Remember all those pre season predictions that this could be closest Scottish Rally Championship season? Well, game on!
The ‘professional’ pundits were even suggesting that some events would struggle to get the numbers. In fact the Coogie Urqhart Snowman Rally had one of the biggest entries in the UK so far this season. I just bet that there’s a certain be-whiskered chap sitting up there in heaven, looking down on us all with a big grin spread right across his face.
It was looking like a win for Jock Armstrong. After a slow start in the snow, the Subaru driver was quickly up to pace and went into the final 11 mile stage with a 9 second advantage. Surely, done and dusted?
Nope, Michael Binnie hit the re-heat button in the Lancer and went for it. He didn’t just take the 9 seconds back, he took more than half a minute out of the Scottish Champion.
At the finish, Michael’s first words were: “I thought a drove sh*t* in there,” before the grin cracked his serious composure, “I just felt I was on it all day but when we saw the times at the end of the final stage neither Claire nor I could believe it. Claire’s husband John checked them and said ‘You’ve f’n won it!”
Fair play to Jock: “If that’s the times, then that’s the times. I didn’t do anything silly in there. I drove at what I thought was a sensible pace. No excuses. I’ll take second.”
Freddie Milne was an equally surprised 3rd at the finish: “I caught Bruce McCombie in that last one and couldn’t get past. He was struggling. I thought that’s it I’ve blown it, I’m 10th, but I was only 3 seconds off Jock and I’m third.”
Donnie MacDonald finished 4th: “I thought I was on the podium, till I got to the finish. I waited at the stage finish to see Michael’s time but he didn’t appear so I just drove on, thinking I had done enough.”
John Wink was 5th in the Hyundai ahead of Bruce McCombie in the Focus. Bruce actually led the rally after the first stage but had a problem with the car in the third test at Rogie and dropped back over the closing stages. Scott Beattie had been second after the first stage but clattered the rear o/s corner of the Lancer in the next one and that was him out, but Binnie was third after that opening test. That should have been a sign to the pack that here was a man to watch on the day.
The first two tests were slippery to say the least. Patches of snow, ice and slush lay in wait for the unwary. Some of the snow stayed white and some polished, some of the ice broke up and some didn’t and more slush appeared as the rain fell. Every driver spoke of unpredictable conditions round every corner. Rogie was clear and the last two were much better, but rougher, second time through.
Jock Armstrong said that last stage was a real driver’s stage: “I drove it what I thought was real sensible” said Jock, “no risks, but it was there to be had.” And so it proved: “I felt I was on it all day,” said Michael, “I felt it was flying through that last stage. We actually did hit a bump pretty hard, and I just said to myself, don’t chuck it all away now.” He didn’t.
What a rally, what a result and what a championship season we now have in prospect with the KNC Groundworks national series.
1, Binnie, 45m 33s
2, Armstrong, 45m 53s
3, Milne, 45m 56s
4, MacDonald, 46m 07s
5, Wink, 46m 21s
6, McCombie, 47m 16s
7, Dickson, 48m 36s
8, Forgan, 49m 02s
9, McCulloch, 49m 55s
10, Morrison, 49m 59s