The closely fought battle for the 2009 Scottish Rally Championship reaches a pivotal point next weekend [August 8] as crews head to Elgin for the Gleaner Oil & Gas Speyside Stages, the sixth round of the Hankook MSA series.
With the best six scores out of eight deciding final championship positions, the pressure is on the leading contenders.
Jock Armstrong currently leads the drivers' standings by 28 points over Mike Faulkner, with David Bogie a further two points behind. Just twenty-two points separate fourth-placed Escort Mk2 maestro Steve Bannister from Shaun Sinclair in tenth.
In line with the previous rounds of this year's Hankook SRC, the 'Speyside' has attracted a bumper entry of 112 cars.
Top seed Bogie and co-driver Kevin Rae will be re-united with the Toyota Corolla WRC in which they won the event last year. The pair crashed out of the Scottish at the end of June, causing substantial damage to their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9.
With little prospect of the car being repaired in time for the forthcoming round, Bogie said the opportunity to drive the Derek McGeehan-prepared Toyota provided the best option. The car has been fully rebuilt since it was wrecked on last year's Merrick Stages while the Dumfries driver was duelling for the overall title with Jimmy Girvan.
"It's good to be back in a car I'm familiar with," said Bogie: "It might be ten year's old - but it's still very competitive and ran very well on last year's Speyside, so hopefully we can take maximum points again”.
Faulkner - the #2 seed - is so far the only driver to have won two rounds of this year's championship in his Mitsubishi Evo 6, and believes there will be no margin for error on the forest stages to the east of Elgin.
"The championship is getting serious now, once the two dropped scores are taken into consideration," said the Kirtlebridge-based driver. "There are still probably five people who have serious ambitions of winning the title, and that could be reduced to three by the end of the Speyside.
“Peter [Foy] and I can't win the championship in Elgin but we have to be on the podium. A non-finish would mean it was all over. It's a fine line, but that's how it should be in the Scottish championship - 100 per cent committed, otherwise you're nowhere”.
Armstrong - in his first full season in the SRC - has steered a steady path through the five completed rounds to stay ahead in both the overall standings and the Hankook Group N category.