The adage start as you mean to go on springs to mind as reigning Scottish and British Rally champions David Bogie and Kevin Rae got their season off to a flying start with a convincing second successive victory on the Arnold Clark/Thistle Hotel Snowman Rally in Inverness last Saturday.
On paper it might have looked like a comfortable win for the double champions - in reality it was anything but, with sleet and snow showers making for slippery and unpredictable surfaces on the opening round of the 2012 MSA Scottish Rally Championship, fought out over 44 miles of forest stages to the south and north of the Highland capital.
“We’re both obviously delighted. You can’t kick off your season with anything better than a win,” said Bogie.
“However, the conditions were really difficult - some of the toughest I’ve ever had to drive in. Everyone who got round this rally deserves a medal because you could get caught out so quickly. We had a couple of moments which could have put us in a ditch and ended our rally.”
Meanwhile the Island-linked drivers had mixed fortunes. John Morrison was the highest placed of them, finishing 15th O/A in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, and Sandy Morrison recording 45th O/A in his Ford Sierra 4x4.
The difficult thirteen-mile fourth stage at Torr Achilty was the undoing of many drivers. Among the retirees on this stage was Calum Mackenzie, who was one of the many drivers who went off the road, while others to drop out during the day were Neil Morrison with gearbox failure in the Sunbeam, Alasdair Graham with clutch problems on his Escort Mk2.
And spare a thought for Calum and Claudia Macleod – a long haul flight from Germany to what turned out for them to be a short haul rally in the Highlands - forced out on the second stage with ignition system failure on their MG S2000.
Back to the front, and Bogie had powered his Mitsubishi EVO 9 through the six special stages to take three fastest & one equal fastest time to finish the rally 1 min 08 secs ahead of Mike Faulkner in an EVO 6.
Faulkner fought hard to close the gap to the leading pair in their older EVO sharing the honours with Bogie on the first of the two shorter stages.
“We’ll settle for second. It’s not what we came for - we were fired up to go for the win - but it’s our best result on the Snowman, so it’s a great start to the season,” said the Kirtlebridge-based driver.
“The stages were so treacherous that we’re glad to make it to the finish”
Carlisle driver Peter Taylor took third in a Ford Focus WRC, a further 1 min 35 secs adrift. Rory Young was just three seconds back in fourth in an EVO 5, but only ONE second ahead of the Subaru Impreza N10 of John McClory, who posted his best ever SRC finish.
The crews had experienced an event with so many changes of grip. Within the same stage would be good, grippy gravel & the next minute driving on snow, making for a very challenging event, but very rewarding to finish.
One of the broadest smiles at the finish was that of former Escort Mk 2 maestro Quintin Milne, who was making his 4-wheel-drive debut in an EVO 9, alongside Martin Forrest.
With very little opportunity beforehand to test his new car, Milne was running a hugely impressive second overall after four stages - 48 seconds shy of Bogie - and with a quickest stage time on the second of the short spectator stages under his belt. They had to cope with a catalogue of problems along the way, dropping from 3rd to 9th O/A with mechanical problems on the final stage at Glenurquhart. Both he and Forrest were worthy winners of the Wagon Finance Trophy for Crew of the Meeting.
The Weldex Trophy for top 2WD crew went to Alford’s Keith Robathan who won the battle of the Escorts, finishing a fine eleventh overall, twenty-eight seconds ahead of Mk2 debutant David Wilson in a hard-earned twelfth place - the Alness driver having made the switch from an EVO 9 to the recently-acquired Escort.
Reflecting the high rate of attrition, there were just 67 classified finishers from 118 starters.
Full results can be found at www.flyingfinish.co.uk
The second round is the Brick and Steel Construction Border Counties Rally, based in Jedburgh on Saturday, March 17.