Garry Pearson and Robbie Mitchell took their second consecutive victory of the year on round 4 of the 2016 ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship, the RSAC Scottish Rally.
The competitors were faced with an extra 20 competitive miles due to the fact they were sharing the stages with the drivers from the MSA British Rally Championship for the first time in two years.
Duns crew Pearson and Mitchell took the SRC win by just under 10 seconds on stages that were mostly dry but increasingly slippery in the afternoon. Pearson spun his Fiesta R5 on the opening test, Twiglees, which lost him 20 seconds, but some blisteringly quick stage times in late morning and early afternoon saw him clinch the SRC win come the finish in Dumfries.
Garry said: “We’re delighted to be here, especially after the spin. After that we managed to pull forward and then manage the gap so we’re very happy. Not an easy one though.”
Once again, Pearson’s closest challenger was the bright orange Subaru Impreza of defending champions Jock Armstrong and Paula Swinscoe. The Border Counties winner finished 9.9 seconds adrift in ninth place overall, but his rally wasn’t without problems.
A sump guard fitted to the bottom of the Impreza to cope with the rough stages in the forests around Dumfries melted the exhaust, trapping the heat into the cockpit, which saw the Castle Douglas driver bathed in sweat after the stages.
The boys in service at Heathhall drilled holes into the sump to cope with the problem, but Armstrong couldn’t close the gap to Pearson and Mitchell in front.
He said: “It’s been an ok rally, had highs and lows but that’s how it goes. Mike [Faulkner] has had a good day, coming very close but we’ll need to do something if we want to beat Garry [Pearson]!”
Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy were the star performers of the rally, taking their second consecutive third place finish in what was the same podium as the Speyside Stages two months ago.
Faulkner once again hustled everything he could from his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, but on the Scottish it really paid dividends as he came mightily close to overhauling Jock Armstrong on the final test, Mount Joe, in the end finishing a mere 0.9 seconds behind overall.
The battle for fourth, fifth and sixth places was an intriguing one all day with the Mitsubishi Lancers of Mark McCulloch and Bruce McCombie battling Rory Young’s Fiesta R5.
Local boy Mark McCulloch with Michael Hendry achieved two of his pre-event ambitions to finish the rally and achieve a good result for his championship with fourth overall.
After suffering teething issues with his new Evo in the first half of the year, McCulloch found the car “spot on” and it showed in his stage times, as he took twelfth overall in the standings and maintains third place in the championship.
Coming home fifth overall were Dumfries’ Rory Young and Jedburgh co-driver Dave Robson in their Ford Fiesta R5.
There was a scary moment for Fraser Wilson who rolled his Mitsubishi on SS4, whilst Andrew Gallacher retired from a strong points scoring position on the final stage.
Shaun Sinclair had another troublesome rally in his Subaru Impreza WRC, suffering a puncture on the opening test and then cutting a corner result in driveshaft issues on the second. He eventually retired on the final stage with clutch woes.
After four rounds of the series, Garry Pearson still heads the championship from current champion Jock Armstrong, with the impressive Mark McCulloch holding onto third with just two rallies to go.
The next event on the 2016 ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship calendar is the Coltel Grampian Stages on 13 August, based in Aberdeen.