14 Aug: McCulloch wins Solway

… Second Solway Victory for McCulloch …

Mark McCulloch, the winner of the www.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.

Although he was the fastest driver over nine of the day’s ten stages David Hardie, and John McCulloch (Mark’s faither), still didn’t win. It was all down to the one where they weren’t fastest. Leading after the first two stages, a big spin on the third test cost them over 1m 20s to McCulloch the Younger. And despite being quicker on all the following tests David just failed to take enough time back to grab victory.

With two stages to go, the gap between the leaders was 46 seconds, a tall order for anyone, but David wasn’t about to let up: “We had to try hard over the last two, we had to keep up the pressure, if Mark had even a half spin, we would have been on him,” said David, “we did see him at one point in the distance but there was no catching him.” So how hard was David trying? “We did have one wee spin on the last stage,” said David, “right in front of the spectators! But that was it, Mark was gone after that.”

Not that Mark would have agreed with that, he was under serious pressure all day. As we all know, David is just a wee bit handy and is a regular top six contender on the British Asphalt Championship. So having him on your tail is about as relaxing as standing in front of a dartboard with the ladies rugby team throwing the arrows after a night on the bevvy. Anyway, it certainly focussed Mark’s mind: “I didn’t like that,” he said, “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.” It wasn’t quite as simple as that though: “We hit a rock on Stage 7 and bent the steering. We squared it up as best we could, but it wouldn’t turn into right handers after that. So it was just a matter of tootling round to get home.”

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. He might have been rather more concerned had he known what was going on behind him inside the car. A rear turret bolt was working itself loose and gradually giving him more suspension movement on one side of the car than the other! Fortunately, ace technician Neil Ogilvie spotted it and tightened it up.

Fourth was Andrew Gallacher in a borrowed ‘almost’ Group A Escort Cosworth: “It’s not my car it belongs to one of my sponsors, so we’re just giving it a run out. It’s not quite a full-house Group A car so it’s not really any quicker than my Lancer, but it’s different.” Despite pre-event promises of no damage, he still managed to spin the beast 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. The difference between the two was 19 seconds but really, the competition was much closer than that throughout the day with the two swapping faster times, sometimes Hamish leading and then Steve. Hamish was a second quicker on the penultimate test, but Steve was 10 seconds faster on the final one and that put the matter beyond doubt.

Stuart Paterson finished 7th after a diff change at lunch time: “It failed on the 4th test and we had to do 5 and 6 before doing the change. With just 20 minutes between each loop of stages we needed at least 40 minutes to do the job so we had to wait till the one hour lunch break to get the time we needed,” he said. Stuart Baillie was eighth first time out in the car after a recent illness but the poor wee soul was knackered by the end of the day and his times were slowing slightly. Still, getting out and about was a whole lot better than an apple and a bottle of Lucozade. Just don’t tell his Doc!

Ninth was Ian Paterson after a visit to the trees in the fourth test: “I just caught sight of David Hardie,” said Ian, “so maybe there was a touch of red mist about it,” and he dropped well over a minute getting back on to the road. Getting back into the top ten was therefore quite an achievement. Rounding off the top ten was Stephen Thompson in his MkII just 15 seconds in front of Peter Stewart in the Fiesta. Peter was initially quicker over the early stages when it was damp and slippy in places but once conditions dried out, Stephen was able to make better use of the power. However, the surprise here was that Ian Forgan finished a lowly 12th: “The car is only geared for 102mph and you might be surprised at just how often you are flat out around here,” said the Ford Ka pilot.

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 his Lancer which damaged the wiring loom and Richard Dickson’s Subaru jammed in sixth gear.

Not only did Murray Coulthard finish this one, but he also won the 1400cc class in his Nova. However, the real surprise here was that after the second stage he thought he wasn’t going to go any further: “we landed badly after a jump coming down Brown Hill and the gear selector jumped off the top of the ‘box and we couldn’t get any gears. At the time we thought it was much worse, but we fixed it at the end of the stage and carried on, then fixed it properly at service.” Second in class in the MG ZR, Keith Riddick had his fears about finishing too: “The gear knob came off in my hand, so I threw it at Kirsty (co-driver) and told her to change gear,” he laughed, “and we had to change a knackered rear shock absorber when the top came off.”

Ross Carbry was third in class in his Corsa after fixing a wee oil leak, but by only 8 seconds from the Corsa of Drew Barker.

In Class 2, Peter Stewart was top 1600 in his Fiesta from the Honda Civic of David Benson with Iain Wilson in third place in his Nova. Iain Haining would have been in the mix, but for a number of niggly problems with the ‘new’ car – see News roundup for more info.

Top Ten:
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