The Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally


September 16th, 2023

David Henderson & Chris Lees take back-to-back victories on the Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally

County Durham rally driver David Henderson secured back-to-back wins on Saturday’s (16 September) Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally, to keep his and co-driver Chris Lees’ 2023 KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship aspirations on course with one round remaining.

To try something a bit different after a poor entry level in 2022, event Organisers Solway, Machars and East Ayrshire Car Clubs had decided to split the 49th running of event into two legs; with results after Leg 1 (six stages totalling 43 miles) counting for the Scottish Rally Championship, and Leg 2 (a further three stages totalling 21.5 miles, taking part in the dark) counting ‘just for fun’ but also importantly for Overall rally honours.

To match the new format, the event began at 3pm from a damp but drying Talnotry Service Area, and it was Event Sponsor Jock Armstrong, with Hannah McKillop on the notes, who led the event in their Subaru Impreza after SS1 (Euroroute Recovery Black Loch, 7.96 miles) just 2-seconds ahead of fellow Solway Car Club member Rory Young & Allan Cathers in their Ford Fiesta Rally2, with the similar car of David Henderson & Chris Lees a further 3-seconds back. The rest of the top ten was packed with fast drivers from the Scottish Rally Championship, with the Rally2/R5 cars of Finlay Retson/Paul Beaton, John Wink/Neil Shanks, Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson and Michael Binnie/Emily Easton-Page all separated by just 5-seconds. There was no sign, however, of 2011 event winner Mark McCulloch (Proton Evo) as he and Michael Hendry had had an altercation with a rock they couldn’t avoid and had stopped to change the offfending smashed wheel just past the Loch itself.

The Event Sponsor, celebrating his 30th Galloway Hills behind the wheel, was again fastest in SS2 (Marchbank Bakers Fleet, 6.83 miles) to extend his lead to 8-seconds, before Henderson/Lees halved that deficit with fastest time in SS3 ( Barney Water, 6.45 miles) for the Championship rivals to arrive at the day’s first Service halt separated by just 4-seconds. Despite a very promising start, the flying Christmas Tree did not come out of SS2, so that allowed the Wink/Shanks Hyundai i20 R5 to jump up to third with a great time on the fast flowing SS3 stage which finished with some 3-miles on the smooth and fast Raiders Road Forest Drive, ahead of Binnie & Petch. In the battle for sixth, the Solway Car Club pairings of Iain Wilson/Chris Williams and Angus Lawrie/Paul Gribben were just 1-second apart. Retson/Beaton suffered a puncture on SS3, and would decide to go no further.

In the two-wheel drive category, fastest times on all three stages meant that at the halfway point in Leg 1 the Historic-spec Ford Escort Mk II of Stuart Egglestone/Brian Hodgson held a lead of 8-seconds over the modern equivalent of John Crawford/Josh Davison, with Solway’s young stars Robert Proudlock/Steven Brown and Peter Stewart/Dave Robson just behind in their front wheel drive Opel Adam & Peugeot 208 respectively.

Crews headed back out for the second loop of stages just after 5pm, and the fightback continued for the Henderson/Lees Ford Fiesta Rally2, with fastest times in both SS4 (Richardson + Starling Black Loch, 7.96 miles) and SS5 (Peacock Tarmac / The Captain’s Fleet, 6.83 miles) leaving the two Championship rivals tied level on a time of 34:05, setting things up for a thrilling finale over the final championship-counting stage (TripleM Barney Water, 6.45 miles). Henderson/Lees set a super pace, to take 10-seconds, from Armstrong & McKillop, thus setting up an exciting final round at the Carlisle Stages on October 21st.

‘The Twins’ John Wink and Michael Binnie set matching times on four of Leg 1’s six stages, but it was the Wink/Shanks Hyundai i20 R5 which took the final Leg 1 podium position and points for third, on account of their fastest times in SS1+3.

Michael Binnie/Emily Easton-Page finished in 4th, ahead of Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson, with an elated Iain Wilson/Chris Williams scoring their best finish of the season in sixth.

In the two-wheel drive category, early leaders Stuart Egglestone/Brian Hodgson were disappointed to retire the Historic-spec Ford Escort Mk II from the lead of the category after SS5 when alternator failure meant they could go no further. This left John Crawford/Josh Davison to take the honours, just two seconds ahead of the flying Opel Adam of Robert Proudlock/Steven Brown who sealed the Scottish Rally Championship Junior title in the process.

Following the Scottish Rally Championship podium celebrations after Stage 6, the unique nature of this year’s Galloway Hills meant that crews who wished to do so, could return to the stages for a third pass of the stages in the dark. This was only made possible thanks to the excellent co-operation of all of the Marshals, Stage Services and Radio crews volunteering on the event, and some very generous donations from our Event Sponsors, Partners, and ‘Friends of the Galloway Hills’ for their efforts in making this happen.

Although almost 60 crews had initially signed up to contest the dark Leg, on the day it was just 25 remaining crews who bolted on their lamp-pods and headed for SS7 (Scottish Christmas Trees Black Loch, 7.96 miles). Henderson/Lees in the Fiesta Rally2 continued their run of pace, but the Event Sponsor & Hannah clawed back 3-seconds with a fastest time on SS8 (RBI Sport Fleet, 6.83 miles) to separate the two protagonists by 16-seconds ahead of the final test (Dom Buckley RSC Barney Water, 6.45 miles).

Another fastest time on the Raiders Road special stage meant that 2022 winners Henderson & Lees took the ‘Gallacher Trophy’ home once again, with Jock Armstrong & Hannah McKillop finishing 22-seconds further back, but delighted all the same. Here’s to #31.

With many of the Scottish Rally Championship front-runners opting to head home happily after SS6,  the final podium position after SS9 was filled by Northern Irish crew Alan Carmichael/Ivor Lamont in their Hyundai i20 R5. Although 3 minutes down, they loved the event, but their fastest stage of the day was the dash from the Talnotry podium to the Stena Superfast VII at Cairnryan, with the pair just managing to catch the 23:00 departure home.

Newcomers to the event Joe Cunningham/Josh Beer finished 4th in their 2000cc Ford Fiesta R5, with the Subaru Impreza S11 WRC of Barry Groundwater/Charlotte McDowall in 5th. Wigtownshire-based Charlotte was recipient of the ‘Lawrance Clark Trophy’ which is awarded annually to the highest-placed Co-Driver resident in the DG postal district in memory of our 1987 winning co-driver.

John Crawford/Josh Davison collected the ‘Brian Allan Memorial Award for Top rear-wheel-drive in the process, in memory of the well-known Machars Farmer by finishing 7th, just ahead of Ricky Crone/Ewan Lees in a similar Ford Escort Mk II. In a battle which had gone on all day, the 1600cc Vauxhall Nova of Pete Gorst/Mark Twiname finished just 9-seconds ahead of the MG ZR of Niall Cowan Jnr/Charley Sayer-Payne who finished 10th. On their first visit to the Galloway forests,  Tom Constantine/Tony Walker were the sole finisher in the MG 3 Challenge, of which the event was a counting round for the first time. A special ‘well done’ to all 19 finishers in the 9-stage event.

In the other Marque Awards, the first ‘East Ayrshire Car Club crew’ went to William Pollock/John Marshall for the second year in a row, while the immaculate Ford Escort Mk II of fellow East Ayrshire members Duncan Ferguson/Alex Murphy was the Scrutineers’ choice for the ‘Jay McNicholas Memorial Award’ for Best Presented Car. The ‘Barbara Armstrong Ladies Awards’ went to Meghan O’Kane (Driver) and Hannah McKillop (Co-driver).

The final special award of the event, the ‘Robbie Murphie Spirit of the Rally’ in memory of our popular Chief Medic, was awarded to Solway Car Club member Albert Connelly, who worked tirelessly pre, during, and post event. It would’ve been a real struggle to run the event without the mountain of work put in by this one man – thank you, Albert.

The event wishes to show their gratitude to Dumfries-based Construction and Renewables specialists, The Armstrong Group, who have sponsored the event since the year 2000, and without their enthusiasm and devoted title sponsorship, along with funding from Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Major Festivals & Events Strategy, the event would not be possible.

Full results, split between Leg1 and Leg1+2, can be found here:

Podium Photo: Event winners David Henderson (R) & Chris Lees (L) with Event Sponsor Barbara Armstrong of The Armstrong Group.

Results after Leg 1+2 (SS1-9) by Local Crews, and Members of Promoting Car Clubs Solway, Machars & East Ayrshire:
(1) David Henderson (Oakenshaw) / Chris Lees (Glasgow) Ford Fiesta Rally2; (2) Jock Armstrong (Castle Douglas) / Hannah McKillop (Melrose) Subaru Impreza; (8) Ricky Crone (Montgomery) / Ewan Lees (Glasgow) Ford Escort Mk II; (10) Niall Cowan Jnr (Dumfries) / Charley Sayer-Payne (Hamilton) MG ZR; (11) James Robertson (Penpont) / Mike Curry (Thornhill) Ford Escort Mk II; (12) Donald Peacock (Bridge of Dee) / Mairi Riddick (Dumfries) Ford Escort Mk II; (13) William Pollock (Cumnock) / John Marshall (Torrance) Ford Escort Mk II; (17) Chris Rankin (Banbury) / Alex Knight (Towcester) BMW 318ti; (DNF) David Hardie (Dumfries) / John McCulloch (Dumfries) Ford Escort Mk II; (DNF) Mark McCulloch  (Dumfries) / Michael Hendry (Aberlour ) Proton Satria Evo.

Results after Leg 1 (SS1-6) by Local Crews, and Members of Promoting Car Clubs Solway, Machars & East Ayrshire:
(1) David Henderson (Oakenshaw) / Chris Lees (Glasgow) Ford Fiesta Rally2; (2) Jock Armstrong (Castle Douglas) / Hannah McKillop (Melrose) Subaru Impreza; (6) Iain Wilson (Dalbeattie) / Chris Williams (Millom) Ford Fiesta Rally2; (7) Angus Lawrie (Castle Douglas) / Paul Gribben (Annan) Mitsubishi Evo 9; (10) Barry Groundwater (Stonehaven) / Charlotte McDowall (Stronord) Subaru SII WRC; (11) Scott Peacock (Castle Douglas) / Craig Wallace (Westmuir) Mitsubishi Evo 8; (13) Robert Proudlock (Dumfries) / Steven Brown (Onich) Opel Adam; (14) Peter Stewart (Dumfries) / Dave Robson (Jedburgh) Peugeot 208 Rally4; (17) Duncan Campbell (Ayr) / Michael Cruickshank (Crieff) Subaru Impreza; (18) David Hardie (Dumfries) / John McCulloch (Dumfries) Ford Escort Mk II; (19) Donald Peacock (Bridge of Dee) / Mairi Riddick (Dumfries) Ford Escort Mk II; (21) Mark McCulloch (Dumfries) / Michael Hendry (Aberlour) Proton Satria Evo; (22) James Robertson (Penpont) / Mike Curry (Thornhill) Ford Escort Mk II; (23) Ricky Crone (Montgomery) / Ewan Lees (Glasgow) Ford Escort Mk II; (26) Niall Cowan Jnr (Dumfries) / Charley Sayer-Payne (Hamilton) MG ZR; (29) William Pollock (Cumnock) / John Marshall (Torrance) Ford Escort Mk II; (32) Lewis Haining (Dumfries) / Charles Blair (Dumfries) MG 3; (33) Ross McFadzean (St Quivox) / Ian MacDougall (Tobermory) Subaru Impreza; (34) David McLeod (Mauchline) / Eamonn Boyle (Kilmarnock) Chrysler Sunbeam; (36) Scott Gourlay  (Dalbeattie) / Greg Alcorn (Castle Douglas ) Peugeot  205; (37) Richard Stewart  (Dumfries) / Mark Roberts (Dumfries) Peugeot 208 Rally4; (38) Duncan Ferguson (Dalmellington) / Alex Murphy (Patna) Ford Escort BDG; (41) Colin Hope  (Great Heck) / Billy Dalgleish (Sanquhar) Saab 96 V4; (44) Billy Thomson (Glenlochar) / John Richardson (Exelby) Ford Fiesta R5; (45) Robin Hamilton  (Edinburgh ) / Vanessa Hamilton (Edinburgh) Talbot Sunbeam; (46) Niall Cowan Snr (Dumfries) / Helen Brown (Dumfries) MG 3; (49) Campbell McColm (Stranraer) / Donald McColm (Stranraer) Ford  Escort Mk II; (50) Chris Rankin (Banbury) / Alex Knight (Towcester) BMW 318ti; (DNF) Rory Young (Dumfries) / Allan Cathers (Brampton) Ford Fiesta Rally 2; (DNF) Andy Scott (Lochfoot) / Ashleigh Will (Inverurie) Ford Fiesta S2000 Turbo; (DNF) Greg McKnight (Penpont) / Calum MacPherson (Coylton) Ford Escort Mk II; (DNF) Martyn Erskine (Stranraer) / Kieran Hyslop (Stranraer) Subaru GC8; (DNF) Martin Burke (Bishopton) / Owen Paterson  (Dumfries) Subaru GC8; (DNF) Alistair Brearley  (Galashiels) / Gerry Bryden (Sorn) Ford Escort Mk II; (DNF) John Baillie (Stranraer ) / Chris Wareham (Glenbarr) Ford Escort Mk II; (DNF) Gordon Daly (Longniddry) / Craig Service (Newton Stewart) Peugeot 205.