Gallacher steals Argyll win to resume championship lead
Andrew Gallacher and Jane Nicol have returned to the top of the 2018 ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship (SRC) standings with victory on round four of the series, the Dunoon Presents Argyll Rally.
Donnie MacDonald, who led the SRC standings heading to Argyll, finished just five seconds behind Gallacher’s Ford Focus WRC in second place with Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts completing the podium with third.
The SRC was welcomed back to Dunoon for just the second time in the last decade, and the mix of classic tests and fresh challenges providing a stern test for the competitors as they battled with the changing levels of grip.
Rory Young, fresh from a podium on the RSAC Scottish Rally, was the first to establish an advantage, building up a 13 second lead after stage two in his Ford Fiesta R5. He and Allan Cathers wouldn’t emerge from SS3 however after getting stuck in a ditch and left with no choice but to retire from the event.
Young’s demise opened the door for several honours, and with pre-event favourite Jock Armstrong and Cameron Fair exiting the contest as early as stage one and Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry also retiring on stage three as they battled with power steering failure, the battle for victory was blown wide open.
MacDonald and new co-driver Jamie Edwards took over the lead from Young but were soon trailing Gallacher and Nicol, MacDonald frustrated by losing time with an unexpected stall.
Gallacher was on a mission of his own however, consistently punching in quick times to hold the lead and never relinquish it. He headed into the final test just four seconds ahead of MacDonald’s Fiesta R5+ but extended that gap to five at the finish.
“We came here with Jock, Rory, Mark and the rest to beat so were expecting it to be a tough rally, but they had some bad luck and we never did so a good steady run got us here to the end,” Gallacher admitted.
“I struggled to get into the first three stages as we hadn’t done a test or anything before but by stage four we were more warmed up and ready to fight, and we managed to keep it together to the end.”
This result puts Gallacher provisionally top of the standings with two victories to his name. The turn of speed coupled to the misfortune for some of his rivals has put him in a strong position ahead of the final two rounds.
“After today it’s [the championship] certainly looking good. Jock and Mark were going for it and were probably good candidates but they seem to have run out of dropped scores, so it could be a good fight with Donnie and Bruce [McCombie] to the end.”
MacDonald’s second position was the best result of his season, but the Inverness driver was left disappointed after feeling he had thrown the rally away through minor errors.
“We stalled on the start line of the final stage, and only lost one second through the test,” MacDonald revealed.
“We should’ve won the rally by about 30 seconds, but it is what it is. This R5 and I didn’t get on last year but we are definitely getting there now which is very encouraging.
“I thought Mark [McCulloch] was the favourite going into today, but now I think the championship is going to be a straight fight between Andrew and I. We can’t get too caught up in all that talk though, so will approach each rally on an event by event basis.
“Jamie and I have got on really well today, he was superb. With Andrew [Falconer]’s commitments with the final two events we should have Jamie with us for the rest of the season.”
McCombie and Coutts enjoyed a good battle with the Hyundai i20 R5 of John Wink and John Forrest in their Mitsubishi Evo IX. The Banchory driver managed to avoid trouble and grab his first SRC podium since 2015 with a drive that keeps him well inside the championship hunt.
“Third isn’t too bad,” smiled McCombie at the finish.
“The car did very well as it took a lot of hits but the stages were quite nice to drive. The last stage was an absolute cracker as we could really attack it and that suits our kind of car. Some of the new ones were green which made it slippery but it was a great rally, and to grab a podium against the WRCs and R5s is fantastic.”
Fred Milne and Abi Louden took fourth overall after securing a late deal to drive a Subaru Impreza S14 WRC on the event. Switching from the S12B he has driven for the rest of the year, Milne was looking good for a podium only for a puncture to set him back, dropping him two seconds behind McCombie.
Wink and Forrest brought their Hyundai home fifth, equal on time with Milne but behind due to Milne being faster in the opening stage. They finished ahead of the battle of the SRC Challengers champions, with Michael Binnie and Claire Mole’s Evo IX sixth ahead of the similar machine of Scott McCombie and Murray Strachan coming home seventh.
Also in Evo IXs, John McClory and David Hood took eighth overall ahead of Alan Dickson and Martin Forrest, with the Subaru Impreza of Ian Baumgart and Dave Robson rounding out the top 10.
Greg McKnight missed out on a top 10 finish by just three seconds as he romped to Scottish 2WD win number four of the season. Co-driven by Harry Marchbank, the Ford Escort Mk2 headed a good fight between Keith and Kirsty Riddick (MG ZR) and Paul McErlean and Niall McKenna (Ford Escort Mk2). Riddick was ahead all day before dropping behind with a puncture, with a brilliant recovery drive netting him second by a mere three seconds.
John Wink’s fifth place secured him the win in the SRC Challengers, with Alan Dickson netting second place ahead of Paul McErlean.
Tom Howie topped the Juniors on the event in his Talbot Sunbeam after Ally Currie retired his Ford Fiesta ST, ahead of Niall Cowan Jr (MG ZR) and Nikki Addison (Peugeot 106).
Used Car Parts Subaru Cup honours went to John McIlwraith after chief rival Brett McKenzie retired in the wake of an off road excursion on stage four.
Two rounds remain in the 2018 ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship, with the battle set to go down to the wire on the Galloway Hills Rally. Up next is the Grampian Forest Rally on Saturday 12th August.
Provisional Championship standings
|1||Andrew Gallacher||Ford Focus WRC||105|
|2||Donnie MacDonald||Ford Fiesta R5+||104|
|3||Bruce McCombie||Mitsubishi Evo IX||97|
|4||Greg McKnight||Ford Escort Mk2||78|
|5||John Wink||Hyundai i20 R5||75|
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.