Championship crunch time for rally leaders

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Following back-to-back victories in his new car, David Bogie says confidence is high going into Saturday’s GWF Energy Merrick Stages Rally.

At the same time, the Dumfries driver is fully aware that on the classic fast stages of the Galloway Forest, the Ford Fiesta R5+ could lose out to the more powerful Ford Focus WRC of his main rival Euan Thorburn from Duns.

The Borderer – who won last year’s Merrick alongside co-driver Paul Beaton from Inverness – currently leads the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship after five events.

Thorburn, who has two wins and three second-place finishes so far this season, has a 23-point cushion over Barry Groundwater, who is sitting out this round. Bogie, with three wins, a fourth-place, and a non-finish, is a further five points adrift in third spot.

With the final championship placings decided on the best six scores from eight, both Thorburn and Bogie know that the Merrick is a “make or break” round.

“Having lost out narrowly to David on the Scottish and the Speyside, we need to win the Merrick and the last two rounds if we’re to have any chance of taking the title,” said Thorburn.

Bogie, the five-time champion with Hawick navigator Kevin Rae, is equally focused about making it onto the top step of the podium with a number of drivers waiting to pounce should either of the leading seeds falter.

Dale Robertson from Duns, co-driven by Tranent’s Paul McGuier, will be targeting another maximum points haul in the Group N category in his Mitsubishi EVO 9. He now sits third in the points, after taking the class honours on the Speyside. Among the 2WD entries, Steve Bannister and Hawick co-driver Louise Rae will be the crew to beat in their Ford Escort Mk2, while in Class 7, Callum Atkinson from Lauder, driving a Ford Fiesta, has a comfortable 21-point lead in Class 7 for FWD cars up to 2000cc.

Kieran Renton from Leitholm, co-driven by Jedburgh’s Dave Robson, currently occupies the runners-up spot in both the 1600cc class, and the Scottish Junior Drivers’ championship in his Ford Fiesta R200. In the battle of the Peugeot 205’s, Duns’ navigator Richard Simmonds will be back alongside talented young Kinross-based driver Blair Brown. The pair are presently second in the Class 3 standings.

Meanwhile, Duns’ crew Colin Aitchison and Garry Pearson will be looking to get their championship campaign back on track after two successive DNF’s in their Vauxhall Chevette HSR. Further details can be found at www.merrickstages.co.uk. For news and updates of all SRC rounds, go to www.scottishrallychampionship.co.uk