RALLY TIMES TIED BUT ARMSTRONG BEATS PEARSON TO VICTORY S
Scottish championship thriller as crews have to rely on first-stage times to decide result. By John Fife aturday’s Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally ended in a dead heat. At the finish, Jock Armstrong and Garry Pearson shared identical totals. A faster
Going into the final stage, 10 seconds covered the top three, with Shaun Sinclair only a second behind Pearson.
Armstrong was fastest over the first three stages, the Subaru Impreza opening up an 11-second lead over Sinclair first time out in a hired Ford Focus WRC, but Armstrong nearly dropped the ball on the start line at the fourth test. “I forgot to put it in gear when the marshal started counting down,” said Armstrong. “That cost me two or three seconds and could so easily have cost me the rally!”
A third fastest time on the first stage followed by two second-fastest times demonstrated Pearson’s confidence in the Ford Fiesta as he chased the top two, but it was Sinclair who went fastest on the fourth test, before dropping time in the fifth. “The car filled with dust. I couldn’t see a thing, it was worse than fog,” he said.
This time Pearson was quickest in the Fiesta R5, closing the gap to Armstrong to nine seconds, with Sinclair just one second behind that. The final test would decide the winner, nine miles in the superfast Craik.
Pearson had been growing in confidence all day with his new car and, considering he had taken a second a mile out of the rally leader on the previous eight-mile test at Elibank despite a front-wheel puncture for the last halfmile, a similar effort was needed here.
He was quickest by six seconds from Sinclair, while Armstrong could only manage third quickest, a crucial nine seconds behind Pearson. The result was a dead heat with a relieved Armstrong being declared the winner.
Top Mitsubishi driver on the day was Mike Faulkner in fourth place, finishing over a minute clear of Mark Mcculloch, but both had their troubles. Faulkner dropped time on the final test with a top end misfire, while Mcculloch was plagued all day by a Lancer that lacked traction at the rear.
Bruce Mccombie had to settle for sixth after a puncture on the fourth test, while
11 John S Wink/john Forrest (Lancer E9); 12 Alisdair S Graham/ Laura Stuart (Lancer E9); 13 Scott Mccombie/ Mark Fisher (Lancer E9); 14 Ross Macdonald/ Matthew Johnstone (Lancer E8); 15 Scott Macbeth/ Daniel Forsyth (Lancer); 16 Steve Bannister/ Kim Baker (Ford Escort Mk2); 17 Stephen Freddy Lockhart/ Richard Wardle (Lancer E6); 18 Iain Wilson/ Keith Riddick (Impreza); 19 Ian Baumgart/ Mike Dickson (Impreza); 20 Keith Morris/ Martin Forrest (Lancer E6). Class winners Angus Lawrie/jeannette Kvick (Vauxhall Corsa); Scott Beattie/ Russell Fair (Talbot Sunbeam); Steven Smith/ Daniel Johnstone (Escort Mk2); John Mcilwraith/ Scott Young (Escort RS); Bannister/ Baker; Alan Cowan/ Katie Stimpson (Vauxhall Astra); Grant Inglis/ Robert Gray (Escort); Donald Brooker/ Rachel Brooker (BMW 130i); Faulkner/ Foy; Armstrong/ Swinscoe; Pearson/ Mitchell.
Dale Robertson made it back into the top 10 after breaking a driveshaft on the first test and doing the next two with a front-wheel-drive Lancer. Andrew Gallacher lost over a minute on the penultimate test when his Lancer rumbled out of the stage on two flat tyres on the same side.
In worse luck was John Maccrone, who retired his Fiesta R5 from the top 10 when a turbo pipe clamp snapped. At least he lasted a little longer than Peter Stephenson, whose Focus had plunged down a bank. There was little damage but it would need more than spectator power to get it out.
Snowman Rally winner Donnie Macdonald finished eighth losing time on the fifth test with a front puncture and Barry Groundwater held on to ninth place in front of Gallacher.
Top two-wheel-drive runner on the day was Steve Bannister, while Greg Mcknight, who was 10s fastest on the opening stage, lost out when the rear end of his Escort made violent contact with a banking on a fourth-gear corner in stage 2, although he recovered to finish fifth in class. Matthew Robinson retired his Fiat 131 in the final stage when the car hit a rock “and broke something underneath!”
Angus Lawrie took the 1450cc class in his Vauxhall Corsa while Ross Carbry’s Corsa ended its day on the first stage with a broken driveshaft. Scott Beattie won Class 3 in his Talbot Sunbeam ahead of the top-placed Peugeot 205 of Ben Cree, while Steven Smith took Class 4 in his Escort ahead of the Corsa of Alex Curran.
Added to his fourth place finish on the Snowman Rally, Pearson’s second place puts him provisionally at the top of the ARR Craib Scottish Championship points tables on 53 points, with Donnie Macdonald on 52 and Dale Robertson sharing 51 with Mark Mcculloch.
Next month there is a change for the Scottish rally crews: it’s Elgin instead of Aberdeen as the Speyside Stages assumes the round three role.
Organiser: Owen MC When: March 20 Where: Weston Park, Shropshire Championships: AWMMC Heart of England; HRCR Old Stager Stages: 10 Starters: 75
Paul Evans and Stephen Turner took a dramatic victory in their Ford Escort Mk2 after starting the final stage tied with Roger Moran and Samantha Lester’s similar car.
Timing problems caused the first stage to be cancelled, but Moran had tied on the second stage with five-time winners Oliver Davies/ben Innes, before Moran went a second clear on the fourth.
Evans had already started to consolidate third over David Wright/steve Pugh’s Ford Escort, after the latter had a couple of grassy excursions, while Paul Alexander/abi Haycock’s Escort headed Gareth Richards/heather Gilmore’s Darrian for fifth.
But Davies’ hopes of another victory were dashed on stage five. “It was a huge tank-slapper over the grass,” he said. It dropped him to third, seven seconds off the lead and chasing to recover second from Evans.
Although Moran retained his lead, a stall at the Hairpin on stage six halved it and spurred Evans on to chase the win. After seven stages it was a one-second gap, before they matched each other on stage eight.
It was dead level into the final stage from which Evans emerged two seconds quicker to snatch the win from Moran, but Davies was left parked after his engine let him down. Wright therefore claimed third, despite being slowly caught by Richards.
They were followed home by the Class C battle, led all day by Alexander, despite battling without power steering from mid-rally. Julian Jones/mikey Herritts’ Escort overcame brake bias problems to oust Lee Edwards/mike Roberts’ Escort from second in class after seven stages to complete the top six overall.
Ian and Sarah Hambleton’s Peugeot 106 led Clive King/ Anton Bird’s Mini Cooper S all day to take Class A, with Mark Gamble/steve Link’s Suzuki Swift heading Dai Roberts/ Max Freeman’s Peugeot 205 GTI in Class B. Stuart and Jack Anderson’s Vauxhall Chevette topped the Historics.