With 3 stages gone in today's Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally, Euan Thorburn is holding a slender 5 second lead over David Bogie. The early morning rain added to yesterday's heavy showers ensured that the Perthshire forest roads were in malevolent mood. Not muddy, but definitely slippery. It would appear that 'guttery' is the description of choice today.
"I thought the early cars might have cleaned the stages," said Euan, "but they're still slippy and guttery. It's just so easy to make a mistake in conditions like this. Stage 3 was actually drier than the first two but I didn't take advantage as I should and David took some time back."
Thorburn is looking forward to Errochty in the Focus WRC: "It's much more open over the top so it should be drier. I like Errochty, but I've always done it the other way, not in this direction!"
"We're driving as hard as we can," said Fiesta R5 driver, Bogie, referring to the pace that he and Euan are setting, "don't let anyone tell you that we're taking it too cautiously. I need to score 30 points today and Euan needs to stop me."
Jock Armstrong lost out on third place with a puncture in the Subaru in the third test: "We were just three quarters of a mile into SS3," said Jock, "there was a R7 with a 'don't cut' and we were just a bit too tight and clipped a rock." It cost him half a minute.
Mike Faulkner is third but is having problems with his centre diff: "It's operated by the brake light sensor," said Mike, "and the brake lights were on all the time so we disconnected them and now the brake pedal has gone funny." The boys were quickly on the case in service.
In fourth place is Dale Robertson raising eyebrows with his pace in the Group N Lancer equalling Thorburn's second fastest time through the third stage, "I like slippy," said Dale.
Dougal Brown is lucky to be fifth despite his third fastest time through SS2, the Lancer driver commenting: "We ran wide on a R7 in SS3, all four wheels off the road, but it was a soft ditch and we were able to power out."
As for John MacCrone, the Muileach is out, the Fiesta breaking its steering and damaging a front corner. Co-driver Stuart Loudon commented: "It wasn't so much a rock, this was part of the world! It was a huge clump of rock and I suppose we were taking World Championship lines as opposed to National rally lines. It wasn't in the Notes, and so we weren't expecting it."
Pity that, MacCrone had set fifth fastest time on the first stage - first time in the car.
Leaderboard after SS3 (of 6)
1, E Thorburn, 13m 24s
2, D Bogie, 13m 29s
3, M Faulkner, 14m 02s
4, D Robertson, 14m 07s
5, D Brown, 14m 13s
6, B Groundwater, 14m 16s
7, J Armstrong, 14m 25s
8, B McCombie, 14m 30s
9, M McCulloch, 14m 36s
10, D MacDonald, 14m 45s