Local crews are gearing up for this weekend’s all action GWF Energy Merrick Stages Rally.
And last year’s winner, David Bogie, is going into the Wigtown-based event looking to clinch an unprecedented fifth successive Scottish title.
The 26-year-old from Dumfries, co-driven by Hawick’s Kevin Rae, will be targeting a fourth victory in this year’s ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship on the Wigtown-based event, after winning the Speyside Stages at the beginning of August.
The pair made sure of their fourth championship on the Merrick in 2012, and Bogie says they will be attempting to repeat the feat on Saturday.
“We’re in the same situation as last year, where we can take the title if we win the Merrick, on this occasion with two rounds remaining. The Galloway Forest stages are real drivers’ stages – very fast and requiring a big commitment. They can be challenging, but also very rewarding – so long as you keep the car in the middle of the road. They should suit our Ford Focus WRC, but once again the likes of Euan Thorburn and Jock Armstrong, among others, will be pushing hard.”
Armstrong will also be looking to get back on the podium after narrowly missing out on a third place finish to Aberdeenshire driver Quintin Milne on the previous two rounds. The Castle Douglas competitor, co-driven by Kirsty Riddick from Haugh of Urr, was runner-up on the Merrick last year in his Subaru Impreza, having won the event in 2009.
Newton Stewart’s Mark McCulloch – winner of the recent Solway Coast Rally – starts 16th in his Subaru. He will be partnered on this occasion by 2006 Scottish co-driving champion Stewart Merry, who is flying up from Jersey to take part in the event.
The car ran perfectly for McCulloch on the Solway Coast and he’s hopeful that it is equally reliable when he takes to the forest stages this weekend.
“The target for the Merrick is hopefully to have a clean run and to get some of the stage times we’ve set recently turned into a result. Realistically, a top 10 is what we’re aiming for,” said McCulloch. “I’m lucky enough to have a very experienced co-driver in Stewart for this event but, as always, when you work together for the first time, it’ll probably take a few stages to get used to each other.”
Co-driver Laura Marshall from Newton Stewart is the highest seeded local competitor in the 2WD category. She will be targeting class honours alongside young driver Garry Pearson from Duns, who is contesting this year’s British Rally Championship in a Ford Fiesta R2.
Local farmer Craig McMiken, co-driven by Craig Wallace from Kirriemuir, starts two cars further back in his Mitsubishi EVO 9. On last year’s Merrick, the pair finished an excellent ninth overall – McMiken’s best result on his local event since 2006.
Meanwhile, Fraser Wilson and Steven Broll will be in the hunt for Group N honours in their CMS Motorsport Mitsubishi EVO 8. The Port William duo were satisfied with their performance on the Speyside Stages, where they ended the day 15th overall, and second in GpN.
“The engine never missed a beat all day, and if we can have the same reliability on the Merrick, in front of home support, then I’ll be happy,” said Wilson.
Sandhead’s Jim Haugh will again be on the notes for Dumfries driver Ian Paterson in his distinctive Gulf Oil liveried Subaru Impreza. The duo will be hoping to turn in the same kind of performance which saw them finish second to McCulloch on the Solway Coast Rally.