David Bogie and Kevin Rae kept their 2009 Hankook MSA Scottish Rally Championship campaign well on track with their second victory of the season on Saturday's Gleaner Oil & Gas Speyside Stages, an event they won last year too.

Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy, the only other crew to win twice in 2009, finished a further 32 seconds back, with Euan Thorburn and Campbell Roy third. They were elevated to the final podium spot following the exclusion of Jock Armstrong and Kirsty Riddick for a technical infringement.

With two rounds remaining, the Hankook drivers' championship could not be more finely balanced, with Bogie, Faulkner and Armstrong, who was the leader going into the Speyside, now tied on 131 points apiece. With final championship positions decided on the best six scores out of eight, the penultimate round, the Merrick Forest Stages on September 5, is set to be a make or break event.

After the disappointment of crashing out on the Scottish in June, a second Speyside win was a much needed confidence boost for Bogie and Rae.

It was also achieved in the same car as last year - the Derek McGeehan prepared Toyota Corolla WRC replacing the Mitsubishi Evo 9, which had sustained heavy damage on the previous round.

After blasting through the two short spectator stages at Elgin's Cooper Park, Bogie admitted it had taken him the first of the forest stages - the 2.64 mile Tauchers Wood - to 'really get back in the groove' in the Toyota.

However, once he had found his rhythm, there was no looking back. He scored three outright stage wins - including the penultimate test, the 14.35 mile Blackstripes - and shared the fastest time with Mike Faulkner over the 6.58 miles of SS6 Balloch.

The sense of relief shown by the 22-year-old Dumfries driver at the finish was plain to see after the trials and tribulations of an up and down season.

"It's gone extremely well - glad to be back in the Toyota, good rally, good stages - and we were able to increase the pace as the day went on," said Bogie. "We really pushed on the long second last stage because we knew the rally could be won or lost there, and then we held station on the final stage. I'm also very pleased that Mike finished second, because it keeps the championship close, and that's how it should be - so a good day all round."

Faulkner and Foy tried their hardest to take a third outright victory - they were leading Bogie by one second after Balloch - but their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 could not match the pace of the world rally car on the longer and faster sections.

Nevertheless, it was an impressive performance and, in the circumstances, Faulkner was more than happy with the runners-up spot.

"We've got the maximum out of the car today," said Faulkner. "We've driven it as hard as it would go - and probably harder in one or two places - to try to keep up with David, but he's just had the legs on us. But that's us level on points with two events remaining. We couldn't win the championship today, but we could lose it, so we're still in the fight."

Borderer Euan Thorburn's results have been steadily improving as the season has progressed, and he was tipped as a possible 'dark horse' to win the Speyside behind the wheel of his Subaru Impreza.

In the event, the Duns driver slipped back a bit on the opening tarmac stages - conceding that he had not been 'fully committed'.

Once into the forests, the 23-year-old upped the pace, and was second equal fastest with Faulkner and reigning champion Jimmy Girvan on SS3 Tauchers Wood.

A third equal quickest time followed on the 8.87 mile Craigend Hill, and by the end of SS5 Balloch, Thorburn and Campbell Roy were sitting in fourth place overall - and remained thus, until the post-event ruling on Armstrong's Subaru Impreza N11 changed the final positions.

With two non-finishes this season - including a spectacular off on the Scottish which resulted in several cracked ribs - Jimmy Girvan needed maximum points in Morayshire to keep his championship hopes alive.

It was not to be, the Inverness driver and navigator Mike Ramsay having to settle for fourth overall, but Girvan gave it his all in his Subaru Impreza - saving the best to the last with a quickest time through the 4.80 mile Whiteash stage.

"I've actually thoroughly enjoyed the day - as always, the competition has been fierce, and we've never been out of the top five on the stages all day, which is good," said Girvan.

Up and coming young Bothwell-based driver Alick Kerr showed future championship potential with another stunning display in his Subaru Impreza to end fifth overall and third in class, to add to a seventh place finish on the Scottish.

With co-driver Drew Sturrock, the day included a fastest stage time through the first forest test, SS3 Tauchers Wood - by one second over Faulkner/Foy; a slow puncture on the penultimate and longest stage; and a third quickest time through the final Whiteash test.

"All in all it was a very good day with no mechanical dramas and no major errors on my part, Kerr reflected. "It was encouraging to see that when we have a clean run, we're on the pace of the leading crews, so I'm very much looking forward to the last two rounds - with the aim of a top-three finish if possible."

The Oban crew of Shaun Sinclair and Chris Hamill powered their ex-Jimmy Christie Mitsubishi Evo 9 to sixth overall, and second in GpN behind Thorburn - their best stage classification of the day being a third quickest time on Balloch, just 3 seconds off the pace of Bogie and Faulkner.

David Wilson from Alness and Keir Beaton of Inverness, who had been seeded 22nd, brought their Mitsubishi Evo 4 back to the finish at Elgin Town Hall in an impressive seventh place - eighteen seconds ahead of Snowman winners Reay Mackay and Robert MacDonald in their Metro 6R4 - the Fort Augustus driver describing it as having been 'an alright kind of day'.

Inverness duo Jimmy Christie and David McFadyen made it into the top ten in their Evo 9 - eight seconds ahead of the Mk2 Escort of the leading 2-wheel drive crew Steve Bannister and Louise Sutherland.

After 'wowing' the huge crowds with the two fastest times through Cooper Park - 50 and 48 seconds respectively - the 'Malton missile' continued his remarkable consistent streak out in the forests.

There was little argument about who would receive the 'Gleaner Oil & Gas Spirit of Speyside Award'. Invernessians Donnie Macdonald and Paul Beaton returned to second service with the left rear roof section of their Evo 9 completely caved in following a double-roll on SS6 Balloch.

After getting the all-clear from the scrutineers, the mechanics worked flat out to patch up the car as best they could - watched by an appreciative crowd - and Macdonald and Beaton completed the final two stages before limping back to Elgin in their battered car to finish 62nd overall.

Among the notable casualties were Andy Horne and Jim Howie in their DAM 4100GTi - their sixth retirement in as many rounds - and Barry Groundwater and Jude Wylie who were forced to call it a day after their Evo 9 developed gearbox problems.