|Kevin Rae and David Bogie in action on the Scottish Rally Championship|
The biggest motorsport event in the North-east of Scotland, the Coltel Granite City Rally, roars into action this Saturday (April 14) with more than 100 crews starting from rally HQ, the Thainstone Agricultural Centre near Inverurie.
And as they head off into the five stunning and demanding Kincardineshire stages, which form the 44 miles of the rally, a host of local drivers will be determined to deny triple Scottish champion, and current British champ, David Bogie, victory.
The 24-year-old from Dumfries heads into Coltel Granite City Rally eyeing his third win in the opening three rounds of the Scottish Rally Championship.
"It's going to be a tough weekend," Bogie, who was denied victory in the Coltel Granite City Rally by just one second last year when Aberdeen's Dave Weston won, admitted.
"Although I was disappointed to come second, it was still one hell of a battle with Dave, and one of the highlights of our year.
"We've had a dream start to this season, with two wins out of two, and we'll certainly be pushing for victory on Saturday.
"The stages on the Granite are first class, with flowing corners and plenty of high speed action. We're really looking forward to it."
Bogie, partnered by Hawick co-driver Kevin Rae in his Mitsubishi Evo IX, faces stiff competition from a number of North-east drivers looking to win on home soil.
Stonehaven's Barry Groundwater, driving another Evo IX, starts the Coltel Granite City Rally on the back of two solid performances.
"We finished sixth in the Snowman Rally in Inverness, then took third in the championship in the last round in Jedburgh, the Border Counties," Groundwater explained.
"Now we have to carry that form into the Granite. My best result in my home rally was second, way back in 1996, but hopefully we can go one better than that this weekend.
"Everyone says you do well on your home rally with local knowledge etc. But that's just not true: one year I crashed on the stage where I walk my dogs!
"The Granite is a popular rally with competitors and spectators alike. Good or bad result, it’s always one of my favourite events to compete in."
A good performance this weekend will see Groundwater move into third place in the Scottish Rally Championship ahead of Rory Young. The Dumfries driver isn't competing in the Granite.
And while Inverness duo Donnie Macdonald and co-driver Keir Beaton will be gunning for a podium in their Mitsubishi Evo IX, Banchory's Quintin* Milne is also eyeing home success in yet another Evo IX.
"We're still learning lots about the car," Milne, partnered by Aberdeen navigator Martin Forrest and who has stepped up to the 4WD Mitsubishi this year from his 2WD Ford Escort MkII, admitted.
"But we're learning fast. We've scored two top 10 finishes in the opening two rounds, and at times we've been very quick. We've had a few technical niggles, but we're ready for this weekend."
And 2009 Coltel Granite City Rally winners, Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy, are hoping to repeat their success and close the gap on Bogie in the title race.
"Two events down and two seconds is a great start for us," Faulkner, who will again pilot his Mitsubishi Evo VI, said.
"David has been immense on both events, but we haven’t given up and will focus on trying to beat him on the Granite before he runs away with the series.
"Being able to go head to head with a British and three times Scottish champion is fantastic for the championship and is what keeps us motivated. We'll be giving it 100%."
Sixth in the Granite last year, Duns-based Euan Thorburn, co-driven by Paul Beaton from Inverness, are also likely to push for a podium finish in their Ford Focus WRC '01.
Running ahead of the main field, the two-wheel-drive championship promises to deliver a real North-east battle in matching Ford Escort MkII cars.
Alford's Keith Robathan, with David O'Brien on the notes, faces a stiff challenge from his old rival Calum Mackenzie. The Inverurie driver is returning to his Escort after recent outings in an Evo VIII.
And Alford's David Wilson, who finished third in last year's Coltel Granite in a 4WD Evo IX, is also expected to push for a 2WD podium in his Escort MkII. Wilson is co-driven by Aberdeen's Dave Robson.
The first car will leave the ceremonial start at the Thainstone Agricultural Centre near Inverurie at 9.01am on Saturday (April 14) morning, and should be back at Thainstone by 3pm.
Coltel Granite City Rally, Scottish Rally Championship (Rnd 3 of 8). Top 10 seeded entries:
1. David Bogie (Dumfries)/Kevin Rae (Hawick) Mitsubishi Evo IX;
2. Mike Faulkner (KIrtlebridge)/Peter Foy (Bingley) Mitsubushi Evo VI;
3. Euan Thorburn (Duns)/Paul Beaton (Inverness) Ford Focus WRC;
4. Barry Groundwater (Stonehaven)/Neil Shanks (Elgin) Mitsubishi Evo IX;
5. Donnie Macdonald (Inverness)/Andrew Falconer (Inverness) Mitsubishi Evo IX;
6. John McClory (Strathblane)/David Hood (Elderslie) Subaru Imprezza N15;
7. Quintin Milne (Banchory)/Martin Forrest (Aberdeen Mitsubishi Evo IX;
8. Chris Collie (Portlethen)/Lisa Watson (Alford) Mitsubishi Evo VI;
9. Stephen Lockhart (Oban)/Kevin Lockhart (Oban) Mitsubushi Evo VII
10. Bruce Mccombie (Banchory)/Michael Coutts (Torphins) Subaru Impreza.
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