The Border Counties Rally based in Jedburgh was round 2 of the Scottish Rally Championship. After a very exciting start to the season in Inverness at the Snowman many were left wondering if the battle for victory would be as intense on every round. By the time the cars had crossed the finishing ramp on Saturday night everyone had the answer to that question. Jock Armstrong, Garry Pearson and Shaun Sinclair were involved in a massive tussle all day and would come back to Jedburgh High Street with only 7 seconds separating the three of them. The battle for places would remain tight all the way down the leaderboard with Dale Robertson collecting valuable points in 7th, John Wink getting one step closer to a top 10 finish in 11th overall and Andy Kelly scooping 23rd overall in his first rally of the year.
Shaun Sinclair/Kirsty Riddick 3rd Overall Pic by Barbara Elliot
Shaun Sinclair endured great disappointment on the first round, The Snowman, when his engine had a problem which forced him to retire on stage 2. Unfortunately investigations as to what went wrong with the engine were still ongoing on the lead up to ‘The Border’ which left Shaun without a car. We put a deal in place which would allow Shaun Sinclair to use John Powell’s Ford Focus WRC for the event. Having never driven the Focus before a short test was organised for before the rally and Sinclair took no time in getting to grips with the ex M-Sport machine. There was a lot of hype about the combination of Shaun and the car on the lead up to the event. He would also have a new navigator in Kirsty Riddick as Stephen O’Hanlon had other work commitments and couldn’t make the event.
Dale Robertson once again had Stuart Loudon on the notes after his outstanding 2nd placed finish in Inverness. Seeded at car 6 for this event he was looking to push on and back up that result. John Wink set some very respectable times on the Snowman and ended up 12th overall. Wink and navigator John Forrest would be looking for an enjoyable outing with a solid finish once again. Andy Kelly has not competed since May 2016 so he would be looking to get the feel for the Escort Mk 1 once again and try to pick up some good points towards his Historic Championship.
A dry morning in Jedburgh which was very different to the snow which we had to contend with on the first round. Times filtered through for stage 1 and it was clear we were going to have a battle on our hands all day. Armstrong fastest by 2 seconds from Shaun Sinclair with Pearson only 10 behind the Focus driver. No more than 5 seconds separated the three front runners on the next two stages before service. Robertson had been expected to push right from the start in an event he would call local. When searching for him on the timesheets for the opening stages you would need to scroll down a bit to find him as he dropped over 90 seconds to the leading group with a broken driveshaft. With only 1 main service it meant that Dale had to persevere and guide the car back to service after stage 3 where the team could repair it. John Wink had a spin on stage 1 which dropped him a bit of time and he lay 29th and 9th in class 11 after that. A couple of strong runs through the next 2 saw him jump up the leaderboard though. Andy Kelly took the morning loop of stages to get the feel for the car again and also to get used to new for 2016 navigator Campbell Roy.
So at the half way point of the rally, Sinclair held 2nd place 11 seconds behind current SRC champion Jock Armstrong despite admitting he was braking too early. Dale Robertson was down in 11th and ready to push to get himself back up the leaderboard. John Wink had climbed back up to 18th and would also continue to push.
Dale Robertson/Stuart Loudon 7th Overall Pic by Barbara Elliot
Sinclair was fastest out the blocks after the midday service. He set fastest time in the fourth stage but it would be to no avail as the Focus WRC filled with dust on Stage 5 and made visibility poor and he dropped 10 seconds to Pearson and with it his 2nd place. With one stage left Armstrong led by 9 from Pearson with Sinclair only 1 second behind in 3rd. The last stage shootout would see Pearson set fastest time again taking 6 out of Sinclair and 9 seconds out of Armstrong to see him tie on time for the win. Armstrong would take victory on the tie break rule which goes back to who was fastest on the first stage of the day. Sinclair would finish with a very impressive 3rd overall only 7 seconds behind the leading pair.
Robertson, with his car fitted with a new driveshaft began to show signs of the speed that seen him take 2nd overall on round 1. Seventh fastest on stage 4 followed by a 5th fastest took him up to 8th with 1 stage left and he flew through that to take fourth fastest behind the leading pack and jumped one more place into 7th overall to take home a good haul of point which looked almost impossible at one point earlier in the day. Also climbing the leaderboard in the afternoon was John Wink, he rose from 18th overall at service to 11th at the finish with a couple of times just out the top 10 and one 9th fastest. John has made considerable improvements to his speed since last year and is getting faster with every stage this year. Andy Kelly improved his speed on the final 3 stages and finished 23rd overall in the MK 1 Escort. He finished 3rd in his class which was very nearly 2nd. Taking 14 seconds out of 2nd placed Darren Moon on the final stage which would see him fall just 4 seconds short of him in the overall standings.
So once again the Scottish Rally Championship proved great excitement for competitors and spectators with a thrilling finish. Here’s hoping for more of the same on the next round, The Speyside Stages on 23rd April.