… Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally, 10 September 2022 …
Rd7 (of 8) 2022 KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship …
The running of the 2022 Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally will go down in Scottish rallying history for many reasons. It provided David Henderson and Chris Lees with their first outright victory on gravel while David Bogie clinched the national Scottish rallying title for a record sixth time. The event also ran on the weekend immediately after the nation lost it’s much loved monarch.
No doubt there will be those who say it shouldn’t have run, but they were not there on the day. Sport has a way of bringing people together at a time of loss and that should not be overlooked. Rallying in particular is a nomadic sport without the benefit of stadiums or arenas where people can gather, so it was entirely fitting that the Solway, South of Scotland, East Ayrshire and Machars car clubs joint organising team hosted their own dignified tribute ahead of the rally in one of nature’s most natural amphitheatres, a forest clearing. It’s a memory which will linger long in the minds of those who were there.
When the pipes fell silent, and the odd tear was wiped away, this penultimate round of the KNC Groundworks Scottish Championship got underway.
With the knowledge that they wouldn’t be able to contest the final round of the series in October, David Bogie and John Rowan powered into an instant lead over the opening 6.6 mile test in SS1 Cairn Edward. However, there was a wee flaw in the plan. David Henderson and Chris Lees were only one second slower. Not only that, the front running Mitsubishi Lancer was hot on the heels of the two Ford Fiesta Rally2s. Not who you’d think either, it was Angus Lawrie and Paul Gribben who set third fastest time only 3 seconds behind Bogie while the orange Subaru Impreza of Jock Armstrong and Cameron Fair was hot on their heels only a further second behind Lawrie. “I always like these stages,” said Angus, “this is home territory for me and I want to do well.”
There was more, Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry were only another one second behind Armstrong in the Proton Satria Evo. Adding even more excitement to the mix was the pace of both Hugh Brunton and Drew Sturrock in the Ford Fiesta R5 sharing sixth fastest time with the Hyundai i20 R5 of John Wink and Neil Shanks.
In fact 12 seconds covered the top eight fastest times with the rebuilt Mitsubishi Lancer of Michael Binnie and Claire Mole bringing up the rear. There was work to be done here.
A 7.7 mile run through SS2 Fleet followed that and Bogie meant business this time, but he was still only six seconds quicker than a tying Henderson and Armstrong. And although Binnie had picked up the pace with fourth fastest time he was a full 14 seconds down on Bogie: “I’ve got a bit of a misfire,” said Michael, “it’s running hotter than normal in this heat,” and he still had Lawrie and McCulloch on his tail. Not only that, Brunton and Wink were still very much in touch. However, there was a look of concern on McCulloch’s face as he exited the stage: “I’ve got a rumbly wheel bearing or something.” Turned out the vibration was coming from the prop shaft and he had no spare bearings. Back at service they ‘packed out’ the joint with mud flap material (!) and carried on. You know what? It worked.
After first service, the crews faced a re-run of the first two stages and Henderson was on fire, ten seconds quicker than Armstrong through SS3 Cairn Edward, but Armstrong had a problem: “It’s overheating and lapsing into ‘limp’ mode,” he explained, “not the engine itself just the underbonnet temperature.” And how was this solved? Cameron Fair had to hold up the Subaru’s bonnet on the approach to stage starts to let as much air flow through as possible: “We were trying to keep the engine as cool as possible from the Arrival Control to the Start, then I would shut the bonnet, jump in and fasten the belts as Jock took up position on the Start Line.” It worked, but not to be recommended by the peched-out Cammy.
Bogie went the wrong way on suspension settings at service for this re-run and could only manage fourth fastest time behind Brunton who was dead chuffed with third fastest. Lawrie and Wink shared fifth fastest times with Binnie struggling a little to earn seventh fastest just ahead of McCulloch.
Proving it was no fluke, Henderson was quickest through the second SS4 Fleet by four seconds from Armstrong with Bogie a further three seconds behind but pulling away from the tightly battling pack behind them. Henderson admitted he was lucky though: “We clattered a big rock. It was right on the line round a bend but no real damage.” Five seconds covered Wink, Lawrie and McCulloch, but of Binnie there was no sign.
This time the Lancer hit hard, with a tail over nose roll unlike the Grampian sideways roll so there was no chance of continuing. Both Michael and Claire were OK but they needed a maximum point score today to have any chance of lifting the national title. That was now gone.
Also losing out but with less drama was Brunton: “We lost the power steering and dropped 20 seconds or so. It seems when we hit a rock on full lock it sent a shock through the steering which pushed the steering outwith its maximum parameters. This required a switch-off and re-set which we did at the stage finish, and it was OK after that.”
After second service, the surviving crews faced another re-run of the same two stages. This unusual format was forced upon the organisers by lack of entries, a fact which puzzled many at this normally popular event. However, there was a distinct lack of Irish crews this year no doubt put off by rising fuel and ferry costs. Another factor which influenced this choice and saved the rally, was the quality of the Galloway gravel roads. There were a few who complained of roughness but oddly enough, quite a few reckoned they got better as the day went on. Rally drivers, eh?
Anyway, Bogie reverted to his first run suspension settings for the final blast, but the pressure was off, there was no way Binnie could save his own title bid. All Bogie had to do was finish third or higher and that would put the title beyond doubt. But he still had to finish: “
Henderson led Bogie by ten seconds through the third SS5 Cairn Edward run but Brunton was again third quickest in the ‘older’ R5 proving that he is going to pose quite a threat next year after his first serious full championship season. Wink, Lawrie and McCulloch were right on his tail though with Lawrie reckoning he had a bit of luck: “We clipped a rock with the front o/s wheel two thirds of the way through. It was a fair thump and I backed off thinking it had done damage, but we seemed to get away with it.” It was also Armstrong’s turn to strike trouble. The Impreza appeared at the finish with a tattered front o/s tyre losing 30 seconds to Henderson: “The usual, I always get a puncture in that stage,” said Armstrong.
Thoroughly enjoying himself was Andy Scott with Patrick Walsh in the Fiesta S2000T. He was just getting quicker with each passing stage and the grin was getting wider: “It’s over 20 years since I last drove in these forests and that was on this event in Honda Civic then a GrpN Subaru.”
A final visit to SS6 Fleet brought matters to a close with Henderson again topping the fastest times nine seconds clear of Armstrong with Bogie third. Brunton was again best of the rest, but not by much as Wink, McCulloch and Lawrie could smell his exhaust. After a slowish start, after his Grampian roll, Willie Paterson was playing himself in sensibly as he and Tom Hynd were eighth quickest in the rebuilt Lancer just ahead of Scott.
At the final subdued rally finish back at Talnotry Service Park, the top three finished well clear of the pursuit led by Lawrie, while Wink has also stepped up a gear this year as McCulloch continues to improve the self built Proton. Finishing seventh was Brunton ruing what might have been: “We had no intercom over the final two stages, the cable snapped clean through so it was back to hand signals with Drew ‘signing’ the direction and distances,” before adding, “we’re here on pure anger and hand signals!”
Paterson was eighth after a steady confidence rebuilding run just ahead of the top 2WD crew of Stuart Egglestone and Brian Hodgson, a stirring result for the Escort Mk2 crew who had scored top ten fastest times on five of the day’s six stages. Running them close was the Peugeot 208 Rally4 of Peter Stewart and Harry Marchbank who also set two top ten fastest times on their way to 11th place overall and second 2WD. Missing out on this battle was old hand Steve Bannister with Callum Atkinson when the Escort parked itself in a ditch in the final stage.
In between them a delighted Andy Scott was tenth overall and thoroughly delighted to be back in the woods: “I enjoyed it immensely.”
Meanwhile back at the front, Bogie was reflecting on yet another title win: “I’ve never been so happy to finish second. I’ve never driven so slowly in all my days, but that’s what we had to do, just jeep it in the middle of the road.”
But it was Henderson’s day: “We had a strong push in the middle two stages, then when David backed off for the final two we backed off on the rougher bits. Even so, I wish David had been able to push on too, just so that I could see what my pace is against him. That was my first gravel win – it’s nice to be in the elite club!”
Results 1 David Henderson/Chris Lees (Ford Fiesta Rally2) 41m 37s 2 David Bogie/John Rowan (Ford Fiesta Rally2) +35s 3 Jock Armstrong/Cameron Fair (Subaru Impreza) +57s 4 Angus Lawrie/Paul Gribben (Mitsubushi Lancer E9) +1m 33s 5 John Wink/Neil Shanks (Hyundai i20 R5) +1m 39s 6 Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry (Proton Satria Evo 2000) +1m 43s 7 Hugh Brunton/Drew Sturrock (Ford Fiesta R5) +1m 49s 8 Willie Paterson/Tom Hynd (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +3m 35s 9 Stuart Egglestone/Brian Hodgson (Ford Escort Mk2) +3m 58s 10 Andy Scott/Patrick Walsh (Ford Fiesta S2000T) +4m 03s Class C2: Martyn Erskine/Kieran Hyslop (Peugeot 206 Cup) C3: Peter Stewart/Harry Marchbank (Peugeot 208 Rally4) C4: Andy Magee/Michael Johnston (Ford Escort Mk2) C5: John Crawford/Josh Davidson (Ford Escort Mk2) C6: Paul McErlean/Niall McKenna (Ford Escort Mk2) C7: Mike Moates/Gary McDonald (Subaru Impreza) C8: Scott Peacock/Craig Wallace (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo8) C9; Armstrong/Fair C10: Henderson/Lees C11: Egglestone/Hodgson C12: Nick Kitching/Andrew Trollope (Ford Escort Mk2)