A frantic and hard fought days rallying saw the honours go across the Irish Sea with Ulstermen Noel Cochrane/ Olly McCullum binging their diminutive Austin Healey Sprite to
the top of the victors rostrum just ahead of the Escort MK2 of NESCRO Championship leaders Dave Short / Roy Heath with John & Marion Sloan continuing their run of good form by taking 3rd place in their familiar MG Midget.
The all action day saw crews battle it out over some 16 tests in a very compact event and around Workington, the event never straying more than a few miles from the Cumbrian town.
Despite it almost being the end of the season the Solway Historic attracted an excellent 40 car field, with most of the NESCRO regulars turning out, they were joined by some welcome visitors, apart from Cochrane / McCullum, the rally welcomed former road rallying legend, Ronnie Beecroft, out in a very smart Escort RS with Wife Kathleen reading the notes.
From its new base in the Moorclose Community Centre (An establishment that serves a superb bacon butty) crews headed for a couple of tests at a new venue, Bonny Farm, which was mostly on gravel although the bits that were not were extremely boggy following the previous days torrential rain.
The Short/ Heath set the opening pace, marginally ahead of the powerful sounding Viva of Dave Ruddock/ Paula Brown while Marsden / Garstang had the Passage Control Marshal stamp their card in the wrong place , losing precious seconds having the error corrected. Cochrane/ McCullum lost the Austin Healey’s rear silencer and then a headlamp unit fell out, promptly earning the car the sobriquet of “One Eyed Sprite”.
The Wigton Motor Club are fortunate to have the use of the former Alcan works at Lilyhall, this vast venue providing ample space to run no fewer than 5 long tests, In 2017 the event actually ran tests inside the buildings but this year insurance difficulties precluded a repeat so all the tests were in the open air this time.
The opener saw the TR3 of Jim Hendry/ Findlay Wyatt narrowly head the Sloans (MG Midget) and the Lancia Fulvia of Stephen and David Byrne. Ruddock/ Brown spoiled a promising start by picking up a wrong test penalty, they were by no means alone, the Beecrofts also went astray as did several more crews, indeed, the Alcan tests were to prove problematic for many navigators, the 5 morning tests producing over 30 instances of “Wrong Test” penalties.
Amid all the mayhem and uncertainty, with many interesting mid test conversations between driver and navigator as to the correct route providing much hilarity for the marshals on duty, Short/ Heath and Cochrane/ McCullum set the pace while Hendry was indecently quick in the ageing TR3 but collected on of the many wrong test penalties.
Escaping from Alcan, the mornings final test was at the Energus College complex where the Sloans were quickest but it would be Short/ Heath who headed for lunch in the lead, a mere 3 seconds up on Cochrane/ McCullum with theByrnes just edging the Sloans for third spot.
A little way behind, the big TR7 of Ray & Ben Jude was having a private tussle with the Marsden / Garstang Escort MK1, just 2 seconds the margin. Terry Dixon departed the fray here, his Ford Fiesta suffering from fuel starvation problems..
With crews refreshed with hot soup, the afternoon session opened with a re-run of the Energus test and Cochrane/McCullum moved into the lead with a scintillating time. The Irish crew continued to set the pace as the cars headed back to the Alcan site, although they didn’t have it all their own way and another crew on a charge were the Iballs in their MGB GT, they were quickest on the first of the Alcan re-runs and shared top spot with Cochrane/ McCullum on the following one, this test producing a rare and uncharacteristic cone penalty for Short/ Heath.
Cochrane/ McCullum were really getting in the swing of things and were either quickest of equal quickest on the following three tests, the Porsche 911 of David Agnew shared the spoils on one test and the Iballs on another but the little Sprite was going like a train with Cochrane driving superbly.
A run up to the North of Workington took crews to the Solway test, a former quarry which was wet, muddy and had large lumps of concrete that looked like they could do any errant cars bodywork a heap of damage!
The Iballs headed Cochrane/ McCullum on this one, albeit by a mere second, while several drivers continued the trend of picking up wrong test penalties, it must have been an off day for navigators. The final test at Maryport went narrowly to the Iballs from Short / Heath and Agnew/ Jackson and then it was a short run back to the Moorfields Community Centre where the catering staff had laid on a mouth watering buffet for crews to enjoy while they awaited results, they were quick in arriving and showed Cochrane/ McCullum to be popular winners, their winning margin a mere 7 seconds, how Short/ Heath must have regretted that nudged cone !, with the Sloans snatching the final podium spot and well clear of the next crew which was the Iballs.
The Solway Historic Rally was yet another triumph for the enthusiastic organising team from Wigton Motor Club and they can be well pleased with this effort which turned out to be one of the highlights of the NESCRO rallying season.
- Noel Cochrane / Olly McCullum – Austin Healey Sprite – 1241
- Dave Short / Roy Heath – Ford Escort MK2 – 1248
- John & Marion Sloan – MG Midget – 1303
- Kingsley & J. Iball – MGB GT – 1333
- Stephen & David Byrne – Lancia Fulvia – 1342
- Dave Marsden / Mikee Garstang – Ford Escort MK1 – 1372
- Malcolm Mackay/ Thomas Forrest – Mini Clubman – 1373
- Ray Jude / Ben Jude – Triumph TR7 – 1384
- David Agnew / Alan Jackson – Porsche 911 – 1393
- Jim Hendry / Kingsley Wyatt – Triumph TR3 – 1478
- H1. Hendry / Wyatt Triumph TR3
- H2 John & Marion Sloan MG Midget
- P2. KJ & K. Iball MGB GT
- C1. Malcolm Mackay/ Tom Forrest Mini Clubman
- C2 Dave Short / Roy Heath Ford Escort MK2