David Bogie and Hawick co-driver Kevin Rae led from start to finish to win the Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally for a third time.
Driving their Ford Focus WRC, the pair chalked up their first victory in the 2014 ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship as title rival Euan Thorburn from Duns came home third overall.
The five-time title-holders were fastest through four of the five forest stages to finish with a total time of 43 minutes 23 seconds – forty-seven seconds ahead of the Focus of Stephen Petch from Bishop Auckland. Thorburn, also in a Focus, was a further four seconds back.
Since Petch, who had finished third on the event in 2013, is not registered for the SRC, the result means Thorburn – winner of last month’s season-opener in Inverness – now has a two-point lead over Bogie with six rounds remaining.
While the conditions in Kielder Forest were nowhere near as treacherous as those of 12 months ago, they were still extremely tricky, with snow lying on the two opening stages. It made tyre choice difficult, and required a high degree of confidence and commitment behind the wheel.
“With the 2WD competitors running ahead of us, there were tramlines in the snow on the opening stage, but getting the braking points right wasn’t easy”, explained Bogie at the finish in Jedburgh.
“As the day wore on, conditions improved. We had a bit of a misfire at one stage, but it was nothing serious. Overall, our pace was pretty good, and I felt comfortable in the car. It was important we got the win”.
Thorburn, co-driven by Paul Beaton from Inverness, was second-fastest through SS2 Bewshaugh, and third quickest through the third and final stages. The Borderer admitted they had not had their troubles to seek.
He said: “Stage one, puncture; the second stage was alright, but on stage three, the windscreen steamed up so we lost a bit of time right at the end because we couldn’t see. It was like crawling along in first gear. On the fourth stage we stalled at a hairpin; and on five, which was very rough, we just drove through to get to the finish”.
The hopes of a top-ten finish for fellow Duns-based competitor Dale Robertson, co-driven by Paul McGuire from Tranent, faded when his new-for-2014 Mitsubishi EVO 9 was hit by problems.
“Just as on the Snowman, we had a broken rear brake pipe, this time on the other side. We also had an electrical problem, with a faulty switch, and the car kept cutting out over rough sections. So that’s been a new problem to deal with. Next for us will be the Granite City rally next month. We don’t usually do it, but it’ll give us more seat time in the new car ahead of our home event, the Jim Clark, at the end of May.”
Arguably the “drive of the day” went to Yorkshireman Steve Bannister and Kevin Rae’s co-driving partner Louise Sutherland from Hawick in their historic-spec Ford Escort Mk2. For the fourth time in recent years, the pair finished as the event’s leading 2WD competitors – ending the day nineteenth overall. Lauder’s Callum Atkinson, with Keith Riddick navigating, won Class 7 in a Ford Fiesta ST, and declared himself happy with the day’s work:
“The car performed well – we’re still getting used to it,” said the former Peugeot 205 driver. “They were good fast stages – and the early snow didn’t affect us too much – we were fastest in class, so we must have done something right.”
Meanwhile, the Duns crew of Colin Aitchison and Garry Pearson finished a fine second in class, 35th overall, in their Vauxhall Chevette Hsr.
The third round of the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship is the Coltel Granite City Rally in Aberdeen on April 26.