The Dunoon Presents Argyll Rally provided a spectacular weekend of motorsport action for the community as 120 crews contested the new-look event which took place across the spectacular roads near Dunoon on Friday and Saturday (25/26 June).
Making a radical switch from the forest event that has taken place since 2017, the Mull Car Club organised Argyll Rally would take place entirely on the closed public roads in the region, offering a unique feature to bring the sport to the people thanks to the opening two tests taking place in the heart of Dunoon’s town centre on Friday night.
The Argyll Rally made a return to the British rallying calendar four years ago after a thirteen-year sabbatical. First known as the Burmah Rally, the event originated in the early 1970’s but the event failed to run after 2004. The event was reborn in 2017 by Mull Car Club and in 2021, became one of only a handful of closed road stage rallies in the country.
With the KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship starting their season at the event and joined by the Northern England Tarmacadam Rally Championship, a top-quality field ensured an unpredictable outcome as the rally got underway in front of the residents of Dunoon.
And after 13 stages it would be Welshman Meirion Evans and co-driver Jonathan Jackson who would win the inaugural sealed surface Argyll Rally in their Volkswagen Polo GTi R5 after a rally long battle, taking the lead in dramatic fashion over the closing stages of the event to scoop their first rally win.
Jock Armstrong and Cameron Fair initially led the event after the town centre stage in their Fiesta Ford Rally2 but with three more stages in the Argyll and Bute peninsula to come that night, it would be short-lived as Freddie Milne and Patrick Walsh stormed to the front and would not be bettered over the remaining stages that night.
By the time the crews reached Dunoon Stadium for the overnight halt, Milne had an 18-second buffer over the MINI WRC crew of Daniel Harper and Chris Campbell with David Wright and Paula Swinscoe in third in their Fiesta R5.
Milne kept that lead across the undulating, narrow and uncharted stages, opening up an almost twenty-second gap. However, a one-minute chicane penalty on stage seven dropped him out of contention, leaving Wright to pick up the top spot.
Sadly, a similar penalty befell Wright on stage 11 and with Evans mounting a last loop charge, it would be the Welshman that came out on top after the impressive two-day event.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Evans at the finish.
“We did our job as well as we could and to be rewarded with a win is more than I could have hoped for after the first loop Friday night”.
“For quite a short rally, it was so challenging. The margin for error was zero on every stage and you couldn’t afford any lapse in concentration. I have to say, I enjoyed it, the rally ran well and to schedule in difficult times which is something we have to credit the organisers for. Maybe we’ll have to come back next year with [number] one on the door again”.
After a clean run throughout the weekend, Harper would thread the powerful MINI WRC through the narrow stages to secure second overall with Milne taking the final podium place. His result would also give him the Scottish Rally Championship victory, a small consolation after his impressive run.
Wright landed fourth with Armstrong taking fifth place and second SRC contender, as rallying returnee John MacCrone rounded out the top five with World Rally Championship co-driver Stuart Loudon alongside calling the notes.
The event was hailed as an overriding success and Clerk of the Course Chris Woodcock was delighted to see the rally return to the region despite the challenges faced by the current situation.
“There were certainly times that we thought that the rally could not go ahead over the last few months,” he said.
“But I like to extend a huge thank you to the organising team who worked very hard to pull everything together and of course all the authorities and sponsors for working closely with us to ensure we had everything in place to be able to abide by the current restrictions”.
“It’s been a very successful rally and that has been down to the support and cooperation of the residents, businesses and authorities in Dunoon and Argyll and Bute. They have been critical in ensuring such a positive event for the region and we are looking forward to seeing how we can improve and bring an even bigger spotlight on the area in 2022”.
Image courtesy of Eddie Kelly Motorsport Photography