The two main title contenders for the 2009 Hankook MSA Scottish Rally Championship are each out to beat the other on next Saturday's (September 5) penultimate round, the Merrick Forest Stages.
Mike Faulkner and David Bogie are tied at the top of the drivers' standings - and both regard the Newton Stewart-based rally as a 'make or break' event.
The Merrick has attracted another top-quality field, the provisional seeded entry list headed by reigning champion Jimmy Girvan, the only driver to have won the event in its current form, with victories in 2007 and 2008.
Among those targeting victory is Jock Armstrong, whose championship hopes were dashed following exclusion from the results on last month's Speyside Stages for a technical infringement, while Borderer Euan Thorburn is aiming for a top three finish to keep himself in touch in the title race and at the top of the Group N standings.
Although not eligible for SRC points, the entry list has been enhanced by the inclusion of 2008 BTRDA Gold Star Champions Hugh Hunter and Andy Marchbank, the pair making their first competitive foray north of the border in their ex-Colin McRae Ford Focus WRC '01, while British championship contender and ex-Ford Fiesta ST title holder Jonathan Greer will make the trip across from Belfast to compete in his Mitsubishi Evo 9.
SRC regulars Andy Horne, John Morrison and Donnie MacDonald are among the Highland contingent making the trip south to the Galloway forests: Horne out to break his duck having failed to finish a single round so far this season, while MacDonald will field his repaired and repainted Mitsubishi Evo 9, following his big off on the Speyside.
David Bogie and co-driver Kevin Rae head to Newton Stewart on the back of an outright victory on the Speyside in their Derek McGeehan-prepared Toyota Corolla WRC. It was their second SRC win of the season - a statistic they share with Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy.
On last year's Merrick, Bogie was duelling for title honours with Jimmy Girvan when he crashed heavily in the Corolla – resulting in the car being completely rebuilt. The 22-year-old Dumfries driver knows there is no room for error this time out.
"We have to go out there and beat Mike Faulkner - it's as simple as that,” said Bogie. “It'll certainly be an interesting fight, I think when it gets to this stage, with us being tied this late in the championship, it could still be a make or break round. If someone slips up, and makes a small mistake, then that's their championship hopes more or less over".