Snowman Rally goes into cold storage

Garry Pearson accompanied by Paula Swinscoe in the Ford Fiesta R5 (picture by Jakob Ebrey).
Garry Pearson accompanied by Paula Swinscoe in the Ford Fiesta R5 (picture by Jakob Ebrey).

Organisers of tomorrow’s (Saturday) opening round of the 2019 Scottish Rally Championship – the Coogie Urquhart Snowman Rally – have been forced to cancel the event after thick ice rendered many of the stages impassable in the Scottish Highlands.

Borders rally driver Garry Pearson was due to return to the series after a two-year sabbatical and was aiming for a podium result to kick start his Scottish Championship campaign behind the wheel of an Asset Alliance Group & George Anderson Builders backed Ford Fiesta R5.

The 27-year-old ace was gearing up to take on some of the best drivers in the country when the organisers issued a statement yesterday, cancelling the event.

The Snowman Rally is the first of seven rounds of the Scottish Rally Championship and has been the traditional season opener for many years.

Its stages take place in the Highlands near to the Inverness rally base and the high altitude of the stages has seen rain fall on already frozen surfaces, turning the forest tracks into thick ice.

Organisers said: “Further to an extensive review of the stages all week, we have had to take the decision to cancel the Coogie Urquhart Snowman Rally on Saturday. We have tried everything in our power to keep the event running, but to no avail.

“The decision is down to extremely unsafe conditions – all the stages have a thick covering of ice over them and it would be irresponsible, as an organising team, to take such a risk with people’s safety and we have had to take this regretful decision.”

Pearson was bidding to resume his season after announcing his intentions to mount an assault on the series in 2019, aiming to lift the coveted Scottish Rally Championship title. He was disappointed by the news but understood the nature of the cancellation.

“Of course, I was gutted when I heard that we won’t be heading to Inverness this weekend, but I respect the event’s decision wholeheartedly,” he said.

“Safety is everyone’s priority and we have to make sure the spectators and organisers are just as looked after as we are in the car. The Snowman is always a challenge, that’s for sure, and if it was just snow, then we may have been able to go. But ice is another matter, and so very unpredictable.

“We will now look to take our enthusiasm into the next round of the season, which will be a little closer to home in Jedburgh (on March 16) for the Border Counties Rally.”