MERRICK sponsor Mark McCulloch powered to an impressive 10th place finish on Saturday’s ProTune Remapping Merrick Stages Rally, while fellow local drivers Fraser Wilson and Craig McMiken both finished in the top 20.
The overall win went to Mike Faulkner of Kirtlebridge – a result which keeps alive his fight for second in the MSA Scottish Championship with Borderer Euan Thorburn, who ended the day fourth overall.
The Wigtown-based event was marred by an accident on the final stage involving Inverness driver Dougal Brown. He was airlifted to hospital in Dumfries where his injuries were found to be not as serious as first feared. His co-driver suffered shock, but was otherwise unharmed.
The stage was cancelled as a result of the incident, with notional times being given to competitors who were running further down the field.
They included McCulloch and co-driver Craig Wallace who were the first crew on the scene and helped until the emergency services arrived.
More than 70 cars had set off from a wet Wigtown earlier in the day: the entry list minus three-times Scottish champion David Bogie, whose car is being prepared for the next round of the British series, which he leads, and 2009 Merrick winner Jock Armstrong, who had sustained heavy damage to his Subaru Impreza on the last round, the Speyside Stages.
McCulloch was quickly on the pace in his newly-acquired ex-Sara Williams Subaru Impreza N10 – clocking up an eighth fastest time on both the second and third stages, Jenny’s Hill and Glentrool East. He then shared the sixth quickest time through the 8.22 miles of Glentrool West, and was fifth fastest on the penultimate 4.21 miler, Glentrool South.
“It’s an unbelievable result on our first gravel outing in the car”, said McCulloch: “I was very happy with our pace and to have had four top-ten fastest stage times is more than we could have hoped for”.
Fraser Wilson and Steven Broll from Port William had been aiming for a top fifteen finish, and almost made it – ending the day in 16th overall in their Mitsubishi Evo 6. It included a ninth fastest time on the final stage, the 12.35 miles of Black Loch.
“In the morning it seemed we were awful slow through the first two stages and everyone was a bit downhearted at the first service. We had a good run through the three middle stages, and we put new tyres on for the last one and that was much better”, said Wilson.
Craig McMiken, with Carin Logan of Kelso on the notes, finished just two seconds behind the Port William crew to take seventeenth spot in his Evo 9.
“There were a few niggles but all in all we thoroughly enjoyed it and got home in one piece. The stages were first class – absolutely brilliant”, said McMiken at the finish arch in front of Wigtown county buildings.
Newton Stewart’s Alex Curran, co-driven by David McGeoch of Dumfries, also made it safely back in his Vauxhall Corsa – the pair ending the day 42nd overall.
At the top end of the leaderboard, Faulkner slugged it out with former works driver Robbie Head and Thorburn, who fought his way back up the leaderboard after losing a minute and a half with turbo-pipe problems on the opening stage.
Faulkner and Foy “threw everything “ into the final stage emerging thirty-one seconds ahead of Thorburn, with Head another seven seconds back.
We’re both very pleased with the outcome”, said Faulkner: “We went off the road briefly on the slippery second stage which didn’t help our cause, but we settled ourselves down. It’s a bit late for the championship but it’s a great win to have, we’ve never won the Merrick, and it sets us up well for the runners-up spot going into the last round in Perthshire next month.”
Castle Douglas navigator Jim Haugh was on the notes for Ian Paterson of Dumfries, who barely had his Subaru Impreza ready in time for the event but was rewarded with a solid 21st overall.
In the 2-wheel drive category, Mairi Riddick from Haugh of Urr and Dumfries driver Iain Haining clinched their fourth Class 3 victory of the season in a Vauxhall Nova.
Two other Castle Douglas crews also made it safely back to Wigtown: Donald and Scott Peacock secured 38th place and fourth in Class 4 in their Peugeot 205Gti, and Allan McMorran and Albert Connelly won Class 5, and were 53rd overall, in their 205.
Rally manager Allan Marshall referred to the final stage incident when he addressed the audience at the post-event prize-giving held at the the county building in Wigtown.
“I would like to praise and thank all the emergency services. The major incident plan kicked into gear very very quickly. Everything was on the scene in under 15 minutes, and the casualty was removed in under 30. So, a big thanks to all the guys out there who keep the competitors safe. It was a fantastic effort”.
Mr Marshall also thanked the people of Wigtown for welcoming the rally back into the local community for the second year running.
ProTune Remapping Merrick Stages – Dumfries and Galloway Finishers with total times:
1st Mike Faulkner (Kirtlebridge)/Peter Foy (Bingley) Mitsubishi Evo 6 42m13s
10th Mark McCulloch(Newton Stewart)/Craig Wallace(Kirriemuir)Subaru Impreza N10 45.45
16th Fraser Wilson (Port William)/Steven Broll (Port William) Mitsubishi Evo 6 46.15
17th Craig McMiken (Newton Stewart)/Carin Logan (Kelso) Mitsubishi Evo 9 46.17
21st Ian Paterson (Dumfries)/Jim Haugh (Castle Douglas) Subaru Impreza 47.14
24th Andy Kelly (Greenock)/Roger Herron (Dumfries) Ford Escort Mk1 47.50
27th Iain Haining (Dumfries)/Mairi Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Vauxhall Nova 48.29
30th Jim Robertson (Thornhill)/George Myatt (Ae) Citreon C2 R2 49.24
35th Liam Harkness (Thornhill)/Kenneth Marchbank (Thornhill) Ford Escort Mk2 49.50
38th Donald Peacock (Castle Douglas)/Scott Peacock (Castle Douglas) Peugeot 205Gti 50.19
42nd Alex Curran (Newton Stewart)/David McGeoch (Dumfries) Vauxhall Corsa 50.37
46th Charlie Munro (Dingwall)/Michael Baird (Castle Douglas) Ford Escort Mk 2 50.54
47th Stuart Paterson (Dumfries)/Colin Maxwell (Dumfries) Subaru Impreza 50.58
53rd Alan McMorran (Castle Douglas)/Albert Connelly (Castle Douglas) Peugeot 205GTi 54.04