Jock Armstrong mastered the tricky and unpredictable conditions to secure a resounding victory on Saturday's Arnold Clark Thistle Hotel Snowman Rally, the opening round of the Hankook MSA Scottish Championship.
The Castle Douglas ace was fastest through all five stages, bringing his Subaru Impreza home more than two and a half minutes ahead of up and coming young Lanarkshire driver, Alick Kerr, also in a Subaru, who posted his best ever SRC result.
Last year's championship runner up Mike Faulkner took the final podium spot a further twenty seconds back in his Mitsubishi Evo 6.
Competitors were faced with a mix of snow, ice and gravel – at times all on the same stage – making tyre choice extremely difficult.
There was no holding back Armstrong, however, who was determined to push for the win, having finished third last year – his first attempt at the Snowman in 19 years.
With co-driver Kirsty Riddick, he was 23 seconds up on Kerr after the opening Meall Mor test, and following what many acknowledged to be the most difficult stage of the day, Millbuie, had extended his advantage to more than a minute over last year's winner Reay Mackay, with Kerr a further three seconds adrift.
From the end of SS3 Torr Achilty, there was to be no change to the top three of Armstrong, Kerr and Faulkner.
Said a jubilant Armstrong at the finish ramp in Inverness: "It's been fantastic – we were so close twelve months ago, and I thought there was no reason why we shouldn't go for the win, so it's all gone to plan. Compared to last year, the stages were actually more difficult by not having so much snow on them. There was more ice, and you were also going a lot quicker. But all in all, a great day, and it's set us up well for the season ahead – we need to nail the first two or three rounds".
Kerr won plaudits on last year's Snowman when he finished eleventh overall in a 2 wheel drive Ford Fiesta ST before making his 4WD debut in a Subaru Impreza – a switch which saw him move further up the rankings as the season progressed..
This was his first rally alongside experienced navigator Neil Shanks, and the 22-year-old Bothwell driver acknowledged that his presence was a confidence booster on the challenging event.