A HIGH-quality field headed by last year’s winner Jock Armstrong and reigning champion Davie Bogie will line up in Inverness for the opening round of the MSA Scottish Rally Championship on Saturday, writes Sandy Brydon.
Some 100 crews have entered the Arnold Clark/Thistle Hotel Snowman Rally which will be played out over 44 miles of forest stages north of the Highland capital.
As always, conditions will be key to the outcome of the opening round. Twelve months ago Armstrong and co-driver Kirsty Riddick mastered the ice and snow to post an emphatic victory in their Subaru Impreza.
This season, reigning Group N champion Armstrong will compete in the open class as he challenges for the Scottish title, after losing out to Bogie in 2010. For his part, the Dumfries-based champion will use the Snowman as a “shakedown” for the following weekend’s Rallye Sunseeker, the opening round of the British championship.
The 23-year-old, who will again be partnered by Hawick co-driver Kevin Rae, sat out last year’s SRC opener, but is targeting a strong finish this time around in his Evo 9.
“I’d like a clean run on the Snowman and get some points in the bag,” he said. “I’ve done it twice before and it’s a fantastic event. However, we missed it last year and that rather put us on the back foot.”
Duns driver Euan Thorburn is seeded in the top 10 and he will be partnered in his Evo 9 by Paul Beaton from Inverness.
Hotly-tipped young driver David Wilson (Alness) was pushing for podium places throughout last season – taking a well-deserved third place on the RSAC Scottish. He resumes his SRC challenge with top navigator Dave Robson from Jedburgh.
Kelso co-driver Carin Logan will partner Richard Stewart from Dumfries in his Subaru Impreza, while Maxton’s Craig Smith will be co-driven by Colin Smith from Lauder in their Vauxhall Nova.
There will be plenty to whet the appetite as crews are flagged off from rally HQ at the Thistle Hotel in Inverness. However, it will also be a time for reflection as competitors, officials and spectators remember Jimmy Girvan, who lost his life on the McRae Stages last September.