2015 SRC Champions Crowned
Whilst it may not have been the ending that the event organisers, the competitors, or the championship organisers wanted, following the cancellation of the final round of the ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship, the Colin McRae Forest Stages, new Scottish Rally Champions have been crowned.
After coming close in recent years, Castle Douglas driver Jock Armstrong and Withnell navigator Paula Swinscoe have secured a well deserved title with 4 consecutive second place finishes following their season opening victory on the Snowman rally and only one retirement – truly championship winning form – in their Subaru Impreza.
The wait to claim the title just makes it all the sweeter for Armstrong, who has been chasing the Scottish title since 2009. Paula and Jock have only been competing together for 2 years, and Swinscoe is the first competitor from outside of Scotland to pick up an overall title for 10 years. It’s also the first time in 7 years that a Subaru driver has won the championship, with Armstrong staying loyal to the Japanese manufacturer, competing against far greater numbers of Mitsubishis and Fords.
“This feels like it’s been a long time coming, but I’m delighted to finally get my hands on the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship trophy. I’ve been chasing this Championship since 2009, and had a few near misses. It’s always seemed to conspire against me, but this year seemed different right from the start. The Snowman win set us up for the season, and despite following that with a retirement, I always felt that we were in a strong position.”
“The Scottish Championship is a great place to go rallying, with good competition, good events and friendly officials, and although the older you get the faster you were, we are looking forward to coming back in 2016 to defend the title. It’s everything you could look for in a championship.”
“This is only my second season with Paula in the navigator’s seat, and we treated the first very much as a learning year where we both worked hard at it, so we were ready to go for this season right from the start of the first stage. It’s been a real team effort.”
“That includes the team working on the car. We have developed the car with TEG Sport over the years, and I think it’s now as good as it can be, and all credit to them. Thanks also to Paula’s husband John, he has helped with some suspension set-up work which only made us quicker. Without the support from Earsman Ltd, Rallytech and Motordrive we wouldn’t be here, so its thanks to them as well. Happy days!”
Behind Armstrong, Mike Faulkner once again came so close to securing the Scottish Championship title which he craves. The Kirtlebridge driver, along with Peter Foy from Bingley, also took an event victory, claiming the top step of the podium on the Jim Clark Reivers event, which was run on gravel for the first time in 20 years in May. In addition to second place, Faulkner and Foy have the consolation of taking the award for top Mitsubishi. Long considered one of the most talented drivers in the Scottish Rally Championship after years honing his skills in one make Peugeot rallying across the UK, surely 2016 could at last be his year?
Completing the championship podium are the Banchory crew of Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts, who had led the series from the Border Counties Rally in March. The pair, also in a Mitsubishi, were the only crew in the top 10 finishers to score points on every championship event, and it was only when the dropped scores ruling was taken into account (competitors must drop their worst score of the season) that they were knocked off the top step. McCombie’s switch to the distinctive Green Evo (Kermit, in case you were wondering!) has seen an increase in pace and reliability, and he will be one to watch in 2016.
Other competitors tasting the champagne at the end of a difficult season include new SRC Junior Champion Thomas Gray, who despite driving one of the lowest powered cars in the category claimed 3 Junior wins on the way to finishing all of the championship rounds, again truly championship winning form in the Toyota Yaris. Ross Hynd takes the Junior navigators’ title, again scoring 3 category wins throughout the season.
Caroline Carslaw made her rallying return this year, after a pre-season testing accident ruled her out of the 2014 season before it even started. With a maximum possible score, the Fiesta driver dominated the Ladies drivers’ category, whilst Paula Swinscoe unsurprisingly adds the Ladies co-drivers’ title to her haul in similarly dominant fashion.
Steve Bannister shows that age is no boundary as the Yorkshire Ford Escort driving legend of the sport retained his Two Wheel Drive title in fine style, although he may have to look over his shoulder, as last year’s SRC Junior champion Greig McKnight was very much snapping at his heels once he got a more powerful 2 litre engine fitted to his Escort.
In Group N, after a season long battle Conon Bridge’s John Morrison pipped Newton Stewart’s Fraser Wilson to the championship win. Both Mitsubishi drivers are long term supporters of the championship, and whilst John will be delighted to take the category victory, Fraser can console himself with the Mitsubishi Group N Cup, which operates a different scoring system.
With the season being disappointingly cut short after the McRae cancellation compounding the earlier cancellation of the Merrick stages, which wasn’t organised in 2015, a number of the battles throughout the field were also cut short. With these concerns in mind, the championship organisers have taken swift action, and competitors and officials have been invited to an open meeting in Perth this coming Saturday to discuss the Scottish Rally Championship in 2016 and beyond.
The season does not end there however……
With the MSA’s road to Wales initiative, overall champions Armstrong and Swinscoe win an entry to the National category on Wales Rally GB. They will be joined by Junior Champion Thomas Gray, and Ladies champion Caroline Carslaw, these drivers winning entries on the Jim Clark Reivers and Scottish Rallies respectively. With the National event having been won by Scottish Rally Championship crews for the past 2 years the pressure will be on to continue the SRC run of success.
It’s still not over though……..
On Saturday 28th November the competitors, officials, service crews, sponsors and supporters of Scottish Rallying will reconvene at the Marriott Hotel for the annual Gala Awards Dinner. This event is the envy of other motorsport series throughout the UK, and a turnout in excess of 500 people is anticipated to celebrate the successes of the 2015 season, and look forward to the 2016 season where the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship will return, refreshed and raring to go.
Throughout the year rallying in Scotland has had a number of challenges, facing them head on and coming out the other side stronger. It will do that again in 2016 with your support.
The SRC Organising team hope to see you at some of the above events.
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