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The opening round of the 2020 KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championships took place in and around Inverness last weekend with a good entry of 96 cars.
The event, on Saturday March 7, was three weeks later than usual to try and avoid the worst of the weather. There were, however, large sections of the stages still swathed in snow and ice, making conditions changeable to say the least.
Lochgilphead’s Alister MacArthur was back in the forests, after a two-and-a-half year break, in the MR Motorsport prepared Talbot Sunbeam. Co-driver Claire Tilley, from Craignure, Mull, had only completed one event prior to this in the car and that was on tarmacadam and mostly in the dark of Mull Rally. Gravel, snow and ice would be a whole different concept in the powerful rear wheel drive car.
The car has seen development over the past season and the five stages ahead that day would be as much a test as a genuine attempt to score points.
However, after a relatively clean run through the 13 miles of Stage 1 – the stage that claimed a large number of competitors due to the slippy conditions – thoughts quickly turned to getting up the leaderboard and grabbing as many championship points as possible.
The crew had made it to the afternoon sitting in 36th place overall and a very quick run through Stage 4 saw them climb to 31st. Drama nearly robbed them of a great result when the alternator stopped working and the battery started to go flat in the last 13 miles of Lochletter 2, with Alister switching off all but the bare essential electric components to try and make it to the finish. Finish they did and in 32nd place overall and third in Class 7. A brilliant start to the new season.
Also heading north to Inverness to compete was Ian Parker, whose normal seat in the MkII had been withdrawn as the car wasn’t ready. He had a late call to co-drive for Linzi Henderson in her Ford Fiesta but they were one of the unlucky crews to slide off the road in Stage 1, only a mile from the start, spectacularly attempting to knock down some trees in the process.
Eoghan Anderson from Cairnbaan was out in the Subaru Impreza of Graeme Sherry in what is slowly becoming a weekend habit – one which has his mother watching nervously from the wings. They had a good day and brought the car home in 26th overall and eighth in a competitive Class 9. They plan to do the full season, so watch this space for updates on their progress.
The closely contested event was finally won by Michael Binnie and Clare Mole in a Mitsubishi Evo, with the ever present Jock Armstrong and Cameron Fair taking second place in the TEG Sport Impreza, after leading the rally for much of the day. Freddie Milne and Patrick Walsh in the Fiesta R5 were third overall.
Next up is the Speyside Rally in Elgin on April 18.