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Snowman Rally - (Sat) 20 Feb 16

Posted: March 10, 2016 9:21 AM - 3100 Hits

Round 1 - 2016 Scottish Rally Championship

Photo: Lindsay Photo Sport


Posted: March 10, 2016 9:21 AM

The 2016 Arnold Clark Jury's Inn Snowman Rally was all about road positioning and tyres, with varying conditions meaning the stages could change from gravel to snow to ice in an instant.

The rally was won by Inverness crew Donnie MacDonald and Andrew Falconer in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Despite not winning any of the five special stages, the local driver came out on top by just seven seconds from Dale Robertson and Stuart Loudon to take his maiden Scottish Rally Championship win. Even though he found the conditions quite difficult, MacDonald triumphed to take the lead in the championship.

He said: "It was a pretty tricky rally to be honest. But this is like winning the Champions League for me!"

Duns driver Dale Robertson came mightily close to winning his first ever SRC event in a similar Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Paired with experienced co-driver Stuart Loudon for the first time, he set two top 3 stage times which netted him a fine second overall and first in class.
He particularly enjoyed stage 4, commenting: "I was on opposite lock all the time. Great fun!"
At the end of the rally, he said: "In the first couple of stages I was rusty, but I picked up the pace and got into the swing of it. There was never a right tyre, but we were going for it!"

Completing the podium was Banchory's Quintin Milne in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Milne claimed the opening and final tests to take two stages wins and finish 30 seconds off the lead, even though he was running on pump fuel which put him at a 50bhp disadvantage.
Quintin said: "It was a lottery of a rally but a very good one, even though I ended up cleaning the road. The car has been absolutely spot on!" Perhaps the unluckiest driver of the event was Mark McCulloch, who was cruelly robbed of victory on the very last stage with a puncture. He and co-driver Michael Hendry had their Mitsubishi locked in battle with Bruce McCombie in the first loop of stages, with McCombie taking two seconds out of McCulloch on SS1, only for McCulloch to claim one second back in the next.
He then won stage 3 and took the lead at the end of SS4, despite saying it felt as if he were "driving like he was going to get the shopping."

Despite being "really disappointed" in losing the rally at the eleventh hour, he said: "I really enjoyed it today, the conditions suited my driving style. If I was offered this position at the start of the day we'd have been very happy."

Coming home in fifth were Garry Pearson and Robbie Mitchell from Duns in their R5 specification Ford Fiesta. Pearson had never competed in the car prior to the event, nor did he have much experience of four wheel drive machinery but that did not stop him posting the fastest time on the second stage of the day, Millbuie.

However the day was all about learning for Garry and Robbie who suffered two spins in the treacherous stage 4 before deciding to take it steady through the final test. Pearson said: "Very mixed fortunes today but we're quite happy. I never dreamt of a top 5 finish this morning! In stage 5 we just needed to get through. Unfortunately we had no snow tyres."

The sixth placed finishers were Jimmy Christie and David MacFayden in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, who benefited from a favourable lower road position. After finishing the first stage of the day in eleventh, his stage times gradually improved throughout the day with two top 4 stage times on stage 3 and 4. A steady run through the final test brought him home an impressive and unexpected sixth overall. He too however bemoaned the tricky conditions Mother Nature threw up on the 2016 Snowman. Jimmy said at the end of the fourth stage: "Not an enjoyable stage. I can't see where the ice is. There's grip one minute, none the next."

Reay MacKay and Robert MacDonald guided their Evo IX to an equally remarkable seventh place. The Fort Augustus crew kept it steady throughout the day, taking a great fifth place on the first stage. From then on in a consistent display was enough to ensure them of their position.

Just five seconds behind in the overall classification were Steven Ronaldson and Gordon Chalmers who put their local knowledge to good use. Eighth is a great result considering this was the pair's first time in the car. At the end of the fourth stage, Robert said: "Really enjoyable! Great stages. We're breaking into a sweat!"

Ninth overall were Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts, who were fighting right at the sharp end after the first loop of stages. However, a mistake on stage 3 saw him drop close to 3 minutes to McCulloch and from then on he was playing catch up.

He summed it up well at the end: "It was a difficult Snowman. We threw everything at it. The last stage was unbelievable, with great flowing gravel and then six inches of snow. The car has been great, if it wasn't for the mistake on stage 3 it could've been a podium."

Rounding out the top ten was Scott McCombie in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Co- driven by Mark Fisher, the pair who are registered for the SRC Challengers put in a strong showing to finish just five seconds shy of Bruce.
Scott said: "It's been really good, it got better as it went on. Looking forward to the rest of the season, with less snow!"

The top 3 seeds Jock Armstrong, Mike Faulkner and John MacCrone all had days to forget.
Defending champion Armstrong struggled with opening the road on the first stage even though he had snow tyres, sliding off the same corner as Bogie did last year. Further small errors meant he could only manage 15th.
Mike Faulkner was off the pace all day with tyres that weren't suited to the treacherous conditions. The best he could salvage was 16th.
John MacCrone in his Ford Fiesta R5 dropped time before the first stage even began, in part because a sensor light came on but also to obtain a better road position. However, a spin in the first test, a collision with a chicane in the second and incorrect tyres for the wintery conditions didn't help his confidence meaning he finished down in 18th.

The next round of the 2016 ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship is the Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally in Jedburgh on March 19.


Posted: March 10, 2016 9:18 AM


Posted: February 18, 2016 10:42 AM

As well as the main battle for the ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship title, there are other titles and trophies that are up for grabs. One of the most interesting of these is the return of the SRC Challengers. Drivers are only eligible for this reward, last presented twenty years agom if they have not finished in the top 10 overall on more than one occasion on a round of any major British championship in the last eleven years.

There are plenty of contenders looking to add their name to the list of previous winners, and the competition is set to be as hot as the one for overall honours.

Heading the entry list is Scott McCombie from Banchory, brother of 2015 Snowman podium finisher Bruce. 2016 will be Scott's second year of rallying and he is now equipped with a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX after doing most of last season with an VIII. McCombie won the Speedline Grand Attack Award in 2015 in recognition of his consistent improvement and climb up the leaderboard.

Also entering his second year of competition is Huntly's John Wink in an another Evo IX. John, co-driven by John Forrest, rallies in support of cystic fibrosis, with good reason. John suffers from the lung condition, and only started rallying after receiving a lung transplant. This hasn't slowed him down on the stages though, and in 2015 he swept up the Douglas Wood Press On & Preserve Award.

Fraser MacNicol is a dark horse for a very strong result on the Arnold Clark Jury's Inn Snowman Rally this weekend, with plenty of previous experience of the Inverness event. MacNicol drove his Evo VI on the Uleta rally in Lithuania last year, returning to the UK to put in a strong performance on the Wales Rally GB National. Hopefully Fraser will set his sights a little closer to home with a full SRC campaign for 2016.

Dalbeattie's Iain Wilson, co-driven by Keith Riddick, moved into four wheel drive machinery towards the end of 2015, using a Subaru Impreza N12 previously used by Richard Stewart. Iain is a previous class champion with a 1600cc Vauxhall Nova, and could be a strong contender for the Challengers category as he continues to acclimatise to the Subaru. He has committed to a full SRC campaign in pursuit of the award.

Another driver to look out for is Martin Scott from Banchory. He recently moved up to his four wheel drive Mitsubishi Evo after starting out in a Peugeot 205. Due to work commitments Scott is only able to rally sporadically but he impressed everyone on the Granite City Rally last year, finishing just three seconds shy of the top 10 overall.

Other names to watch out for are Brian Watson and Caroline Will in the Mitsubishi Shaun Sinclair drove last year, Alasdair Anderson who has good local knowledge to count upon, Brian Ross who is in a Mitsubishi Evo VI for the Snowman instead of his usual IX and Kevin Robertson, who is rumoured to have an exciting new car in the pipeline for the 2016 season.

In the Group N category for showroom specification cars with limited modifications, the battle is expected to be fierce between the familiar Subaru and Mitsubishi machines. John Morrison and Fraser Wilson fought tooth and nail last year in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX's, with Morrison coming out on top in the championship by a mere five points. The Snowman is the veteran Morrison's home rally, so he will be looking to stamp his authority early on and make the most of this advantage. Wilson on the other hand will be looking to put some mechanical issues behind him, and show the form which has seen him mixing it with the Open class machinery.

Joining the battle are two drivers who have previously battled each other in two wheel drive cars, with both tasting success in their classes in the past. Mull's Craig Rutherford will start the Snowman in a Subaru Impreza, and the former SRC Junior Champion will renew past rivalry with Paisley's Alasdair Graham in the Evo he debuted on the 2015 Speyside Stages. These drivers have the potential to join in the battle at the head of the Group N field, and it will be fascinating to watch their progress as the season continues.

John McClory will add to the Group N challenge from the Border Counties Rally, where his Brick & Steel company are title sponsors. John was in the thick of the Group N battle whenever he competed in his Evo IX last year, and is anticipated to be straight back on the pace.


Posted: February 15, 2016 5:02 PM

The Arnold Clark Jury's Inn Snowman Rally is once again set to host round 1 of the 2016 Scottish Rally Championship. The Inverness based event has attracted a healthy line up of 121 cars, ranging from modern R5 machines to classic Ford Escorts.

Last year's champion and winner of the Snowman Jock Armstrong in his Subaru Impreza is seeded as car #1 for the opening round. He and co-driver Paula Swinscoe are under no illusions that a second title will be a walk in the park. Jock, who grabbed two wins in 2015, said: "Mike Faulkner is always knocking on the door.

There are also a few northern boys such as Donnie MacDonald and Shaun Sinclair who is turning up in good machinery and of course Bruce McCombie was always consistent last year."

Just behind in the starting order and in the 2015 title race, Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy return to the Scottish Rally Championship in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, and are ready to go out and "give 100%" in pursuit of that maiden SRC title.

"Winning the championship and every rally we do is what motivates us and is what drives both myself and Peter to give 100% but how realistic that aim is we will have to wait and see.

Jock will obviously start as favourite and we expect Shaun to be right up there with his new car. But there will be a dozen drivers out there capable of putting a top 3 together which is what makes the SRC a great challenge."

Making his competitive return after the tragedy on the Mull Rally, John MacCrone is back in the SRC equipped with an ultra-competitive Ford Fiesta R5. For the Snowman the former Junior SRC champion will be partnered by Rhianon Gelsomino, who first met John back in 2012 when they were rivals in the WRC Academy. The aim for MacCrone is a big push for the 2016 SRC title before potentially moving on to the British Rally Championship in 2017 after he has learnt the car.

Top local driver Donnie MacDonald comes into 2016 in hot form, after a podium finish on the season closing Speyside Stages last year. Armed with the same Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX he used last year and once again partnered by Andrew Falconer, Donnie is aiming high for 2016, with his eyes on a podium finish on his home event and in the championship table when the curtains close on the season on September 10. Shaun Sinclair is an exciting prospect for 2016, as he has replaced his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX with a Subaru Impreza WRC S9, which he debuted on last year's Mull Rally.
Having finished seventh on the Snowman last year, the new 2003 Impreza should help him finish higher in 2016.

Shaun said: "We plan to commit to the championship and a good result [on the Snowman] will help us with that decision.
"I have done one gravel rally in the car in Northern Ireland and the left hand drive is the hardest thing to master so far. I have a new co-driver this year also in Stephen O'Hanlan who adds a bit of Irish flair. Hopefully I can get a run in the car before the start." Bruce McCombie was in the thick of the 2015 SRC title race, leading the championship for much of the mid-season. Partnered by Michael Coutts once more for the 2016 season, Bruce has his eyes on the Scottish Rally Championship title that he missed out on last year, despite scoring points on every round in 2015.

"We are aiming to be in the title fight, it gave us a boost last year being in that fight with so much support from local businesses and enthusiasts. But you never know what upgrades or new cars our competitors have got.
I entered my first Snowman Rally back in 1997, and over the years you learn it's a complete lottery. To succeed you need good speed and plenty of luck!"

Stonehaven's Barry Groundwater is back in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X for another season in the SRC. Barry had a slightly disappointing 2015 compared to previous years as he adapted to the latest evolution of Lancer, but he is in good shape for the Snowman, fresh from doing the Cambrian Rally in Wales earlier this month. Groundwater is again partnered by Neil Shanks for 2016.

After missing the last two rounds of the 2015 season, Andrew Gallacher and Jane Nicol are back in the SRC in their unique Ford AG Fiesta. The car which is essentially a Mitsubishi Evo with a Fiesta body shell achieved some eye catching results last year, most notably a second place finish on the Border Counties. Andrew will be looking to better his eighth place finish from the 2015 Snowman Rally.

For a second year Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry are wading into battle with their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. The Dumfries driver took four solid top 10 finishes in 2015 including a sixth place on the Snowman, so could be a dark horse for a strong result on the season opener and indeed in the championship table.

Duns duo Garry Pearson and Robbie Mitchell have entered the 2016 Scottish Rally Championship season with huge intrigue. Like John MacCrone, Pearson will be behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R5 and is also looking at learning the car in the SRC before potentially moving to the BRC.

Garry said: "For us [the SRC] is a great way to learn the R5 and in my previous experience the Scottish Rally Championship offers some of the best stages in the UK to do this on. We have to be realistic. Mileage in the car is key for the Snowman. A top 10 would be nice which we would aim to build on."

Seeded Entry List

Posted: February 10, 2016 3:53 AM

Entries Received / Regulations / Details

Posted: December 27, 2015 11:33 AM

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