PAUL Beaton is looking forward to renewing old rivalries when he returns to racing at the Snowman Rally this weekend.
Alongside Euan Thorburn, Beaton will be locking horns with fellow Invernessian Donnie MacDonald and David Bogie, who jostled with Beaton and Thorburn for supremacy in the Scottish Rally Championship for a number of years.
Add into the mix Beaton’s brother Keir co-driving for Reay Mackay, then the Drakies-based electrician does not have to look far for those trying to get one over on him.
Thorburn and Beaton won this race in 2014, which acts as the opener for the 2017 Scottish season. In that same year, they ended Bogie’s five-year reign as national champion and had numerous hotly-contested races.
MacDonald is the reigning Snowman champion on home turf and a good friend of Beaton’s, who also has a new Fiesta to test out. With sibling rivalry to consider too, it will be an eventful homecoming for Beaton.
“The rivalry has already started with my brother – maybe I should beat him up before the race!” said Beaton.
“He’s more of a frustrated driver than a co-driver and I think he’d much prefer to be in the driver’s seat. I navigated for him for rally and we crashed about 10 times, so that was the end of that magical partnership.
“It’s good to see Donnie in car one; I don’t want to push him too hard so he can keep his car on the road and enjoy his weekend!
“David has done a shed-load of mileage in his car compared to us, so I don’t think we’ll be on his pace.
“But it certainly won’t be for a lack of trying. He’ll be our benchmark.
“There’s a lot of the usual suspects and when we do compete, they want to beat us and push a little bit harder. We’ve not competed here for a couple of years so I’m sure the pace has moved up.”
Aside from Scottish championship contenders Jock Armstrong, the reigning champion, Mike Faulkner and Rory Young, Beaton has also picked out a number of younger drivers to keep an eye on.
Mackay and Scott Macbeth, in their Mitsbushi Evo’s, are getting to grips with the four-wheel-drive systems and are two of the best up-and-coming drivers on the circuit.
For co-driver Beaton, the Snowman is a chance to get some much-needed mileage in their new Ford Fiesta. They purchased it to replace their unreliable Peugeot, which was beset with mechanical problems, but have struggled to get competitive races under their belts.
A planned rally in Wales last weekend was cancelled after one stage due to the weather, frustratingly cutting short some much-needed preparation time.
“We’re trying to get back the speed we had and a bit of confidence,” said Beaton. “We’re just looking to get miles in and not expecting to set the world alight. Once we start we’ll be in competitive mode but it’s been so long since we have been.
“The organisers have done a fantastic job in getting it set up this year and it will be nice to get out in front of a home crowd and sure that we’re still about.”
The duo entered the reformed British Rally Championship last year but curtailed their season mid-way through due to a lack of budget. They are still trying to find a main sponsor and for the meantime at least, will remain self-funded.
Beaton hopes to enter three rounds of the World Rally Championship – Portugal, Germany and GB – and re-assess their chances of having a second crack at the British championship later in the year.