Argyll awaits thrilling SRC battle
The ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship (SRC) is all set for the second half of its 2018 season as the series heads west for round four, the Dunoon Presents Argyll Rally.
Returning to the SRC calendar for the first time in over a decade in 2017, the Argyll Rally provides competitors with a nostalgic blast as well as a fresh challenge with plenty of brand new stages on the itinerary. With last year’s winners Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton not competing this time around, 2018 will also see a brand new winner of this re-invented classic event.
Boarding the ferry in strong contention to etch their names onto the trophy are the three leading drivers in the championship table: Donnie MacDonald, Andrew Gallacher and Mark McCulloch.
MacDonald and co-driver Andrew Falconer have enjoyed a strong start to their second season in a Ford Fiesta R5, grabbing third overall on their home event, the Snowman Rally. The pair haven’t been on the podium since but are yet to feature outside the top six in 2018, finding themselves at the head of the championship going into the Argyll Rally.
Gallacher and Jane Nicol le
ad the championship after the Snowman and Speyside Stages, but dropped to second following a fairly anonymous performance on the Scottish Rally. The duo have been mightily impressive so far this year however, and are the only crew starting the Argyll Rally to have won an SRC round already this year. They will be looking to extend their tally of wins to two aboard their Ford Focus WRC and recapture some of the momentum they lost in Lockerbie.
McCulloch and co-driver Michael Hendry are the SRC’s form crew, taking their best ever championship result with second on the Scottish Rally. Having switched from a Mitsubishi Evo IX to a Ford Fiesta R5 this season, the pair have been right on the pace since their first stage in the car and are looking more and more threatening with each passing event. With Scottish Rally winner David Bogie not competing in Argyll, can McCulloch and Hendry finally get that first SRC win in Dunoon?
Jock Armstrong and Cameron Fair will be confident of stopping them despite a disappointing result on round three. The Subaru Impreza crew suffered a puncture which dropped them to the bottom of the top 10, but as a two-time SRC champion Armstrong’s pace has never been in doubt.
Rory Young is another favourite for success in Argyll, having scored a podium on both of his last two SRC outings. Once again driving a Ford Fiesta R5, Young is reunited with co-driver Allan Cathers having contested the Scottish Rally with 2017 champion Paul Beaton.
John Wink and John Forrest are dark horses for a strong result in their Hyundai i20 R5. The duo have been knocking on the door of the podium with strong pace on the Speyside Stages and a fourth place finish on the Scottish Rally – a career best SRC finish for Wink. Having now got to grips with the i20, Argyll could be the venue for Wink’s maiden SRC podium.
Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts head the Mitsubishi Evo IX contingent after a very strong 2018 season so far. The pair have consistently managed to finish best of the rest behind the plethora of WRC and R5 cars competing in the championship, so will be hoping that a little fortune can see them creep further up the results.
Michael Binnie and Claire Mole head to Argyll full of confidence after a breakthrough result on the recent Carlisle Stages, a round of the BTRDA. Binnie scored his first ever fastest stage time in his Evo IX on his way to a maiden career podium in third. Fellow Mitsubishi crews Scott McCombie and Mark Fisher and Alan Dickson and Martin Forrest will be looking to stop Binnie in his tracks.
Heading the Scottish 2WD contingent are the stars of the 2018 contest so far, Greg McKnight and Harry Marchbank. McKnight has swept all before him this year in his Ford Escort Mk2, winning all three of the year’s events. He will start at the head of the entire field, with the Argyll Rally taking advantage of the MSA’s new rule to run two separate fields for two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive cars.
Taking the battle to McKnight and Marchbank are fellow Escort pilots Paul McErlean and Fraser MacNicol while Gordon Murray could also spring a surprise in his Class 8 example. Top front-wheel-drive runners Alasdair Currie (Ford Fiesta ST) and Keith Riddick (MG ZR) will also be in the reckoning, with their eyes firmly on the Scottish 2WD Championship podium.
With Lawrence Whyte absence from the entry list, John Wink and Alan Dickson will be looking to take advantage and seal the SRC Challengers honours in Argyll. Keith Morris, Paul McErlean and John McIlwraith are also likely to be in the mix.
Alasdair Currie leads the Junior battle heading to Argyll, but will face stiff competition from fellow Fiesta ST driver Grant MacRae and MG ZR pilots Niall Cowan Jr and Scott Peacock to keep his advantage. Currie will be tough to beat however, having won the last two rounds in this championship.
Adding extra incentive to an already appetising battle is the opportunity to receive the SRC John Horton Star Driver Award. Paddy Munro, Marty Scott and Angus Lawrie have already booked themselves a spot in the end-of-season shoot-out that will see drivers compete for the opportunity to receive a day’s tuition with Finnish rally legend Tapio Laukkanen. With such a strong prize to aim for, competitors will be out to impress when the action begins in Argyll.
The 2018 ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship is partnered by Pirelli Motorsport, Reis Motorsport Insurance and KNC Groundworks Ltd.
The championship consists of seven forest events across Scotland, taking in over 300 competitive stage miles.