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Flying start for new rally pairing

By Craig Christie

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A NEW partnership formed at Elgin's 63 Car Club got off to a solid start in the latest Scottish Rally Championship event.

Huntly driver John Wink entered last week's Scottish Rally in Dumfries and Galloway, the third event of the SRC season with a different navigator.

Rothienorman’s John Forrest, who had been Wink’s co-driver for the past five years, quit to concentrate on a new business venture. The driver was quick to find a replacement in Neil Shanks, a 63 Car Club team-mate with vast experience in navigating at the Scottish Rally Championships for many years.

Huntly driver John Wink
Huntly driver John Wink

The new pairing got off to a good start, finishing sixth in their Hyundai i20 R5, holding just a three second advantage over the experienced Donnie Macdonald and Andrew Falconer.

Snapping at the heels of Macdonald and Falconer were Scott MacBeth and Elgin navigator Daniel Forsyth in their Mitsubishi Evo IX. The pair had started brightly, holding sixth overall in the morning before dropping back slightly in the afternoon.

Wink's sixth was a fine effort for a first-time partnership, and he said of his link-up with Shanks: "He has a wealth of experience and will be able to push me on in areas where I need to be pushed on and pull me back if I’m getting a bit ragged.

“Part of being a navigator is to be extremely organised and he is the main man behind the Speyside Stages and that runs like clockwork every year so that speaks for itself.”

Shanks has been competing on the national rally circuit for 20 years. He actually won the RSAC Scottish Rally back in 2001 during a partnership with 2006 Scottish champion Dave Weston, who he enjoyed a number of podium finishes alongside.

Navigating for Alick Kerr, Shanks enjoyed six top-five finishes across Britain in 2010 and more recently has teamed up with Stonehaven driver Barry Groundwater to great success. Shanks even won the France-based Vegas Rally three years ago, co-driving for Englishman Tim Pearcey. “We had a wee run in the car as well and I had a text message from him just saying he was looking forward to the weekend and feeling good about it after having had a look at the car and getting a look through the notes,” said Wink.

In his last rally with Forrest, Wink finished fifth in his home club’s Speyside Stages event and was just 11 seconds off a podium place.

Multiple Scottish champion David Bogie scored a record-equalling sixth victory in the Scottish Rally after a supreme battle with rivals Euan Thorburn and Garry Pearson.

Bogie’s win put him level with Roger Clark with six event wins, and brought Thorburn’s sensational run of six rally victories from as many starts to an end.

However Thorburn znd Paul Beaton’s Ford Focus WRC was incredibly close behind Bogie and John Rowan’s Skoda Fabia R5, with just six seconds splitting the pair at the finish.

Held in the legendary Eskdalemuir forests, the third round of the SRC took the crews to Dumfries & Galloway for some of the UK’s most iconic stages including Twiglees, Castle O’er and Ae.

Bogie, back out in the SRC after retiring from the Speyside last month, led early on but Thorburn and Pearson were latched onto the back of him. Pearson and co-driver Dale Bowen had to push their Ford Fiesta R5 hard to catch the Focus WRC of Thorburn who was trailing Bogie by just six seconds after two speed tests.

Pearson broke Bogie’s duck and won Windy Hill as Thorburn trimmed Bogie’s advantage, but Thorburn’s work would be undone with a stall at a hairpin losing him seven seconds and his second place.

Bogie’s lead was up to eight seconds from Pearson at second service, but the Pearson would suffer a disappointing run through the penultimate stage, losing 12 seconds to a flying Thorburn.

Thorburn netted the stage win by five seconds to almost half Bogie’s cushion up front, but the local star wouldn’t be denied glory as he set an identical time through the final Castle O’er test to edge out Thorburn.

“It’s a great achievement, but I’m under no illusions that it’s a far shorter event than it was when Roger Clark got all those wins all those years ago,” said Bogie of his record-equalling victory.

“But nevertheless it’s my local rally, the one I wanted to win so it’s an achievement I’m very proud of.

“The stages were a real mixed bag from wet, dry and slippy and of course the added challenge of loose rocks as well but we’re very happy, it’s always good to spray the champagne in front of family and friends.”

“We’re frustrated a wee bit,” admitted second-placed Thorburn.

“We obviously dropped that time at the hairpin in Ae which was my fault, without that it probably would’ve been a different story. It is annoying [to lose 100% record] but we’ve won six on the bounce so we can’t complain.

“When everything is working fine we go well and we are competitive so I’m looking forward to the next one.”

Pearson wound up third in the end but only 20 seconds shy of the victory, showing a great up-turn in pace against such stiff competition,

“We were happy up until stage four when we fell away a little bit, but these guys seemed to have an extra gear when it got slippy this afternoon,” reflected Pearson.

“We just didn’t quite have the pace, but given what the guys have done this year and the experience they have in four-wheel-drive over the years we’ve got to be happy.

“The championship is still all to play for. We’ve got some good solid results. Undoubtedly Euan has three stronger scores than us, but we’ve got a lack of seat time so we need to try and come on stronger in the second half of the season.

“We don’t have the budget for more seat time so if we can improve ourselves physically, work on our notes and things like that, that’s where we’ll get the final few seconds.”

Jock Armstrong and Cameron Fair finished a lonely fourth aboard their Subaru Impreza, with a front-right puncture on stage five not helping their pursuit of the battle for the podium.

The pair finished over a minute behind Pearson and Bowen, but equally had a minute in hand over the Ford Focus WRC of Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts.

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