Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton powered to their third KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship (SRC) title with victory on the Grampian Forest Rally on Saturday, backing up their successes in 2014 and 2017.
Jock Armstrong and Kirsty Riddick were second in their Subaru Impreza, ahead of John Wink and Neil Shanks, who took their first podium together in their Hyundai i20 R5 after a day-long battle with Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts.
This ended when McCombie rolled his Ford Focus WRC on the final Finglennie test.
Torrential rain and gusty winds threatened to plague the fifth round of the SRC, but, in the end, the only storm brewing was the fierce battle out on the special stages in the Kincardineshire forest.
Berwickshire’s Thorburn and Beaton headed into the event with three wins from four starts under their belts, but it was Armstrong and stand-in co-driver Riddick who set the pace on the opening two tests in their Subaru Impreza.
The pair had opened up an impressive 11-second lead over their rivals but that gap was overturned in the proceeding 10 miles of Drumtochty, as Thorburn put the hammer down.
The Duns driver powered his Ford Focus WRC05 to a 14-second stage victory to lead Armstrong by three seconds, heading into service.
Despite driving with a championship in mind, Thorburn continued his pace into the afternoon and went on to scoop his third Scottish title. The fact he also won the rally by 27 seconds, his fourth SRC win and ninth across the 2019 season, just made the victory that bit sweeter.
“At the start of the year, our aim was to win the championship but we didn’t think we’d get it with so many wins and a round to spare, so this is fantastic,” Thorburn beamed.
“Obviously, the first championship is always special but to get three is a great achievement. After sitting out last year, we hoped we’d challenge towards the end of the year, but we got off to a good start and it just snowballed from there, so we couldn’t have asked for more.
“Everybody has played their part. Paul (Beaton) has done a brilliant job on the notes.
“Paul Benn has done an amazing job looking after the car. It’s been reliable all year, it’s a real team effort.
“It’s a dream come true to get a podium on the Grampian in front of all our friends and our business supporters. It was a challenging event but that’s what makes a rally so enjoyable.”
Thomas Gray and Harry Marchbank battled through to sixth overall on the event in their Mitsubishi Evo IX, scooping up the Albyn Garage SRC Challengers win in the process putting them in a very strong championship position heading to the Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally in Dalbeattie on Saturday, September 14.