Bogie the man to beat as Snowman Rally beckons
DAVID Bogie will be the man to beat at this weekend’s Snowman Rally, according to one of last year’s winners.
Paul Beaton, Euan Thorburn’s co-driver when they won the rally in 2014, knows Bogie well from their duels in the Scottish Rally Championship and says it is hard to see past the five-time national champion.
A new engine in the Dumfries-shire driver’s Ford Focus should give him the advantage in the largely-flat stages of the Inverness course, but Beaton hopes fellow local rallyer and close friend Donnie Macdonald can run Bogie close.
“I don’t think you can look past anyone but David. He came fourth last year but if someone manages to beat him then fair play,” said Beaton. “His new engine means he’ll be able to drive a bit harder, which will be great to see.
“Donnie’s had his own engine problems but has got them sorted now. I’m expecting good things from him and hopefully that’s him up on the podium, if not better.”
Beaton will also have an eye out for Rosemarkie’s Scott Macbeth, who has installed a new 16-valve engine in his Vauxhall Nova and believes he could do “really well”.
Other Highland drivers include the Fort Augustus pair of Reay Mackay and Robert Macdonald, Inverness Garage Proprietors Steven Ronaldson and Gordon Chalmers and, running at car 100, Phillip MacIver (Avoch) and co-driver Donnie Ross (Inverness).
The Inverness event acts as the opening round of the 2015 ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship and will see both Arnold Clark and the Thistle Hotel continue their sponsoring of the event.
A winner last year in Inverness and in the 2014 Scottish Rally Championship, ahead of Bogie, Beaton declined offers to co-drive in this year’s event and will instead turn spectator for some of the stages.
He and Thorburn did not wish to compete this year as they did not believe it was financially prudent to spend "a couple of thousand pounds" on an event they would not find challenging.
“The plan was to take our car out as the course car, which is effectively a safety car, and would give us the chance to showcase ourselves to potential sponsors,” said Beaton.
“But I was told because of the findings of the Scottish Government safety investigation (following the deaths at the Jim Clark rally in the Borders last year) that no course cars would be allowed, especially rally ones.”
He was dismayed, however, when he found out that organisers Highland Car Club would not only be running a course car, but a rally one.
“The guy that’s doing it is a pretty unsafe driver in my opinion,” added Beaton.
Future plans for Beaton and Thorburn include doing the Circuit of Ireland on Easter weekend, the Geko Ypres Rally in Belgium in June and Rally GB in November. Depending on finances, the pair are also considering entering another World Rally Championship event.
Being a local and a previous winner of the Snowman, Beaton knows the course well. However, he does not feel the course best optimises its surroundings.
“We’ve got some really good stages but there’s not the work put in to maintain them,” he said. “They’ve been used too often and aren’t getting graded often enough.
“The Forestry Commission charge the rates but aren’t giving the service they should be. They just tell the organisers to use the same stages.”
Drivers will attend pre-event registration at the Thistle from 5.30pm on tonight. The rally will begin from the High Street at 9am tomorrow and the first car is expected to arrive at the hotel at 3.30pm for the ceremonial finish.
The awards presentation will take place in the hotel ballroom at the provisional time of 6.30pm.
Former winner Paul Beaton gives his insight on the rally’s stages.
Millbuie — “Flat out and dogged with chicanes. Fastest cars will come out on top.”
Black Isle — “Much the same as the first stage. There’s nowhere to really make up time for the guys that can really drive.”
Rogie — “Probably the best stage on the rally — if it’s graded. Otherwise it will stay rutted.”
Strath Rory — “A really fast stage but again there’s chicanes. It’s a bit technical in the middle section but mainly straight and fast.”