Two-time Scottish rally champion Jock Armstrong admits the series’ return this weekend took him by surprise.
Coronavirus pandemic means there has been no championship rally since early March
But that will all change tomorrow night with the Dunoon Presents Argyll Rally kicking off the 2021 campaign, which means a precipitous change of plans for Armstrong.
The Castle Douglas pilot said: “I didn’t expect him to come back, I started doing something else. I had a bike race last Saturday, a bike race and swim this Saturday and another bike race the following weekend.
“I didn’t think that would happen with the restrictions and people from different households not being able to get together – so I figured it wouldn’t happen.
“It does, so I thought I’d better change direction. I’m really excited.
“Saturday was the first bike race I had done since the lockdown started and there are a lot of fit people out there. I’m probably fitter than 18 months ago without drinking or partying.
A return to action after a 15-month hiatus isn’t the only thing Armstrong and co-pilot Cammy Fair have to contend with.
The Argyll Rally will be run on tarmac rather than gravel, while Armstrong will drive a Ford Fiesta R5 rather than his usual Subaru Impreza.
He explains: “I went out and rented a car because my car is more suited to forest stages. I always wanted to change and a car was available.
“My hopes are good. It’s a left-hand drive car and I haven’t driven one in 25 years so it’s a gamble. I took a quick tour of it and felt pretty good, but it all comes together.
“It’s a long dash, but it should be fine if I’m in the right seating position.
” I can not wait to be there. Something is better than nothing.
“I’m in the top 10 of the standings but I’m not a tarmac expert, I haven’t done a tarmac event since 2014 or 2015.
“Dom Buckley from the Kelso area is going to lead me and it’s just about putting all the pieces back together.”
Armstrong isn’t the only Dumfries and Galloway pilot to make it to Argyll, with many other crews making the trip after being deprived of a stage for over a year.
Chief among them is five-time Scottish rally champion David Bogie of Dumfries, who will have John Rowan at the wheel of his Ford Escort Mk2.
The Mk2s are also the car of choice for Stephen Thompson of Kirkcudbright, Iain Wilson of Dalbeattie and Mark McCulloch of Dumfries.
Andy Scott of Dumfries competes in a Ford Fiesta S2000 with Billy McLelland of Dumfries competing in a Mitsubishi Evo 9.
Joe McKeand of Southerness opted for a Subaru Impreza, as did the Dumfries crew of Lee and Cole Hastings.
In the front-wheel-drive classes, Keith Riddick of Haugh of Urr will be driving an MG ZR with his sister Mairi in co-driving.
And a similar machine was introduced by Niall Cowan Jr of Auldgirth and Callum Shanks of Castle Douglas.
The Argyll Rally is the first of five events that make up this year’s Scottish Rally Championship. The Lockerbie-based RSAC Scottish Rally is scheduled for late July, while the Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally in Dalbeattie is scheduled for September.