Scottish rally champions David Bogie and Hawick co-driver Kevin Rae made inroads towards the retention of their title at Dumfries on Saturday.
Debuting a new Ford Fiesta R5+, the duo managed to get the edge over defending RSAC Scottish Rally title holders and current ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship leaders Euan Thorburn from Duns, and his Inverness co-driver Paul Beaton, by just 3.5 seconds.
Bogie was relieved, and happy, with his first true test of the R5 – which has replaced his Focus WRC of the past 18 months.
He said: “It was a real learning experience – adapting my driving style, my braking lines, everything.
“Euan took five seconds off us on the second-last stage.
“I think that shows that when you get to the high- speed stuff, the 1,600cc of this car can’t really compete with the Focus – that’s when you start to notice the difference. On the last stage we got a bit of dust hanging in the trees, so we didn’t push it.”
Thorburn had high hopes of victory after winning the previous gravel round in Aberdeen, but early problems cost him dearly.
He said: “We lost it in the morning, with a stall at the start of the first stage, and a puncture on the second.
“Our pace in the afternoon was much better, and it was good that we could take the fight to David.
“We said at the start of the day that Castle O’er and Twiglees were the best stages of the day – and so it proved. I like the tight and twisty stuff.”
Coldstream’s Kieran Renton, with Jack Morton on the notes, took the runners-up spot in the 1,600cc category and 15th overall, in his Ford Fiesta R200, and also consolidated his second place in the Junior Drivers’ championship.
Keiran said: “I really enjoyed the last two stages – flowing and smooth, and there were no mistakes, so I’m chuffed with that. It was very dusty, the car is full of it, but it was the same for everyone.”
Keiran finished one place ahead of Lauder driver Callum Atkinson, who, despite some “overshoots” on the stages in his Fiesta, went on to win Class 7.
Hawick navigator Louise Rae was back on the notes for Yorkshireman Steve Bannister in the historic class in his Ford Escort Mk2. A rear puncture on the third stage put paid to an outright victory, the pair finishing second.
The next round of the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship is the McDonald and Munro Speyside Stages in Elgin on Saturday, August 2.