What an entry, what a rally, what a competition. The MoD’s Dundrennan facility hasn’t seen action like this since the last time tanks used the place as a live firing range! Rain on the first two stages ensured competitors woke up pretty quickly as the various surface changes kept the crews guessing as to what grip there was, if any. Then the rain stopped, it dried quickly and the sun came out. Costa del Solway was back.
Last year’s winners Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry won this year’s usedcarparts.co.uk Solway Coast Rally by just 4 seconds from Stephen Thompson and Larry Higton. Close? It was closer than that.
McCulloch was fastest over the day’s first 5 stages holding a half minute lead at the lunch halt over Greg McKnight with David Hardie a further 12 seconds behind.
He kept up that pace over Stage 6, but in the penultimate test: “I don’t think I hit anything, but a front tyre went down,” said Mark, “I didn’t back off. Even though the tyre was flailing about, I wasn’t too worried, all my wiring is inside the shell. Then I handbraked it to get round a hairpin and the rear end stepped out and whacked a tree!”
McCulloch dropped over 50 seconds to the pursuit with one stage to go, then another disaster, Greg McKnight’s gearbox broke on the final stage.
Meanwhile Stephen Thomson was on the move in the Buckley Fiesta. First time out in the car he was getting quicker on every stage. From 7th place after the first two tests he was now knocking on the door of the top three. It was the same for Shaun Sinclair. After a slow start he too was in the hunt for a top three finish.
As McCulloch’s tattered Lancer drove out of the final stage he didn’t know who had won. Neither did anyone behind him.
The leaders crowded round the Rally HQ Results screen as the times flickered up, McCulloch’s fifth victory on this event was confirmed by just 4 seconds from Thompson. 20 seconds behind in 3rd place was Sinclair just easing Hardie out of a podium position. Lee Hastings and Ian Paterson rounded off the top six but the pace had been cruel all day.
Gary Adam lost out on the first stage when he overshot a corner and slid into a ditch. He got out but any hopes of victory had gone. Nigel Feeney punctured the MINI and went off, while Richard Dickson broke two driveshafts on the Subaru, front and rear on the same side, and Billy McClelland parked his Lancer - up a banking.
It was close too in the 1600 class with Gareth White taking the win by 6 seconds from Angus Lawrie.
1, Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry (Evo9) 44m 21s
2, Stephen Thompson /Larry Higton (Fiesta R5) 44:25
3, Shaun Sinclair /Jamie Edwards (Impreza WRC) 44:45
4, David Hardie /John McCulloch (Impreza) 45:07
5, Lee Hastings /Alistair Wyllie (Impreza) 45:25
6, Ian Paterson /Heather Grisedale (Impreza) 45:36
7, Iain Wilson /Mark Fisher (Impreza) 45:39
8, Alan Kirkaldy/Cameron Fair (Escort Mk2) 45:41
9, Ian Forgan /Chris Lees (Hyundai WRC) 46:58
10, Gordon Morrison /Calum MacPherson (Impreza) 47:01