DEFENDING Scottish rally champion David Bogie from Dumfries and his main challenger, Euan Thorburn from Duns, resume their title fight over more than 40 fast and challenging miles in the Galloway forest this Saturday
The pair will line up in Wigtown for the Ian Broll Merrick Stages, along with last year’s winner Mike Faulkner and 2009 victor Jock Armstrong.
With four victories this season, Bogie has a six-point cushion over Thorburn going into the penultimate round of the MSA Scottish Rally Championship.
Thorburn, co-driven by Paul Beaton from Inverness, has been ramping up the pressure on Bogie in his Ford Focus WRC, with a win on the previous round, the Speyside Stages, to add to a home victory on the Jim Clark Reivers Rally earlier in the season. He has also been twice runner-up to the Dumfries driver.
Bogie and Hawick navigator Kevin Rae won the Merrick in 2010 in their Mitsubishi EVO 9, but missed out on the event last year to concentrate on their ultimately successful BRC campaign, having already secured a third Scottish crown.
Mike Faulkner - third in the drivers’ championship, just one point behind Thorburn - will be going all out to defend his Merrick title, alongside navigator Peter Foy, in his Mitsubishi EVO 6.
Since his return to the championship in June, Armstrong, co-driven by Kirsty Riddick, has notched up two third place finishes in his Subaru Impreza and, although not fighting for the championship, can take points away from the leading contenders.
John McClory (Subaru N15) and Barry Groundwater (Mitsubishi EVO 9) – who sit fourth and fifth in the drivers’ standings respectively – will be pushing for a big points haul, along with Invernessian Donnie Macdonald (Mitsubishi EVO 9), who has had three top-ten finishes this season
Experienced Duns co-driver Davie O’Brien has been ‘headhunted’ for this event and will partner Kingston’s Stephen Baillie in a Subaru Impreza.
Experienced navigator Claire Mole from Kelso is seeded tenth alongside former SRC frontrunner Alick Kerr from Glasgow in his Subaru Impreza.
Bishop Auckland’s Tristan Pye in a Subaru Impreza, and David Wright from Lancaster driving an EVO 9, are among the non-SRC registered 4WD competitors targeting a top-ten finish. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s Liam Regan returns to the event for the second year running in the eye-catching Mitsubishi-engined Peugeot 206 in which he took eighth overall twelve months ago.
The “battle of the Mk2 Escorts” will continue with Jedbugh’s Dave Robson on the notes for Highlander Dave Wilson as the pair target a class win after going off the road on the Speyside.
Meanwhile, in the Historic class, Duns’ Doug Redpath will navigate for Andy Kelly in the Mk1 Escort in which the Greenock driver won the category twelve months ago.
Fierce contests are likely in several of the other 2WD categories - not least in Class 7, where Sean Robson from Melrose, co-driven by Fenny Wesselink, is protecting a single point lead in his Ford Fiesta ST. Fellow Fiesta pilot Kieran Renton from Coldstream is currently third in class.
Callum Atkinson from Lauder, co-driven by Kevin Mathers, will be looking for a strong finish in the ultra-competitive Class 3 in his Peugeot 205. He currently lies seventh, but has the opportunity to make up at least one place going into the final round.
Duns co-driver Richard Simmonds is on the notes once again for Aberdeen driver Adrian Stewart in a Peugeot 205GTi.
Saturday’s action gets underway with the historic entries at 8.30am from Wigtown. They will be followed by 2WD (Classes 1-7), with the 4-wheel drive competitors leaving the start line at 9.30am.