Strong field in chase for Speyside honours
The battle for supremacy in the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship is poised to move up a gear when the eight-round series enters the second half of the season in Elgin next weekend.
More than a hundred crews have entered for the McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages, with top seed Euan Thorburn from Duns looking for his second consecutive win on the event, and his second in this year’s SRC, alongside Inverness-based co-driver Paul Beaton.
On the previous round, the RSAC Scottish, Thorburn powered his Ford Focus WRC to a 20 second victory over that of defending champion David Bogie.
However, the Dumfries driver maintains the upper hand, as he and navigator Kevin Rae from Hawick target an unprecedented fifth straight Scottish title. With two wins, a second and a third so far this year, Bogie currently has an eight-point advantage in the drivers’ standings over second-placed Quintin Milne.
“We need to get back to winning ways in Elgin”, said Bogie: “I’ve had four wins on the Speyside, so it’s an event I enjoy. This year though, the 45 miles is split into nine short stages – the longest is just over eight miles. There are no long stages where you can take some good time out of your closest challenger. It’s very important to keep mistakes to a minimum, because with the short sprints it’s almost impossible to recoup any lost time”.
The champions will be followed off the start line by Jock Armstrong and Kirsty Riddick – who were third on the Speyside last year. The Castle Douglas crew had a disappointing start to their 2013 campaign with two non-finishes in their Subaru Impreza. A puncture then put paid to a top-three spot on the Jim Clark Reivers, followed by a close-run fourth-place finish in Dumfries.
Although not involved in the battle for championship points, Dave Weston and his son both line up for a crack at overall honours. Weston Snr will be at the wheel of a Paul Benn Ford Focus WRC ’02, co-driven by Dave Robson, while Weston Jr will have Phil Clarke alongside in the Melvyn Evans Subaru Impreza S11 WRC in which dad finished in the top-ten on the Scottish.
Sandwiched between the Aberdeen pair is Banchory’s Quintin Milne, who with navigator Martin Forrest, is looking for his third podium finish of the current campaign in his Mitsubishi EVO 9: “The top ten in the championship is very competitive this year, and David and Euan are almost in a different league in their world rally cars. The rest of us battle it out, and to make it onto the podium is very special”, said Milne.
Meanwhile, Mike Faulkner, fourth overall on the Speyside last year with co-driver Peter Foy, is hoping for a change of fortune after a problematic first half to the season in his Mitsubishi EVO 9: “All we want from the Speyside is a clean run. If we start getting some consistency, then, hopefully, the results will follow. The short stages don’t suit me, but it’s great for the championship to have the variety. Again it highlights the diversity of the various rounds that test you in every kind of weather, and on every type of stage surface”.
Stonehaven’s Barry Groundwater – who continued his excellent form on the Scottish with a fourth consecutive top-five finish alongside navigator, and Speyside Clerk of the Course, Neil Shanks, is seeded eighth in his Mitsubishi EVO 9. Groundwater, who will have Daniel Paterson on the notes, is lying third in the drivers’ championship, just two points behind Milne.
Groundwater will be followed off the start line by Inverness-based Donnie MacDonald and Andrew Falconer – also in an EVO 9. MacDonald is two points adrift of Chris Collie in the drivers’ standings – the Portlethen driver starting tenth in his EVO 6 alongside Alford co-driver Lisa Watson.
Former Speyside winners Andy Horne and Jim Howie survived three punctures to make it home in eleventh place overall in Dumfries, and they will start eleventh in Elgin, in the ever-popular DAM 4100gti.
John McClory, with David Hood co-driving, will again lead the challenge for Group N honours in his Subaru Impreza N15. The Strathblane driver currently trails John Morrison (Mitsubishi EVO 9) by seven points in the championship, while Hood tops the co-drivers’ standings.
Steve Bannister and Louise Sutherland – seeded seventeenth – are the leading 2WD crew in the historic spec Ford Escort Mk2 – the first of ten Escorts entered for the rally. They include the Mk2 of Calum Mackenzie, co-driven by Allan Clark, who returns to SRC competition for only the second time this season.
Paisley’s Alistair S Graham, with Laura Stuart of Alford on the notes, will be targeting his third consecutive victory in the 1600cc category in his Vauxhall Corsa, but will face stiff competition from, among others, the Honda Civic of Graeme Smith and Laura Marshall, who missed out on class honours on the Scottish by just one second. Iain Wilson and Keith Fremantle, in a Vauxhall Nova, still lead the class, despite a non-finish in Dumfries.
In Class 3, Iain Haining from Dumfries, co-driven by Haugh of Urr’s Mairi Riddick, is looking for a fifth straight victory from five rounds in his Vauxhall Nova.
A full entry list can be found at www.speyside-stages.co.uk
McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages: Top Twenty Seeded Entries
1 Euan Thorburn (Duns)/ Paul Beaton (Inverness) Ford Focus WRC
2 David Bogie (Dumfries)/ Kevin Rae (Hawick) Ford Focus WRC
3 Jock Armstrong (Castle Douglas)/Kirsty Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Subaru Impreza
4 Dave Weston (Aberdeen)/ Dave Robson (Jedburgh)Ford Focus WRC 02
5 Quintin Milne (Banchory)/Martin Forrest (Aberdeen) Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9
6 Dave Weston Jnr (Aberdeen)/Phil Clarke (Church Stretton) Subaru Impreza S11 WRC
7 Mike Faulkner (Kirtlebridge)/ Peter Foy (Bingley) Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9
8 Barry Groundwater (Stonehaven)/Daniel Paterson (Stonehaven) Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9
9 Donnie MacDonald (Inverness)/Andrew Falconer (Inverness) Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9
10 Chris Collie (Portlethen)/Lisa Watson (Alford) Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 6
11 Andy Horne (Inverness)/Jim Howie (Kilmarnock) DAM 4100 Gti
12 Bruce McCombie (Banchory)/ Michael Coutts (Torphins) Subaru Impreza
14 John McClory (Strathblane)/David Hood (Paisley) Subaru Impreza
15 Alistair Inglis (Hillside)/Colin Inglis (Edzell) Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 5
16 Mark McCulloch (Newton Stewart)/Elliott Edmondson (Olney) Subaru Impreza
17 Steve Bannister (Malton)/Louise Sutherland (Hawick) Ford Escort Mk2
18 Matthew Robinson (Ripon)/Kim Baker (Chesterfield) Ford Escort Mk2
19 Calum MacKenzie (Alford)/Allan Clark (Glasgow) Ford Escort Mk2
20 Dougal Brown (Inverness)/Lewis Rochford (Inverness) Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9