Bogie aims to seal fifth title on Merrick
Last year’s winner David Bogie is going into next weekend’s GWF Energy Merrick Stages Rally looking to clinch an unprecedented fifth successive Scottish title.
The 26-year-old from Dumfries, co-driven by Hawick’s Kevin Rae, will be targeting a fourth victory in this year’s ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship, after winning the McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages at the beginning of August.
The pair made sure of their fourth championship on the Merrick in 2012, and Bogie says they will be attempting to repeat the feat on Saturday:
“We’re in the same situation as last year, where we can take the title if we win the Merrick, on this occasion with two rounds remaining. The Galloway Forest stages are real drivers’ stages, very fast and requiring a big commitment. They can be challenging, but also very rewarding – so long as you keep the car in the middle of the road. They should suit our Ford Focus WRC, but once again the likes of Euan Thorburn and Jock Armstrong, among others, will be pushing hard”.
For his part, second seed Thorburn, with Paul Beaton of Inverness on the notes, comes off the back of a third place finish on the Woodpecker Rally – a round of the BTRDA series which the pair have been contesting alongside their SRC commitments.
Thorburn’s second place on the Speyside pushed him up to fifth in the drivers’ standings, thirty-nine points behind Bogie : “We’ll try to keep pushing David but there are only three rounds left, so we’re running out of time. We need to win all of them to be in with a shout”, said the Duns-based driver.
Meanwhile, Quintin Milne will be aiming for his fourth podium finish of the season in his Mitsubishi EVO 9. The Banchory driver, who is seeded third alongside navigator Martin Forrest from Aberdeen, is currently second in the championship, eleven points adrift of Bogie.
Milne starts one car ahead of the Subaru Impreza of Jock Armstrong, with whom he has traded stage times on the last two rounds, on both occasions pipping the Castle Douglas man by a few seconds to finish third. Armstrong and Haugh of Urr navigator Kirsty Riddick were runners-up to Bogie on last year’s Merrick and won the event in 2009.
Aberdeen’s Dave Weston Snr will be back in action behind the wheel of a Paul Benn Ford Focus WRC, having registered for the final four rounds of the SRC. With co-driver Dave Robson, the 2006 champion finished fifth on the Speyside, and could have been higher-placed, if problems with the front diff had not hampered his challenge.
While not involved in the SRC points battle, one driver who could pose a threat is Northern Ireland’s Jonny Greer, who makes a welcome return to the Merrick Stages. He will be behind the wheel of a Citreon DS3 R3 in which he is competing in the British Rally Championship.
Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy – winners in Wigtown two years ago – have had a frustrating season so far in their new-for-2013 Mitsubishi EVO 9, but Faulkner feels progress has been made on recent rounds, including the Speyside, where the pair finished eighth overall:
“We’re starting to get there with the car, and the Merrick will be another event under our belts”, said Faulkner: “Unfortunately, I think a podium will be difficult with the world class quality in the top ten, but as ever we’ll be giving it everything. We always look forward to the Merrick. Glentrool is one of the biggest challenges in the Scottish championship, and one of the most rewarding, if you’re able to set a top ten time”.
Stonehaven’s Barry Groundwater, who currently sits third in the SRC drivers’ standings, eight points behind Milne, will have regular co-driver Neil Shanks on board, as he tackles the Galloway stages in his EVO 9, with fourth-placed Donnie MacDonald and fellow Invernessian Andrew Falconer starting ninth, also in an EVO 9.
The top ten is rounded off by the EVO 6 of Chris Collie, who will be partnered by Mark Smith from Cumbria. The Portlethen driver was sixth overall on the Merrick twelve months ago, and this season has three top-seven results to his name.
Other top-20 seeded crews looking for a strong finish in the “open” 4WD category include Inverness-based Dougal Brown and Louis Rochford in a Mitsubishi EVO 9; 1999 Scottish champion Jon Burn, co-driven by Alan Stark, in a Subaru Impreza WRC; Alistair and Colin Inglis in an EVO 5; and local driver, and recent Solway Coast winner, Mark McCulloch, who will have Jersey-based former Scottish co-driving champion Stewart Merry alongside side in his Subaru Impreza.
JohnMcClory and David Hood lead the GpN challenge in their Subaru Impreza N15, and will battle it out for class honours with John Morrison/Peter Carstairs (Mitsubishi EVO 9); Andrew Gallacher/Phil Sandham (Mitsubishi EVO 9); and Wigtownshire duo Fraser Wilson/Steven Broll in a Mitsubishi EVO 8.
Yorkshireman Steve Bannister, co-driven by Louise Sutherland, will lead the 2WD contingent in his historic class Ford Escort Mk2, while in the 1600cc category, Borders’ crew Kieran Renton and Carin Logan (Ford Fiesta R2) will look to extend their championship lead, ahead of Alasdair S.Graham and Laura Stuart in a Vauxhall Corsa, and erstwhile class leader Iain Wilson, co-driven by Keith Fremantle, who will be looking to bounce back after a non-finish on the Speyside in his Vauxhall Nova.
In Class 3, Iain Haining and Mairi Riddick have been in a league of their own this season, with five straight victories in their Vauxhall Nova, while Callum Atkinson, co-driven by Sue Hynd, occupies second spot, sixteen points further back, in his Peugeot 205.
Scott Sloan, in a Vauxhall Corsa, has the chance to extend his lead in Class 2 in the absence of Alex Pirie, who took the top honours on the Speyside Stages.
The first car will be flagged off from the town hall in Wigtown at 0900 on Saturday. Crews will tackle five special forest stages – Craignell, Dallash, Glentrool, Arroch Hill and Auchinleck – totalling some 44 miles. The first car is due back in Wigtown at 1440 approximately.
Full details of the event – which is jointly organised by the Machars and Scottish Sporting car clubs – can be found at www.merrickstages.co.uk
GWF Energy Merrick Stages Rally: Top Ten Seeds
1 David Bogie (Dumfries)/Kevin Rae (Hawick) Ford Focus WRC
2 Euan Thorburn (Duns)/Paul Beaton (Inverness) Ford Focus WRC
3 Quintin Milne (Banchory)/Martin Forrest (Aberdeen) Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9
4 Jock Armstrong (Castle Douglas)/Kirsty Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Subaru Impreza
5 Dave Weston (Aberdeen)/Dave Robson (Jedburgh) Ford Focus WRC
6 Jonny Greer (Carryduff)/tba Citreon DS3 R3
7 Mike Faulkner (Aspatria)/Peter Foy (Bingley) Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9
8 Barry Groundwater (Stonehaven)/Neil Shanks (Elgin) Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9
9 Donnie MacDonald (Inverness)/Andrew Falconer (Inverness) Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9
10 Chris Collie (Portlethen)/Mark Fisher (West Cumbria) Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 6