THE very title suggests something a wee bit different.

While most rallies serve up dust or mud, the Coogie Urquhart Snowman Rally – which this year carries the name of sadly missed Scottish motorsport stalwart Iain Urquhart – is made all the more interesting, usually by copious amounts of the white stuff.

However, while many of us only like to see snow on Christmas cards, the crews contesting the opening round of the KNC Groundworks Motorsport UK Scottish Rally Championship are prepared for all a Scottish winter can throw at them, amongst them Donnie Macdonald, the 2018 series runner-up.

“The snow and ice makes it something a bit different, another challenge – although you might not think that if you end up in a ditch. Although some of us don’t need snow to ensure that,” joked Donnie, who saw his title challenge last year end in such a trap on the Galloway Hills Rally.

“It was a disappointing end but, to be honest, it didn’t go wrong there. I think our problems started – and they proved costly in the end – on the Argyll Rally when I stalled the car off the start line on the final stage and that lost me the win.

"We finished five seconds behind Andrew Gallacher.

"Then, on the Grampian Stages, the ‘unpuncturable’ tyres we fitted punctured.

“One place higher on those two events and we’d have been champions so, to my mind, the title was gone before we tackled the Galloway Hills and what happened there is forgotten about.”

Macdonald lost the championship battle with Gallacher by just four points. And he expects 2019 to be every bit as close among the front runners.

“Last season, competition-wise, it was as tight and competitive as I can remember. The top 10 runners, in terms of ability and the machinery they are running, is as strong as it’s ever been.

"That’s great to see, although it might not be as close on the Snowman.

"David Bogie – a multiple Scottish champion and a former British champion – has entered and he’s in a different league to us boys, even if he is only supposed to be testing his Skoda R5.

“However, if he’s running first on the road and acting as snowplough for the rest of us, that might pull him back,” says Macdonald, who reckons another ultra-competitive year looks on the cards.

“Euan Thorburn, a former champion, will be back with a WRC Focus, as is Bruce McCombie, Gary Pearson has a Fiesta R5 like mine, as has Mark McCulloch. Jock Armstrong knows how to win titles with his Subaru Impreza, John Wink has been quick in his Hyundai i20 R5, and then you have Freddie Milne, who is always rapid. It looks like being fun.”

Not on the start ramp is defending champion Andrew Gallacher. In winning the 2018 title, he emulated the feat of his late father, Drew, thus becoming the first father and son to win the national crown.

However, unlike Gallacher Sr, there will be no back-to-back titles for Andrew this time around.

“The car [a Ford Focus WRC] is sold and I’ve bought a house,” says Andrew, who sounded as if he was trying to convince himself that he wouldn’t be in a car this year.

“We had a real go at the title and it paid off – but being that committed didn’t come cheap for me or my main sponsor, Tom Blackwood of The Cobble Shop.” Andrew deservedly took the silverware, and also received a six-figure bill for his campaign.

“Rallying doesn’t come cheap, especially these days with the equipment needed to put you in the mix. It doesn’t mean to say I won’t be back – just not for the moment.”