Scot ex­tends cham­pi­onship lead in El­gin. By John Fife

Motor Sport News - - Rally Reports - Photos: Writ­tle Pho­to­graphic

Eight sec­onds sep­a­rated the top two at the end of the Mcdon­ald & Munro Spey­side Stages Rally last week­end, with vic­tory go­ing to Garry Pear­son and Rob­bie Mitchell. Hav­ing tied with Jock Arm­strong and Paula Swin­scoe last month on the Bor­der Coun­ties and los­ing out on the tie-de­cider, there was no mis­take this time, although it was close. Very close.

The open­ing two tests around the Cooper Park ‘city cen­tre spe­cial’ in El­gin were run on as­phalt. There was lit­tle to sep­a­rate crews but David Ross held a nar­row lead head­ing to the first gravel stages of the day in his rare DAM Metro af­ter top­ping the sec­ond as­phalt run.

Top of the timesheets in Knock More was Jock Arm­strong, but by only a sec­ond from Euan Thor­burn, with Pear­son four sec­onds off the pace.

Thor­burn was well into his stride on the fourth test at Bal­loch in his Peu­geot 208 T16 R5. The for­mer cham­pion was us­ing the event to pre­pare for the next round of the Bri­tish cham­pi­onship in Carlisle, and was a full nine sec­onds up on his Dom Buck­ley sta­ble­mate Pear­son – in a Fi­esta R5 – with John Mac­crone show­ing a much more en­cour­ag­ing re­turn of pace in his Fi­esta R5 a fur­ther sec­ond be­hind and one up on the Subaru of Arm­strong.

At first ser­vice af­ter SS4, Thor­burn had a 12-sec­ond lead over Pear­son with Arm­strong and Mac­crone tied, just three more sec­onds be­hind in third. The Mit­subishi Lancers of Mike Faulkner and Bruce Mc­com­bie fol­lowed. Shaun Sin­clair had been on the early pace too, but was slowed on the fourth test when the Subaru sheared a drive­shaft and he limped into ser­vice with three-wheel drive.

Three more tests fol­lowed in the Gartly/clashin­dar­roch forests, a fear­some test of man and ma­chine, with 10 sec­onds cov­er­ing the top four through Gartly, led by Thor­burn from Arm­strong, Pear­son and Faulkner. This time it was Mac­crone suf­fer­ing drive­shaft woes, drop­ping a mas­sive 50 sec­onds to the lead­ers.

Down the road in the first Clashin­dar­roch test – Strone Hill – Pear­son scored his first fastest time of the day, but by just three sec­onds from Mac­crone, and three more from Thor­burn, ty­ing with Faulkner and Bruce Mc­com­bie, one sec­ond clear of Arm­strong.

Mac­crone hit the front in Cats Craig, two sec­onds faster than Arm­strong and Faulkner, who were three up on Pear­son and Don­nie Macdon­ald. He had ear­lier been de­layed with a punc­ture in his Lancer, but not as badly as Mc­com­bie, who suf­fered three punc­tures in the same stage!

At fi­nal ser­vice be­fore the last loop of three stages, Thor­burn had a nine-sec­ond ad­van­tage over Pear­son, with Arm­strong still a threat­en­ing four sec­onds be­hind in third place. Faulkner was fourth, with Mac­crone hav­ing fought back to fifth ahead of Mc­com­bie.

On the sec­ond run through Gartly, Pear­son scored his sec­ond fastest time of the day and did it again on the penul­ti­mate test, in which Thor­burn dropped al­most 20 sec­onds and lost the rally lead to Pear­son.

A whole minute cov­ered the top five as they headed for the fi­nal stage. Surely things couldn’t change that much, could they?

Mac­crone was fastest, Pear­son spun and Thor­burn didn’t start the stage! Ac­cord­ing to Pear­son’s co-driver Rob­bie Mitchell: “That was as big a spin as you’re ever likely to see, off down the road back­wards!”

A re­lieved Pear­son ad­mit­ted: “That was real pres­sure. We knew Euan had a prob­lem and I had two near-spins be­fore that big one!”

“We spun back­wards into a ditch in SS8,” said Thor­burn, “and we no­ticed a noise from the diff in that one, so de­cided not to do the fi­nal stage – and save it for the Pirelli Rally next week.”

Pear­son held on to score his first out­right vic­tory by just eight sec­onds from Arm­strong, with Faulkner hold­ing off Mac­crone for third place.

“That was as fast as she will go,” said Faulkner. “We were on the door han­dles.”

For his part, Mac­crone’s grin said it all: “We’re get­ting our pace back and the con­fi­dence is re­turn­ing. If it hadn’t been for that drive­shaft!”

He ended 47s back from Pear­son, with the loss of time for the drive­shaft 50s. He cer­tainly would have been in the bat­tle for the vic­tory in the Msl-run Fi­esta.

Mc­com­bie re­cov­ered from his tyre dis­as­ter to claim fifth ahead of Dale Robert­son, but the day be­longed to Pear­son and Mitchell.

Pear­son’s vic­tory has now given him a seven-point lead over Arm­strong in the ARR Craib Scot­tish Cham­pi­onship af­ter three rounds, but there’s still a long way to go.

As ever, Garry’s dad, Monty, was at the rally fin­ish, and he was even seen to smile! ■

Pear­son is ad­just­ing well to new R5 Fi­esta

Beattie thrilled in Peu­geot 205

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