THE PAUL CHALK COLUMN
IT was a Saturday with a difference for me as I got the opportunity to cover the Coogie Urquhart Snowman Rally through my work at charity station North Highland Radio in Dingwall. We’ve been working hard to promote and cover the build-up to the opening round of the Scottish Rally Championship, which is always appealing to drivers and spectators alike. We’ve interviewed organisers, drivers, navigators and sponsors over more over the past couple of months and the station’s exclusive link-up with the Highland Car Club and associated partners led to a fruitful relationship from start to finish.
That meant that not only did we get the access to many of the key names as the rally drew nearer, but on the day our coverage would be almost in the drivers’ seats as the competitors drove through Dingwall High Street for the public to see these cars close up if the stages were not part of their plan.
Inverness city centre has been the starting point for the Snowman Rally, but through much talking behind the scenes the move to Dingwall, close to where much of the action unfolds, was warmly welcomed.
We interviewed some of the drivers and navigators from just outside our studio and presenters inside played music down the High Street. I also thank the teams at Fairways Leisure in Inverness, which was the start and finish point while, as ever, Dingwall Auction Mart was a busy base throughout the weekend.
Ice on stage one was a real test for all and they reacted with skill to kick on.
The delighted winner by Saturday tea-time was Michael Binnie from Northumberland, alongside navigator Claire Mole from Duns in the Borders.
Their triumph in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 (pictured) saw off top seed, runner-up Jock Armstrong (Castle Douglas), Freddie Milne (Aberdeen) in third, top local Donnie MacDonald next, who was aiming to repeat in 2016 victory, then Huntly’s John Wink secured fifth spot.
A final word on Coogie, who the Snowman is now named in tribute of. He was a former clerk of the course, whose death in 2018, was felt far beyond the Highlands. He was respected nationwide for his knowledge and for being a stickler for safety. To have his name and photograph on cars and programmes underlines that he won’t be forgotten.
Part-timers again hit Caley Jags’ promotion hopes
CALEY Thistle really could – and should – be home and hosed in the chase for second spot in the Ladbrokes Championship. After a gutsy 3-2 last-gasp home win over Morton on Tuesday, they were delighted to see all four other results in this division finished in draws.
That reopened a three-point lead over Ayr United and offered John Robertson’s team a little breathing space. On Saturday, they were off to third-bottom, but ever-improving Alloa Athletic, who have twice held ICT at the Caledonian Stadium.
The Caley Jags slipped up again, this time losing 2-0 to a couple of first-half goals they never recovered from. So Alloa’s part-timers have cost Inverness seven points, while rock-bottom Partick Thistle have taken the six available points in their meetings with ICT this season.
So, 13 points conceded against two of the lesser lights in the Championship. Right now, Caley Thistle trail champions-elect Dundee United by 17 points but have two games in hand.
Part-time Arbroath, who have also beaten ICT twice this term, host the Highlanders on Saturday, so Caley Thistle better not allow lowly strugglers Queen of the South leave Inverness with anything from Tuesday night’s fixture.
The only saving grace after Saturday’s defeat at Alloa was, again – remarkably – the other four matches ended in draws. Damage was done, but it could’ve been worse.
- Paul Chalk’s Alive and Kicking sports show is on North Highland Radio every Friday from 7pm. You can listen to any of the community station’s programmes through the North Highland Radio website, the Tune In app or through your smart speakers. You can also email your views, music requests or predictions to firstname.lastname@example.org when Paul is on air.