‘There was no snow on the Snowman’
Skoda pair storm to third Snowman Rally success.
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.”
Bogie and Rae were a cut above on Snowman
Sinclair was second in Impreza