Battle Re-joined on Special Speyside Stages
The 2023 McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages looks like it’s going to be a classic. In 63 Car Club’s 60th year, they mark the 25th running of the event and 10 years of partnership with McDonald & Munro, with 2 special stages in the forests on the Friday night. Reverse seeding will guarantee the top boys run in the darkest of conditions. A proper challenge to mark this special year.
Topping the bumper entry are Snowman winners Jock Armstrong & Hannah McKillop, the Impreza continuing to defy the hordes of R5s and Rally 2s. The car will be looking refreshed with a new spoiler.
3rd on the Snowman, the Speyside is going to be a big weekend for Michael Binnie & Claire Mole, lining up for the 1st time in John Forrest’s Fiesta R5. Fresh from a test day where he had some help and guidance from Tom Cave, Michael is very excited to try the car in anger. Claire is also fresh from a successful run at Rally Otago in New Zealand with Emma Gilmour in their Citroen C3. There will be a lot of people interested in seeing how they get on in the Fiesta.
Freddie Milne & Patrick Walsh line up 3rd in their 2-litre engined Skoda Fabia. Freddie coming off a victory at Rallye Busot in Spain with Max Freeman alongside, also in a Citroen C3. Freddie & Patrick showed really good pace at the Snowman in the Fabia but were robbed of a good result with a long visit to a ditch mid event. They’ll be looking to bounce back this weekend.
Also looking to bounce back, David Henderson & Chris Lees line up 4th. The Fiesta crew are coming off a disappointing non-finish on round 1.
Hyundai pilot John Wink took an excellent 2nd at the Snowman. With regular navigator Neil Shanks on Clerk of the Course duties this weekend, supersub Will Atkins steps into the hotseat once again. John is looking to maintain the momentum from round 1.
Hugh Brunton & Drew Sturrock had a low-key run at the Snowman by their standards. They are seeded just ahead of Stephen Petch & Michael Wilkinson. After a solid top 10 finish on round 1 in the Fiesta Stephen & Michael step into a Fabia for the Speyside, feeling confident after a successful pre-event test.
Bruce McCombie & Michael Coutts make their 1st start of 2023, returning to the SRC behind the wheel of a Fiesta Rally 2 for the 1st time. Bruce will have to face one of his biggest enemies in rallying on the Speyside, the start line of Cooper Park on the Saturday…
Angus Lawrie & Paul Gribben are top Evo seeds, 5th on the Snowman despite late engine issues. They’re followed by Scott Beattie & Peredur Davies’ Evo 7 and the Satria of Mark McCulloch & Michael Hendry. Those 2 crews had a ding-dong battle on the Snowman, only decided by punctures on the final stage.
An excellent 4th on the Snowman, Finlay Retson & Paul Beaton look to continue that momentum in round 2. Two 2nd fastest times on the last 2 stages on the Snowman showed their ability and pace in the woods in the Rally 2 Fiesta. Definitely a crew to watch.
Other crews in the mix include Scott McCombie & Murray Strachan in their Evo 9. Bob Adamson & Jamie Edwards look for another solid finish after a good Snowman. Both John Rintoul & Iain Wilson endured difficult days at the Snowman and will be looking to improve. Willie Paterson & John Morrison are looking to bounce back after not finishing round 1 as is Subaru Cup sponsor Barry Groundwater in his Polo S2000.
Reigning 2wd champions Peter Stewart top the Autoshop 2wd seeds after a dominant performance on the Snowman in their 208 R4. Their big rivals from last year Stuart Egglestone & Brian Hodgson were an early retirement on round 1 but return to the rally where they took their 1st 2wd win in 2022. Hopefully the bad luck they’ve suffered in recent times is banished.
John Crawford & Josh Davison line up ahead of fellow MK2 crew Keir Beaton & Iain Thorburn. The blue Escort was another to retire on round 1.
David Wilson & Kerrie MacGillivray took an excellent 2nd in the 2wds at the Snowman in the big orange BMW Compact despite late engine issues. They’re followed by Dougal Brown & Lewis Rochford, the MK2 setting fastest 2wd times towards the end of the Snowman as the former champions got back into their groove. The battle between the BMW and Escort could be a highlight of the rally.
Gordon Murray makes a return in the big Escort, rebuilt after it’s Grampian accident, with Terry Mallin alongside for the Speyside. Paddy Munro & David O’Brien line up just behind them, the blue MK2’s new engine one of the best sounding powerplants on the Snowman.
The 1600 front wheel drive cars could provide a highlight of the event. Des Campbell & Craig Forsyth make their 1st foray into the woods for around 8 years in the famous 206. They’ll be chased down by reigning Moates Offshore Junior champion Robert Proudlock & Steven Brown. The Adam crew fresh from another excellent run in the BTRDA Championship.
Former Ecosse J1000 champion Archie Swinscoe makes his gravel debut in his Adam, co-driven by 2018 Scottish Champion navigator Jane Nicol. Scott & David Sloan will be hoping for more luck than they had on round 1 in their 208.
Also, in the fwd mix, late entry Justin Gunning & Dean Ross will debut a Renault Clio R3T. A big change from Justin’s R2 Fiesta.
John McIlwraith & Heather Grisedale were one of the sensations of the Snowman, dominating both the Albyn Garage Challengers and the Groundwater Lift Trucks Subaru Cup in finishing 12th overall. Can the C5 specification Impreza pull off another giant killing performance at the Speyside?
Duncan Campbell & Michael Cruickshank ran 2nd in the Challengers contest at the Snowman until gearbox problems forced them out. The Impreza crew are fired up for round 2, particularly looking forward to stretching the car’s legs in Gartly, a stage that has always suited their car.
Championship sponsor Kevin Crawford & Andrew Stevenson’s luck finally changed with an excellent run on the Snowman. Kevin will be especially keen to get through Cooper Park in particular after last year’s performance. Anyone familiar with our video coverage will have seen how that went.
Other 4wd Challengers to watch include a returning Michael Renton & John Shepheard’s Subaru Impreza, Scott Peacock & Craig Wallace in their Evo 8 and the Subaru Cup Imprezas of Jordan Anderson & Ian Macdougall and Brian Watson & Sean Donnelly. Local man Brett Mckenzie makes his 2nd Evo start with Barry Young alongside, fresh from a class win on round 1.
Championship supporter Mike Moates & Gary McDonald ran very well on the Snowman, really enjoying the car on its new suspension. Their 2022 rival Orrin McDonnell didn’t even see the start of the Snowman due to engine issues and is looking to kick start his and co-driver Clare Fraser’s season. They’re followed by fellow Subaru Cup competitors Thomas Rapson & Michael Sutherland and the Evo of John Easson award winner Johnnie Mackay & Ian Parker.
Jim Robertson tops the Haddo Energy Super Seniors after his win on round 1. The Escort man, joined by new navigator Graham Wild, will be hoping for fewer small issues than he experienced on round 1. Jim will be chased all the way by 208 pilot Richard Stewart & Carin Tait-Logan and Haddo Energy supremo himself Ernie Lee. Ernie is joined by wife Patricia as always in the wonderful sounding BMW 325i.
Reigning Ladies champion Aileen Forrest opened her title defence with a win on the Snowman. Aileen, fresh from another day of tuition with Tom Cave, is ready for her 1st experience of the woods in the dark having been out in her local lanes most evenings. Both her and husband John will also have one eye on their R5 Fiesta in the hands of Michael Binnie & Claire Mole, excited to see what they can do in a Pro4 spec car.
Looking to take the fight to Aileen in the Ladies and do well in the Moates Offshore Juniors, Meghan & John O’Kane make their 2nd start with a 2 litre engine in the Fiesta, hoping to bounce back after retiring on the Snowman. Meghan made herself internet famous in 2022 with a fantastic sideways moment in Cooper Park, hopefully she can get some good miles under her belt with the new engine.
The Ladies are also very well represented on the other side of the car with a fantastic 17 co-drivers lining up to tackle the Speyside.
All the action goes down on Friday the 21st and Saturday the 22nd of April.
The full entry can be viewed/downloaded from https://www.rallies.info/webentry/2023/speyside/entries.php?type=s
Spectator details are available from the event website: https://www.speyside-stages.co.uk/spectators/
images courtesy of AF Motorsport Media