The biggest annual motorsport event in the North-east of Scotland, the Coltel Granite City Rally, has attracted a bumper field of almost 120 cars. And once again, the guy the NE crews have to beat is four-times ARR Craib Scottish Rally champ, David Bogie.
But the 25-year-old from Dumfries, who bids to repeat his win of 12 months ago in his all-new ex-Colin McRae Ford Focus WRC, faces stiff competition from a number of local drivers.
Banchory's Quintin Milne (below) arrives in Aberdeen leading the ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship after his win in the last round, the snow-hit Border Counties Rally in Jedburgh.
Milne, co-driven by Aberdeen's Martin Forrest, will again pilot his Mitsubishi Evo IX which, coincidentally, is powered by the same engine which was in Bogie's Evo three years ago.
"Coming into my home event leading the Scottish Championship is something of a dream for me," Milne admitted.
"It's crucial I stay focused this weekend to ensure I at least finish on the podium.
"People keep telling m I should be thinking about the championship now, but it's not in my nature to be steady: so I think I'm probably just going to go, 'yahoo!' and go for it, because it's the only way I know."
Making a one-off appearance in the championship, Aberdeen's Dave Weston jnr will partner Duns' Claire Mole in another Evo IX. Seeded sixth, the pair are immediately ahead of Barry Groundwater. The Stonehaven driver, second last time out in his Evo IX, is hoping for another podium.
"It was great to be on the podium in Jedburgh, and we're certainly fired up to repeat the experience in the Granite," Groundwater said.
"It's going to be tough, because the stages look like being very fast and slippery, and there are a few quick guys ahead of me on the road.
"But we know these stages well, and nothing fires you up like competing in your home event in front of family, friends, sponsors and supporters."
With Banchory's Bruce McCombie — who finished fourth last year after a stonking drive — just outside the top 10 seeds in his Subaru Impreza, there's a number of drivers from the North of Scotland eager to impress as well.
Inverness duo, Donnie MacDonald and Andy Horne, are seeded eighth and ninth respectively in their Evo IX and Dam 4100GTI. And while Oban's Stephen Lockhart will fire his Evo VII up from 12th, Reay Mackay will be 14th to leave the start ramp at Duthie Park in his Subaru Impreza WRC.
Most eyes though are likely to be on the battle of the Focus WRC cars of Dumfries ace Bogie and Euan Thorburn at the head of the field. The Duns driver, who endured a difficult day in the Borders, finishing 10th in the points, is already a winner this year, clinching the Malcolm Wilson Rally last month.
"It's going to be a hell of a battle," Thorburn admitted. "The stages will definitely suit the power of the Focus WRC, so I think David and I will be going at it hell for leather."
It's a sentiment shared by Bogie.
"Euan's been driving very well in the Focus for the past year," the reigning chap said, "and for me he's the guy to beat in the Granite. It's going to be really close."
The leading GpN car is John McClory's Subaru Impreza. The Strathblane driver, co-driven by David Hood, won the class on the Border Counties after finishing sixth overall of the registered championship competitors.
Fellow Aberdeenshire driver, Calum Mackenzie, makes a welcome return to competition in his Ford Escort MkII, while a number of class winners on the Border Counties will be back in action among the smaller-engined 2WD entries.
In Class 2, Highland duo Ross Macdonald (Conon Bridge) and Matthew Johnstone (Inverness) are aiming for a second successive maximum points haul in their Vauxhall Corsa. In Class 3, Dumfries and Galloway's Iain Haining (Dumfries) and Mairi Riddick (Castle Douglas) — in a Vauxhall Corsa — will again be the crew to beat .
RALLY START/FINISH TIMINGS: The first car to contest this year's Coltel Granite City Rally leaves the start ramp in Aberdeen's Duthie Park at 9.30am on Saturday, April 20. The cars return to Duthie Park in the afternoon for the winners' Champagne-spraying ceremony at 3.18pm.
Coltel Granite City Rally – Top 10 Seeds:
1. David Bogie (Dumfries)/Kevin Rae (Hawick) Ford Focus WRC;
2. Euan Thorburn (Duns)/Paul Beaton (Inverness) Ford Focus WRC;
3. Quintin Milne (Banchory)/Martin Forrest (Aberdeen) Mitsubishi Evo IX;
4. Jock Armstrong (Clarebrand)/Kirsty Riddick (Haugh of Urr) Subaru Impreza;
5. Mike Faulkner (Kirtlebridge)/Peter Foy (Bingley) Mitsubishi Evo IX
6. Dave Weston Jnr (Aberdeen)/Claire Mole (Duns) Mitsubishi Evo IX;
7. Barry Groundwater (Stonehaven)/Neil Shanks (Elgin) Mitsubishi Evo IX;
8. Donnie MacDonald (Inverness)/Andrew Falconer (Inverness) Mitsubishi Evo IX;
9. Andy Horne (Inverness)/Jim Howie (Kilmarnock) DAM 4100GTI;
10. John McClory (Strathblane)/David Hood (Elderslie) Subaru Impreza N15.