Galloway Hills set to host a thrilling SRC finale
The 2018 ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship (SRC) will reach its conclusion this weekend in Castle Douglas at the Galloway Hills Rally, with the battle on the stages poised to be hotter than ever with a star-studded entry list and a championship title to be settled.
Andrew Gallacher (Ford Focus WRC) and Donnie MacDonald (Ford Fiesta R5+) both head into round six with a shot at lifting their maiden SRC title, but it’s Gallacher that will start in the box seat thanks to two crucial victories on the Snowman and Argyll rallies.
The drama around the title chase is grabbing all the headlines, but the battle for the rally victory is arguably harder to call, with a whole host of potential winners taking the start.
Favourites to take top honours are David Bogie and co-driver John Rowan in their brand new Skoda Fabia R5. Bogie has won both events he has started this year (Speyside, Scottish) and as a five-time champion of the series, knows what it takes to be quick in the Scottish forests.
Keen to stop him however is local hero Jock Armstrong, who has the chance to extend his record-winning run on his home event to an unprecedented 10 victories. The Subaru Impreza pilot is in good form after winning his first SRC round of the year on the Grampian too, so is one to watch with co-driver Cameron Fair alongside.
Garry Pearson and Dale Bowen will also fancy their chances in their Ford Fiesta R5. Having lacked seat-time for the past couple of seasons, Pearson was delighted to finish just 15 seconds behind Armstrong on round five, and is eager to maintain that form and challenge for victory this weekend.
Freddie Milne and Patrick Walsh are becoming an increasing threat with every passing round in their Subaru Impreza WRC. Having missed out on an overall podium by a matter of seconds twice this season, Milne is targeting his first outright rostrum finish and third in the SRC on the final event of the year.
Andrew Gallacher and 2018 co-driver champion Jane Nicol don’t necessarily need to push too hard on the Galloway Hills but will certainly be in the mix, while Donnie MacDonald and Jamie Edwards are guaranteed to be on the pace, needing to take a top two in the SRC to wrestle the title from Gallacher.
R5 duo John Wink / John Forrest and Lawrence Whyte / Paul Beaton are also capable of scoring a good result in Dumfries & Galloway, with Wink knocking on the door of the podium in his Hyundai i20 and Whyte looking to end a challenging season on a high.
Leading the Mitsubishi contingent as ever are Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts, who have enjoyed a brilliant year behind the wheel of their Evo IX with a fine podium finish on the Argyll helping them establish a comfortable third in the championship.
Joining them after a six month hiatus are Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy in their similar machine. Having not rallied since the Snowman it will be interesting to see how Faulkner fares, while Michael Binnie and Claire Mole are another Lancer duo expected to go well on the Galloway Hills. Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry are also in with a shout in their Subaru Impreza.
Aside from the battle to become Scottish Rally champion in the series’ 50th anniversary year, there are a whole host of other titles and classes to be settled in Castle Douglas.
Greg McKnight and Harry Marchbank had held a 100% winning record in the Scottish 2WD Championship right until the very last stage of the Grampian where their clutch let go, but it does mean the Ford Escort Mk2 pairing only need to finish the Galloway Hills to guarantee themselves the title.
Looking to take the battle to them this weekend are Duncan MacDonald / Neil Ross (Ford Escort Mk2), Paul McErlan / Niall McKenna (Ford Escort Mk2) and Gordon Murray / David O’Brien (Ford Escort Mk2), while local driver Angus Lawrie and co-driver Paul Gribben are expected to lead the front-wheel-drive contingent in their Vauxhall Corsa.
John Wink and John Forrest hold a commanding lead in the SRC Challengers, with Alan Dickson and Martin Forrest the only crew capable of stopping them in their Mitsubishi Evo IX. Dickson realistically needs bad luck to hamper Wink to take this title.
The battle to become 2018 Scottish Junior champion is particularly intriguing too. Alasdair Currie (Ford Fiesta ST), Niall Cowan Jr (MG ZR) and Tom Howie (Talbot Sunbeam) are all separated by just six points, and with 12 on offer for a win and all three drivers’ having used their dropped score, this effectively becomes a winner takes all battle. The incentive to win is high too with a free entry into the Wales Rally GB National and a day’s tuition with Tapio Laukkanen and Drew Sturrock up for grabs.
The stage is set for a thrilling finale to the 2018 ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship. Over 85 crews will start the event, with two of them aiming for the biggest prize in Scottish rallying and their own slice of history.
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.
The next round of the SRC is the Galloway Hills Rally this Saturday, 8th September.