Volkswagen aims for a great Scot

With Volkswagen's Flying Finn Jouko Puhakka holding second place overall in the British Rally Championship, the Sony/Revolution Wheels/Pirelli- backed team heads for the Perth Scottish Rally and the third round of the championship in top form for another strong result.

Puhakka, 33, will be at the wheel of one of Volkswagen's trio of 'Colour Concept' Golf GTI 16Vs alongside fellow countryman Tapio Laukkanen and Brit Ashley Blenkhorn. His aim on the two-day Scottish, which starts in Perth on May 31, is to close the championship points gap between himself and series leader Gwyndaf Evans - and to help Volkswagen overhaul Nissan to claim second spot in the manufacturers' title race.

"I think it will be very hard to beat Gwyndaf," said Jouko, who finished fourth on last month's Pirelli International Rally. "He has won two out of two already and he knows the Scottish Rally well... But my Golf is going better all the time and, who knows..."

Who knows indeed, for last year the Volkswagen was runaway overnight leader of the Scottish Rally, Laukkanen relinquishing his advantage only after an accident on the closing day. Certainly the Finn is looking for a finish. "I cannot afford not to get to the end of this rally," said 26-year-old Tapio, both of whose '96 British outings have ended prematurely. "I know from last year that I have the speed to win in Scotland, but I also know that I must get some championship points in the bag..." Straight from Scotland, Laukkanen and Puhakka return home to prepare to defend their respective leads in the 2-litre and Group N classes of the Finnish Championship.

For Lincolnshire-based Ashley Blenkhorn, the Perth Scottish Rally provides the opportunity to climb the amateur driver rankings after his top-10 2-litre finish on the Pirelli. "We were lucky to get to the finish last time," said 26-year-old Ashley, "because we had all sorts of problems with the car. But we've put some more miles on it since then and I'm sure Scotland is going to be a turning point."

Ahead of Volkswagen's colourful trio lies a 650-mile endurance test featuring 140 stage miles through Fife, the Borders, Perthshire, Argyll and the Trossachs. The rally finishes in Perth on June 1.

Further backing for Volkswagen's Mobil 1/Top Gear RACMSA British Rally Championship assault comes from Trigard, Teboil, Siimesvaara, 3M and Brian James Trailers. -- Volkswagen rallying