Ice-cool Binnie turns up the heat in Snowman Rally
Michael Binnie and Claire Mole lead the KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship (SRC), courtesy of a brilliant victory in Saturday’s opening round of the season, the Coogie Urquhart Snowman Rally.
Binnie, of Cornhill-on-Tweed, behind the wheel of his Mitsubishi Evo IX, was in the top three throughout the entire event but made his move when it mattered most, overhauling Jock Armstrong and Cameron Fair (Subaru Impreza) on the final 11.85-mile stage of the rally.
Fred Milne and Patrick Walsh were third in their Ford Fiesta R5 – just three seconds shy of Armstrong and Fair and 23 seconds down on Binnie and co-driver Mole, of Kelso.
However, it was Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts that bagged the honour of the first stage win of the new season in their Ford Focus WRC, edging Scott Beattie and Paula Swinscoe by a single second in the treacherous conditions.
Armstrong hit back on the second test with the fastest time but McCombie held his lead heading into SS3 before an off on the stage dropped him back. A developing engine misfire ultimately restricted McCombie to sixth.
Heading into service, Armstrong led with an eight-second cushion over Binnie.
Donnie Macdonald and Andrew Falconer were third on their local event, just 20 seconds shy of the lead in their Ford Fiesta R5.
Armstrong looked to have delivered a hammer blow on the rally’s penultimate stage, beating Binnie by a clear nine seconds to take a 17 second lead with him into the second running of Lochletter.
Armstrong looked set for victory before losing it from his grasp.
But the final 11.85 miles proved a real sting in the tale as Binnie stole an incredible 37 seconds back from his rival to vault into the lead and win his first ever rally overall. It was also co-driver Mole’s first SRC victory since the Border Counties Rally alongside Steve Perez in 2007 and her second in total.
“I think I’m as surprised as anybody,” a delighted Binnie said. “We were sitting in a comfortable second place all day and, luckily, we had a blinding last stage and managed to take the win. In the back of my mind I thought it we can get a podium that would be great, but I don’t like to set my hopes too high. That would have been absolutely brilliant for us but this is just a wild feeling!
“You should never, ever give up, as you don’t know what might happen at the end, and we’ve proved that.”
The next round of the championship is the McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages in Elgin on Saturday, April 18.