Munro seals Star Driver nomination after supreme Snowman performance
Paddy Munro saw off Greg McKnight and Ross MacDonald to receive the first SRC John Horton Star Driver Award nomination of the 2018 ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship (SRC) season.
The judging panel had the enviable task of deciding between the three nominees on the opening round of the SRC at the Arnold Clark Snowman Rally, but Munro edged it with his performance in what is compared to others, an under powered car.
The treacherous conditions in the forests surrounding Inverness meant that getting to the end was an achievement in itself. However, to do so in 17th overall from a start number of 52 speaks volumes on a day where not having four-wheel-drive was a major disadvantage.
Munro bags a voucher from series supporter Race & Rally and will enter the shoot-out at the end of the year where the winner will receive a day’s tuition with Finnish rally legend Tapio Laukkanen
“We had a puncture on the left front half way through stage five, so we lost a wee bit of time, but other than that it was fine,” Munro said.
“However by the time we got to the last stage it had become dark. We had two wee headlights and on full beam they were less bright than the dashboard!
“The 1600cc engine we have is quite an old school engine, and it’s a great unit, but it’s down on power compared to a lot cars.
“However that seemed to work for us in the slippery conditions, as we weren’t putting too much power down, so I think that’s why we did so well.
“We also probably had an advantage with our running position, as most of the permafrost had broken up by the time we came through.
“We took a wee bit of scenery here and there but we came back on the road and survived!”
Munro was both delighted and surprised to receive the Star Driver Award for the Arnold Clark Snowman Rally, and was quick to pay testament to his new co-driver Seamus MacLean.
“I didn’t know I had been nominated until one of my friends told me the other day,” he admitted.
“It was a nice gesture, but to win it is way above my expectations.
“Greg McKnight produced a stonking performance in the car he’s got [Escort Mk2] to get the position he had [eighth overall] was amazing, and Ross MacDonald in a borrowed car, they both did very well.
“However this award is about more than just me, rallying is a team sport.
“I’d therefore like to say a huge thank you to my co-driver Seamus [MacLean] for stepping into the breach, to our service crew, the event organisers and all the marshals out there.
“I’ve been a marshal many times before and sometimes you can get little thanks for it.”
Munro’s Star Driver win came courtesy of his 17th overall and first place in Class 4, but it wasn’t just the Escort Mk2 pilot celebrating class success last weekend.
Niall Cowan Jr and Thomas Bruce took the Class 1 honours on their first ever Snowman in their MG ZR, ahead of Steven Crockett and Martin Henderson’s Peugeot 205 and Scott and David Sloan, who were making their first appearance in 20 months after a fire destroyed their old Vauxhall Corsa.
Class 2 belonged to James Campbell and Kevin McIver in their popular Talbot Sunbeam. The pair edged the similar car of Tom Howie and Charles MacKenzie with Chris Baillie and Allen Cowe completing the podium in their Peugeot 205.
Finlay Retson and Tom Hynd were runaway leaders in Class 3 after Scott MacBeth and Daniel Forsyth crashed out, taking 21st overall in their Ford Fiesta R2. Steven Bellshaw and Lorn Hughes took second in their Citroen C2 VTS ahead of the similar car of Andy Struthers and Alasdair McIlroy.
Munro and MacLean edged Fraser MacNicol and Keith Boa to the Class 4 victory, in what was an all Escort Mk2 battle for supremacy.
Martin Crombie and David Law emerged as the victors of Class 6 in their Peugeot 306. Scott Burness and Jodi Devine took second place in their Ford Fiesta ST, while Alasdair Currie and Grant MacNiven’s challenge ended in a ditch on stage two.
Paul McErlean and Niall McKenna got to the end of their first ever Snowman Rally as Class 7 victors, taking a fine 16th overall. Steven and Mary Wood took second in their rare Ford Fiesta.
Duncan MacDonald and Neil Ross were having a fine run with a ninth fastest time before their Escort lost a spark plug, while mechanical issues side-lined Mike Stuart and Sinclair Young before the car had even gone through scrutineering.
Greg McKnight and Harry Marchbank took Class 8 with eighth overall, ahead of plenty of four-wheel-drive cars that were better suited to the conditions.
Fraser Wilson and Craig Wallace upgraded their Evo XI from Class 9 up to Class 10 for 2018, and celebrated with the Class 10 victory ahead of Duncan Campbell and Michael Cruickshank’s Subaru.
Steven Clark and Paul Gribben won Class 11 in their Mitsubishi Evo V, closely followed by Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts and Ross MacDonald and Matthew Johnstone who were both in Evo IX’s.
Andrew Gallacher and Jane Nicol took the Class 12 win as the outright victory on the event. In a carbon copy of the event podium, Quintin Milne and Sean Donnelly took second in class ahead of Donnie MacDonald and Andrew Falconer.
The ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship will reconvene in just under four weeks’ time for the NCS Border Counties Rally in Jedburgh. After such an exciting and unpredictable start to the year in Inverness, anticipation is already beginning to build ahead of the second round.
The Scottish Rally Championship is partnered by Pirelli Motorsport, Reis Motorsport Insurance and KNC Groundworks Ltd.