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Borderer Euan Thorburn kept his MSA Scottish Rally Championship hopes alive with a well-earned second win of the season on Saturday’s Gleaner Oil & Gas Speyside Stages.

The Duns’ driver powered his Ford Focus WRC through the ten stages in a total time of 43 mins 01 secs – twenty-six seconds ahead of the Mitsubishi EVO 9 of defending champion David Bogie, who had been targeting a fifth successive victory on the Elgin-based event.

Jock Armstrong took the final podium spot just one second further back in his Subaru Impreza, after being pipped by Bogie on the final stage.

The result means the triple-champion now has a six-point lead over Thorburn with two rounds remaining.

“Another two results like this would do, but it’s been a fair pace all day, with David and Jock fighting hard as well, so I’m delighted to get the win”, said Thorburn, who also won his home event, the Jim Clark Reivers, in June.

The event started with the traditional two sprints through the special spectator stage in the town’s Cooper Park – Armstrong and Barry Groundwater sharing the honours on the first run, and Armstrong just ahead of Bogie the second time through.

Once out into the Morayshire forests, Thorburn increasingly took control, but, along with Bogie and Armstrong, proceeded to beat the bogey time on several of the short stages, such was the relentless pace at the front.

The most remarkable result of the day came on SS7 Auchindinnie Hill when the front three recorded exactly the same time over the seven-mile test.

By second service at Huntly, Thorburn and Inverness-based navigator Paul Beaton had built up an eighteen second lead over Armstrong and Kirsty Riddick, with Bogie and Kevin Rae nipping at their heels a further three second adrift.

On the completion of SS8 Balloch, the longest stage of the day at more than eight and a half miles, Thorburn had extended his lead to twenty-six seconds, with Armstrong defending a one second advantage over Bogie. Mike Faulker and Peter Foy were sitting fourth, more than a minute adrift, in the Mitsubishi EVO 6.

With crucial championship points at stake, and time running out, Bogie put in a final push to leap-frog Armstrong and snatch the runners-up spot by the narrowest of margins.

“It’s a very good result for us, probably as good as a win, given the problems we’ve had today”, said a relieved Bogie: “We got stuck behind a car on stage three, we lost the intercom on stage four, we had a spin on stage six, we then hit a gate-post on the exit to a hairpin, and we beat the bogey time three times. We’re now looking forward to the Merrick, and hopefully, if we get a good run there, the championship will fall into place”.

Armstrong, who had returned to the SRC on the previous round after damaging his car on the 2011 Speyside, was also satisfied with his result as he continues to “fine-tune” his rebuilt Impreza.

“It’s been a fantastic battle. Obviously I’m not involved in the title race – that’s between David and Euan – but I feel we’re back in the frame now, said Armstrong: “I’m enjoying it, and I feel the car is getting better. We’ve done that many changes to it, and we’re still adjusting here and there. The Merrick is closer to home for us – I’ve got a better feel for the stages – so hopefully we’ll be on it”.

Faulkner chalked up his second successive fourth-place finish: “It’s a habit I need to break. I knew it was going to be tough with the top three today, so in reality I just wanted to stick as close to them as I could. I’m disappointed the gap is as big as it is, at nearly one and a half minutes, but I couldn’t have done much more – the car was on the ragged edge. So it’s onto the Merrick where the stages are longer and faster, and we’ll see what we can do”.

Invernessians Donnie MacDonald and Andrew Falconer, in an EVO 9, continued their good form with a strong fifth place finish – fourteen seconds adrift of Faulkner. It was MacDonald’s third top-ten result of the season. “We were having a good battle with Mike until we spun, and that was the end of that really, and I’ve only just beaten Chris Collie by a second – so it’s been a tough day, but a good day”.

Portlethen-based Collie, with Lisa Watson of Alford on the notes, also celebrated his third top-ten placing in a Mitsubishi EVO – finishing 31 seconds of the EVO 5 of Alistair and Colin Inglis.

“We had a fuel pump problem early on, which was a real shame”, said Inglis: “But all in all it’s been a great day for us on a very well organised event. And the shortness of the stages has meant it’s been easier to keep and eye on what others have been doing around us”.

John McClory, co-driven by David Hood, secured eighth overall and first in Group N in his Subaru Impreza N15. “We perhaps tried too hard at the start, and we weren’t really making up any time, but we were more relaxed in the afternoon, and to finish first in class is a good result for us. We’ll need to keep fighting for points on both the Merrick and the McRae Stages”.

Two non-SRC registered crews rounded off the top ten: Jimmy Christie, with Iain Thorburn on the notes, was “chuffed” with a ninth overall in his Mitsubishi EVO 6, ahead of the “new” partnership of Malloch Nicoll and Craig Wallace in an EVO 9.

Alford’s Ian Robathan and Ian Nicoll from Forfar were the leading 2WD duo in their Ford Escort Mk2 – the anticipated tussle with fellow Mk2 duo David Wilson and Dave Robson evaporating when the latter left the road and “beached” on the fourth stage.

“It’s been an excellent day – eleventh overall is not bad at all for an Escort”, said Robathan: “The condition of the stages was absolutely fantastic – I think I saw only two rocks on all the stages we competed on. It’s a shame David went off because we always enjoy battling with him”.

Arguably, one of the most impressive drives of the day was that of John Boyd and Chris Williamson in their 1600cc Ford Fiesta ST. They mixed it with the 4WD’s to finish sixteenth overall, and maintain their lead in Class 4, over Graeme Schoneville and Michael Hendry in a Honda Civic.

It’s been a really good day for us again”, said Boyd: “Graeme had a few problems this morning, and if it hadn’t been for that it could have been much closer between the two of us. We had a puncture on stage four, but there were no other dramas”.

Among the problems attributed to Schoneville was heavy contact with a gate on the first run through Cooper Park which smashed the Civic’s front grille. “It missed the radiator, and at first service we tied the car to a Landrover to pull it straight, so we were very lucky to get away with it. We also broke the rear suspension, so all in all it’s been an eventful day”.

With two third place finishes and two retirements so far this season, Dunfermline’s Lachlan Cowan and Stuart Bell were delighted with their Class 7 victory, ahead of fellow Ford Fiesta crew Sean and Iain Robson from St Boswells. The latter duo made up ground on class leader Craig Rutherford who suffered his first DNF of the season after four successive victories.

Class 3 honours went to Blair and Alex McCulloch in their Vauxhall Nova: the Ayrshire crew building on their already healthy championship lead, while Iain Haining, co-driven by Mairi Riddick, finished second, thirteen seconds back, in his Nova. Tom and Sue Hynd led home the Peugeot 205 contingent, ending the day fourth in class behind Willie Stuart’s Talbot Sunbeam.

In Class 2, Keith-based Alex Pirie, with David Law of Huntly navigating, secured maximum championship points in his Vauxhall Corsa, finishing second to non-registered David Martin and Josh Davison in a Vauxhall Astra.

Among the 27 retirements, Barry Groundwater, lying second in the drivers’ points going into the event, lost a wheel from his EVO 9 after hitting a pile of logs; while top-ten hopefuls Quintin Milne (Mitsubishi EVO 9) and Bruce McCombie (Subaru Impreza) both failed to finish.

The seventh round of the SRC is the Ian Broll Merrick Stages in Wigtown on September 1st.

For news and updates go to http://www.scottishrallychampionship.co.uk

Gleaner Oil & Gas Speyside Stages: Top Ten results with total times:
1 Euan Thorburn (Duns)/Paul Beaton (Inverness) Ford Focus WRC 43mins 01secs
2 David Bogie (Dumfries)/Kevin Rae (Hawick) Mitsubishi EVO 9 43.27
3 Jock Armstrong (Castle Douglas)/Kirsty Riddick (Haugh of Urr) 43.28
4 Mike Faulkner (Aspatria)/Peter Foy (Bingley) Mitsubishi EVO 6 44.55
5 Donnie MacDonald (Inverness)/Andrew Falconer (Inverness) Mitsubishi EVO 9 45.09
6 Chris Collie (Portlethen)/Lisa Watson (Alford) Mitsubishi EVO 45.10
7 Alistair Inglis (Hillside)/Colin Inglis (Edzell) Mitsubishi EVO 5 45.41
8 John McClory (Glasgow)/David Hood (Paisley) Subaru Impreza N15 46.30
9 Jimmy Christie (Inverness)/Iain Thorburn (Elgin) Mitsubishi EVO 6 47.26
10 Malloch Nicoll (Dundee)/Craig Wallace (Kirriemuir) Mitsubishi EVO 9 47.34

2WD Class Winners
Class 2 – David Martin/Josh Davison (Vauxhall Astra)
Class 3 – Blair McCulloch/Alex McCulloch (Vauxhall Nova)
Class 4 – John Boyd/Chris Williamson (Ford Fiesta ST)
Class 5 – Duncan MacDonald/Neil Ross (Ford Escort Mk2)
Class 7 – Lachlan Cowan/Stuart Bell (Ford Fiesta)
Class 8 – Keith Robathan/Ian Nicoll (Ford Escort Mk2)
Class 9 – Ken Wood/Gordon Wood (Triumph Dolomite Sprint)

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