BORDERS rally driver Euan Thorburn and navigator Paul Beaton have thrown down an early challenge to the Scottish rallying dominance of David Bogie and Kevin Rae by claiming the Arnold Clark Thistle Snowman Rally.
Bogie and Rae saw off Thorburn and his Inverness co-driver last season to claim a fifth successive ARR Craib MSA Scottish title last year, but the Dumfries driver could only manage fourth at the weekend after losing valuable time with a puncture on the third of five special forest stages. Based around Inverness, the season opener brought 110 crews roaring through the forests north of the Highland capital and 74 made it to the finish.
Thorburn and Beaton, in their Ford Focus WRC, won by 34 seconds from Quintin Milne and Martin Forrest’s Mitsubishi EVO 9, but described it as one of their “hardest ever wins”.
Thorburn suffered his own spins early on, and a flirt with a ditch, as Bogie and Rae drove into a 26-second lead after the first two stages. But then Bogie’s tyre went, which left him frustrated and mystified.
“The wheel just lost pressure for some reason and we had to drive nine miles with a puncture,” said the reigning champion.
“Near the end the tyre was burning and smoking badly. Usually with a modern tyre you have to hit something for it to go but we never struck anything on this occasion.”
Bogie was fastest through the fourth Strathrory test and the final six miles of Scotsburn, but the top three had eluded him and would not be caught, despite Thorburn suffering mechanical problems.
“We broke a brake pipe on stage four and had to carry out some running repairs, before nursing it through the final stage,” the Duns driver explained.
“You never can take anything easy in a rally and the burst brake pipe caused some interesting manoeuvres under braking, and eventually the loss of the brakes completely.
“That makeshift fix did nothing to help the handling of the car but it did the job of getting some of the brakes back to make it home.
“It was a very difficult event for us, to be honest, and we didn’t seem to be on the pace at times, so to get the win is extra special, particularly on the first event of the season.”
Faulkner grabs third
Aspatria’s Mike Faulkner and co-driver Peter Foy, also in an EVO 9, clinched third spot, a further three seconds behind Milne, maintaining their consistent form with a third successive podium finish on an SRC event, but he was a bit unhappy with a late change to the course.
“On the one hand we’re chuffed to have finished third, but disappointed to just miss out on the runners-up spot,” said Faulkner.
“We got caught out on one of the chicanes which were added by the organisers on the eve of the rally. We missed it on the notes altogether and ended up having to go down a firebreak, through a ditch, turn around and retrace our steps. That dropped us 30 seconds.”
The next rally in the Scottish championship is the Brick & Steel Construction Border Counties, based in Jedburgh on 22 March, but Thorburn revealed that he is also considering a return to the Malcolm Wilson Rally in the Lake District in just under two weeks’ time.
“We won this last year and it had arguably the strongest entry in a UK national rally in 2013,” added Thorburn, “so to do the event again would be great.
“Last year we took the victory in the oldest M-Sport World Rally Car, and it would also be a great test for the Border Counties.”
An extra incentive for the overall Scottish and BTRDA champions is free entry to the national section of Wales Rally GB, the concluding round of the FIA World Rally Championship, in November.
Arnold Clark Thistle Hotel Snowman Rally (top ten finishers)
1. Euan Thorburn (Duns)/Paul Beaton (Inverness) Ford Focus WRC
2. Quintin Milne (Banchory)/Martin Forrest (Aberdeen) Mitsubishi EVO
3. Mike Faulkner (Aspatria)/Peter Foy (Bingley) Mitsubishi EVO
4. David Bogie (Dumfries)/Kevin Rae (Hawick) Ford Focus WRC
5. Barry Groundwater (Stonehaven)/Neil Shanks (Elgin) Mitsubishi EVO 9
6. Dougal Brown (Inverness)/Lewis Rochford (Inverness) Mitsubishi EVO 9
7. Bruce McCombie (Banchory)/Michael Coutts (Torphins) Mitsubishi EVO
8. Steven Ronaldson (Inverness)/Ann Marie Fraser (Inverness) MG Metro 6R4
9. Andrew Gallacher (Kilmarnock)/Phil Sandham (Carnforth) Mitsubishi EVO 9
10. Mark McCulloch (Newton Stewart)/James Haugh (Sandhead) Subaru Impreza