Inverness rally veteran Jimmy Girvan bridged an eighteen year gap to clinch his second Scottish Rally Championship with victory on Saturday's Merrick Forest Stages in Galloway.

The 1990 champion secured the title in his TEG-Sport Subaru Impreza on the penultimate round of the County Saab series after his rival David Bogie crashed out at the end of the third stage.

"It's been a fantastic day for me", said Girvan, as he faced the TV cameras and photographers at the finish in Newton Stewart. "I was feeling good from the start - taking seven seconds out of David on the first stage, and I really thought OK - game on. Then he went off at the end of the third stage, so that was it, end of story."

Girvan admitted to a loss of confidence prior to the Merrick, which he won last year under tie-break rules after finishing in a dead heat with Bogie.

"I felt a few weeks ago that the title could be running away from me, because David had two successive top scores and it looked quite solid for him, and I thought, I'm struggling here," he explained.

"This time it was different though because I had nothing to lose by going flat out. I've probably learned a wee bit today in that I found the car going round some corners in a higher gear than I thought possible, so it's been a great learning curve as well."

Reflecting on the gap between his two championship wins, Girvan - who gives his birth-date as 'the 50's' - quipped: "I would like to think it might go in the Guinness Book of Records - I don't know if there's been an older champion than myself!"

He also paid tribute to his season-long navigator Kirsty Riddick, who won the Scottish Co-drivers' Championship.

For Bogie and co-driver Kevin Rae, it was a day of bitter disappointment after a second half to the season which had shown such promise.

Their Toyota Corolla WRC crashed heavily after approaching a right hand corner too fast at the finish of the 7.3 mile Arroch Hill stage, careering off on the outside of the road. The rear of the car sustained serious damage.

"We're both OK - it could have been a lot worse - I'm just so disappointed with myself," said Bogie.

Second place overall went to Northern Ireland's Connor McLoskey in an '05-plate' Ford Focus WRC, which he had tested for the first time on the previous day's shakedown.

The 22-year-old finished the day just two seconds adrift of Girvan, who - with victory in sight - had eased up on the final 14-mile Glentrool test.

McCloskey, with co-driver Francis Regan, was well satisfied with his day's work - which included wins on SS3, 5 and 6 and an equal first with Girvan on SS4.

Gretna's Mike Faulkner, with co-driver Peter Foy, finished a further 39 seconds back in their BSW-Timber backed Mitsubishi Evo 6 to secure the Group A title.

Faulkner admitted that a final podium place had looked doubtful as they were lying fifth overall going into the last stage: "We were sitting there knowing we had to get to the end safely - but I don't like being beaten either, so we just threw caution to the wind and went for it".

Like many competitors Faulkner praised the quality of the stages: "I love
them - and that last Glentrool run is one of the best in the country for sure - a real driver's stage".

Euan Thorburn of Duns ended the day an impressive fourth overall at the wheel of his dad Alistair's Subaru Impreza, and but for an error of judgement on the short fifth stage, could have pipped Faulkner for third.

With Claire Mole of Paxton on the notes, Thorburn was one of five drivers who beat the bogey time on the second stage. He then went on to post an equal third with Andy Horne on SS3, was third on SS4 and ended with a flourish on the 14-mile Glentrool test, second to McCloskey by seven seconds.

Oban's William Bonniwell and navigator Ian Fraser from the Isle of Mull brought their Subaru Impreza home three seconds adrift of Thorburn. It was their third fifth-placed finish of the season, and made up for the disappointment of a non-finish on the previous Speyside round.

Barry Groundwater of Stonehaven and Jedburgh's Jude Wylie brought their Mitsubishi Evo 9 home in sixth to take Group N honours, thirteen seconds ahead of Elgin-based Steven Clark in his Evo 4.

It was a baptism of fire for Clark's 'rookie' co-driver Neil Mullen on his first ever rally.

The 27-year-old from Carlisle had been selected from a short-list of those who were closest to guessing the total mileage covered by Clark on a recent charity drive to Cameroon.

And he won praise from Clark, who declared: "Neil has done really well, and by the second stage had got himself organised".

The first 2-wheel drive car home was the eighth-placed Escort Mk2 of Motherwell's John Crawford, and co-driver Ian Simpson from Dumfries - one place better than their impressive finish on the previous Speyside round.

The pair ended their day in the Galloway Forest six seconds ahead of the more powerful Mk2 of Northern Ireland's Adrian Hetherington, who was assisted by Peter Ward.

Rounding off the top ten was Carluke farmer Walter Henderson and Luxembourg-based navigator Jim Kinloch in their ex-Stobart Subaru Impreza N10.

Class wins went to George McDonald/Ian Nicoll (Opel Corsa); Alick Kerr/Drew Sturrock (Ford Fiesta); Mark McCulloch/Craig Wallace (Peugeot 205 Gti); Paul Drinkall/Roy Brown (Porsche 911 - Historic 2 Class); Callum Bendall/Jim Haugh (Ford Ka); Michael Dymock/James Crichton (Vauxhall Chevette - Historic 1); Neil Morrison/Steven Barclay (Talbot Sunbeam); Alasdiar Graham/Kenny McGuire (Vauxhall Nova).

The eighth and final round of the County Saab MSA Scottish Rally Championship is the Colin McRae Stages in Perth on September 28.