Duns driver Euan Thorburn boosted his hopes of winning the 2014 ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship with a second successive victory on Saturday’s GWF Energy Merrick Stages.
Driving a Ford Focus WRC Thorburn led from start to finish alongside co-driver Paul Beaton to complete the six forest stages in Galloway and South Ayrshire in a total time of 40 minutes 38 seconds, 35 seconds ahead of 2011 winners Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy in a Mitsubishi EVO 9.
Thorburn’s main rival and defending champion David Bogie secured the final podium spot, after his Ford Fiesta R5+ picked up a front-left puncture on the second stage: the flailing tyre wrecking the wheel-arch.
A delighted Thorburn said: “We had a 30 second cushion after two stages, but in that situation it’s difficult to judge the pace. You don’t want to take too many risks, but then again, you don’t want to back off too much and make mistakes.
“Nine times out of ten you’d probably want to be going as hard as you can, but we just controlled the pace, held our lead, and that’s the most important thing for the championship.”
Dale Robertson was also more than happy with his second GpN win in a row: “Everything has gone pretty well. We had a wee problem with the starter before the last service, but the boys fixed it, and we had a good run in the afternoon, with Paul doing another great job on the notes. We also managed to keep clear of any punctures.”
Yorkshireman Steve Bannister, with Louise Rae from Hawick alongside, proved to be the man to beat among the two-wheel drive competitors. He powered his historic-class Ford Escort Mk2 through the dry and dusty stages to end the day in ninth overall, his second SRC top-ten finish of the season.
Kieran Renton from Leitholm, with Dave Robson navigating, had gear selection problems, but still managed to bring his Ford Fiesta R200 home in 17th overall, third in the 1600cc class: the pair covered in “stoor” from their day on the stages.
Lauder’s Callum Atkinson, with Keith Riddick co-driving, secured maximum points in Class 7 in his Ford Fiesta ST, despite a puncture on the last stage. Nevertheless, he added to his already sizeable lead ahead of next month’s Colin McRae Stages.
The Duns crew of Colin Aitchison and Garry Pearson were 28th overall and third in class with their Vauxhall Chevette HSR.