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Castle Douglas rally ace Jock Armstrong took a record ninth Galloway Hills Rally win this weekend (9th September), powering his familiar orange Subaru Impreza to a narrow victory over current ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Champion Euan Thorburn.

Shaun Sinclair made a strong bid for his first win of the season but couldn’t overhaul the charging Armstrong and Thorburn, rounding off the podium in third.

Armstrong not only sponsored the event but started as a pre-event favourite as over 80 crews left the Threave Garden and Estate ceremonial start on Saturday morning for the 44th running of the rally. He, along with newly partnered co-driver Cameron Fair duly returned victorious for the finish celebrations after five hard-fought stages in the Galloway Forests.

Organised by Solway, Machars and East Ayrshire Car Clubs, the highly regarded stage rally had attracted a top quality field from both the UK and Ireland to the region and rally fans were in for a real treat throughout the day.

With 44 miles of classic forest tests in store, Armstrong made his mark from the off, setting the fastest time in the opening Barney Water stage. In fact, he wouldn’t be beaten on the three stages before the midpoint service halt, opening up a lead of 23 seconds for the final two stage blast to the finish.

Rally done then? Not at all.

By his own admission, Thorburn was a slow starter and forgetting to turn on the anti-lag of his Ford Fiesta R5 would only hamper progress in the morning loop. But after service, Thorburn and co-driver Paul Beaton came alive, taking two fastest stages times to close in on Armstrong, edging the gap down to just three seconds at the finish. But it wasn’t enough and Armstrong was elated at yet another home win.

“There is nothing like the feeling of winning your home rally,” said Armstrong. “The support from everyone has been great today and we had a really strong opening loop of stages. It took Cameron and I a wee while to get settled in but we had the measure of the stages today and everything worked well. Nine time Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally winner, sounds good doesn’t it?”

The battle for the final podium spot was less of a done deal however. Sinclair and co-driver Jamie Edwards powered their Subaru Impreza WRC to a confident start and headed into service in second spot and although a way down on Armstrong’s lead, was in a prime position to take advantage of any mishaps. Thorburn’s increase of pace in the afternoon demoted Sinclair to third by the finish

Equally, Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy were in firm contention to do the same in their Mitsubishi Evo IX, challenging Sinclair all day long. But broken rear suspension after stage four and a subsequent trip into a bog on the final test meant that they wouldn’t see the end of the rally.

Returning to the Scottish Championship for the first time since the Scottish Rally in May, Rory Young and Allan Cathers took their Ford Fiesta R5 to a very respectable fourth spot. With Thorburn not scoring series points, it meant Young took his first ever podium in the championship and professed to “loving” the stages on the event.

Dumfries driver Mark McCulloch classes the Galloway Hills Rally as his “home” event and despite a slow start to the day, returned a solid drive to fifth in his Mitsubishi Evo IX with Michael Hendry alongside.

Five-time Scottish champion David Bogie wheeled out a Ford Escort MK2 for the event with regular co-driver Kevin Rae. Bogie had previously campaigned his Skoda Fabia R5 this season but decided to bring his crowd pleasing Escort to the Galloway Hills. Despite admitting to learning the car during the event, Bogie took an impressive sixth spot at the end.

Andrew Gallacher and Jane Nicol took seventh in their Ford Focus WRC, with Michael Binnie and Clair Mole grabbing eighth in their Mitsubishi Evo IX. Donnie Macdonald and Andrew Falconer took ninth in their Ford Fiesta R5 whilst Iain Wilson and Chris Williams rounded off the top ten in their Subaru Impreza.

Thanks to a prestigious grant from Dumfries and Galloway Council Major Events Strategic Fund, the rally has appealed to a significant number of entries from across the Irish Sea which ensured the event boasted one of its strongest entries for many years.

Brendan Cumiskey and Ronan O’ Kane were the first crew home from across the water, bringing their brand new M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 home in 11th overall.

Clerk of the Course Michael Riddick is delighted with how the event has gone.

“It’s been a truly fantastic day and I`d like to thank all the hard working and dedicated volunteers that helped make the event such a true success,” he said.

“The rally has brought so many people to the region this weekend and the spectator areas were as full as I’ve ever seen them. Huge thanks must also go to our sponsors The Armstrong Group as well as Dumfries and Galloway Council, Threave Garden and Estate and Forestry Commission Scotland for their support. We look forward to seeing everyone again next year for our 45th event”.

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Images courtesy of Lindsay Photosport

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