Starting from Wigtown in the rolling farmland of Galloway, the ProTune Remapping Merrick Stages would be the first gravel/forest event for Craig Wallace and Mark McCulloch to try out the Subaru Impreza following on from their success on the Solway Coast Tarmac Rally.
With appropriate adjustments made to suit the very different conditions the Kirriemuir electrician and his co-driver was more than ready for one of the best events in the Scottish rally calendar.
Initially seeded 27th, based on performance in two wheel drive, the pair knew that a good performance would be essential for future events.
Stage 1 Craignell was the usual tentative start but a good clean run on the slippery gravel saw them move up to 18th overall without much difficulty.
Stage 2 at Jenny’s Hill was the start of a climb up the leader board, with an eighth quickest time in the stage they moved up to 13th overall as they came into service at Glencaird for the first visit.
The service crew were a tad mucky after this as the wet mud slid off the car relentlessly as they checked all was ok.
The next three stages were all in Glentrool forest and, with the exception of a very short gap between stage 3 and 4 there would be no opportunity for servicing at the end of the stages.
Indeed, after stage 3, Glentrool East they had again taken the eighth quickest stage time and moved up to ninth overall as they arrived at the limited service stop.
Craig explained: “We were very pleased with our performance at this point.
“The car was running well and we had taken to the increased pace.
“We were now running at the pace of some of Scotland’s top competitors.
There was no time for complacency and we had to focus to achieve the best result possible.”
Stage 4 Glentrool West was another great, taking sixth fastest time and moving up to eighth place.
Craig highlighted; “We were now able to see we were gaining on our immediate competitors.
“This was good and we were heading into the third stage in the Glentrool complex in a comfortable position.”
Teamwork and communication between co-driver and driver is imperative, both were working well.
Craig was reading the notes impeccably whilst Mark drove to his usual exceptional standard.
The in car video shows this to great effect.
If Craig and Mark had any worries about their abilities then they need not have worried.
Stage 5, Glentrool South was even better than stage 4, taking fifth fastest in the stage and maintaining eighth overall.
This was good motorsport and as they came into the second main service you could feel the excitement.
Craig takes up the story: “With one long 12- mile stage to go we knew what our task was.
“Unfortunately, a competitor ahead of us had a bad accident and the stage was stopped.
“In these circumstances a notional time is apportioned according to times of other competitors.
“In our case on this occasion it was not in our favour and we were classified as tenth overall.
“However, the well-being of the other crew was more important than any result. We learnt a lot about ourselves at this higher level and we can take that forward.”
All in all, Craig and Mark worked hard all day and showed that they are capable of running at the top of the field with the Impreza.
Craig’s was involved in the Lindisfarne Rally on September 11 at Otterburn with Jim Sharp in a Subaru Impreza.
His next two outings are as follows:-
Galloway Hills Rally on October 30 at Castle Douglas with Mark McCulloch in a Subaru Impreza; the R.A.C Rally with Magic McCombie in the ex works SAAB 900 from December 2 to 5.