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This weekend’s Colin McRae Forest Stages could be a defining moment in the 2009 Brick and Steel 205 Ecosse Challenge. If results go the right way, both the 1.9-litre and 1.6-litre titles could be decided come the end of the Perth-based rally.

Isle of Mull junior John MacCrone has been the man to beat in the competitive 1.6-litre Challenge all year long, and a top six finish for the 20 year-old on Saturday will seal the series for John and co-driving uncle Peter MacCrone. With John MacCrone also in the running for Hankook Scottish Rally Championship’s Junior title, however, there will be no let-up from the Dervaig joiner.

Inverurie’s Colin Smith can still spoil the party for the MacCrones, and will be looking to turn in another scintillating performance after pushing his rival all the way on the Merrick Forest Stages earlier in the month. An earlier exclusion for a technical infringement has done nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of Colin and co-driver Craig Chapman, who won the first round of the Challenge back in March.

Duns teenager Garry Pearson (18) and Highlander Ross Chalmers (20) both have a mathematical chance of taking the title, but are dependent on the misfortunes of others if this is to happen. That shouldn’t take away from the phenomenal improvement both drivers have shown over the course of 2009, though – Pearson only made his rally debut on this event last year, whereas Chalmers spent much of 2008 on the sidelines thanks to a series of engine dramas.

In the 1.9-litre Challenge for more powerful cars, meanwhile, Lanarkshire artist Jonathan Smith is out to make up ground to runaway leader Euan Duncan. Aberdeen-based Duncan (25) and his co-driver Jake Dickie have opted to sit out the McRae in favour of the two tarmac rounds later in the season. Smith, however, will have to beat the mechanical gremlins that have plagued his Peugeot for much of the season – if he fails to finish the McRae, then the 1900 Challenge win goes to Duncan and Dickie.

A famous rallying surname will once again be seen on Scottish entry lists thanks to the Challenge. Jamie Watson, son of 1971 Scottish rally champion Bob Watson, contested his first rally less than a month ago at the wheel of a Peugeot 205 and is back for more with co-driver Duncan Gebbie. Gartcosh’s Graeme Sherry also enters the 205 Ecosse Challenge for the first time on the McRae, and comes to the forests with years of experience on tarmac.

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