Rally crews heading for the Granite

Three leading Wigtownshire drivers will be in action in Aberdeenshire this weekend as the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship moves up a gear.

Newton Stewart’s Mark McCulloch and Craig McMiken, along with Fraser Wilson from Port William, are among 120 entries for Saturday’s Coltel Granite City Rally, which looks set to run in more favourable conditions than the ice and snow of last month’s Border Counties round.

McCulloch, co-driven by Elliot Edmondson from Buckinghamshire, is seeded 22nd in his Subaru Impreza. “It’s been a tough start to the year for everyone, so it will be good to get a clean run on the Granite,” he said. “The entry is really strong for this one, but I’m looking forward to giving it a go and hoping to finish in the top 15.”

McMiken starts two places further back in his Mitsubishi EVO 9, alongside navigator Craig Wallace from Kirriemuir. He said: “We’re really looking forward to the event. The Galloway Hills was the last time we did a full rally. The car has had an intermittent electrical fault which stopped the car on the stage when it hit a really big bump. It was difficult to trace, but I think we’ve sorted the problem this time. With this fixed it will mean we can push a bit harder, even in the rough stuff.”

Meanwhile, Wilson and navigator Steven Broll, also from Port William, will be looking to take top honours in the Group N category in their EVO 8. Despite the conditions in Jedburgh, they still managed to finish third in the GpN points.

At the front end of the starting order, reigning champion David Bogie will be targeting his third victory on the event – having won in 2010 and again last year. The Dumfries driver salvaged third in the points on the Border Counties, but said his Ford Focus WRC was not suited for the conditions.

“The ice and snow were exactly what we didn’t want. In the world rally car, if you touch the brakes it locks up; if you go onto the accelerator, it lights the wheels up.

“Given those characteristics, you need really good conditions.

“If we get that in Aberdeen it should suit us well. The Granite City is one of my favourite events. They’re real drivers’ stages – fast and flowing and wide in places – some of the best in the championship.”

Castle Douglas crew Jock Armstrong and Kirsty Riddick, who start three places further back in fourth, will be keen to kickstart their championship campaign after the pair came to grief on the opening stage of the Border Counties. The Subaru Impreza slid off the road and got stuck on a banking.

“A wing of the car was damaged, but that was about the extent of it,” said Armstrong. “We’ll have a test run in Aberdeen prior to the rally and hopefully we can set ourselves up for a strong finish on Saturday.”

Among the 2WD entries, Newton Stewart’s Laura Marshall will be on the notes for talented Honda Civic driver Graeme Smith from Lanarkshire. They will want to move on from the frustration of the Border Counties when they ended up in a ditch after building up a sizeable lead over the other Civic competitors, and were set to take over the lead in the 1600cc category.

Full event details can be found at www.granitecityrally.co.uk. For news and updates on all SRC rounds, go to www.scottishrallychampionship.co.uk