PORT William rally crew Fraser Wilson and Steven Broll survived a tough day in the Highland forests on Saturday to successfully finish their first MSA Scottish Championship event in a 4-wheel drive car.
The duo ended the day 28th overall on the Arnold Clark Thistle Hotel Snowman Rally in their recently-acquired Group N Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 6.
It was a big step up for the Clone Motorsport team-mates from the 2-wheel drive Vauxhall Nova in which they captured the Class 2 championship last season.
However, Wilson was satisfied with their first outing – particularly on such a challenging event.
“We were getting more and more into the swing of things as the day wore on, but it’ll certainly take a lot of getting used to compared to the Nova”, said Wilson: “It’s easy to drive, but it’s not easy to drive fast – so hopefully the speed will come through time. At the moment I’m not committing enough. I need to put the foot down more, particularly on the high speed stages”.
The day was not without it’s mechanical problems, with a blown turbo pipe reducing the car’s performance.
“We’ll take the car home, take it to bits, and get all the wee problems fixed and ready for the next round”, said Wilson.
Co-driver Broll admitted it had been very different from their previous rallying experiences
“Yes, a big change from the Nova. It was getting to the point where I was telling Fraser to go faster, because although you were going fast, you didn’t think it. Overall, though, it’s been a good day, eventful, and definitely a learning curve”.
Elsewhere, double Scottish champion David Bogie picked up where he left off last season with overall victory on the Snowman.
The Dumfries ace, co-driven by Kevin Rae, won three of the five forest stages north of Inverness in his Mitsubishi Evo 9, to finish thirty seconds ahead of Borderer Euan Thorburn.
Last year’s Snowman winners, Castle Douglas crew Jock Armstrong and Kirsty Riddick, were third, in their Subaru Impreza, while Kirtlebridge-based driver Mike Faulkner secured fourth spot.
There were also class wins for Dumfries and Galloway drivers James Robertson, Iain Haining and Peter Stewart.
Although there was none of the deep snow which dominated last year’s event, the stages in and around Tain and Lairg were still very slippery in stretches with a combination of ice and mud - particularly the opening 11.62-mile Strathrory.
Armstrong was one of a number of drivers who arrived at first service having experienced a “big moment” , as a result of which he dropped 5 seconds to Bogie
On the second test, Carbisdale, Bogie was just pipped by Borderer Euan Thorburn, also in an Evo 9, while Faulker and co-driver Peter Foy were also in the hunt, a further one second back.
Thorburn again dominated on the third stage Dalnessie, running out a six second advantage over Bogie.
It meant that the two were neck and neck going into the penultimate stage, Dalchork, but try as he might, Thorburn could not repeat his earlier success, as Bogie pushed for a hard-fought victory – his first on the Snowman.
“First round of the season, a high quality entry, a huge amount of spectator interest, it really was a rally I wanted to win, and I’m very happy with the way the day turned out”, declared the 23-year-old at the champagne finish in Inverness.
Bogie will now switch his attention to the Bournemouth-based Rallye Sunseeker, the opening counter in the Dulux Trade MSA British Championship, this weekend.
Despite the Snowman win, he said he was still undecided as to which series he will concentrate on as the season unfolds.
“It does leave us with a bit of a dilemma – I’d love to go for the Scottish “triple”, which has only been done once before – but we’ll have to go and see how the British championship goes first”, said Bogie.
With much fairer conditions, Armstrong knew there would be little chance of dominating the event as he had in the snow and ice twelve months ago.
Nevertheless, the Castle Douglas competitor was satisfied with third place, as he chases his first Scottish crown.
“We’ve had some luck, and a bit of bad luck today, but we’ve stayed on the road and we’ve got a decent points haul”, said Armstrong: “The stages being so slippy and unpredictable, it was harder for me than being on snow and ice, but I’m happy to be on the podium. It gets the season off to a good start”.
From a starting list of 98, there were 77 classified finishers.
Crews will now prepare for the second round of the SRC - the Jedburgh-based Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally - on 19th March.
Meanwhile, Newton Stewart co-driver Laura Marshall will be on the notes this weekend for up and coming Borders driver Garry Pearson, on the opening round of the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship.
The pair will tackle the national event on the Bournemouth-based Rallye Sunseeker in a Subaru Impreza - Pearson’s first competitive outing in a 4-wheel drive car.
He won the prize-drive from Revolution Wheels in last year’s Scottish Rally Championship.
For the rest of the season, Marshall and Pearson will contest the prestigious BRC Challenge in a Nissan Micra, starting with the Bulldog Rally in North Wales on April 2nd.
Snowman Rally - Dumfries and Galloway finishers – with total stage time
1st David Bogie (Dumfries)/Kevin Rae (Hawick) Mitsubishi Evo 9 42 mins 50 secs
3rd Jock Armstrong (Castle Douglas)/Kirsty Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Subaru Impreza 43.23
4th Mike Faulkner (Kirtlebridge)/Peter Foy (Bingley) Mitsubishi Evo 6 44.01
28th Fraser Wilson (Port William)/Steven Broll (Port William) Mitsubishi Evo 6 50.07
30th Iain Haining (Dumfries)/Mairi Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Vauxhall Nova 50.30
31st Peter Stewart (Dumfries)/Phil Shortt (Dumfries) Ford Fiesta ST 50.47
32nd James Robertson (Thornhill)/George Myatt (Ae) Citreon C2 50.54 J
41st Liam Harkness (Thornhill)/Kenneth Marchbank (Thornhill) Ford Escort Mk 2 52:14
For news of all SRC rounds, go to www.scottishrallychampionship.co.uk