Double Scottish champions David Bogie and Hawick co-driver Kevin Rae picked up where they left off last season with victory on Saturday’s Arnold Clark Thistle Hotel Snowman Rally, the opening round of the 2011 MSA Scottish Rally Championship, writes Sandy Brydon.
They won three of the five forest stages north of Inverness in their Mitsubishi Evo 9 to finish with a total time of 42 minutes 50 seconds – 30 seconds ahead of runners-up Euan Thorburn from Duns and his Inverness co-driver Paul Beaton, also in an Evo 9.
Last year’s Snowman winners, Jock Armstrong and Kirsty Riddick, secured the final podium spot, a further three seconds adrift in a Subaru Impreza.
Although there was none of the deep snow which dominated last year’s event, the stages in and around Tain and Lairg were still very slippery in stretches with a combination of ice and mud – particularly the opening 11.62-mile Strathrory.
Armstrong was one of a number of drivers who arrived at first service having experienced a “big moment”, as a result of which he dropped five seconds behind Bogie, with Thorburn breathing down his neck, just two seconds adrift.
The Duns driver took the initiative on the second test –Carbisdale – pipping Bogie by just one second over the 6.48 miles.
Thorburn again dominated on the 8.71-mile Dalnessie test, running out a six-second advantage over Bogie.
It meant that the two were neck-and-neck going into the penultimate stage, Dalchork, but try as he might, Thorburn could not repeat his earlier success, as Bogie pushed for victory.
Former works driver turned TV presenter Robbie Head declared himself “reasonably happy” with his return to competition, alongside experienced Borders-based navigator Claire Mole, with the pair topping the DMACK Tyres Group N standings.
Maxton’s Craig Smith and co-driver Colin Smith from Lauder had every reason to celebrate as they notched a superb class win, finishing 36th overall in their nifty Vauxhall Nova.
Crews will now prepare for the SRC second round – the Jedburgh-based Brick and Steel Border Counties – on March 19.