Defending Scottish rally championship champion David Bogie and co-driver Kevin Rae are targeting a fourth Granite City Rally win tomorrow after their dominant display at the Border Counties Rally last month.
Just two points separate front-runners Bogie from Euan Thorburn going into the third round of the championship in Aberdeen tomorrow.
Thorburn and his co-driver Paul Beaton, who like Bogie and Rae are competing in a Focus, are looking to regain the upper hand after victory on the season-opener in Inverness.
Dumfries driver Bogie is relishing the annual visit to the north-east of Scotland. The five-time champion said: “For me, it’s one of the highlights of the season. There’s great enthusiasm for rallying in that part of the country. The organising committee always pull out all the stops and the stages are among the best on the championship calendar.
“They’re real drivers’ stages, very wide in places. There are four this year, each at around 10 miles, and at that length, you can really get into your stride.”
Third seed Jock Armstrong, with Paula Swinscoe on the notes, will want to maintain momentum after posting a strong fourth place overall on the Border Counties.
Twelve months ago, the Castle Douglas driver was locked in a race with Bogie for top honours when the engine of his Subaru Impreza blew up on the penultimate stage.
Quintin Milne, who was fourth on last year’s Granite, starts one place further back in his Mitsubishi EVO 9. The Banchory driver, co-driven by Martin Forrest, of Aberdeen, has a second and a fifth-place finish so far this season, and can count on strong home support next weekend.
Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy – winners in Aberdeen in 2009 – will be keen to banish memories of the previous round in Jedburgh, after an excursion into a ditch on the final stage.
Faulkner said “The car wasn’t damaged, but it was very frustrating. We were enjoying our race with Quintin and had to push on the last stage and just got caught out.
“However, we were pleased with our pace and times, and look forward to the same on the Granite.
“The plan is to try to compete with Jock and Quintin and see how close we can get if the WRC’s hit trouble. We now have three to deal with, after Andy Horne’s recent purchase.”
Other contenders include Stonehaven’s Barry Groundwater, who has had a reasonable start to his 2014 campaign, alongside Neil Shanks from Elgin.
The pair finished fifth on the Snowman, followed by seventh overall on the Border Counties, where the tricky conditions hampered an all-out attack. Chris Collie, runner-up on the Granite last year, returns to the fray with navigator Mark Fisher.
They start one place ahead of Inverness duo Donnie Macdonald and Andrew Falconer, who, like Collie, fell foul of the Kielder Stages in their EVO 9.
There will be great interest in Horne when he makes his debut behind the wheel of a Focus WRC, with navigator Jim Howie, of Kilmarnock. Horne won the Aberdeen round in 2007 in his venerable DAM 4100GTi .
Rally sponsor Bruce McCombie, co-driven by Michael Coutts, starts as 10th seed in his Mitsubishi EVO 9. The Banchory competitor has recorded top-10 finishes on the first two rounds, and will be keen to put on a good show on his home event.