SOLWAY COAST RALLY MCCULLOCH IS THE SOLWAY MASTER
Alnwick and District, Berwick and District Motor August 8 Where: Otterburn, Northumberland MSA Asphalt Rally Championship; AS Performance North of England Tarmacadam Rally Championship; BTRDA Rally Challenge; Scottish Tarmack Rally Championship; Northern Historic Asphalt Championship; MSA English Championship. Stages: 12 Starters: 81
Scoring his fourth successive victory on the Solway Coast Rally, Mark Mcculloch made it look easy, but it wasn’t. At the half way point of the eight stage event, just 27 seconds covered the top four places, but when their rivals wilted, Mcculloch and Michael Hendry were home and dry.
Mcculloch was quickly into his stride right from the start, quicker than local rival David Hardie over each of the first four tests, but it’s more complicated than just a straightforward rivalry. “David sponsors me and helps out with tyres,” explained Mark. “Even when I’m beating him!”
The biggest surprise of the day was Greg Mcknight’s performance. On only his second run out in his Mitsubishi and first time on Tarmac with the car he was holding third, just 4s behind the Subaru of Hardie.
In fourth place was Ian Paterson, but already sporting contact damage on the Subaru’s nose. “Mark hit a chicane bale and moved it, then I hit it further, so it’s his fault,” he smiled.
That slowish start only seemed to provoke Paterson and he was right on the case over the next three stages. Just as impressive as Mcknight was Stephen Thompson in his two-litre Escort Mk2 giving the 4WD machines and bigger Escorts a real run for their money. He was holding fifth place ahead of the Subaru of John Marshall as the engines fell quiet for lunch.
Mcculloch’s Mitsubishi Lancer E9 picked up where it left off and he was quickest on the fifth test but Mcknight’s rally was run. A driveshaft broke on the stage start line. Then David Hardie disappeared with a broken rear differential, followed by Ian Paterson on the final stage. The Subaru had struck a pothole which snapped the bottom suspension arm clean through.
That meant John Marshall assumed the runner-up position ahead of Gary Adam, who had been on a bit of a charge since the first stage when he had involuntarily parked his Escort Mk2 in a field for a few moments.
Nigel Feeney was fourth, and on his first run out this year, Richard Dickson was fifth ahead of the impressive Thompson who was lucky to survive: “The alternator light was flickering through SS5 and then it just failed completely as we crossed the line.”
Steve Retchless was seventh in his Ford Escort Mk2 ahead of the Ford Fiesta of Murray Grierson after a wee spin on the second test, then a “bloody big one” on the sixth. Jim Mcdowall was ninth with Brian Watson rounding off the top 10.
Keith Riddick scored the 1400 class win in his MG, Gareth White was top 1600 in his Peugeot 208.
In Sunday’s Junior Rally, Irish drivers of Josh Mcerlean and Peter Bennett topped the 29-car entry. Bennett, with Andrew Bushe on the notes, took second while Ewan Tindall and Harry Chalmers upheld Scottish honour with third and fourth place. Early leader Finlay Retson broke a gearbox and then Zak Hughes who took up the lead broke a driveshaft.