Defending Scottish rally champions David Bogie from Dumfries and Hawick navigator Kevin Rae head a field of around 100 crews for Saturday’s Gleaner Oil and Gas Speyside Stages – an event they have won for the past three years, writes Sandy Brydon.
The duo have an 11-point lead in the drivers’ and co-drivers’ standings respectively going into the Elgin-based event, as they look to seal their third straight MSA Scottish Rally Championship with three rounds remaining.
“We’ve reached an important point in the season and the plan is to go to Elgin and come away with another win,” said Bogie, who will be at the wheel of his Mitsubishi Evo 9.
He added: “It’s another very strong field so nothing can be taken for granted, but we feel up to the challenge.”
“The stages around Elgin and Huntly are tricky in that they can be quite slippy and loose in places – but it’s also a high-speed rally, so you need to be absolutely sure of your braking points. Late braking is rewarded with good stage times.”
Third seed Euan Thorburn from Duns was hit by problems on last year’s Speyside, but has had a consistent season so far in 2011.
Thorburn has been runner-up twice, and has also posted a third, a fourth and a sixth-place finish at the wheel of his Evo 9. The Duns competitor will again be co-driven by Paul Beaton from Inverness.
Evo 6 pilot Mike Faulkner, who sits second in the overall drivers’ standings – one point ahead of Thorburn – will have experienced co-driver Louise Sutherland from Hawick on the notes in place of regular navigator Peter Foy, who is on holiday in Australia.
Another leading co-driver, Claire Mole from Paxton, will again be on the notes for former works driver Robbie Head in his Evo 9.
The pair could only manage 12th last time out on the Scottish following a difficult day which started with fuel pressure problems. It was their first finish outside the top 10 since Head returned to full-time competition at the start of the season.
Experienced Duns co-driver Dave O’Brien will the on the notes for Aberdeen’s Gordon Smith in his Ford Escort RS Cosworth while Kelso’s Carin Logan is co-driving once again for Dumfries driver Richard Stewart in his Subaru Impreza.
Among the two-wheel drive contenders, Gareth White from St Boswells currently holds a three point lead in the SRC Junior Championship, and also sits third in the highly competitive 1600 category in his Citreon C2R2. He will again be co-driven by Mike Dickson of Galashiels.
Local honours among the Peugeot 205 competitors will be fought out between Sean and Iain Robson; and Earlston’s Nick Thorne and co-driver Scott Hunter – both teams hailing from from St Boswells.
Full event details can be found at www.speyside-stages.co.uk