Champagne stuff!

Mark McCulloch and Craig Wallace in celebratory mood after their success in the Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally.
Mark McCulloch and Craig Wallace in celebratory mood after their success in the Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally.

Craig Wallace, the rallying electrician from Kirriemuir, co-drove his regular rally partner Mark McCulloch of Newton Stewart to an impressive first overall on the Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally.

Starting from Castle Douglas in the rolling farmland of Galloway, this would be only the third gravel/forest event for Craig and Mark to try out the recently acquired Subaru Impreza.

Following great results on the Solway Coast Rally and the Merrick Stages, the former Scottish Junior Rally Champions were more than ready for one of the best events in the Scottish Rally Calendar - 45 miles of competitive forest tracks spread over five stages.

The first stage at Glengap gave an indication of the potential for the day when they set the fastest time to take the early lead ahead of Jock Armstrong/Kirsty Riddick, four time winners of the event.

This was no mean feat and was a great start to the day.

The second stage was more challenging. Craig was suffering with sinusitis and was a little uncomfortable at the start of the stage.

However, the pair set another good time, although it wasn’t just as sharp as it might have been and they went into service second equal with Petch/Richardson in the Hyundai Accent WRC.

They may have been disappointed with their performance in stage 2 but everyone else could see the stunning performance developing, this was no mean feat. Second equal is a dream for many competitors on an event like the Galloway Hills and the quality of the other competitors made it even more special to this point.

Stage 3 in Dalbeattie was challenging, a front puncture with three miles of the stage to go is a tall order and a little more time slipped away and so some time was dropped against Armstrong/Riddick and Petch/Richardson. However, both these crews had their own difficulties.

As the crews assembled at the start of stage 4, Armstrong/Riddick were missing, their car succumbing to electrical problems.

Craig and Mark now had a lead of eight seconds over Petch/Richardson, which was reduced to just five seconds after stage 4, which was a revisit to Glengap.

Heading into the fifth and final stage, the young but experienced crew found themselves leading a rally for the first time, and ahead of a WRC Hyundai at that.

Craig said: “We discussed our options at the start of the stage. We could give it 110% and be in with a chance of a win, but one minor error could end the event.“We agreed that this was our day and we would give everything to the final stage. If it went wrong, we had tried.”

With a far superior car only five seconds behind on time and a stage of nearly ten miles they gave the 110% commitment required and drove the perfect stage to set the fastest time, and the take the overall win by 31 seconds.

Leaving the stage and meeting up with the service crew a second puncture required attention.

Craig pointed out; “The service crew noticed the rear tyre was soft. It was punctured but it probably had happened after we crossed the flying finish. Only a short distance earlier and the day would have had a different outcome.”

Unsure if they had done enough there were no celebrations at this management location.

A reserved calmness fell over Mark and Craig and the service crew until the event organisers confirmed the results at the finish podium in Castle Douglas.

Now the emotions showed as they enjoyed the spraying of champagne to celebrate a real high point in their rally careers.