The RSAC Scottish Rally will see around 90 crews tackle the new-look offering next weekend, as the 22 July event is reinvigorated by its fresh new format and move to the `Granite Town` of South West Scotland, Dalbeattie.
The 77th running of the highly regarded forest stage rally sees an impressive lineup of top-flight contenders in the KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship and Motoscope HRCR Northern Historic Gravel Championship tackle stages in legendary forests such as Dalbeattie, Kinharvie and Ae after the rally moves from its traditional base in Lockerbie.
Its new Rally HQ and Service Area location in Dalbeattie is just 20 minutes West of Dumfries and has opened up the utilisation of stages that have never been used on the Scottish Rally previously. Its new home at forestry & firewood machinery suppliers and engineers Jas P Wilson’s facility means crews will be able to enjoy 43 miles of gravel, spread across three stages run twice.
There will be a regroup near Dalbeattie Town Centre and the non-competitive section of the route will also pass through the town centre, offering the chance for fans to get up close and personal to the cars and crews. The town will also welcome the winners back later in the day for the now traditional champagne spray and finish celebrations, ensuring it is at the heart of the rally for the first time.
For the twenty-sixth time, the rally will be supported by Dumfries and Galloway Council. It’s understood to be the longest-running partnership between a rally and a local authority anywhere in Britain, with the Council supporting over one-third of all the Scottish Rallies run since the first in 1932. It forms one of the Council’s seven ‘signature events`, which cover everything from Burns Suppers to arts festivals and World Championship Ice Hockey each year.
An impressive entry list will see last year’s winners, Michael Binnie and Claire Mole leading the contenders away from Dalbeattie on Saturday morning. The Duns pairing revelled in the wet conditions of 2022 and overhauled many of the more nimble modern machinery in their ageing Mitsubishi Evo.
This time, they will return in a Ford Fiesta R5 for a chance of back-to-back Scottish wins, keeping their Scottish Rally Championship hopes alive in the process. But they will have the rapid David Henderson breathing down their necks in the newer Fiesta Rally2 at number two. Henderson and co-driver Chris Lees have shown a huge pace of late, but not quite converting that into top results and next weekend could well see that change.
Leading local ace Jock Armstrong starts at three, with the Castle Douglas resident bringing his familiar Subaru Impreza with Hannah McKillop in the co-driver’s seat. Armstrong currently leads the Scottish Championship but by only three points heading into the event.
Finlay Retson and Paul Beaton continue their SRC campaign in the Ford Fiesta Rally2 and will be looking to repeat their Speyside Stages win whilst John Wink and Neil Shanks round out the top five seeds in their Hyundai i20 R5.
With fan favorite David Bogie electing to sit this year’s edition out to concentrate on events in Ireland, local interest will also come from Dumfries driver Mark McCulloch in his Proton Satria Evo. With Michael Hendry on the notes, McCulloch is quickly getting hold of his newly built Proton and is currently third in the SRC standings.
Even closer to the rally base; he owns the facility, is Ford Fiesta Rally2 driver Iain Wilson. Director of the Jas P Wilson Forest Machines firm that has handed over their impressive premises to the rally for the weekend, Dalbeattie-based Wilson and co-driver Chris Williams will be looking to put their last outing in the car firmly behind them and build the confidence after a sizeable accident at the Jim Clark Rally in May.
This year will also mark the UK Armed Forces Rally Team’s (UKAFRT) 60th year at the Scottish Rally. A welcome and often exciting addition, the event is proud of this long-running association with the squad. To mark the occasion, the Land Rovers will be running with special “diamond” door decals and the Dalbeattie stage has been renamed in their honour.
Clerk of the Course, Jonathan Lord and his team have been working hard to create an event worthy of its long-running history; “The organising team have been working very hard behind the scenes to create a fantastic event for crews and fans alike, and we have made several changes from last year thanks to the feedback received from competitors” he says.
“Our recent route survey and changes to the format of stages have ensured that we only use some of the best quality forests available to us and they are in prime condition to welcome our crews to the amazing forest roads our region offers.”
Councillor Ian Blake, Chair of the Council’s Communities Committee said, “The Scottish Rally is a much loved event both locally and nationally, and it’s sure to go from strength to strength within the scenic surrounds and forests of the Stewartry of Dumfries and Galloway. It is really encouraging to hear of the high numbers of entries for 2023, which is to the credit of RSAC Motorsport in these challenging economic times.” “Dumfries and Galloway is a special place for rallying. The forests provide the natural terrain, and there is a celebrated history of fine drivers and rallies in the region,” he said.
Councillor Jackie McCamon, Vice-Chair of the Communities Committee of the Council added, “For exhilarating live sport, it is hard to beat the Scottish Rally for excitement and heart-in-the-mouth tension. The Council is fully committed to delivering the Dumfries and Galloway Events Strategy 2023-2027, and the Rally is one of our stand-out events that provides a great day out for many local people and visitors.”
Fans will have plenty of opportunities to catch the action and enjoy the cars at close quarters. On Friday 21st July, there will be the chance to observe the pre-event technical checks from 15:00 to 20:00 at Jas P Wilson in Dalbeattie.
Out in the stages, there will be two main spectator areas, with the Edward Fergusson Ae test, just off the A701 (Ae Bridgend) taking place at 10:30 and 15:30. The BAMA/UKAFRT Dalbeattie stage also offers two chances to see the cars in action. Just south of the town, it takes place at 12:53 and again at 17:13, before the finish celebrations back in Dalbeattie.
There will also be the chance to see the crews at close quarters with the mid-point Re-group at Daniel Car park in the town from around 12:30.
More information for spectators, including timetable, access information and full entry lists is available on the event website.
Former winners of the event include World Rally Championship legends such Colin McRae, Ari Vatanen, Hannu Mikkola and Stig Blomqvist although more recently, it has been local ace David Bogie from Dumfries who has written his name in the history books, winning the event a record-breaking seven times over the years.
and the event website www.scottishrally.co.uk