… Another fantastic SRC Season in prospect …
Five-time title-holder David Bogie from Dumfries will lead a quality field into the opening round of the 2015 ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship at Inverness for the Arnold Clark Thistle Hotels Snowman Rally on Saturday, February 21st.
With 2014 Champions Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton hoping to step up to some European events this year, and multiple Champions Bogie and Kevin Rae unsure of their plans and not planning a championship assault, the 2015 season looks like a fascinating prospect.
Although Bogie isn’t planning a championship challenge, the prospect of shaking off the winter cobwebs with a 45 mile blast was too good to resist: “With our plans for 2015 still very much up in the air, the Snowman is one of a few events which we would contest regardless of any championship plans. We had hoped that our new built Mk 2 Escort would be ready for the event, and we certainly plan to use the car as soon as its ready – its just so much fun to drive! After contesting Rally GB last year, we looked at options to contest more WRC events, but the costs were not sustainable, although we would love to be competing at that level, despite the disappointment on GB.”
Behind Bogie’s Fiesta R5+, Aspatria’s Mike Faulkner and Jock Armstrong from Castle Douglas will be looking to renew their rivalry from 2014, with both drivers coming off a win on their last event. Faulkner, with Bingley co-driver Peter Foy, took victory on November’s Wales Rally GB National as part of an SRC clean sweep of the podium: “The second half of 2014 was good for us, with a string of podium finishes topped off with the Rally GB win. We are looking forward to a good battle on the Snowman, last season Jock & I weren’t separated by a lot on any event, so I hope that continues this weekend.”
“You need to go flat out from the start this weekend, you can’t afford to overthink it and go in with a strategy. Hopefully the weather will let us do that this weekend, snow and ice can make it a lottery as you see so often for the Snowman. We had a brief test last weekend to test the bigger brakes we have fitted, and the car feels really good, we can’t wait to get started now!”
Third seed Armstrong drives the only Subaru in the top 10 with eight Mitsubishis to fight against. A former winner of this event, he will have experienced co-driver Paula Swinscoe on the notes as he looks to build on a good 2014 season, which resulted in a third place finish overall. For the second year in succession, Armstrong took victory on the event he sponsors – the Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally. He thinks that the Snowman could see a number of crews challenging for the podium, particularly if the weather plays a part in proceedings: “The Snowman can’t come soon enough for us. It feels like an age since we did our last rally, but coming off a victory last time out is a good feeling. For 2015, we have re-shelled the car but mechanically it’s very much the same spec as last year. That said, we did a small test last weekend and the car definitely feels different, so it will still be a bit of a learning experience this weekend.”
“There is strength in depth throughout the top 10 and beyond, in particular Quintin Milne could well challenge for honours if he has the car underneath him, as a two-time championship event winner he’s shown in the past that he has the pace. I’m just pleased to be back in the SRC, it’s a strong championship and hopefully we can put a new name on the championship trophy this year.”
Hurlfords’s Andrew Gallacher, with Edinburgh’s Jane Nicol on the notes starts one place further back in 4th. Definitely a candidate for the most improved SRC driver in 2014, Gallacher is hoping to have his new 4WD Fiesta ready to make its debut and following a second place finish on Wales Rally GB National behind Faulkner, is sure to be one to watch.
Meanwhile, fifth seeds Quintin Milne and Stephen O’Hanlon are a first time partnership, and after trying a few different cars last year, Milne has returned to a Mitsubishi Lancer in Evo 6 form for his 2015 Championship challenge
Stonehaven-based driver Barry Groundwater, with Sean Donnelly from Elgin, will be targeting a strong start to the new season in his Evo 9 following a top 5 Championship finish in 2014, and is one of the most experienced competitors in the top 10.
The local challenge will be led by Inverness duo Donnie Macdonald and Andrew Falconer, who had a difficult season in 2014 with their new Evo 9 although their stage times demonstrated their capability. Challenging them will be another Highland Car Club crewed Evo 9, with Dougal Brown and Lewis Rochford debuting their new car on their home event.
Wigtownshire crew Mark McCulloch and James Haugh also bring a new car, their Evo 9’s previous owner starting just one place in front, while the Mitsubishi domination of the top 10 continues with Aberdeen’s Chris Collie partnered by Cumbria’s Mark Fisher in an Evo 6. Collie didn’t have much opportunity to show his pace last year but could spring a surprise especially if the conditions hamper the top seeds.
Outside the top 10, there is further evidence of the strength in depth with potential winners throughout the top order, drivers like Bruce McCombie, previous Snowman Rally winner Reay MacKay and Steven Clark are all capable of mixing times at the top of the timesheets
In Group N (showroom class) there’s a battle in prospect between local driver and 2013 champion John Morrison from Conon Bridge, with Peter Carstairs of St Andrews on the notes and Fraser Wilson from Port William, who has Kirriemuir co-driver Craig Wallace alongside for the first time.
Malcolm Buchanan from Stornoway, with Forfar’s Ian Nicoll co-driving, is the first of the two wheel drive entries in his Ford Escort Mk2. They will be flagged off ahead of the 2014 SRC Junior Champion Greg McKnight from Thornhill in his 1600cc Escort.
The 1600cc Class 4 looks like one of the highlights of the event, with no less than eight of these screaming engined cars in the top 50 starters, led by McKnight. He will be chased by the Super 1600 MG ZR of Alnwick brothers Carl & Rob Tuer, the similar Corsas of Alex Curran & Angus Lawrie and Jim Robertson’s C2R2.
Saturday’s Snowman also marks the first event in an association between the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship and Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS). CHAS has been announced as chosen charity partner for the 2015 Championship.
Chairman of the SRC, Dave Robson, said: “We’re all really looking forward to working with CHAS, It’s a great cause and we can’t wait to help spread awareness of the only charity in Scotland providing hospice care to children.”
“We’ve got a really great opportunity to use our profile and network to enhance the incredible work being done by the charity. Our competitors are looking forward to starting a great season, with all funds raised throughout the year going towards care for families using CHAS services”.
CHAS has been given the green light to ask one of the siblings supported by its CHAS at Home service in the Highlands to help flag off the event with the local Provost, Alex Graham from Inverness High Street, with the first of the 100+ crews leaving at 9am on Saturday morning.
Full details can be found at: www.snowmanrally.co.uk
Arnold Clark Thistle Hotel Snowman Rally – Top Ten Seeds:
1 David Bogie/Kevin Rae Ford Fiesta R5+
2 Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9
3 Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe Subaru Impreza
4 Andrew Gallacher/Jane Nicol Ford Fiesta Evolution
5 Quintin Milne/Stephen O’Hanlon Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 6
6 Barry Groundwater/Sean Donnelly Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9
7 Donnie MacDonald/Andrew Falconer Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9
8 Dougal Brown/Lewis Rochford Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9
9 Mark McCulloch/James Haugh Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9
10 Chris Collie/Mark Fisher Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 6