ON a day of attrition for several of the front runners, Quintin Milne powered to a convincing win on Saturday’s Colin McRae Stages – his first in the MSA Scottish Rally Championship.
The Banchory-based competitor, co-driven by Martin Forrest, survived brake related problems to complete the six Perthshire forest stages in a total time of 45 mins 47 secs in his Mitsubishi EVO 9.
Milne finished 40 seconds ahead of Stonehaven’s Barry Groundwater, also in an EVO 9, who brought his 2012 SRC campaign to a successful close with his best result of the season alongside co-driver Neil Shanks.
The final podium spot went to the already confirmed four-times Scottish champion David Bogie, who fulfilled “an enjoyable day out with no pressure” with a remarkable performance on his first competitive outing behind the wheel of a Ford Escort Mk2.
With the 2WD competitors running at the head of the field on the championship’s final round, Bogie and fellow champion Kevin Rae led the pack from start to finish in Seamus O’Connell’s 2.4-litre Mk2 - the Dumfries driver adapting quickly to rear-wheel drive, following a brief test run in Ireland the previous weekend.
However, there were non-finishes for both Mike Faulkner and Euan Thorburn, who had gone into the weekend vying for second place in the championship.
Thorburn’s challenge was over almost before it started – the Duns-based competitor coming to grief three corners into the first stage when his Ford Focus WRC hit a rock, resulting in suspension and wheel damage.
Meanwhile, Faulkner and co-driver Peter Foy were running well and sitting second overall after three stages, before their Mitsubishi EVO 6 succumbed to mechanical problems. Nevertheless, the pair have ended the season as runners-up in both the drivers’ and co-drivers’ championships.
Despite an early brake disc scare, Milne was fastest through the opening four miles of SS1 Craigvinean 1 with Faulkner just 2.5 seconds slower, and Aberdeen’s Chris Collie – another non-finisher – a further couple of seconds back in his EVO.
Faulkner just pipped Milne on the second stage, Griffin, with Collie third and 2012 GpN champion John McClory fourth fastest in his Subaru Impreza N15. The non-SRC registered Dave Weston Jnr was fifth fastest as he got to grips with a hired Impreza S11 WRC.
At the midway point, Weston, with Dave Robson on the notes, had moved into the overall lead after powering through the thirteen miles of SS3 Errochty, 15 seconds faster than Faulkner with Milne another 25 seconds back.
Collie and navigator Lisa Watson had dropped out with mechanical problems, and Groundwater and Shanks were moving up the leaderboard – fourth fastest through the stage, and lying fourth overall, with three stages remaining.
On the 4-miles of SS4 Kindrogan, Weston had an eight second advantage over Milne, with Alasdair Graham putting in a mighty performance in his Vauxhall Corsa to finish third fastest – just two and a half seconds behind Milne, and two seconds quicker than McClory and David Hood in the Impreza. Groundwater was fifth fastest, just ahead of Donnie Macdonald in his EVO 9.
Then, to add to the earlier drama, word filtered through from SS5 that Weston had slid off the road in extremely slippery conditions. Although undamaged, the car was beached amidships and had to be retrieved by a recovery vehicle before being driven back to Aberfeldy.
Milne was quickest through the 7.60 miles of Blackcraig, but Bogie was just a further six seconds behind, one and a half seconds in front of Groundwater.
Bogie took the final stage win on Craigvinean 2 by four seconds over Groundwater. McClory was third fastest, less than a second behind – and leap-frogged Macdonald in the overall standings to finish the day in an excellent fourth, the Invernessian settling for fifth – his third top-five placing of the year. Milne, with victory in sight, was another seven seconds back on the final test.
Having chased Bogie throughout the day, Calum Mackenzie, co-driven by Alan Clark, brought his Mk2 Escort back home in a fine sixth overall, fifteen seconds ahead of Mark McCulloch, who, with Elliot Edmondson on the notes, was debuting a newly-acquired Subaru Impreza.
Malcolm Buchanan and Jim Howie finished third of the Escort crews in eighth overall, twenty-one seconds ahead of the Subaru Impreza of Martin Craik and Steven Brown.
Tenth place overall - eighth of the SRC registered crews - went to Fraser Wilson and Steven Broll in a Mitsubishi EVO 6. It was the Wigtownshire duo’s best result of the season, with Wilson securing second place in the Group N Mitsubishi Scottish Cup, and Broll winning the Scottish Junior co-drivers’ title.
In the front-wheel drive categories, Alex Pirie and David Law clinched their second successive Class 2 championship in a Vauxhall Corsa, with Ross Macdonald and Matthew Johnstone, also in a Corsa, finishing second in the points, third overall on the day behind non-SRC registered James Aitken and Neil Buchan in an MG ZR.
Willie Stuart, co-driven by Neil Ewing, took the event honours in Class 3 in his Talbot Sunbeam, while second-placed Tom and Sue Hynd secured their runners-up spot in the championship in their Peugeot 205GTi. Blair and Alex McCulloch – who won the Class 3 title on the penultimate round – were forced to retire their Vauxhall Nova with suspension problems.
Grant Inglis in a Honda Civic and Alex Curran in a Vauxhall Corsa were first and second respectively in the 1600cc category, but with neither registered for the Scottish championship, maximum points on the day went to the aforementioned Alasdair Graham, co-driven by Lisa Stuart, in his Corsa.
There were only 44 classified finishers from a start list of 71 crews.