2023 SRC season kicks off with a Highland Fling
Jock Armstrong (Castle Douglas) and Hannah McKillop (Newstead) took the A.M Phillip Trucktech Snowman Rally win by just 9 seconds after a day of drama in the Highland forests.
However, the first half of the day belonged to Muir of Ord’s Scott Macbeth and Elgin’s Dan Forsyth . The Fiesta R5 debutants were fastest on the opening two stages of the day and third quickest on stage three despite a spin. They headed into stage four with a sixteen second lead but would unfortunately roll out of the event.
Inheriting the lead Armstrong and McKillop had spent the morning tweaking their Subaru Impreza’s set-up to suit new tyres. Heading into the final stage with just a five second lead they knew they had to push hard, taking the fastest time and holding on to the win. Jock was happy with the new rubber and the car and was very impressed with Hannah’s ability on the notes.
Possibly even happier at the finish were second place crew John Wink (Huntly) and Neil Shanks (Elgin). Their Hyundai i20 R5 had been rebuilt and upgraded over the winter and was now far more competitive with the other top-class cars. John was also happy to have made a quick start this time, something he’s struggled with in the past. The highlight of their day was the fastest time on stage four which left them only five seconds away from the overall lead. Third fastest over the final stage was enough to keep them in the runner-up spot.
Two-time Snowman winners Michael Binnie (Cornhill on Tweed) and Claire Mole (Duns) were still in rebuild mode after a difficult end to their 2022 season. Despite not feeling he was driving the car properly and dealing with running 1st on the road, Michael and Claire were in the mix right from the start and were third after three stages. They slipped behind Wink and Shanks on stage four after the i20’s fastest time. With a sensible head on they were fourth quickest on the last stage to finish just six seconds away from second place.
Both the Albyn Garage Challengers and Groundwater Lift Trucks Subaru Cup win went to the same crew. Canonbie’s John McIlwraith and Workington’s Heather Grisedale finished a fantastic 12th overall in their clubman spec. Impreza, John reckoning he’d driven the car harder than he ever has before. This was backed up by their margin of over five minutes to the next class C4 crew.
Reigning Scottish two-wheel drive champions the Dumfries crew of Peter Stewart and Harry Marchbank continued where they left off in 2022 with another Autoshop two-wheel drive win in their new Peugeot 208 Rally4. A clean run saw them finish over a minute up on the BMW of Alness driver David Wilson & Mull’s Kerrie MacGillivray, Peter very happy to be back on the gravel after a disastrous outing on the tarmac of the East riding Stages the weekend before.
Jim Robertson (Penpont) & Mike Curry (Lockerbie) took the 1st Haddo Energy Super Seniors win of the year in their BDG-engined Escort by just over a minute from the 2nd 208 Rally4 of Richard Stewart (Dumfries) & Carin Tait-Logan (Jedburgh).
Rogart’s Murray Mackay & co-driver Andrew Macaskill took the 1st round honours in the Moates Offshore Juniors category. Their C1 spec Fabia, all 90 horsepower of it on a good day was backwards in stage 1 after a mis-read note but they pressed on all the way to the finish, taking a commendable 49th overall.
With both Meghan O’Kane (Kyle) & Nikki Addison (Inverness) failing to finish it was left to reigning Ladies champion Aileen Forrest (Inverurie) to take the 1st win of the season. Back in her beloved purple Evo it was a tough day for Aileen & co-driver husband John struggling to find grip on the stages. They survived to take 41st overall at the finish.
images by Alistair Farquhar