While the main contenders for the Hankook Scottish Rally Championship spent the day acting as high-speed snowploughs, Fort Augustus driver Reay Mackay took advantage to claim his first major win, the Inverness-based Snowman Rally.
In treacherous snowy conditions, which forced the cancellation of the final five-mile stage at Glenurquhart, the 34-year-old won by 60-seconds from Invernessian Steven Campbell’s Mitsubishi.
Mackay, seeded 29th of the 130 starters, was fastest through two of the four stages in his MG Metro 6R4 as he capitalised on the conditions which had been improved by the earlier cars struggling through the forest tracks.
“There’s no question we had it easier than the top-seeded drivers,” was Mackay’s honest assessment. “They had the worst of the conditions and by the time we got into the stages much of the snow had been cleared and our tyres were through to the gravel.
“But it’s a brilliant win for me. To win any event is fantastic but to win my home rally is just a dream come true.”
While Jock Armstrong from Castle Douglas, competing in the Snowman for the first time since 1990, took the final podium place in his Subaru Impreza, there was a frustrated satisfaction for Scotland’s most talented young rally ace David Bogie.
The 21-year-old, third in the championship for the past two years and who started the Snowman as favourite to lift the title, struggled by being first through the stages yet recovered to finish a highly creditable fourth.
“That was really tough and really it wasn’t much better than a lottery, especially when it came to tyre choices,” Bogie, who dropped 55-second on the second stage at Millbuie when he opted to fit ice tyres to his Mitsubishi rather than snow tyres, explained.
“To be honest it was an achievement just to get the car to the end of each stage. I spent the whole day snowploughing the stages for the guys coming behind me. But that’s the nature of the beast.
“The important thing is we got to the end and scored a lot of valuable points to be ahead of our main rivals for the championship.”
One of those to miss out was defending champ Jimmy Girvan. The Inverness driver dropped 25 minutes on the opening stage digging his Subaru Impreza out after he slid into a deep snowdrift. He was forced to retire on stage three with gearbox problems.
Other high profile casualties included Inverness driver Andy Horne, who put his DAM
1400GTI into a ditch, and leading Group N contender Barry Groundwater (Stonehaven) who was forced to retire his Mitsubishi Evo IX.
One of the broadest grins was on the face of leading Junior title prospect Alick Kerr who topped the time-sheets by 16 seconds on the daunting first stage, the 7.5-mile Meall Mor, in his two-wheel-drive Ford Fiesta ST.
The 20-year-old from Bothwell then got stuck behind an Escort Mk2 on the second stage, losing two minutes, but roared back into contention on the third test, the 13-miler at Torrachility.
But there was frustration for Kerr and co-driver Drew Sturrock when they experienced drive-shaft problems on the final stage to end the day 11th overall but winners of their class.