previously in my Talbot Sunbeam, and by coincidence, was last run on the Granite in 2009 – when we also had a finish”. For the record, Curran was 54th overall on that occasion.
There were 31 retirements on Saturday’s event, the most notable being defending champion David Bogie from Dumfries, who had been targeting his fourth Granite victory. He was forced to park up his Ford Focus WRC with engine problems after only one stage. Another early retirement was Newton Stewart’s Craig McMiken in his Mitsubishi EVO 9.
It was left to Jock Armstrong to lead home the Dumfries and Galloway contingent: the Castle Douglas driver taking the runners-up spot in his Subaru Impreza, thirty-seven seconds adrift of overall winner Euan Thorburn from Duns in a Focus WRC.
Once he had negotiated the tricky opening stage, Armstrong, with Paula Swinscoe on the notes, got into his stride, and was second quickest to Thorburn through the remaining three tests – indeed there was only a second between the two on the six and a half miles of SS3 Drumochty: “I was very happy with the times across the day, but the final stage was again quite difficult – you were in and out of the fog. The conditions were changeable and it was a challenge right until the end. But the car has gone well, and I’m happy to finish second – it’s useful points on the board”, said Armstrong.
The fourth round of the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship is the Jim Clark Reivers Rally on Sunday, June 1st.
For news and updates of all SRC rounds, go to www.scottishrallychampionship.co.uk
Granite City Rally : Dumfries & Galloway finishers, with total times:
2nd Jock Armstrong (Castle Douglas)/Paula Swinscoe (Chorley) Subaru Impreza 44.39
3rd Mike Faulkner (Kirtlebridge)/Peter Foy (Bingley) Mitsubishi EVO 45.44
6th Mark McCulloch (Newton Stewart)/Jim Haugh (Sandhead) Subaru Impreza 47.21
12th Fraser Wilson (Port William)/Jane Nicol (Edinburgh) Mitsubishi EVO 9 48.36
34th Robert Harkness (Stewarton)/Mike Curry (Lockerbie) BMW 316i 52.47
35th Greg McKnight (Penpont)/Chris Knight (Penpont) Ford Escort Mk2 52.49
39th Derek Connell (Ayr)/Laura Marshall (Minnigaff) Vauxhall Corsa 53.21
40th Ian Archer (Blairgowrie)/Helen Brown (Dumfries) Ford Escort RS 53.31
41st Iain Haining (Locharbriggs)/Mairi Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Vauxhall Nova 53.32
42nd Peter Stewart (Dumfries)/Kenneth Marchbank (Thornhill) Ford Fiesta R2 53.36
44th Chuck Blair (Dumfries)/Mark Roberts (Dumfries) Peugeot 205GTi 53.51
48th Jim Robertson (Penpont)/Colin Maxwell (Dumfries) Citroen C2R2 54.36
51st Angus Lawrie (Castle Douglas)/George Myatt (Dumfries) Vauxhall Nova SR 55.04
57th Scott Peacock (Bridge of Dee)/Keith Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Peugeot 205GTi 56.29
58th Acky Curran (Newton Stewart)/Ross Williams (Cockermouth) Vauxhall Corsa 56.33
65th Scott Sloan (Dumfries)/David Sloan (Dumfries) Vauxhall Corsa 57.51
Full results can be found at www.flyingfinish.co.uk