Gloves are off in battle for championship runners-up spot

Euan Thorburn (left) with Mike Faulkner set to fight out for the championship runners up position at the final stage
Euan Thorburn (left) with Mike Faulkner set to fight out for the championship runners up position at the final stage

WITH an historic fourth consecutive title safely secured, David Bogie has set himself a new challenge by contesting next weekend’s Colin McRae Stages in a Ford Escort Mk2, while the battle for second in the MSA Scottish Rally Championship reaches its conclusion.

Duns driver Euan Thorburn and Mike Faulkner from Cumbria will slug it out on the Aberfeldy-based event – just as they did last year in appalling weather, when Thorburn won both the event, and the SRC runners-up spot, in his Mitsubishi EVO 9.

The pair finished tied in the points, but with the best six rounds from eight deciding the final points tally, the Borderer clinched it under “tie-break” rules.

One year on, Faulkner has a 21 point lead going into the final round, but once dropped scores are taken into account, the odds favour the Duns driver.

As the season has progressed, Thorburn, co-driven by Paul Beaton from Inverness, has grown in confidence at the wheel of his Ford Focus WRC with two wins, two seconds and a fifth-placed finish. The disappointments have been a non-finish on the last round, the Ian Broll Merrick Stages, and just a single point from the season-opening Snowman.

Faulkner and Peter Foy have been runner-up three times in their Mitsubishi EVO 6. They took the final podium spot on the Merrick and have had two consecutive fourth-place finishes on the RSAC Scottish and the Speyside. Their lowest score so far was the five points gained on the Granite in April.

Bogie, meanwhile, will enter uncharted territory at the wheel of a Mk2 – having retired his faithful EVO 9 at the conclusion of the Merrick Stages after securing his fourth Scottish crown – the first driver to win four in a row.

The Dumfries-based champion will be behind the wheel of Seamus O’Connell’s modified 2.4-litre Mk2, after travelling to Ireland this weekend to see the car.

Bogie, co-driven by fellow four-times champion Kevin Rae from Hawick, has been seeded one ahead of the Mk2 of 2012 Class 8 winners Keith Robathan and Ian Nicoll. They will be followed off the start line by Malcolm Buchanan, who on last year’s McRae, powered his Escort to a superb fourth overall. This time out, the Isle of Lewis-based competitor will have Jim Howie on the notes.

Duns co-driver David O’Brien will be on the notes for Perth’s Gordon Murray in a Subaru Impreza. They will be hoping for a good finish to round off the season.

The 1600cc category is still to be decided. West Linton’s John Boyd and Chris Williamson have the upper hand with five victories in their Ford Fiesta this season, while Graeme Schoneville, with Michael Hendry on the notes, has doggedly stayed in the hunt, despite hitting problems on the last two rounds in his Honda Civic.

Leitholm’s Keiran Renton is entered with his co-drover and car yet to be announced while Duns co-driver Richard Simmonds is once again partnering Aberdeen’s Adrian Stewart in a Peugeot 205GTi.

Lauder’s Callum Atkinson will be co-driven by Kevin Mathers of Melrose while Coldstream’s Des Campbell and Hutton co-driver Alex Orr are entered in their Peugeot 206.