Castle Douglas champion Armstrong wins first rally race in nearly a year

Castle Douglas' Jock Armstrong won his first rally in nearly a year at the Grampian Forest Rally
Castle Douglas' Jock Armstrong won his first rally in nearly a year at the Grampian Forest Rally

Two-time champion Jock Armstrong took his first win of the Scottish Rally Championship (SRC) season with a controlled drive on the Grampian Forest Rally.

The Subaru Impreza driver, co-driven by Cameron Fair, edged out the returning Garry Pearson by 15 seconds, with Fred Milne a further three seconds back in third. Ford Fiesta R5+ driver Barry McKenna won the event overall but wasn’t registered for SRC points.

The Grampian Forest Rally, the penultimate round of the season, took in six fast and flowing stages in the forests around Banchory and would also offer the outside chance of the 2018 SRC champion being crowned in Aberdeenshire. Armstrong was keen for a good result in the Kincardineshire forests having crashed out just a few metres into the previous event and duly set the pace on the opening two stages.

The Castle Douglas driver quickly opened up a 19-second lead over Pearson’s Ford Fiesta R5, before that eroded slightly as Milne upped the pace in his Impreza S14 WRC in the following two tests. Undeterred and never truly under too much pressure, Armstrong responded with a quickest time on stage five before a steady run in the final test saw him clinch his first victory since last September’s Galloway Hills Rally.

“This event seriously suits my car because it flows and there aren’t a lot of chicanes, so we weren’t losing too much time, but to win our first SRC event in almost a year is nice,” Armstrong admitted.

“We set a good time in the first two stages and managed to stay there. Having wrecked the car and wrecked the engine in Argyll the car worked perfectly, so fair play to the boys [for repairing the car in time].

“The stages were absolutely amazing and always have been. They used to tell you this rally was one of the roughest on the calendar but now it’s the total opposite. They were absolutely fantastic to drive so no complaints at all.”

Pearson was slower than Armstrong in five of the six stages, but still managed to stay in touch despite his lack of seat time this year. The Duns driver was happy to return with a second place finish but knows he can achieve more when he gets back into the groove with the R5.

“We probably lost most of the time to Jock in the opening few stages, but it felt a lot better towards the end of the day,” Pearson said.

“I think it’s confidence; this morning we just didn’t have any. It’s coming good now so we will try and build on this for the Galloway Hills. There’s definitely more to come so the battle is heating up which is good to see.”

Mark McCulloch was trying out an ex-Iain Wilson Subaru Impreza on gravel for the first time having previously driven a Fiesta R5 and finished ninth, four seconds back from Wink and eight from Binnie. Reay MacKay completed the top 10 in his Ford Focus WRC.

One round now remains in the championship. Jane Nicol may have provisionally sewn up the co-driver’s title, but the driver’s champion is all set to be crowned on the Galloway Hills Rally in Castle Douglas on September 8.