McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages Preview – Motorsport UK Scottish Rally Championship

28th June 2024

McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages Preview

It’s been an unexpectedly long close season but next weekend the Scottish Rally Championship will get underway once again, with a new title sponsor on board, when over 90 crews will line up to take the start of the McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages, Round 1 of the 2024 Asset Alliance Group Scottish Rally Championship.

Topping the seeding are 2023 Speyside winners Finlay Retson (Blairgowrie) & Paul Beaton (Inverness). 2023 was a year of blinding pace marred by bad luck with the Speyside win being the standout achievement. Their Rally 2 Fiesta has been upgraded to the latest spec over the winter and hopefully their undoubted speed can be matched by a return of good fortune.

Chasing them down are 3 former champions.

2 VW Polo Rally 2s line up in the hands of 2 of the SRC’s most successful campaigners. 6 time champion David Bogie & John Rowan return to the Scottish forests behind the wheel of Dom Buckley’s example with David’s long time friend and rival Euan Thorburn (Duns) in his own car. The 3 times champion more experienced in the Polo than Bogie having enjoyed success last season on the Jim Clark. Both are definitely going to be in the discussion at the front of the field and it will be interesting to see how the VW’s perform on the Scottish gravel.

The other former champion in town is the evergreen combination of Jock Armstrong (Castle Douglas) and that famous orange Impreza. The 2023 season showed that the 20 plus year old car could still mix it with the R5s and Rally 2s, taking 2 wins. Jock teams up with MSUK Academy alumni and young up and comer Owen Paterson (Dumfries) for the Speyside.

Behind the 3 former champions comes the armada of top 3 contenders to watch out for:

Michael Binnie (Cornhill on Tweed) is reunited with Claire Mole (Duns), back in the Fiesta that lead both the Grampian & Carlisle Stages in 2023. Much like Retson, Michael’s 23 season was a mix of great pace and bad luck.

John Wink’s (Huntly) Hyundai i20 has been refreshed over the winter. With regular navigator Neil Shanks on Clerk of the Course duties, super-sub Will Atkins (Whitchurch) is back in the hotseat for this round.

Mark McCulloch (Dumfries) & Michael Hendry (Aberlour) are back in their self-engineered Proton Satria Evo. 2023 was a real coming out party for the car, establishing it as a genuine threat for rally wins.

Freddie Milne exported his expertise to take top honours in a Spanish regional rally rhampionship in 2023. The Fabia pilot returns to his home country for his 1st SRC round since the 2023 Snowman with Max Freeman (Wales) alongside.

Stephen Petch (Hamsterley) & Michael Wilkinson (Crook) are back for a 2nd season in the SRC, they are followed by their fellow Fabia crew of Hugh Brunton (Arbroath) & Drew Sturrock (Brechin).

Other pro 4 class crews to keep an eye on include:

Scott Beattie (Alford) & Peredur Davies (Pwllheli) in their Fiesta R5.

Bruce McCombie (Banchory) & Michael Coutts (Torphins) continue their learning journey in their Fiesta.

Early sensations on the Snowman in 2023 Scott Macbeth (Muir of Ord) & Dan Forsyth (Elgin) line up in their Fiesta, keen to do well on Dan’s home patch.

Ian Forgan (Lundin Links) returns to the Scottish forests after his big Snowman accident in 2022. He is joined by reigning Scottish navigator’s champion Chris Lees (Glasgow).

Willie Paterson (Strathaven) & Tom Hynd (Inverbervie) head into their 2nd season in the Asset Alliance Group Skoda Fabia. Willie hoping to continue the progression in speed they built over the 2023 season.

Two 2wd champions make the step into Pro4 class cars. Peter Stewart (Dumfries) swaps his 208 for a Citroen C3 Rally 2 and teams up with standout Junior co-driver Kerrie MacGillivray (Salen).

Reigning 2wd champion John Crawford (Lanark) & regular navigator Josh Davison (Melrose) stick with Ford power but have replaced their MK2 Escort with a Fiesta R5.

Reigning Albyn Garage Challengers champions Scott Peacock (Castle Douglas) & Craig Wallace (Westmuir) are top Mitsubishi on the entry list. Without the pressure of the Challengers battle to worry about they’ll be trying their best to mess with the ranks of Pro4 cars in front of them.

Subaru Cup sponsor Barry Groundwater (Stonehaven) & Ashleigh Will (Inverurie) are another crew looking to upset the Pro 4 cars in their S2000 VW Polo

The Albyn Garage Challengers, G&M Mechanical Services 2wds and the Groundwater Lift Trucks Subaru Cup competitors are likely to produce some of the best battles of the season.

One of the front runners in both the Challengers and 2wds last season, Paddy Munro (Kyle) is back in his glorious sounding Escort, joined in the hotseat by Andrew Stevenson (Grantown on Spey).

Former 2wd champions Greg McKnight (Penpont) & Harry Marchbank (Dumfries) return to the SRC in their 2.5 litre engined MK2. They’ll be squaring off with another former champion team in Dougal Brown (Forres) & Lewis Rochford (Keith).

Other Escorts in the mix include: Irish visitor’s Paul McErlean (Bellaghy) & Niall McKenna (Moneymore), David Hardie (Dumfries) & John McCulloch (Dumfries), Gordon Morrison (Kilbarchan) & Ian Parker (Lochgilphead) and Gordon Murray (Perth) & Peter Carstairs (St Andrews) to name just a few.

Looking to challenge the Escort supremacy once again, David Wilson has continued development work on his BMW Compact over the winter and was very happy with the results at the Grant Construction Stages. Kyle Gordon steps into the navigator’s seat. Other BMWs include Kenny Wood (Inverness) & Charles Mackenzie (Gairloch) and Sandy Fairbairn (Gattonside) & Craig Forsyth (Kelso).

Representing the 4wd Challengers, Matt Calderwood (Helensburgh) & Phil Sandham (Carnforth) return to the SRC after a lay off in their Mitsubishi. They’ll have strong Evo opposition from the likes of Johnnie Mackay (Newburgh) & Rachel Matheson (Beauly), debuting the ex-Scott Beattie car, Challengers sponsor Simon Hay (Aberdeen) & Calum Jaffray (Torphins) and local man Brett Mckenzie (Elgin) & Barry Young (Navenby). Martyn Erskine (Stranraer) & Charles Blair (Dumfries) also debut their Evo 9.

Subaru are represented by Jordan Anderson (Daviot) & Kenny Foggo (Munlochy). They’ll be looking to lock horns with their long-term Subaru Cup rivals Mike Moates (Udny Green) & Gary McDonald (Aberdeen). Graeme Sherry (Gartcosh) & Ewan Lees (Glasgow) return to Subaru power and Greg Grant (Alness) & Morgan Redpath (Abriachan) debut their own Impreza. Martin Burke (Bishopton) is also back with Alice Paterson (Dumfries) alongside.

Moates Offshore

The Moates Offshore Junior category is also very well supported:

Justin Gunning (Lanark) returns to the SRC after a layoff in his Renault Clio with Michael Moates (Aberdeen) back in the hotseat.

Reigning Ladies champion Meghan O’Kane (Kyle) has upgraded to a Fiesta R2 over the winter. Not only will she have the Juniors to worry about but also she’ll square off with her long time Ladies rival Aileen Forrest (Inverurie).

Owen Macleod (Muir of Ord) & Ryan Urquhart (Conon Bridge) return in their 205 and will be looking to square off with fellow Peugeot crew Scott Gourlay (Dalbeattie) & Greg Alcorn (Castle Douglas). Greg looking to defend his 2023 Junior’s navigator title.

Edward Noble (Inverness) & Erin Wood (Inverness) are back in their 2 litre Fiesta, they’re joined in the Ford ranks by Lochlan McIver (Livingston) & Cameron Morrison (Livingston), their Fiesta now sporting a 1600 engine.

Making the move from the Tarmac to the woods, Christopher Smith (Cumnock) & Amy McCubbin (Cumnock) have proved to be quick on a sealed surface in their Vauxhall Corsa. It will be interesting to see how they fare on the gravel.

Had Energy

Haddo Energy Super Seniors creator Ernie Lee (Ellon) returns in his BMW, joined as always by his wife Patricia in the hotseat. They’re joined by Walter Henderson (Carnwath) & Jim Kinloch (Dolphinton) in their MK2 Escort.

The 1st 2 Super Seniors champions are also in attendance. 2022 winner Alistair Brearley (Galashiels) & navigator Gerry Bryden (Ayr) have refreshed their Escort over the winter while 2023 winner Jim Robertson (Penpont) returns, partnered once again by Mike Curry (Thornhill) in their historic spec MK2.

9 stages will make up the event, starting with the traditional blasts through Elgin’s Cooper Park. Keep an eye out on the Asset Alliance Group Scottish Rally Championship Facebook page and the championship YouTube page at throughout the day for updates and live coverage.