‘Arm­strong takes Scot­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship’

Penul­ti­mate-stage re­tire­ment for Pear­son gives Jock the ti­tle.

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - Pho­tos: Writ­tle Pho­to­graphic By John Fife

cot­land has a new rally cham­pion, but per­haps not the one ev­ery­one was ex­pect­ing.

Go­ing into the fi­nal round of the na­tional ARR Craib Cham­pi­onship the on-form Garry Pear­son and Rob­bie Mitchell looked un­beat­able in their Dom Buck­ley-pre­pared Ford Fi­esta R5.

As series lead­ers, all they had to do was win or fin­ish right be­hind Jock Arm­strong and Paula Swin­scoe in their TEG Sport Subaru Im­preza. The top two could, there­fore, ig­nore John Mac­crone and Stu­art Loudon, who were widely tipped to win the Arm­strong Gal­loway Hills Rally, as long as they kept tabs on each other.

It was there­fore no sur­prise to learn that three sec­onds cov­ered the top three times in the first stage, with Arm­strong quick­est by a sec­ond from Mac­crone and two sec­onds quicker than Pear­son.

Then came the first big shock of the day in the sec­ond stage at Cairn Ed­ward. Mac­crone hit some­thing in the grass, broke a wheel and the Ford Fi­esta spun it­self back­wards into a ditch. The duo were left to sun­bathe – in com­plete con­trast to the pre­vi­ous day’s storms – as the rest of the 90-car field sped by.

Obliv­i­ous to this, Pear­son hit back with a time 10 sec­onds bet­ter than Arm­strong to snatch the rally lead, al­though Arm­strong pinched one back in the next test at Glen­gap be­fore ser­vice, where there seemed to be quite a bit of earth and grass be­ing cleared from un­der the Fi­esta.

“A cor­ner tight­ened up a bit more than the notes sug­gested and we were off down a bank­ing and through the weeds,” smiled Pear­son. “Clear the de­bris and we’re good to go.”

As for Arm­strong: “That sec­ond stage didn’t suit me. It was wet, tight and twisty in the mid­dle and faster at start and fin­ish. Ar­ron (Newby, TEG Sport) told me I should just click the ‘map’ up one in the tight bits and down two on the fast bits. What does he think I am, an air­line pi­lot – I was busy at the time!”

Mean­while, be­hind these two, just 20 sec­onds cov­ered the next nine places. Mike Faulkner was third, but by only five sec­onds from Mark Mccul­loch with Greg Mcknight a fur­ther sec­ond be­hind him, while Bruce Mccom­bie thought a podium fin­ish was still pos­si­ble de­spite a “half spin” in the third test.

Arm­strong was quick­est in the fourth test, but by only four sec­onds from Pear­son. Af­ter the next stage, the gap was big­ger, with Arm­strong snatch­ing the rally lead, tak­ing 14 sec­onds out of his cham­pi­onship ri­val. In fact, both Faulkner and Mccul­loch took time out of Pear­son too, with Mcknight match­ing his stage time.

All be­came clear on the sub­se­quent road sec­tion when Pear­son and Mitchell smelled smoke in the car. They were forced to pull over and ex­tin­guish an un­der-bon­net fire. The man­i­fold had split and al­though they both thought they might make the fin­ish, the heat melted the plas­tics and set fire to the wiring. Game over.

Arm­strong was now on course to score his eighth win on his home event and his sec­ond cham­pi­onship ti­tle. All he had to do was get through the fi­nal stage and road sec­tion.

Then young Greg Mcknight posted the fastest time on the fi­nal stage. Mark Mccul­loch was sec­ond fastest. Arm­strong was third fastest. A canny run was called for and he duly de­liv­ered ar­riv­ing back in Cas­tle Dou­glas to a huge crowd at the fin­ish. Among the first to con­grat­u­late Arm­strong and Swin­scoe were Pear­son and Mitchell. A ges­ture much ap­pre­ci­ated by the win­ners.

“I felt for Garry. I couldn’t be­lieve it when I heard what hap­pened,” said Arm­strong, “You couldn’t make it up, could you? I re­mem­ber be­ing told at school that to fin­ish first, first you had to fin­ish. That’s what I did to­day.”

Faulkner just man­aged to hang on to sec­ond place as Mccul­loch closed in. “I just kept the old tyres on for this af­ter­noon,” said Faulkner, “that’s as well as I’ve ever driven, and they’re all snap­ping at my heels.”

Mccul­loch was happy enough with third po­si­tion, but rued what might have been.

“Af­ter an all-nighter fix­ing a mis­fire I was pretty slow off the start this morn­ing, but got go­ing in the af­ter­noon,” he ex­plained.

Mcknight’s fi­nal-stage push also earned him his best for­est rally re­sult with fourth place just edg­ing out a sur­prised Mccom­bie. “I think I was lucky to get fifth, the pace of the top 10 up here is just un­be­liev­able at the mo­ment,” said Mccom­bie.

One sec­ond be­hind Mccom­bie was An­drew Gal­lacher in an ex-car­los Sainz Ford Fo­cus WRC.

Per­haps the last word should be left to Arm­strong’s proud mum, Joyce, who re­marked: “I’m just so pleased. That makes Jock a dou­ble [Scot­tish] cham­pion too, just like his sis­ter Bar­bara who was a dou­ble [Bri­tish Ladies] cham­pion in 1998 and ’99..” ■

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Arm­strong jumps for SRC joy

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