On “a perfect day when everything just clicked into place” reigning Scottish and British champions David Bogie and Kevin Rae were in imperious form to take back to back victories on Saturday’s Brick and Steel Border Counties Rally, and their second win of the 2012 Scottish Rally Championship.
With the Jedburgh-based event celebrating its 40th anniversary, the pair blasted through the five forest stages in their Mitsubishi EVO 9 to finish with a total time of 42 minutes 17 seconds, a full one minute and 50 seconds ahead of runners-up Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy - their EVO6 completely re-shelled after crashing out on the Malcolm Wilson Rally two weeks previously.
Northern Ireland’s Jonny Greer, with Dai Roberts on the notes, secured third overall in his EVO 9, a futher nine seconds back, but since the pair were not eligible for championship points, it was Barry Groundwater, co-driven by Neil Shanks, who secured the final SRC podium spot, also in an EVO 9.
So, with two of the eight rounds completed, the championship already has a familiar feel to it – the triple Scottish title-holders in a league of their own out front, and a determined pack trying their hardest to stay in touch.
Bogie laid down the gauntlet from the off (“we put in a real charge, to be honest”), powering through the opening Craik Forest stage west of Hawick - which had not been used in competition since the 1980’s – to finish 23 seconds ahead of Duns driver Euan Thorburn in his Ford Focus WRC.
Greer was third fastest a further five seconds back, with Faulkner and Stephen Petch in a Hyundai Accent WRC tying for fourth just two seconds behind.
SS2 Wauchope went even better for the champions: they were 50 seconds quicker than Faulkner and Foy, with Thorburn and Groundwater sharing third fastest, just ahead of Greer and four-wheel-drive convert Quintin Milne in an EVO 9.
Fifty-seven seconds was the difference between Bogie and the rest on the third Hyndlee test with Thorburn second fastest, and Greer and Jon Burn in a Subaru Impreza WRC a further seven seconds adrift.
At second service, and with two stages remaining, Bogie led Thorburn by 57 seconds. Greer and Faulkner were tied in third, 15 seconds further back, and Dumfries farmer Rory Young had quietly edged his way up the leader board to fourth overall in his EVO 5.
Bogie and Rae further tightened their grip on the event immediately after the break: recording the fastest time through SS4 Redesdale, 25 seconds ahead of Faulkner and Foy.
It was all going on behind them though: Greer and Roberts just one second behind in third, and Groundwater and Shanks a further second adrift in fourth.
Young and Milne were tied for fifth another two seconds back, and leading 2WD contender, and Kielder “master” Steve Bannister powered his Mk2 Escort through the nine-miler with a seventh quickest time.
The champions again set the pace on the final Wyndburgh Hill test, followed by Faulkner, Thorburn, Groundwater, Greer, Young and rally sponsor John McClory who, with David Hood on the notes, who had been targeting another top ten result in his Subaru Impreza N10 to add to that of the season-opening Snowman.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better result – it all went so smoothly,” said Bogie, at the finish in the shadow of Jedburgh Abbey.
“It’s been great weather, the crowds have been out in force on the stages, which were excellent – so all in all, a fantastic day.”
Given all the hard work to get the car rebuilt in time for the event, Faulkner and Foy were more than happy with their second runners-up spot of the 2012 campaign.
Having been second quickest on SS1 and SS3, and third fastest on the third stage, Thorburn and co-driver Paul Beaton’s challenge was thwarted by a puncture on the penultimate test.
Quintin Milne, meanwhile, overcame manifold problems to record a fine seventh overall alongside navigator Martin Forrest: although the Banchory driver said he would have to “stop driving the EVO as if it was a Mk2!”
Brick and Steel Construction boss McClory was clearly delighted with his second-successive strong finish of the new season, while ninth-placed Steve Bannister and Hawick’s Louise Sutherland fought hard to keep ahead of a strong Mk2 Escort contingent.
It included a fine drive from Duns crew Michael Horne and Robbie Mitchell who finished 11th overall.
In the two-wheel drive classes, which ran ahead of the main field, Sean Robson from St Boswells, with dad Iain on the notes, took second in Class 7 and 41st overall in their recently acquired Ford Fiesta ST.
Ross McFadzen and Duns co-driver Jane Nicol were 27th overall in their Subaru Impreza while Kelso co-driver Carin Logan partnered Richard Stewart to 32nd in a similar car and Berwick’s Carl Tuer, in his MG ZR 1600, was 33rd.
Coldstream’s Des Campbell and Hutton co-driver Alex Orr were 32nd in their Peugeot 206 Cup car and Leitholm’s Keiran Renton and co-driver Paul McGuire were 45th in their Ford Fiesta.
Melrose driver James Thomson and Coldstream co-driver Alison Woodcock were 50th in their Peugeot 206 while one place behind them, in a Peugeot 205, were Aberdeen’s Adrian Stewart and Duns co-driver Richard Simmonds.
In 53rd place were Callum Atkinson (Lauder) and Kevin Mathers (Newtown St Boswells) and in 54th were Hawick crew Iain Rettie and Ian McCutcheon in their Peugeot 205 GTi.
There were 57 classified finishers, and 26 retirements.
The next round of the MSA Scottish Rally Championship is the Coltel Granite City Rally in Aberdeen to be held on Saturday, April 14.