Local rally crews are busy with final preparations ahead of tomorrow’s (Saturday’s) opening round of the 2013 MSA ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship in Inverness.
Drivers Fraser Wilson, Craig McMiken and Mark McCulloch will be in action on the challenging Arnold Clark Thistle Hotel Snowman Rally, which has attracted well over 100 entries.
Wilson and reigning Scottish Junior Co-drivers’ champion Steven Broll have replaced the Mitsubishi EVO 6 of the past two seasons with a newly-acquired EVO 8, which they will continue to run in the Group N category.
More often than not, the weather proves to be the leveller on the Snowman and last year was no exception, with heavy snow and sleet showers making for treacherous driving conditions.
Port William crew Wilson and Broll were among the many who came to grief on the tricky forest stages. The pair went on to string together a run of strong results, including tenth overall on the final round – their best finish so far in the SRC.
For his part, Craig McMiken, who will have Craig Wallace on the notes, would welcome a little snow this weekend “to make it all the more interesting”.
Twelve months ago, the Newton Stewart driver was heading for a possible top-10 finish after posting some impressive stage times. However, he was forced to call it a day when his Mitsubishi EVO developed mechanical problems.
Mark McCulloch, meanwhile, has been burning the midnight oil to get his Subaru Impreza finished in time for the journey north.
Having bought the car last autumn, and driven it to third place on the Galloway Hills Rally, McCulloch is now planning a full assault on the SRC.
“We have done a few little tweaks to the car since the Galloway Hills, but it’s still a far cry from the other Class 12 (Open category) competitors on the Snowman. We’ll be looking for a steady run, and then try to build up some proper pace over the next few rounds,” said McCulloch, who will be co-driven by Elliot Edmondson from Buckinghamshire.
Meanwhile, Sandhead-based co-driver James Haugh will be on the notes for Ian Paterson from Dumfries, who will be competing in his Subaru Impreza N10.
Among the two-wheel drive entries, navigator Laura Marshall from Newton Stewart will again be alongside Lanarkshire driver Graeme Smith in his Honda Civic. The pair finished third overall in the 1600cc category last season, which included a class win on Laura’s home rally, the Merrick Stages.
At the top end of the entry list, defending Scottish champion David Bogie from Dumfries is looking for his third successive Snowman victory.
The difference this time is that the Dumfries driver will be behind the wheel of a newly-acquired Ford Focus WRC 02, having retired his faithful Mitsubishi EVO 9 at the end of last season.
The four-time Scottish title-holder has been familiarising himself with the ex-Colin McRae car – and, in particular, the switch to left-hand drive.
He will go head to head with his close rival Euan Thorburn from Duns, who debuted his Focus WRC on the Snowman 12 months ago, and increasingly put pressure on Bogie as the season progressed.
“Euan showed last year what his Focus is capable of, so I’m very much looking forward to the season starting and hopefully we’ll be quickly on the pace. If I can come away with a podium place in Inverness, it would certainly give us something to build on as we aim for a fifth title.”
Third seed Jock Armstrong – winner of the Snowman Rally in 2010 – will be targeting a big points haul in his Subaru Impreza. The Castle Douglas driver and navigator Kirsty Riddick from Haugh of Urr only contested three SRC rounds last season, but finished on the podium on each occasion.
“We plan to do the full championship this year, and see what happens,” said Armstrong: “It won’t be easy with David and Euan both out in WRC cars, but we’ll certainly be trying.”
For full details go to www.snowmanrally.co.uk.
SRC news and updates can be found at www.scottishrallychampionship.co.uk.
Snowman Rally: Dumfries and Galloway competitors, with car no:
1 David Bogie (Dumfries)/Kevin Rae (Hawick) Ford Focus WRC
3 Jock Armstrong (Castle Douglas)/Kirsty Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Subaru Impreza
14 Rory Young (Kirkgunzeon)/Allan Cathers (Carlisle) Mitsubishi EVO 5
18 Mark McCulloch (Newton Stewart)/Elliot Edmondson (Olney) Subaru Impreza
21 Fraser Wilson (Port William)/Steven Broll (Port William) Mitsubishi EVO 8
24 Craig McMiken (Newton Stewart)/Craig Wallace (Kirriemuir) Mitsubishi EVO 8
31 Ian Paterson (Dumfries)/James Haugh (Sandhead) Subaru Impreza
37 Graeme Smith (Carluke)/Laura Marshall (Minnigaff) Honda Civic
38 Iain Haining (Dumfries)/Mairi Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Vauxhall Nova
50 Jim Robertson (Thornhill)/Colin Maxwell (Dumfries) Citreon C2 R2
100 Iain Wilson (Dalbeattie)/Keith Fremantle (Dalbeattie) Vauxhall Nova
107 Scott Sloan (Dumfries)/David Sloan (Dumfries) Vauxhall Corsa.