Having won the opening rounds of both the 2011 MSA Scottish and British championships, David Bogie and Kevin Rae will be the crew to beat on the Brick and Steel Border Counties Rally on Saturday.
The reigning Scottish champions celebrated back-to-back victories on the Arnold Clark Thistle Hotel Snowman Rally and Rallye Sunseeker International in their Mitsubishi Evo 9.
They head a strong field of 108 entries for the Jedburgh-based Border Counties on which they finished third overall twelve months ago.
“It’s a great rally. The Kielder stages are very fast, you really have to commit”, said Bogie: “Confidence is high, and we’re match fit after the events of recent weeks”.
Nevertheless, there are drivers more than capable of turning the tables on the Dumfries ace and his Hawick co-driver.
Fellow SRC/BRC campaigner Euan Thorburn from Duns, co-driven by Paul Beaton from Inverness, pushed Bogie all the way on the Snowman before settling for second in his Evo 9, while Jock Armstrong (Subaru Impreza) and Mike Faulkner (Mitsubishi Evo 6) will both be targetting victory, after finishing third and fourth respectively in Inverness.
Andy Horne and Jim Howie (DAM 4100GTi) launched their 2011 campaign with fifth-overall on the Snowman, and will be out to better their sixth-place finish on last year’s Border Counties.
The Cumbrian crew of Paul Benn and Richard Cooke (Ford Focus WRC) kick off their SRC campaign in Jedburgh, and are seeded one ahead of top Northern Ireland competitor Phillip Morrow, co-driven by brother Simon in a Mitsubishi Evo 9.
Reay Mackay and Robert Macdonald from Fort Augustus return to action in their Subaru Impreza WRC, while young Highland prospect David Wilson, with Jedburgh-based navigator Dave Robson, will be hoping to put the disappointment of a DNF on the Snowman behind him as he sets out to kick-start his campaign.
Reflecting the tenth year of his sponsorship of the event, John McClory will run with the Number 10 on his Subaru Impreza, although will most likely run further back in the field. With navigator David Hood, he will be hoping to capitalise on a 13th place overall on the Snowman.
On his return to competition, former works driver Robbie Head lost valuable time on the Snowman with a burst brake pipe, but still managed to secure eighth overall in his Evo 9, and leads the DMACK Tyres Group N standings. Lanark-based Head will again be co-driven by Claire Mole from Paxton.
Among the late entries is talented young Welshman Tom Cave, who finished second to Bogie on the opening BRC round in his Mitsubishi Evo 9, and will be one to watch for a podium finish on his Border Counties debut.
There is a mouth-watering tussle in prospect amongst the two-wheel drives with the return of Escort Mk2 maestro Steve Bannister. The “Malton Missile” powered to seventh overall on the Border Counties last year alongside navigator Louise Sutherland from Hawick.
Hoping to give Bannister a run for his money is former Scottish champion Mike Horne from Duns in his Mill Garage Ford Escort Mk2, co-driver by Robbie Mitchell.
Other 2WD class winners from the opening round include Craig Smith (Maxton) and co-driver Colin Smith (Lauder) in their Vauxhall Nova.
Other Borderers competing are: Craig McMiken and Christine Sanderson (Berwick), Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9; Richard Stewart and Carin Logan (Kelso), Subaru Impreza; Peter Mayland and David O’Brien (Duns), Honda Civic Type R; Tommy and Andrew Heard, Subaru Impreza; Carl and Robin Tuer (Whitekirk), MG ZR S1600; Sean and Iain Robson (St Boswells), Peugeot 205GTi; Nick Thorne (Jedburgh) and Scott Hunter (St Boswells) Peugeot 205; Gareth White (St Boswells) and Mike Dickson, Citroen C2R2; James Thomson (Melrose) and Martin Heriot, Peugeot 206; Bruce Hay (Kelso) and James Braithwaite (Melrose), Vauxhall Nova; Kenneth McRae and Janet McRae, Peugeot 309 GTi.
The organisers of the Border Counties have made big changes to the rally route from last year, resulting in four stages in the Kielder and Wauchope complexes, totalling some 44 stage miles, all single use.
The event will again be based in Jedburgh, with the Rally HQ at the Town Hall, adjacent to the start/finish ramp in Abbey Place.
The first two-wheel drive car will leave at 8.31am with the 4WD’s starting at approximately 9.45am.
Full details can be found at the event website, www.bordercountiesrally.co.uk.