The McDonald and Munro Speyside Stages has grown from a small non-championship event to its current status as a well respected round of the MSA Scottish Rally Championship. Based in Elgin in the North East of Scotland, it has become one of the areas major sporting occasions. The event is a major undertaking by the organisers, The 63 Car Club (Elgin) Ltd. It is just one of the many different events that the club organises, which you can find out more about by visiting www.63carclub.com
The event uses some of Speyside’s finest forests for stages. Forests used in the past include Clashindarroch, Bin, Whiteash, Ordiquish, Rosarie, Teinland, and Monaughty. The event in the past has also used a super special stage in the Cooper Park, right in the centre of Elgin. The 0.7 mile tarmac stage provided an interesting challenge for drivers and easy access for spectators, just a minutes walk away from the town centre. Unfortunately, due to flood alleviation works, this spectacular stage was not ran in 2013 but after the works were completed the stage was brought back and has been used ever since.
The first Speyside Stages, in 1997, was organised as a non-championship event, but was observed by stewards from the Scottish Rally Championship. The event was a success, and paved the way for it to be included as a round of the Scottish Rally Championship. The inaugural running was eventually won by Sandy Dalgarno and Martin Forrest, and was also notable for the first sight of the Ford Escort WRC on Scottish soil, driven as course car by Brian Lyall.
In 1998 the event became the penultimate round of the Scottish Rally Championship. It also gained a title sponsor, with Little the Jewellers providing generous support which continued for seven years. Local hero Andy Horne went on to claim the win, but only just. Horne and Jim Paterson were tied on time after 45 competitive stage miles, with the tiebreak being decided in Hornes favour after he was quicker on the opening stage. The event was so successful that it was given the Chairmans Cup, a trophy which is awarded to the best rally in the Scottish Rally Championship.
1999 saw another first for the Speyside, the first running of a stage in the Cooper Park. The city centre venue was ideal for a special stage, and remains the only stage in the Scottish Rally Championship which runs in the centre of the host town. Great weather meant that almost 3000 spectators turned up to witness the spectacular sight of rally cars blasting through a normally peaceful venue. The event was also the first win in Scotland for John McKeown. The Irishman had stunned everyone with his pace in his first season competing in Scotland, and was rewarded with a win in his ageing Ford Sierra Cosworth. Jon Burn clinched the Scottish Rally Championship title by finishing fourth.
2000 saw the event continue to grow in stature and reputation. Jim Carty will remember it as his first win in a national rally as he guided his Metro 6R4 to victory.
2001 was a year many will remember. Foot and Mouth disease caused the cancellation of the Scottish Rally Championship but the organisers decided to press ahead with the running of the event. Foot and mouth cleared up just in time for the event to take place, and the organisers will be eternally grateful to local farmers for allowing the event to become the first forest rally to run in the UK after the outbreak. As a result, the event became a round of Ford’s one-make championships for Puma’s and Ka’s. The boost in entries helped the event continue, along with the attraction of a very special guest. Few will forget the sight of 1995 World Rally Champion Colin McRae pushing a Ford Puma to its limits through the Cooper Park and the forests of Speyside. Brian Lyall went on to win the event in his Subaru Impreza WRC.
The rally kept up its reputation in 2002. Stephen Harron became the second Irishman to win the event in his Subaru Impreza WRC as he fought of a stiff challenge from Raymond Munro. It also saw the visit of TV presenters Vicki Butler-Henderson and Tiff Needell as they tried out rallying for the first time. Although she started slowly, she increased her pace throughout the day and ended up with a good result. She also had biggest grin of any of the drivers at the end of the day. The event was another success and was awarded the Chairman’s cup for the second time. To win the award twice in the four years the rally had been in the Scottish Rally Championship was a major achievement for the organising team.
In 2003, the question was who could stop Raymond Munro. After a dominant season in the Scottish Rally Championship it seemed he only needed to turn up to win. Although he was victorious at the end of the day, it was only by the narrowest of margins as he pipped Gary Adam by just 1 second after 45 miles of competitive action.
2004 saw Raymond Munro attempting to become the first double winner of the Speyside, he had already been crowned Scottish Champion on the previous round of the championship. But his hopes were dashed after an accident in Clashindarroch, which left the door open for Barry Johnson, in his ex-Petter Solberg Subaru Impreza, to take the spoils.
In 2005, Barry Johnson was trying to do what Munro couldn’t, and become the first driver to win the event twice. In the end, he managed to complete the feat, but it wasn’t without drama. Problems with the gearbox before the penultimate stage let a hard charging Matthew Wilson close in, but Johnson just managed to hold on until the finish.
2006 was the tenth anniversary of the event, and it was welcomed with more rain than in the previous nine years added together. The Cooper Park super special stage was close to being cancelled due to the flooding the rain caused. In the end it was the crew of Dave Weston and Dave Robson in their Ford Focus WRC who picked their way through the fog and rain to claim a comfortable victory. Despite the weather conditions, the event was again awarded the Chairman’s Cup, becoming the best event in the Scottish Rally Championship for the third time. Full Results
Dave Weston made it a double in 2007, winning the event comfortably from Gary Adam. But it was Adam who was celebrating as second place was enough to clinch his first Scottish Championship title. Rising star David Bogie took his Group N Mitsubishi Lancer to third place. Full Results
David Bogie returned in 2008 to claim his first Speyside Stages win. This time in a Toyota Corolla WRC he held off Jimmy Girvan by just 10 seconds in conditions which were made difficult by the weather. Mike Faulkner rounded off the podium in third place. The event went on to win the Chairmans Cup once again. Full Results
It was David Bogie who was again the winner in 2009, as he eased to victory on the way to securing the Scottish Rally Championship title. Mike Faulkner went one better and claimed second place, with youngster Euan Thorburn rounding off the podium. Full Results
David Bogie completed the hat trick and won his third Speyside Stages in 2010, becoming the first man to do so. He was kept under pressure by Andy Horne most of the way until an accident in Clashindarroch put out him out of the running. Jock Armstrong inherited the runners up spot, with Alick Kerr completing the top three. Full Results
A seemingly unbeatable David Bogie made it four in a row by winning in 2011, and claiming the Scottish Rally Championship at the same time. Euan Thorburn took the runners up spot, with Mike Faulkner rounding out the podium places. Full Results
Euan Thorburn finally made it to the top step of the podium in 2012, beating David Bogie into second place. Jock Armstrong took the third step on the podium. Full Results