The winner of the usedcarparts.co.uk Solway Coast Rally last year did it again this year and provided new co-driver Jim Haugh with his first ever rally victory, but it was a close run thing.
David Hardie got off to the best start, quickest over the first two stages. but suffered a huge spin on the third, costing him a full minute. Thereafter it was a case of hunting down McCulloch who had his own scare on the 7th test when the Subaru clattered a pot hole and bent the steering. Hardie kept the pressure on taking seconds out of him even over the final two stages: "I had to keep up the pressure, if Mark had even a half spin, we would have been on him," said David.
Well aware of that, Mark was going as hard as he dared: "I didn't like that," said Mark, "I'd rather be pushing for the lead, than leading and watching my mirrors. My intention before the start was to aim for a podium finish, so I did the first two stages just to see where we were and took it from there."
In third place was Gary Adam with the MkII who had his own near miss on the 7th test: "I had a massive overshoot at a SqR. I missed my braking point and couldn't turn in, so I had to straighten the car and get back on the brakes." He shot right through the tapes and then had to spin it round to regain the road.
Fourth was Andrew Gallacher in a borrowed 'almost' Group A Escort Cosworth getting faster as the day went on but still managed to spin on the penultimate test - but without any damage to the car. Phew!
Fifth was Steve Retchless in his MkII ahead of Hamish Kinloch in his Honda powered MkII. Stuart Paterson finished 7th after a diff change at lunch time and Stuart Baillie was eighth first time out in the car after a recent illness - just don't tell his Doc!
Ninth was Ian Paterson after a visit to the trees in the fourth test and rounding off the top ten was Stephen Thompson in his MkII.
Winner of the 'Lucky White Heather' award this weekend was Lee Hastings. He clattered a dray stane dyke at Otterburn last weekend and then built another car from two for this weekend's event - and retired on the first stage. He went for the brakes at the end of a straight and the Subaru snapped sideways instantly and ended up in a field.
Alistair Inglis lasted a wee bit longer going off backwards in the fourth stage and shortening the Lancer against some trees. The Lancer was still (relatively) straight and running but a fuel leak put him out. Jim Sharp had a turbo fire in the Lancer which damaged the wiring loom and Richard Dickson's Subaru jammed in sixth gear.
What a day, what a rally and what a venue. Gary Adam summed it up best: "We had a good meal in the canteen last night and accommodation in the Officer's Mess for 60 quid - and an excellent day's rallying.
And here's a thought. This is the 34th Solway Coast Rally sponsored by usedcarparts.co.uk. Nice one Richard and Nadine.
1, Mark McCulloch/Jim Haugh (Subaru Impreza) 61m 31s
2, David Hardie/John McCulloch (Subaru Impreza) 61m 53s
3, Gary Adam/Gordon Adam (Ford Escort MkII) 62m 54s
4, Andrew Gallacher/Jane Nicol (Ford Escort Cosworth) 63m 07s
5, Steve Retchless/Iain Tullie (Ford Escort MkII) 64m 24s
6, Hamish Kinloch/Jim Howie (Ford Escort MkII) 64m 43s
7, Stuart Paterson/Allan Paterson (Subaru Impreza) 64m 55s
8, Stuart Baillie/Chris Hunter (Subaru Impreza) 65m 04s
9, Ian Paterson/Helen Brown (Subaru Impreza) 65m 10s
10, Stephen Thomson/David Crosbie (Ford Escort MkII) 65m 25s