Duns rally star Euan Thorburn is gearing up for round three of the 2017 Scottish Rally Championship when it resumes after five-week break in Elgin for the McDonald and Munro Speyside Stages.
Contested in the Moray and Aberdeenshire forests on Saturday (April 22), the rally is the only one to feature tarmac in the entire SRC season with a spectator stage in Elgin, but the event is characterised by its clean, flowing forest stages.
Thorburn and Paul Beaton start at No. 3 in their Ford Fiesta R5, having scored two podiums on the first two rallies of 2017.
The Duns driver bagged some valuable testing mileage on Rally of North Wales recently so will be looking to get up to speed quickly on round three and challenge at the front.
David Bogie heads the entry list in his Skoda Fabia R5, with Andrew Roughead stepping in for Hawick’s Kevin Rae in the co-drivers’ seat.
The five-times Scottish Champion won the season’s opening round in Inverness and as a previous winner of the event seven times over, he is a strong favourite for victory on Saturday.
Championship leader and defending double SRC champion Jock Armstrong lines up as car two in his Subaru Impreza, once again co-driven by Paula Swinscoe. The Castle Douglas ace stormed to his first victory of the year last time out in Jedburgh, so will be looking to make that two in Elgin.
Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy grabbed their first podium with their new Mitsubishi Evo IX on the Border Counties, with the Cumbrian pilot still getting to the grips with his upgraded machine.
The BSW Energy backed man starts at six ahead of Shaun Sinclair and Jamie Edwards who will be looking for a strong result in their Subaru Impreza S14 WRC after a trip into a ditch on the Border Counties.
Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts return to the SRC after missing the second round in their Evo IX, and start ahead of the similar car of Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry, who were lucky to get fifth in the Borders after a frightening final stage moment.
Donnie MacDonald and Andrew Falconer bring their right-hand-drive Fiesta R5 to Elgin in search of a strong result, with the ever improving Greg McKnight start at 11 in his Mitsubishi Evo IX.
Duns driver Dale Robertson, co-driven by Stuart Loudon from Larkhall, makes a welcome return to the championship in a Tunnock’s backed Fiesta R5 and will surely be one to keep an eye on at No. 12.
Iain Wilson starts as top Challenger and will be looking to make it three wins from three in his Subaru, but Cornhill’s Michael Binnie and Duns co-driver Claire Mole in their Mitsubishi Evo V are also expected to challenge.
Dougal Brown heads the Scottish 2WD’s heading to the Speyside, but will face stiff competition from the similar Mk2 Escort of Quintin Milne, who switches back to the iconic machine after contesting the Snowman in Brian Watson’s Mitsubishi Evo. The pair had an epic duel last year with Milne just getting the better of his rival, so this is one contest to keep a watchful eye on.
The Duns crew of Max and Callum Redpath lead the Juniors after a solid start to their season and they will be hoping to build on this in Speyside.
In the www.usedcarparts.co.uk Subaru Cup, 2016 challenger Scott Mutch returns with Matthew Thomson, John McIlwraith, Michael Robertson and Colin Baxter all expected to fight for honours.
There is also the added incentive of the SRC John Horton Star Driver Award, given to the SRC-registered driver who most impresses a panel of judges during the rally. Thomas Gray and Greg McKnight have already booked their place in the end of season shoot-out for a paid entry to a top European event at the end of 2017.
Neil Shanks, Speyside Stages clerk of the course, explains the challenges that round three has to offer: “The Cooper Park spectator tests which open the event are unique to the Speyside, and are a very popular spectator feature of the rally,” he says. “Not necessarily for the drivers though, as the hazards of the town park have caught out the likes of Steve Petch and Dave Weston before!
“This year’s rally route builds on 2016 which we ran for the first time in April. However, we’ve mixed things up with the ten year return of a stage which has never been run in this year’s format before.”
Other Borders crews taking part on Saturday are: Ian Baumgart (Hawick) and Mike Dickson (Galashiels), Subaru Impreza; Gina Walker and Richard Simmonds (both Duns), Citroen C2); Andy Struthers (Libberton) and Alasdair McIlroy (Jedburgh), Citroen C2;
The McDonald and Munro Speyside Stages will be contested on Saturday in and around the city of Elgin. You can keep up to date with all the drama across the weekend by following the SRC’s Facebook and Twitter accounts using the hashtag #SRC17.