The forests of Kincardineshire will echo from the sound of rally cars this weekend, as the Voyonic Grampian Forest Rally blasts back into action on Saturday [12 August].
The Banchory-based event will once again host some of the fastest gravel drivers in the country, as they do battle to take the coveted rally win and score valuable points in the KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship for which the event marks the sixth round of the 2023 season.
Fans in Northeast Scotland will also be in for a treat, as the Stonehaven and District Motor Club organised event have attracted a sensational entry of almost one hundred cars, with competitors set to tackle six special stages and over forty-three stage miles in the Drumtochty and Fetteresso forests.
The high-speed tests will see a swathe of top-flight contenders head for Banchory and one of the most eagerly anticipated and largest motorsport events in the region. An impressive entry list will see an on-form Jock Armstrong leading the crews away from the Ceremonial Start in Banchory.
The Castle Douglas driver will start the event in the lead of the Scottish Rally Championship after blistering pace this season and the two-time SRC champion brings his familiar Subaru Impreza to the super-fast stages and has Hannah McKillop on the notes. A strong result here will add to his Snowman and Scottish Rally wins, cementing his advantage with just two rounds remaining after the weekend.
At car two, David Henderson secured a top score on the asphalt of the Jim Clark Rally in May but has yet to win on gravel this year. His Fiesta Rally2 is perfectly matched to the Grampian Forests and his third place of the previous round could be a sign of his intent. Chris Lees will co-drive.
British Rally Championship contender Elliott Payne starts at three in the search of valuable seat time in his Fiesta Rally2 and Tom Woodburn is in the co-driver’s seat. Payne sampled the stages during his BRC campaign last year and has elected to return for another shot and go head-to-head with the SRC regulars.
Finlay Retson and Paul Beaton will be aiming to put their Scottish Rally result behind them and get back to form in the Ford Fiesta Rally2. A win on Speyside Stages marks the potential of the pairing and will carry number four on the doors.
Michael Binnie has recently swapped his Mitsubishi for a Ford Fiesta R5 and is consistently challenging for top spot in the SRC this year. As he continues to adapt to the new machinery, Binnie could well scoop a Grampian victory and has Emily Easton-Page in the co-driver’s seat for the first time and rounds out the top five.
And there is local interest too as Banchory’s Bruce McCombie wheels out his all-new Ford Fiesta for its maiden outing, but his 23rd start on the event. The experienced ace has started recently competed in a Focus WRC but started a handful of rounds in a Ford Escort MKII this year. Now, all eyes will be on his new acquisition for a home hero victory with Michael Coutts on the notes. Brother Scott also lands an entry in his Mitsubishi Evo IX.
Huntly driver John Wink brings his Hyundai i20 R5 to the event with Neil Shanks, and Alford’s Scott Beattie makes his Fiesta R5 debut.
Fans will get plenty of chances to catch up with the cars and the action during the weekend, starting with the pre-event technical checks from 16:00 to 20:00 on Friday 11 at Milton of Crathes near Banchory.
The popular ceremonial start takes place in the public car park off Dee Street in Banchory Town Centre from 09:00 on Saturday as the cars are flagged away. Commentary will be provided and the chance to get close to the cars and crews.
Then heading into the stages, the Fetteresso Cowie Bridge location, just off the A597 near Rickarton offers three chances to catch the action, with runs taking place at 09:30, 12:50 and finally at 16:15. The facility enjoys toilets and catering and a £10 per car cash donation towards the event’s charity will be requested for parking.
More information including spectator access maps, entry list and timings is available on the event website closer to the event.
Regular updates will be posted on the event’s social media channels and website: www.grampianforestrally.com