FIRST SRC WIN FOR PEARSON
Scot extends championship lead in Elgin. By John Fife
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