Wilks takes early leadposted in RSCOT15 | 10 | 2010

    UNDER A NEAR cloudless sky, in total contrast to the lashing rain which drenched the opening stages of the event 12 months ago, RallyScotland roared into action at Scone Palace this evening.

    With thousands of fans lining the two-mile moonlit stage, which wound its way through the grounds of the palace in which generations of Scottish kings were crowned, 2009 RallyScotland winner Guy Wilks threw down the gauntlet to the rest of the high quality field.

    After two runs through the blisteringly fast stages of the penultimate round of the Intercontinental Rally Championship, Wilks announced himself happy with his night's work.

    "Yeh, that was good," the 31-year-old Skoda ace from Darlington said after clocking a total of 4mins 16.0secs. "But I thought we had a puncture during our second run because the steering suddenly went heavy, but it cured itself. But I'll get the Skoda boys to look at it tomorrow morning."

    Wilks takes a 1.7s lead over the Peugeot of 2009 IRC champ Kris Meeke into tomorrow's six stages as the pair established a 9.0s lead over the Ford Fiesta S2000 of Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen (correct, Mikkelsen).

    Scot Alister McRae (pictured) put together two solid runs in his Proton Satria S2000 to lie fifth, 11.3secs behind Wilks and 0.2 ahead of Finn Juho Hanninen. The IRC champion-elect at one stage found himself ploughing across the beautifully manicured lawn in front of the Palace in his Skoda.

    "The stage was slippier than I thought it would be," former British champ McRae said, "so I was braking a bit too early at a number of places simply because I didn't know where the grip was."

    Double Hankook Scottish Rally champ David Bogie, the 22-year-old from Dumfries, was 10th overall and second in GpN in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.

    "It's good to get these stages out of the way," Bogie said. "Now I can't wait to get to bed and head into the real rally stages tomorrow."

    The crews have an early start tomorrow with the first car leaving Perth and heading to the first of the morning's three stages at 6.19am.

    After negotiating the 10.7-mile test at Craigvinean north of Dunkeld, and the 9.4 miles of Drummond Hill near Kenmore, the crews head into the gruelling 11-miler at Errochty at Tummel Bridge.

    The morning's final stage will be broadcast live to millions of viewers in 70 countries by Eurosport. After returning to Perth for servicing, the crews repeat the three-stage loop in the afternoon.

    Sunday sees the surviving cars head to the Trossachs for two runs through Clashmore and the daunting 18 miles of Loch Ard, before finishing at Stirling Castle.

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    Jim McGill

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