Bogie on top in Speyside duel
Defending Scottish champion David Bogie “gave it everything” to clinch his sixth McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages Rally on Saturday.
Just as it had been on the previous round of the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship, it was a close fought contest between the Dumfries driver and series leader Euan Thorburn from Duns.
However, when the Borderer picked up a puncture on the penultimate stage, the win was there for the taking.
Bogie and Hawick co-driver Kevin Rae completed the eight Morayshire forest stages in a total time of 41 minutes 21 seconds in their Ford Fiesta R5+, finishing thirteen seconds ahead of the Ford Focus WRC of Thorburn and navigator Paul Beaton from Inverness. Jock Armstrong and Paul Swinscoe, in a Subaru Impreza, secured the final podium spot, a minute and a half further back.
By the mid-way point of the rally, Bogie was leading his Duns rival by just one second: the pair having beaten the bogey time on both the five-and-a-half miles of SS3 Meikle Balloch, and the following seven-and-a-half-mile run through Whitehaugh.
“The changeable conditions are making it very difficult, but we’re getting quicker and quicker as the day goes on”, said Bogie: “Unfortunately, so is Euan”.
So it proved, with Thorburn taking a second out of the five-time champion on the famed Gartly Moor test to make it all square with three stages remaining, and then a further three seconds on the five-and-a-half miles of Balloch to edge into the lead.
It all started to go wrong for the Focus crew on the road section to the second last stage at Ben Aigan:
Said Thorburn: “Something felt wrong at the back of the car. I actually got out and checked the tyre pressures but they seemed fine, so we went into the stage. By the end, we had a rear flat and lost fourteen seconds.
With just four miles remaining, it was too much to make up, and we cruised through the last stage. I’m really disappointed. It was nip and tuck all day and we were moving ahead. It definitely feels we’ve missed out on a win again, having lost by just over three seconds on the Scottish because of mistakes. It was a good battle with David while it lasted”.
The result, Bogie’s second successive win in the R5+, means he now has three victories to Thorburn’s two in this year’s SRC:
“It was a long hard day – the pace was hot from the start, and there was very little in it”, said a relieved champion at the finish in Elgin: “It’s great to get a win, and particularly on this event, where Kevin and I first had success in 2008. I was also very happy with the way the car performed. What it lacks in horsepower, it makes up in cornering and braking. So on today’s short sharp stages it was mix and match – some suited us, some suited Euan in the more powerful Focus”.
As the leading pair diced it out, a battle was developing for the final podium spot between Armstrong and Mike Faulkner, with Bruce McCombie, Donnie Macdonald and Barry Groundwater also in the mix.
While Armstrong remained in third spot from start to finish, he was pushed hard – the Castle Douglas driver ending the day seven seconds ahead of Faulkner and Peter Foy in their Mitsubishi EVO 9:
“I came up here looking for third, so we can’t complain at all”, said Armstrong: “We’ve not made any mistakes, and if there was a rally tomorrow I could probably take the car straight back out without too much checking or preparation, so that’s a nice feeling”.
For his part, Faulkner rued what might have been: “We had a bad stage in the morning and dropped three or four seconds. It was just very slippy and I didn’t commit to the notes and was a bit tentative. We spent the rest of the day trying to get the time back, and although we gave it a good go, it wasn’t to be”.
McCombie, meanwhile, with Michael Coutts on the notes, finished a strong fifth overall in his
EVO . It was the Banchory driver’s fourth top-ten finish from five events:
“We had a couple of early issues – stage two, the exhaust slackened off and the guys had to tighten it up at service. Then we had to do a small roadside repair after stage two to get us into three. I changed the tyres at service, I think that was a mistake. We also had a slow puncture at one point, but we kind of got away with it”, said McCombie.
Groundwater, paired for the first time with Sean Donnelly from Elgin, was a further twenty-four seconds back in sixth place behind the wheel of his EVO 9:
“Obviously it took a while for Sean and I to get used to each other, and we probably suffered a bit over the first couple of stages, but once we got moving it worked out well”, said the Stonehaven competitor, who currently sits second in the overall standings: “It was a really good event – you couldn’t fault the stages”.
After six stages, Donnie MacDonald, with fellow Invernessian Andrew Falconer on the notes, was sitting fifth overall, ahead of McCombie and Groundwater, but a puncture on the following Ben Aigan test ultimately knocked him back two places:
“Anyone can get punctures but we really didn’t need it today, and we spun on the last which didn’t help”, said MacDonald: “It’s a shame because we were well on the pace, matching Jock and Mike’s times. So that’s a real positive to take away from the day”.
Fellow Inverness crew Dougal Brown and Lewis Rochford were only another three seconds adrift to take eighth overall in their EVO 9, while former Speyside winner Andy Horne, co-driven for the first time by daughter Alison, brought his Ford Focus WRC back to Elgin in ninth overall – his third top-ten finish of the season in the new car.
With Horne not registered for the championship this year, Leven’s John Rintoul, with Ross Hynd from Inverbervie navigating took the points for ninth place, tenth overall, in his distinctive Hyundai Accent WRC.
Dale Robertson from Duns was delighted with his win in the Group N category in his Mitsubishi EVO 9 alongside Paul Mcguire from Tranent. The Borderer was eleventh overall, tenth in the points:
“I changed to Pirelli tyres today and they’ve made a big difference- especially through the faster sections, the car just sits there. I felt we made a lot of progress”, said Robertson.
Mark McCulloch, co-driven by Jim Haugh, finished with the same time as Robertson – the Newton Stewart driver relieved to come through unscathed in his Subaru Impreza, following a heavy crash on the RSAC Scottish Rally which resulted in a complete re-shelling of the car.
John Morrison, with Peter Carstairs alongside, also had a good day’s rallying to finish thirteenth overall, and take the runners-up spot in GpN in his Mitsubishi EVO 9.
Alford’s Calum Mackenzie, sitting for the first time alongside experienced navigator Robbie Mitchell from Duns, was the first of the 2-wheel drive competitors home in sixteenth spot in his Ford Escort Mk2. However, Ayrshire’s Robert Harkness, co-driven by Mike Curry, led home the SRC-registered 2WD contingent in 24th overall, despite struggling for grip in his BMW 316i.
Dumfriesshire’s Greg McKnight, with dad Chris alongside, took a second successive victory in the 1600cc class in his Ford Escort Mk2 – but it was hard-earned:
“We’ve had problems with third, fourth and fifth gears, and also the starter motor”, said Greg: “It’s been really close all day, and we’ve just taken the win by two seconds over Alasdair Graham in the Corsa”.
Class 7 honours went to Lauder’s Callum Atkinson, with David Wilson co-driving, despite their Ford Fiesta breaking a drive-shaft “on the very last corner of the very last stage”.
There was a win in Class 3 for Chuck Blair and Mark Roberts from Dumfries, who also emerged as the leading Peugeot 205 crew, while Scott MacBeth, with Scott Hunter navigating, moved into the lead in the Class 2 championship with victory in his Vauxhall Nova. Angus Lawrie from Castle Douglas was runner-up, three seconds further back, in a Nova SR.
The sixth round of the 2014 ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship is the GWF Energy Merrick Stages, based in Wigtown, on Saturday September 2nd.
McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages Top Ten with total times;
1st David Bogie (Dumfries)/Kevin Rae (Hawick) Ford Fiesta R2+ 41 min 21 sec
2nd Euan Thorburn (Duns)/Paul Beaton (Inverness) Ford Focus WRC 41.34
3rd Jock Armstrong (Castle Douglas)/Paul Swinscoe (Chorley) Subaru Impreza 43.06
4th Mike Faulkner (Kirtlebridge)/Peter Foy (Bingley) Mitsubishi EVO 9 43.13
5th Bruce McCombie (Banchory)/Michael Coutts (Torphins) Mitsubishi EVO 44.18
6th Barry Groundwater (Stonehaven)/Sean Connelly (Elgin) Mitsubishi EVO 9 44.42
7th Donnie Macdonald (Inverness)/Andrew Falconer (Inverness) Mitsubishi EVO 9 44.50
8th Dougal Brown (Inverness)/Lewis Rochford (Inverness) Mitsubishi EVO 9 44.53
9th Andy Horne (Inverness)/Alison Horne (Inverness) Ford Focus WRC 45.14
10th John Rintoul (Level)/Ross Hynd (Inverbervie) Hyundai Accent WRC 45.37