Berwickshire pair plunder second straight Snowman Rally

The 2022 KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship kicked off with the return, after an enforced break, of the Snowman Rally – and a new sponsor in AM Phillip Trucktech.

By Ralph Mellon
Tuesday, 8th March 2022, 5:32 pm
Michael Binnie and Claire Mole en route to victory
Michael Binnie and Claire Mole en route to victory

Two years on and the Cornhill-Duns pairing of Michael Binnie and Claire Mole took their second consecutive win in the event, ahead of Jock Armstrong and Cammy Fair.

A 19-second gap might suggest a reasonably comfortable victory but the final result was nowhere as clear cut as that, as Binnie and Mole had battled all day with the R5 Fiesta of Freddie Milne and Patrick Walsh.

Leading by five seconds going into the final stage, Milne and Walsh were robbed of a podium when their engine cut out with just two miles to go of the final stage, taking over half a minute to reset and restart the engine, and dropping them to fourth overall in the process. It was a cruel twist of fate after another controlled drive from the Aberdonian.Mole and Binnie had been absolutely flying all day, their only issue being a questionable tyre choice for the final loop. To mix it with the R5s in an Evo 9 was an incredible performance.

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Also sticking it to the more modern machinery, Armstrong and Fair were back in their famous orange Impreza after a season in a Fiesta. Feeling good, back in familiar surroundings, they overcame brake problems in the morning to secure a fine second place.

Salvaging third overall, five-time champions David Bogie and Kevin Rae suffered a puncture and subsequent suspension failure in stage one, dropping them over a minute. A typical charge in the afternoon saw the MINI WRC climb back up on to the podium in a case of what might have been.

Ninth overall on their 4wd debut, Keir Beaton and Iain Thorburn would also take top spot in the Albyn Garage Challengers category in their hired Group N Impreza. Finding very quickly that Nova and Escort techniques didn't really work, they endured a few excursions into ditches, as Beaton figured out the best way to drive the car throughout the day. But it was another strong run on their home event.

Top finishers in the 2 Wheel Drive, supported by Autoshop.co.uk category, in 15th place overall, went to the rapid Peugeot 208 R4 of Dumfriesshire crew Peter Stewart and Harry Marchbank. Challenging the 4wd cars all day, they lost a lot of time to the bigger cars in the long straights and square corners of the Millbuie stage, owing to the car’s relatively short gearing. On the twistier stages, the front wheel drive 1200cc turbocharged car was more than a match for the 4wd machinery around them and Stewart is determined to keep pushing for even more on the rallies to come.

Another crew making its 4wd debut were Jordan Anderson and Claire Mackenzie, who dominated the 5 Star Vehicle Deliveries Subaru Cup battle by over two minutes. Really enjoying the traction and stability of the Impreza over the 306 they campaigned last year, their only real problem was Claire losing her voice early in stage one. However, she guided Anderson to a fantastic 21st overall.

In the Moates Offshore Junior category, R2 Fiesta pilot Justin Gunning, from Lanark, would emerge victorious over Victoria Adam driver Robert Proudlock, from Dumfries. Having even tested in Sweden on the off chance of snow, Gunning was very prepared for his 1st Snowman, catching cars in every stage. Despite the delays, the Fiesta took a fantastic 33rd overall, with co-driver Stuart McBride full of praise for his driver, describing it as an almost perfect performance.

Car 43 finished 43rd overall as former Snowman winner back in the 1986 Snowman Rally, Alistair Brearley, from Galashiels, and co-driver Gerry Bryden, from Sorn, took the honours in the new SRC Super Seniors, supported by Haddo Energy category, on their first event together.

It was a tricky day, with a spin and an overshoot, but the Mk2 Escort crew took the win by just 21 seconds ahead of the glorious-sounding BMW of Super Seniors creator Ernie and Patricia Lee.

The ladies’ battle was well supported, with four drivers contesting the Snowman. Reigning champion Ashleigh Morris would start her title defence in the best possible way, taking the win and 47th overall.

Ashleigh was very happy with the new suspension on her R200 Fiesta and the effort of regular co-driver Martin Haggett, who had flown from his new home in Germany to guide her to her best SRC result so far.

Entries are now open for round two on April 23, which sees competitors return to the Elgin-based McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages for the first time since 2019.

The traditional opening stages in the town’s Cooper Park will kick off proceedings once again.