Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy kept their Scottish championship campaign well on track with outright victory in a dramatic RSAC Scottish Rally in Dumfries - the fifth round of the Hankook series.

It was their second championship triumph of the season - following a maiden SRC win on the Granite City in April - and more than made up for the disappointment of a non-finish on last month's Jim Clark Reivers.

Faulkner powered his Mitsubishi Evo 6 through the classic Dumfries and Galloway stages to finish 13 seconds ahead of former British Junior champion Wayne Sisson in an Evo 9, with Stephen Whitford from Ireland third overall in an Evo 6 - both of whom were not eligible for championship points.

Euan Thorburn and Campbell Roy were second home of the SRC crews, and also took GpN honours, in their Subaru Impreza.

Jock Armstrong and Kirsty Riddick of Castle Douglas secured the final SRC podium spot in their Impreza N11 and extended their championship lead.

In the drivers' standings, Armstrong now has 131 points, with Faulkner second on 103. There is a similar margin between Riddick and Foy in the co-drivers' championship.

David Bogie of Dumfries remains third in the drivers' table on 101 points, despite crashing out in his Evo 9 on the fourth stage, after 'wheel sensor' problems earlier in the day.

Faulkner and Foy set a blistering pace from the start and were fastest through SS1 Kinharvie by two seconds from Willie Bonniwell and Neil Ewing in their Subaru Impreza.

They still had their noses in front after the short Heathhall spectator stage, but only by one second from a hard-charging Bonniwell.

However, on the 6-mile Castle O'er stage, the Oban driver picked up a puncture, and Faulkner lost around 20 seconds when he got caught behind the slower car.

The Evo 6 crew quickly regrouped. They were fastest through stages four and five, but were still only one second ahead of Jimmy Girvan and Mike Ramsay going into the final - and longest test of the day - the 12.75 mile Ae East.

Then disaster struck for the 2008 champion from Inverness when he rolled his Subaru, ensuring Faulkner a famous victory after notching up his fourth fastest stage time of the event.

Faulkner was both delighted - and relieved - at the outcome: "We had a real low in the middle of the day when we lost all that time stuck behind Willie," said the Kirtlebridge-based driver: "We went into the stage with five seconds covering the top six and we came out absolutely gutted thinking it was all over. But we just drove our hearts out, and it came together. Our championship campaign is certainly up and running".

Thorburn was also well-satisfied with his day's work, which came off the back of a second-place finish on his home event, the Reivers.

The Duns driver was accompanied by Campbell Roy, who took over the co-driver's seat in place of the unavailable Claire Mole.

After the first two stages, the pair were lying eighth overall - just eight seconds separating them from leaders Faulkner and Foy - but they climbed to fifth overall, and third in the points, after posting a second equal fastest time with Armstrong on SS3.

By the end of the fourth stage Thorburn and Roy were third overall, five seconds adrift of new leader Jimmy Girvan.

The pair held station for the two afternoon tests through Ae, and the runners-up spot was there for the taking after Girvan went off.

"We had a nice clean run for once, after the misfires we experienced with the car on the Granite, and early on the Reivers", said Thorburn. "Every stage seemed to work well - if you'd offered us second in the SRC points and first in GpN at the start of the day, we'd have taken it!"

Armstrong and Riddick watched the drama unfold around them, as they steered a steady course towards the final SRC podium spot - including a second-equal fastest time on the 6 mile Castle O'er stage.

Their 'moment' came in Ae when Armstrong thought a corner was a lot faster than it was and the car 'ended up parked against a tree', losing the pair a few seconds.

"All in all, it's been a very good day and it's nice to be on the podium again," he reflected. "The times have been very tight - it's the turn of the season now where people are looking at collecting as many points as possible, and we've achieved that today, so I'm happy".

Arguably, the 'drive of the day' went to Steven Clark on what was his first SRC event of the year behind the wheel of his venerable Mitsubishi Evo 4.

With sister Alison in the co-driver's seat, Clark wrung every ounce of horsepower out of the car which he steered to GpN honours in 2008, to finish sixth overall, and fourth in the points.

"It's been very good - we were second quickest on the first of the Ae stages, and I'm very happy with that. Mike Faulkner was obviously on a charge to take the victory and we were only five seconds down so I think in this old bus that's quite good," said Clark.

Young Alick Kerr had another impressive drive behind the wheel of his Subaru Impreza - his third competitive outing in a 4 wheel-drive car - to finish seventh overall and fifth in the points with co-driver Drew Sturrock.

The pair were rarely off the pace - second-equal-fastest with six other competitors through the short Heathhall spectator stage; seventh equal with Clark on SS3; fifth equal with Whitford and Armstrong on the fourth stage, Twiglees; and another seventh fastest time through the daunting - and slippery - final Ae test.

Eighth overall went to Stonehaven's Barry Groundwater and Jedburgh's Jude Wylie in their Mitsubishi Evo 9.

"It's been very hard going - we seemed to go to sleep a bit on the opening stage, and they stages have been very loose and slippery, particularly the final run through Ae which was like the driveway up to a stately home, but it's been enjoyable all the same."

The Inverness crew of Donnie Macdonald and Paul Beaton finished ninth in their Evo 9: "Considering we were seventeenth after stage one - we hadn't woken up to be honest - we can't complain about the final result", said Macdonald. "Obviously a few boys have gone out but it's been a great event, I like the Scottish and we'll definitely be back".

Steve Bannister and Louise Sutherland from Hawick were again the crew to beat in the 2-wheel drives, the pair rounding off the top ten in their Escort Mk2.

In front of an appreciative crowd at the town centre finish in Dumfries, Bannister admitted the day had had its moments.

"It's been a good day but a difficult one I think for everybody - fast and dusty. If you got off line you could soon find yourself in trouble. We've certainly had luck on our side - we've had a few ditch experiences - but managed to get out of them so it can't be bad," said the Yorkshire man.

Two of Bannister's biggest rivals both failed to finish - Inverurie's Calum Mackenzie putting his car off the road on the fourth stage after showing early promise, and John Crawford from Motherwell hitting trouble on the final Ae test.

Other notable non-finishers were the aforementioned Bonniwell, who pulled out with mechanical trouble; Andy Horne and Jim Howie who were forced to retire their DAM 4100 Gti with accident damage - their fifth DNF in as many rounds; and Snowman winner Reay Mackay whose MG Metro 6R4 had driveshaft problems on the first stage.

The Hankook MSA Scottish Rally Championship now continues on August 8 with the Gleaner Oil & Gas Speyside Stages in Elgin.


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