Championship set for “Hills” finale
Five-time winner and event sponsor Jock Armstrong, and five-time Scottish champion David Bogie, will be fighting for overall honours on Sunday’s 40th Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally.
For the first time, the Castle Douglas-based event will count as the final round of the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship.
It will also be notable in that the winners of the inaugural rally in 1974, Ivor Clark and Keith McCleary, are among the 70-plus entries. In recognition they have been seeded at No 1 in their Mitsubishi EVO 4. Another first for the event is a super-special spectator stage based in a quarry near Dalbeattie, which features an over-and-under bridge.
Armstrong returns to competition in search of a sixth Galloway Hills title after an “off” on the Merrick Stages, which resulted in heavy body damage to his Subaru Impreza – one of three non-finishes this season. On this occasion, he will be co-driven by John Richardson from Bedale, who was runner-up on the “Hills” with Yorkshire rally ace Stephen Petch two years ago.
Bogie and co-driver Kevin Rae sealed an historic fifth Scottish crown on the Colin McRae Stages, and now the pressure is off, the Dumfries driver is out to “enjoy himself” on one of his local events in his Ford Focus WRC. The 26-year-old from Dumfries won the “Hills” in 2007 in a Subaru, but the following year failed to finish, and has not competed as a driver since, although he has navigated on a couple of occasions.
Aberdeen’s Dave Weston, who powered his Ford Focus WRC to the final podium spot on the McRae Stages despite problems with the back diff of the car, will be looking for a top three finish to round off the season, alongside Jedburgh navigator Dave Robson.
Meanwhile, Mike Faulkner, co-driven by Peter Foy, goes into the weekend looking to secure third overall in the championship (behind Bogie and Quintin Milne) in his Mitsubisihi EVO 9. However, after seven rounds, a single point separates Faulkner from Stonehaven’s Barry Groundwater, also in an EVO 9, who will again have Neil Shanks from Elgin on the notes:
“We’re looking forward to the battle with Barry, and if we secure third in the championship, it would feel as though we’d salvaged something out of the season at the end of a difficult year”, said Faulkner.
He continued: “It’s been a long time since we’ve done the Galloway Hills stages, but they’re full of variety, with a mix of really tight and slippy and fast flowing sections that reward commitment. The Super-Special will be a great chance to show-case rallying to a wider audience, but as ever with those kind of stages you have to temper them with a bit of care, because it’s easy to lose time, but there’s not much chance to make it up”.
Donnie MacDonald, co-driven by Andrew Falconer, sits a further nine points behind Groundwater in the drivers’ table, after a fine fourth place finish in Aberfeldy in his EVO 9. The Inverness crew start one place ahead of Jon Burn and Alan Stark, who, although not registered for the championship, have chalked up two top-six finishes on the last two rounds.
Chris Collie will be looking to bounce back from his first non-finish of the campaign on the McRae Stages. Fourth on the Galloway Hills in 2011, the Portlethen driver will have Andrew Roughead alongside in his Mitsubishi EVO 6.
Former SRC regulars Shaun Sinclair and Chris Hamill from Oban are seeded tenth in an EVO 9, ahead of the EVO 5 of Alistair and Colin Inglis, who will be targeting their fourth top-six points finish of the campaign.
2011 Hills winner Mark McCulloch starts twelfth in his Subaru Impreza. The Newton Stewart driver, with Elliot Edmondson on the notes, finished eighth overall on the McRae Stages, despite the car sustaining extensive rear-end damage after hitting a log-pile.
Andy Horne and Jim Howie will be looking to get a finish in the DAM 4100GTi, after gearbox failure in Aberfeldy. They start one behind Northern Ireland’s Liam Regan and Damian Rasharkin in a Peugeot 206 4×4.
Over recent rounds, Kilmarnock’s Andrew Gallacher, with Phil Sandham co-driving, has been the man to beat in Group N – he has had three successive victories – but class leader John Morrison (EVO 9) Fraser Wilson (EVO 8)and John McClory (Subaru Impreza N15) will all be fighting for honours this weekend.
Steve Bannister and Louise Sutherland – who have already been confirmed as Class 6 Historic champions for 2013 – head the 2WD entries in their Ford Escort Mk2, while 1600cc category leaders Iain Wilson and Keith Fremantle in a Vauxhall Nova will be up against James Robertson, co-driven by Colin Maxwell, in a Citreon C2 R2, and the Ford Fiesta R2 of Borderers Kieran Renton and Carin Logan, who will be looking to make amends after two back-to-back non-finishes.
Iain Haining and Mairi Riddick only had to cross the start-line in Aberfeldy to secure the Class 3 title, but nonetheless will be looking to cap a remarkable season by making it eight wins out of eight.
In the battle of the Peugeot 205’s, Class 3 runner-up and 2013 SRC Junior Driver Callum Atkinson from Lauder will have Dunfermline’s Lachlan Cowan on the notes as he goes head to head with Bridge of Dee’s Scott Peacock, co-driven by Keith Riddick. Scott will also be watching out for dad Donald, who, with navigator Willie Paul is also entered in a 205.
Full details can be found at the event website www.gallowayhillsrally.co.uk