McCombie and Coutts wrap up Wales Rally GB National
Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts achieved their best result in rallying by winning the 2016 Wales Rally GB National in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, 37 seconds ahead of the similar car of Luke Francis.
McCombie led the event pretty much from start to finish, remaining not only consistent but consistently quick, to become the fourth SRC driver in a row (Euan Thorburn 2013, Mike Faulkner 2014 & 15) to win the National event running alongside Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship.
It was a fantastic rally for the Scottish crews, who filled out four of the top seven positions on the leaderboard.
Thankfully for Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts, the over-heating problems that had been affected them were not too much of a hindrance today as they managed to keep the anti-lag system working, monitoring the temperatures in the engine bay.
At the finish Llandudno, McCombie was thrilled with his performance over the three days, and he perhaps wanted the win more than he realised.
“I was hoping to get through all the stages bang-bang-bang, but the hanging about made me nervous. We almost hit a wall in the second stage, and knew we just had to get to the end of the third.
“This morning I was alright but once we got to the stage I didn’t realise we would be so nervous.
“For us this result is great, we’ve got a good car but at the end of the day we are just club men. We haven’t got a top end budget or anything like that.”
Michael Coutts revealed their plans for celebration: “We have a 21 year old bottle of whiskey which we are going to open. We bought it three years ago, and we said it wouldn’t get opened until we win something!”
Iain Wilson and Keith Riddick achieved a similarly great result in their Subaru Impreza.
The Dalbeattie driver had another good day on Sunday to finish fourth in the end, and without his puncture on day 1 he could’ve been on the podium.
This result leaves Wilson in a dilemma as to what to drive next year.
He said: “We didn’t expect to get any awards coming down here so we’re delighted.
“I feel great, it is my best ever result. We’re going to sell the car now so that’ll be the end of it. We’re going to try an Escort next year as we’re looking for a bit of fun. I do feel like holding onto the Subaru today, but a couple of days and I’ll think about it.”
Scott McCombie and Mark Fisher were another pair to have a splendid day at the office.
Sunday’s stages may have only consisted of 16 competitive miles, but McCombie managed to overhaul Wug Utting for fifth overall, beating his rival by just over six seconds.
It was a cracking result for Scott, who is still relatively inexperienced, and rounds off his season nicely after winning the SRC Challengers trophy this year.
Seventh place went to Fraser MacNicol and Aaran Johnstone in the Mitsubishi Evo VI, after the pair caught and passed the historic Escort of Rudi Lancaster early in the day.
It was a relatively trouble free rally for MacNicol which will please him, and he was well deserving of his strong finish.
At the finish he said: “It was a great rally, we had a fantastic time. Loved it.”
Matthew Jackson and Claire Williams netted a fantastic 11th overall in a Subaru Impreza they hired from SRC driver Mark McCulloch, who was seen at the service maintaining his machine.
It was a great result for the crew and McCulloch alike as he looks into hiring out cars as a serious possibility for the future.
Robert Thomson and Steven Kershcat finished a fine twelfth overall in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, making up good ground on Saturday and Sunday after a difficult Friday.
Another crew who recovered well after a day 1 to forget were Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI.
The pair broke a driveshaft on Sweet Lamb on Friday but on the final two days set some incredible stage times, never out of the top 10 to recover to 20th overall. A fantastic achievement and one to watch in the ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship.
Tom Coughtrie and Calvin Colledge brought their Ford Escort RS1800 home in 29th place, 11 places ahead of their seeding and first in class. A good weekend for the pair.
Ian and Kathryn Forgan wound up 31st overall as they acclimatised themselves to the Subaru Impreza, following a difficult opening day.
Forgan began to get the hang of the car and the stages however with his pace improving throughout the rally.
Kevin Robertson and Murray Strachan brought their Evo home in 42nd place, while Geoff Goudie and new co-driver Keegan Rees eventually finished in 45th after their dramas.
Lee Hastings and his new co-driver Chris Robertson ended Rally GB 50th overall, but their pace was very hot on Saturday and Sunday which can give Hastings confidence. He is considering a move to the Irish Tarmac Championship for 2017.
Some of the Scottish crews however were not so fortunate and failed to make the finish of the 2016 Wales Rally GB National.
Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy were gunning for a hat-trick of wins on this event but a misheard pace note on the foggy opening stage resulted in a heavily damaged Mitsubishi.
Barry Groundwater and Neil Shanks were running as high as third on day 1 but their turbo blew on the road section after SS3. They restarted on Saturday only for their turbo to let them down again and put them out for good on the way to Cholmondeley Castle.
Carl Tuer and Rob Tuer were hugely impressive in the 1600 MG ZR, leading a titanic battle in their class ahead of Gee Atherton.
Going into the final stage, Brenig, the pair held a five second cushion over their rivals, but unfortunately pushed too hard and ended their rally in a ditch so close to home.
For many of the crews the Wales Rally GB National marks the end of their rallying season, with the 2017 ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship set to resume in February.
You can keep up to date with the SRC via the website www.scottishrallychampionship.co.uk or through Facebook and Twitter (@MSA_SRC).