There was little to cheer about for Wigtownshire crews on Saturday’s season-opening Snowman Rally in Inverness.
With heavy sleet and snow showers making for treacherous conditions on the forest stages to the north and south of the Highland capital, Newton Stewart’s Craig McMiken was forced to call it a day with mechanical problems on the penultimate stage, while Port William crew Fraser Wilson and Steven Broll ended up in a ditch.
At the top end of the leaderboard, reigning Scottish and British champion David Bogie from Dumfries got his season off to the best possible start with a second-successive victory on the opening round of the MSA Scottish Rally Championship.
McMiken, with Elgin co-driver Susan Shanks, had a positive start to the day in his Mitsubishi Evo 9, with an equal 15th fastest time through the opening Meall Mor stage to the south of Inverness. However, a broken driveshaft at the start of the first of two short spectator stages saw the pair drop well down the rankings before they could get it fixed at the service break.
That done, McMiken was an impressive sixth fastest through the slippery fourth, and at 13 miles, longest, stage – Torr Achilty: 38 seconds shy of Bogie, and four seconds ahead of the eventual rally runner-up, Mike Faulkner. It hauled McMiken and Shanks up to 13th overall, with two stages remaining, but they had to throw in the towel when the car lost drive on the penultimate test.
Wilson and Broll had improved their overall position by leaps and bounds over the first few stages: a top 30 finish on the opening test was followed by a 19th equal quickest time on the first short spectator stage, and eighth equal on the next. It meant they were lying 18th overall by the time they reached the service area at Muir of Ord, where repairs were carried out on the exhaust.
With reports of “carnage” and cars going off “all over the place” , word came back that the Port William pair had “beached” the EVO just off the road on the fourth stage. With no spectators around to help them get the car back on the road, their day was done.
Meanwhile, Newton Stewart navigator Laura Marshall had a more successful day alongside Honda Civic driver Graeme Smith from Carluke. They returned to the finish in Inverness in 24th place overall, and a very commendable second in class in the fiercely competitive 1600 category.
For Bogie, co-driven by Kevin Rae, it was a case of picking up where he left off last season in his Mitsubishi EVO 9. The double champions finished a minute and eight seconds ahead of Kirtlebridge-based Mike Faulkner and Bingley navigator Peter Foy, in an EVO 6. Kirkgunzeon farmer Rory Young, with Carlisle’s Allan Cathers on the notes, was a superb fourth at the wheel of his EVO 5.
On paper it might have looked like a comfortable win for the double champions, but in reality it was anything but – Bogie admitting to some scary moments. “We’re both obviously delighted. You can’t kick off your season with anything better than a win. However, the conditions were really difficult - some of the toughest I’ve ever had to drive in. Everyone who got round this rally deserves a medal because you could get caught out so quickly. We had a couple of moments which could have put us in a ditch and ended our rally. The only other frustration was the car misfiring throughout the day, but we made it to the end, so no complaints”.
Dumfries’ Iain Haining and co-driver Mairi Riddick from Haugh of Urr did not have their troubles to seek on the way to second in class in their 2WD Vauxhall Nova. Said Haining: “The first four stages were grand, but on the second last stage we burst the rear brake pipe, so the pedal was going to the floor for the last few miles. We did a hasty repair, but the brakes weren’t great for the last 12 miles and with the snow as well it made things really interesting.”
Missing from the start-line was 2010 Snowman winner Jock Armstrong. The Castle Douglas driver had submitted a late entry after securing a hired Mitsubishi Evo 9. However, a misfire and other mechanical problems with the car on the eve of the event scuppered any hopes of competing.
The second round of the MSA Scottish Rally Championship is the Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally in Jedburgh on March 17.
Snowman Rally – Dumfries and Galloway finishers, with total times:
1. David Bogie (Dumfries)/Kevin Rae (Hawick) Mitsubishi EVO 9 50 mins 03 secs
2. Mike Faulkner (Kirtlebridge)/Peter Foy (Bingley) Mitsubishi EVO 6 51.11
4. Rory Young (Kirkgunzeon)/Allan Cathers (Carlisle) Mitsubishi EVO 5 52.49
20. Iain Haining (Dumfries)/Mairi Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Vauxhall Nova 55.49
24. Graeme Smith (Carluke)/Laura Marshall (Newton Stewart) Honda Civic 56.44
25. Richard Stewart (Dumfries)/Carin Logan (Kelso) Subaru Impreza 56.48
67. Jim Robertson (Thornhill)/Helen Brown (Dumfries) Citreon C2R2 1.37.18