‘There was no snow on the Snowman’

Skoda pair storm to third Snowman Rally suc­cess.

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - By John Fife

There were two top­ics of con­ver­sa­tion ahead of this year’s Arnold Clark Snowman Rally – the lack of snow, and the qual­ity of the top 10, topped on this oc­ca­sion by now three-time win­ners David Bo­gie and Kevin Rae.

Many were left scratch­ing their heads trying to re­mem­ber when the High­lands were last a snow-free zone for the open­ing round of the Scot­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship, but this year, not a trace.

It didn’t make much dif­fer­ence ei­ther way for Bo­gie and Rae. The duo were im­pe­ri­ous in their Skoda Fabia R5, but the big sur­prise was the pace of sec­ond-placed Shaun Sin­clair and Jamie Edwards in a Subaru Impreza WRC. Less of a sur­prise were 2014 SRC champions Euan Thor­burn and Paul Beaton in third place first time out (apart from the Cam­brian, which doesn’t re­ally count) in their new Ford Fi­esta R5.

Shel­tered be­tween two hills, the low ly­ing Meall Mor open­ing test is of­ten more like a skat­ing rink at this time of year than a for­est stage, but this year it was dif­fer­ent. Three of the top seeds cleaned it, Bo­gie, Sin­clair and Jock Armstrong all emerg­ing from the for­est with no ad­van­tage.

As for Thor­burn, he was al­ready 13 sec­onds down with a rear near-side wheel point­ing in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion from the other three. “There was a big stone right on the line. I man­aged to miss it with the front wheels but just caught a rear and it snapped the sus­pen­sion arm,” ex­plained Thor­burn.

No such bo­gie prob­lems at Scots­burn, where the Skoda hit the front, five sec­onds clear of Sin­clair and 13 sec­onds clear of Armstrong. “I picked up a rear punc­ture,” said Armstrong. “It was just near the end so we didn’t lose too much time.”

The 13-miler at Strath Rory was next and Bo­gie had reser­va­tions prior to the stage start. “It’s quite a steep climb up and down the other side, but it’s flat-out across the top,” he said.“they’ve got six chi­canes in there.”

He needn’t have wor­ried; he was 28 sec­onds quicker than Thor­burn.

The R5s may lack the out­right grunt of the Group N and WRC cars but they are much more nim­ble around the tighter cor­ners and chi­canes. Even so, the Impreza of Armstrong was only five sec­onds off the pace of the Fi­esta, but that man Sin­clair was still threat­en­ing, just two sec­onds down on Armstrong.

Bo­gie and Thor­burn tied over the Con­tin stage with Armstrong a sec­ond adrift and Sin­clair in his wake as they headed to­wards the fi­nal stage. Bo­gie con­firmed his dom­i­na­tion and se­cured his first win of the season with a 16-sec­ond ad­van­tage over Sin­clair on the 11-mile Raven Rock test ahead of Thor­burn and Armstrong.

Hold­ing fifth place go­ing into the fi­nal test, Steven Clark emerged in sev­enth place. Rory Young had started cau­tiously – “I’m rusty,” he said – but a big push al­lowed him to tie with Bruce Mc­com­bie for fifth-fastest time, which swept them both past Clark into the top six.

Mark Mccul­loch lost out badly on the fi­nal stage, which shared a com­mon start with stage four: “I caught a car be­fore the split and when I wanted to stay flat for the left­hander, the guy in front was brak­ing for the right-han­der!”

He was still pleased to be in front of a dis­ap­pointed ninth-placed Mike Faulkner in a new Mit­subishi Lancer E9. “We made good progress to­day,” said Faulkner. “This was pre­vi­ously a Tar­mac car so we’re get­ting it sorted.”

Round­ing off the top 10 was last year’s Snowman Rally win­ner Don­nie Macdon­ald, first time out in an R5: “I could have done bet­ter,” said Macdon­ald. “I got stuck in a chi­cane and I just couldn’t get re­verse gear. I’m afraid I ‘lost the heid’ with it! No com­plaint with the car – just me.”

Just out­side the top 10 was Quintin Milne, who was on course for a top six fin­ish till the dif­fer­en­tial pump failed in the fi­nal stage and his brother Fred­die was 12th.

Greg Mcknight was hold­ing 10th place af­ter three stages, but brake trou­ble slowed him on the penul­ti­mate test and caused his re­tire­ment on the fi­nal one.

Although he reg­is­tered for the Scot­tish Cham­pi­onship, Bo­gie will de­cide his cam­paign af­ter the Brc-open­ing Bor­der Coun­ties. “If I do the recce, I can’t score points in the Scot­tish Cham­pi­onship,” he ex­plained, “so we’ll see how that goes next month.”

As for the rest of the Scot­tish Cham­pi­onship con­tenders there were some omi­nous words from Sin­clair: “There’s more to come from the car – and more to come from me in the car. It’s all about con­fi­dence.”

Photos: Writ­tle Pho­to­graphic – Alis­tair Far­quhar

Bo­gie and Rae were a cut above on Snowman

Sin­clair was sec­ond in Impreza

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