Scottish rally veteran Andy Horne is aiming to give the leading contestants 'a run for their money' when he returns to competition on the Gleaner Oil & Gas Speyside Stages on August 9.

The popular Inverness-based driver has been missing from the County Saab MSA Scottish Championship since crashing out of the second round - the Border Counties - back in April.

Since then he has had his DAM 4100 Gti (Metro 6R4) rebuilt, and is in confident mood ahead of the Elgin-based Speyside.

Fochabers-born Andy would like nothing more than to notch up a second victory on his home event, having previously won in 1998 - that result decided by a tiebreak after he finished in a dead heat with Jim Paterson. Electrical problems with the car forced early retirement from the rally last year.

When Horne, and regular co-driver Jim Howie, last competed four months ago, the championship was led by Jimmy Girvan - and nothing has changed in the interim, with the 1990 title-holder steadily adding to his points tally from one round to the next.

Girvan has shown remarkable consistency at the wheel of his 2.5 litre Subaru Impreza, building on his comeback season of last year.

Maximum SRC points on the Snowman and Border Counties; second in the points on the Granite; third on the Jim Clark Reivers; and second on the fifth round - the RSAC Scottish - at the end of June.

The Inverness restaurateur summed up the Dumfries result as 'the drive of the season so far', not least because he lost contact with regular co-driver Kirsty Riddick on the longest stage when their intercom failed.

The 1990 title-holder has conceded throughout that his main threat has been Dumfries-based Bogie in his hired Toyota Corolla WRC, and with the championship decided on the six best scores out of eight, that threat is still very real.

Even so, a couple of rounds back it looked as though Bogie's challenge was fading - the first half of his season dogged by punctures, gearbox problems and other mishaps. It was all the more frustrating for the young driver, given that he was consistently achieving fastest stage times.

Determined to turn his fortunes around, Bogie, and navigator Kevin Rae, stormed back into contention on the 'Scottish' to take maximum championship points. Had it not been for a doubtful tyre choice, Bogie might well have beaten former champion, and last year's Speyside winner, Dave Weston, to outright victory.

In the event, Bogie was more than happy with his second-place finish, which moved him up to sixth in the championship.

Bogie will also have the opportunity of locking horns once again with non-SRC registered Weston in Morayshire - the latter fresh from his win on the Swansea Bay rally, while Bogie took top honours in the Mitsubishi Evo Challenge.

Elgin-based Steven Clark currently leads GpN - and lies second in the points - after another hugely impressive campaign in his ageing Mitsubishi Evo 4 - and with a different co-driver on each round.

However, Clark is currently en route to Cameroon on the 5000-mile plus Adventurists Africa Rally in aid of charity. Before setting out on his epic drive - at the wheel of a 660cc Daihatsu, affectionately nicknamed "Daisy" - Clark was as concerned about making it back in time for his home event, as he was of the dangers that lay ahead.

Just four points currently separate Clark from second-placed GpN driver Barry Groundwater in his Evo 9.

The Stonehaven-based competitor had a storming drive on the "Scottish" to take top GpN honours - trading stage times with Oban's William Bonniwell in his Subaru Impreza - his fine fifth place overall moving him into eighth in the SRC points.

Dumfries farmer Rory Young has been quietly amassing the points after a string of solid performances in his Mitsubishi Evo 5, and now finds himself lying fourth in the table, ahead of Gretna's Mike Faulkner, in his GpA Evo 6.

Faulkner bounced back from a non-finish on the previous Jim Clark Reivers round, to finish the "Scottish" an impressive fourth overall and third in the points.

John Morrison missed out on the "Scottish", after a good day on the "Reivers", when he finished fifth in the points in his Evo 9, moving him to seventh in the standings.

The Conon Bridge driver says he is in confident mood ahead of the Speyside and is delighted to get back onto the gravel.

Banchory's Bruce McCombie has been the driver to beat in the 1600cc class in his Ford Puma - hence his 19-point lead in the Weldex 2 Wheel Drive series, which translates into ninth overall in the championship.

However, it was Mike Horne of Duns who emerged as the leading 2-wheel drive contestant on the "Scottish" in his Mk 2 Escort, after problems for both Yorkshireman Steve Bannister and Sauchen's Calum Mackenzie, the latter dropping down the leader board after suffering a puncture and wheel damage.

Mackenzie says it makes him more determined than ever to turn in a good performance in Morayshire, at the wheel of his 240 bhp 1980 Mk 2 Escort.

The "Speyside" comprises eight special stages - including the popular spectator stage at the Cooper Park in Elgin - totalling more than 43 miles. The rally is the sixth round of the 2008 SRC, with the penultimate event, the Merrick Forest Stages on September 6, and the Colin McRae Stages on September 27.


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