Title contenders lock horns on McRae
The fight for the 2013 ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship resumes next Saturday on the penultimate round, the Colin McRae Forest Stages, with Euan Thorburn targeting his third win of the season as he attempts to chase down defending title-holder David Bogie.
Thorburn, co-driven by Paul Beaton, powered his Ford Focus WRC to a forty-four second victory over his Dumfries rival on the GWF Energy Merrick Stages, and thwarted Bogie’s bid to seal an unprecedented fifth consecutive Scottish crown alongside co-driver Kevin Rae, with two rounds remaining.
“Our aim is simple – to keep the championship away from David as long as possible”, stated Thorburn, who won the McRae Stages in 2011.
A puncture and a spin on the final stage in Galloway put paid to Bogie’s hope of wrapping up the title in his Focus WRC: “The Merrick result was obviously a disappointment, but I was more than happy with the pace of the car”, said Bogie: “I love the McRae – for me, Craigvinean and Errochty are two of the best rally stages in the UK. We’re going into the event with the same approach as the Merrick, and hopefully, this time, we can get the job done without any problems”.
Bogie and Thorburn will start behind last year’s McRae Stages winner Quintin Milne, who is entered in his Mitsubishi EVO 9. The Banchory-based driver and Aberdeen navigator Martin Forrest secured their third final podium spot of the season on the Merrick, and sit second in the championship, twelve points behind Bogie and Rae.
Aberdeen’s Dave Weston, co-driven by Dave Robson from Jedburgh, will again be behind the wheel of a Paul Benn-prepared Ford Focus WRC. The 2006 Scottish champion finished fourth on the previous round, his best result since returning to regular competition earlier in the season.
An intriguing tussle is in prospect involving Barry Groundwater, Mike Faulkner and Chris Collie – the three sitting fifth, sixth and seventh respectively in the drivers’ championship, separated by just four points.
The EVO 9 of Faulkner and Peter Foy has undergone a suspension re-build and arm replacement since it sustained heavy damage in Glentrool. Despite the mishap, Faulkner was happier with the car and the stage times, and feels more confident going into the Perthshire round, where he and Foy finished third in 2009 and 2011.
Collie, who limped to eleventh overall on the Merrick after his EVO hit a log on the final stage, will again have Mark Fisher on the notes: the pair starting one car ahead of Groundwater and co-driver Neil Shanks, who were runners-up on the McRae twelve months ago.
The Inverness crew of Donnie MacDonald and Andrew Falconer will be aiming for a return to form after a disappointing twelfth place on the previous round: MacDonald keen to protect his current fourth place in the drivers’ standings, two points behind Thorburn.
Former Scottish title-holder Jon Burn, although not SRC-registered, will be looking to be in the mix in his Subaru Impreza WRC, after he and co-driver Alan Stark finished sixth-overall on the Merrick.
Andrew Gallacher, with Phil Sandham co-driving, is targeting a third successive Group N victory in his EVO 9. The pair go head to head with class leaders John Morrison and Peter Carstairs, also in an EVO 9; second-placed Fraser Wilson and Steven Broll in an EVO 8; and John McClory, co-driven by David Hood, who is just one point behind Wilson in his Subaru Impreza N15.
Steve Bannister, who did not compete on last year’s McRae, will be back in action this weekend in his historic-spec Ford Escort Mk2. Co-driven by Louise Sutherland, the Yorkshireman heads to Aberfeldy off the back of a runners-up spot in the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire Historic Cup. He is likely to be the man to beat overall amongst the 2WD competitors, who, as is now traditional on the McRae Stages, will run at the front of the field.
Dumfries and Galloway crews are currently leading the way in several of the front-wheel drive categories. Iain Haining and Mairi Riddick will be attempting to bag a remarkable seventh straight victory in Class 3 in their Vauxhall Nova, while in the 1600cc category, Thornhill’s James Robertson, co-driven by Colin Maxwell, will be hoping for a strong finish in his Citreon C2R2, and so add to his current four point lead over Dalbeattie’s Iain Wilson and Keith Fremantle in a Nova.
Full event details can be found at www.coltnesscarclub.com
Colin McRae Stages: 4WD – Leading Entries – with Car No:
2 Quintin Milne (Banchory)/Martin Forrest (Aberdeen) Mitsubishi EVO 9
3 David Bogie (Dumfries)/Kevin Rae (Hawick) Ford Focus WRC
4 Euan Thorburn (Duns)/Paul Beaton (Inverness) Ford Focus WRC
5 David Weston (Aberdeen)/Dave Robson (Jedburgh) Ford Focus WRC
6 Mike Faulkner (Aspatria)/Peter Foy (Bingley) Mitsubishi EVO 9
7 Chris Collie (Portlethen)/Mark Fisher (Whitehaven) Mitsubishi EVO 6
8 Barry Groundwater (Stonehaven)/Neil Shanks (Elgin) Mitsubishi EVO 9
9 Donnie MacDonald (Inverness)/Andrew Falconer (Inverness) Mitsubishi EVO 9
10 Jon Burn (Hamilton)/Alan Stark (Lenzie) Subaru Impreza WRC (not SRC-registered)