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The MSA Scottish Rally Championship is finely poised as it enters the second half of the season, with six points covering the four leading drivers.

Next weekend,  crews will be in Dumfries for the RSAC Scottish Rally, which is marking its eightieth anniversary.

Ahead of them lie more than forty miles of classic stages in the Dumfriesshire forests to the north and east of the host town, as well as two blasts through the special spectator stage at Heathhall.

Defending Scottish champion David Bogie – who currently shares the lead in the drivers’ standings with Barry Groundwater – is top seed for his home rally, which has attracted more than a hundred entries.

The Dumfries driver is aiming to get his campaign back on track after a non-finish on the Jim Clark Reivers earlier this month when the gearbox failed on his MG Metro 6R4.

The 24-year-old will be back behind the wheel of his Mitsubishi EVO 9, as he targets his fourth victory of the season alongside co-driver Kevin Rae:

“The EVO is getting a bit long in the tooth, but it can still do the business”, said Bogie: “We have replaced a few parts coming into the rally, just general maintenance, and by keeping on top of the car that way, hopefully it will ensure results. But obviously the competition, and the pace, is going to be fierce. They’re high speed stages, so punctures aren’t so much of a problem – though we were hit by one last year, which put us back to third. At the end of the day it really is an event where the fastest man wins”.

Last year’s “Scottish” winner Jock Armstrong, co-driven by Kirsty Riddick, is due to be back in action in his rebuilt Subaru Impreza, for what will be his first championship outing of the season. The Castle Douglas-based competitor had hoped to compete on the Reivers but was hit by last minute problems with the car.

Third seeds Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy (who is tied at the top of the co-drivers’ standings with Kevin Rae) won the “Scottish” in 2009, and have been runners-up for the past two years.

They also had a second-place finish on the Reivers – their third of the season – and Faulkner is relishing the forthcoming challenge at the wheel of his Mitsubishi EVO 6:

“We were both really pleased with our run on tarmac, but are now really fired up to be back on gravel, and can’t wait to get stuck in”, said Faulkner, who sits one point behind Bogie and Groundwater: “ As we go into the second half of the season, the pressure on David is as strong as ever. Euan (Thorburn) is on a roll with a win and is getting quicker all the time as he adapts to his Focus, so it’s going to be tough. The “Scottish” is a good event for us with some great drivers’ stages. As ever, we’ll be pushing 100 percent to try to stay in touch, but such is the pace of the championship, there are half a dozen guys who’ll be pushing for a podium”.

Thorburn – who now sits fourth in the drivers’ points – will be in confident mood after his first victory on the Reivers, having been runner-up three times to Bogie.

The Duns-based competitor, co-driven by Paul Beaton, believes there is “still more to come” from his Ford Focus WRC, and has been impressed by the reliability of the car.

Groundwater will be another pushing for a podium place, after a consistent run through the first half of the season in his Mitsubishi EVO 9.

Transmission problems halted his challenge on last year’s “Scottish”, but the Stonehaven driver, with Neil Shanks of Elgin on the notes, will be aiming to capitalise on his third place finish in Duns earlier this month.

John McClory and David Hood have also had a fine 2012 campaign, finishing in the top-ten on the first three rounds in their Subaru Impreza N15. The pair had a tough day on the “Reivers”, which included picking up a road penalty, but they are both in fifth place in the respective drivers’ and co-drivers’ standings, with McClory just three points shy of Thorburn.

Kirkgunzeon’s Rory Young kicked off his 2012 championship campaign with two fourth place finishes, alongside navigator Allan Cathers. However, there was double disappointment over the Jim Clark weekend when Young was forced to retire his EVO 5 on both the National Rally, and the Reivers – where he had been running as high as fourth overall.

“The car has undergone some fairly major work since the Jim Clark – to the engine and gear-box, “said Young: “It will be ready to go this coming weekend and I’m hoping to be able to fight my way into the top six, but looking at the entry list, that’s not going to be easy”.

Donnie Macdonald from Inverness also had a torrid time on the Reivers. His EVO 9 picked up two punctures on the first stage, and later on he was hit with a road penalty of more than a minute. Co-driven by fellow Invernessian Andrew Falconer, he will look to bounce back on the “Scottish” – where he finished ninth last year.

Stephen and Kevin Lockhart from Oban have had two successive top-ten finishes in their Mitsubishi EVO 7, while tenth seeds Quintin Milne and Martin Forrest will also be looking for a strong points haul in their EVO 9 following their first retirement of the season on the “Reivers”.

Others to watch amongst the 4WD’s include Banchory’s Bruce McCombie, co-driven by Michael Coutts, who took a well-earned third in the points on the Granite City Rally in his Impreza; Alistair and Colin Inglis from Montrose, who achieved an excellent fourth on the tarmac last time out in their EVO 5; and Dougal Brown and Lewis Rochford from Inverness, who sat out the previous round, and will be looking for a strong run in their EVO 9.

The “battle of the Escorts” promises to be as fierce as ever: Duns duo Michael Horne and Robbie Mitchell led home the SRC-registered Mk2 contingent on the Reivers, but ahead of them in the standings, a single point currently separates David Wilson/Dave Robson and Keith Robathan/Ian Nicholl.

In Class 7, the Isle of Mull’s Craig Rutherford has had three successive victories in his Honda Civic Type-R, and with Ross Hynd co-driving, will be aiming to keep up the momentum ahead of the Ford Fiesta of second-placed Sean Robson. For this outing he will have fellow St Boswell’s competitor Fenny Weselink on the notes.

In the 1600cc category, John Boyd and Chris Williamson have been the pacesetters in their Ford Fiesta. Boyd from West Linton now has a fourteen point advantage over Graeme Schoneville in his Honda Civic. The Carluke driver, with navigator Michael Hendry, was hit with his second retirement of the season on the “Reivers”. Fellow Lanarkshire Civic pilot Graeme Smith, co-driven by Laura Marshall, is three points behind Schoneville, and will bekeen to make up ground after DNF’s in a row.

One point separates the top two crews in Class 3. Inverbervie’s Tom and Sue Hynd took the win on the “Reivers” in their Peugeot 205 to take over the lead from Ayrshire’s Blair and Alex McCulloch in a Vauxhall Nova. However, the local crew of Iain Haining and Mairi Riddick will be targeting a strong run in front of home support in their Nova.

Penpont’s Greg McKnight, co-driven by dad Chris, has the chance to tighten his grip on Class 2 in his Vauxhall Nova after two victories and two retirements so far this year.

Although there are fifteen historics entered for the “Scottish” – headed by the Escort Mk2 of Steve Bannister and Louise Sutherland – only two are eligible for championship points: Morpeth’s Tony Thompson, who leads the category in his Vauxhall Chevette HSR, and David Killin from Glasgow in an Opal Kadett.

The historics will leave from Dumfries town centre from 0830 on Saturday, with the rest of the field, starting with Classes 1-6, at 0900.

For news and updates on all SRC rounds, go to http://www.scottishrallychampionship.co.uk

RSAC Scottish Rally – Top Ten 4WD Seeds with car no:

1 David Bogie (Dumfries)/Kevin Rae (Hawick) Mitsubishi EVO 9
2 Jock Armstrong (Castle Douglas)/Kirsty Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Subaru Impreza
3 Mike Faulkner (Kirtlebridge)/Peter Foy (Bingley) Mitsubishi EVO 6
4 Euan Thorburn (Duns)/Paul Beaton (Inverness) Ford Focus WRC
5 Barry Groundwater (Netherley)/Neil Shanks (Elgin) Mitsubishi EVO 9
6 John McClory (Strathblane)/David Hood (Elderslie) Subaru Impreza N15
7 Rory Young (Kirkgunzeon)/Allan Cathers (Little Corby) Mitsubishi EVO 5
8 Donnie Macdonald (Inverness)/Andrew Falconer (Inverness) Mitsubishi EVO 9
9 Stephen Lockhart (Oban)/Kevin Lockhart (Oban) Mitsubishi EVO 7
10 Quintin Milne (Banchory)/Martin Forrest (Aberdeen) Mitsubishi EVO 9

Top Ten 2WD Seeds with car no:

71 John Boyd (West Linton)/Chris Williamson (Coaltown of Balgonie) Ford Fiesta
72 Max Utting (Merton)/Mike Ainsworth (Ossett) Ford Fiesta ST
73 Graeme Schoneville (Carluke)/Michael Hendry (Archiestown) Honda Civic
74 Graeme Smith (Crossford)/Laura Marshall (Newton Stewart) Honda Civic
75 Alasdair Graham (Paisley)/Laura Stuart (Alford) Vauxhall Corsa
76 Craig Rutherford (Fionnphort)/Ross Hynd (Inverbervie) Honda Civic
77 Iain Haining (Dumfries)/Mairi Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Vauxhall Nova
78 Tom Hynd (Inverbervie)/Sue Hynd (Inverbervie) Peugeot 205 Gti
79 Mark McCulloch (Newton Stewart)/tba Peugeot 205 Gti
80 Blair McCulloch (Drongan)/Alex McCulloch (Drongan) Vauxhall Nova

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