Local crews will be in the thick of the action on Saturday’s/tomorrow’s <Feb 18th> opening round of the 2012 MSA Scottish Rally championship in Inverness.
Nearly 120 cars will line up for the start of the Arnold Clark Thistle Hotel Snowman Rally which will be played out over more than 44 miles of forest stages to the north and south of the Highland capital.
Newton Stewart’s Craig McMiken is seeded nineteenth in his Caledonian Cheese-backed Mitsubishi Evo 9, alongside experienced Elgin-based co-driver Susan Shanks.
McMiken sat out the season-opener in 2011, but finished a very creditable eleventh overall in the snow and ice the previous year.
The Wigtownshire driver will be looking to carry forward the good form shown on the Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally last October when he and Shanks secured the final podium spot.
Port William partnership Fraser Wilson and Steven Broll start at No 28 on the Snowman in their Clone Motor Sport Mitsubishi Evo 6 - as they launch an all-out challenge for the coveted Group N title.
Last year, the aim was to learn and adapt to the more powerful car after successfully competing in the 2-wheel drive category.
By the end of the season, the round-by-round improvements in the pace and handling of the Evo were plain to see: the duo achieving their best ever championship result with an eleventh-place overall, and the Group N award, on a rain-sodden Colin McRae Forest Stages in Perthshire.
Meanwhile, navigator Laura Marshall from Minnigaff – a class winner in the 2011 BRC Challenge – will kick-start her season in Inverness alongside Honda Civic driver Graeme Smith in the fiercely-contested 1600 category.
At the top end of the entry list, reigning Scottish and British champion David Bogie from Dumfries will be seeking his second successive Snowman victory at the wheel of his Mitsubishi Evo 9.
The 24-year-old, who will again be co-driven by Kevin Rae from Hawick, has been weighing up several options on how to advance his rallying career since becoming the first driver to achieve the “double” last season.
However, Bogie is relishing the opportunity to defend his Snowman title: “It’s a great rally – they’re awesome stages – some of the best in Scotland and the spectator interest is unbelievable. It gives us an option to continue and go for a crack at a fourth Scottish championship and a chance to make history. Our Evo 9 is beginning to show its age, but I still think we can squeeze one more season out of it yet”.
Kirtlebridge-based driver Mike Faulkner – who finished third in the drivers’ points in 2011 - is also aiming to push to the limits in his elderly Evo 6:
“We feel that we have some unfinished business. The car will be exactly the same. We just need to find a way to drive it faster if we are going to challenge for the championship. The weather on the Snowman can always be a bit of a lottery, but we’re hoping for fast hard tracks for maximum attack”.
The competition at the sharp end of the field has been increased further with the addition of 2010 Snowman winner Jock Armstrong from Castle Douglas who has put in a last minute entry in a hired Mitsubishi Evo 9. Armstrong and navigator Kirsty Riddick finished third on the event last year.
Further details, including a full seeded entry list, can be found at www.snowmanrally.co.uk
For SRC news and updates go to www.scottishrallychampionship.co.uk
Snowman Rally: Dumfries & Galloway entries,with car no:
1 David Bogie (Dumfries)/Kevin Rae (Hawick) Mitsubishi EVO 9
3 Mike Faulkner (Kirtlebridge)/Peter Foy (Bingley) Mitsubishi EVO 6
15 Rory Young (Dumfries)/Allan Cathers (Carlisle) Mitsubishi EVO 5
19 Craig McMiken (Newton Stewart)/Susan Shanks (Elgin) Mitsubishi EVO 9
28 Fraser Wilson (Port William)/Steven Broll (Port William) Mitsubishi EVO 6
31 www.usedcarparts.co.uk Peter Stewart (Dumfries)/Phil Shortt (Dumfries) Subaru Impreza
33 www.usedcarparts.co.uk Richard Stewart (Dumfries)/Carin Logan (Kelso) Subaru Impreza
37 Graeme Smith (Carluke)/ Laura Marshall (Newton Stewart) Honda Civic
47 Iain Haining (Dumfries)/Mairi Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Vauxhall Nova
48 Jim Robertson (Thornhill)/ Helen Brown (Dumfries) Citroen C2 R2
63 Greg McKnight (Thornhill)/ Chris McKnight (Thornhill) Vauxhall Nova
106 Paul Glass (Avoch)/ Michael Hunter (Dumfries) Lada Samara
107 Gary Smith (Dumfries)/Mark Roberts (Dumfries) Volkswagen Polo
114 Scott Peacock (Castle Douglas)/Albert Connelly (Castle Douglas) Peugeot 205
120 Jock Armstrong (Castle Douglas)/Kirsty Riddick (Castle Douglas) Mitsubishi Evo 9.