John MacCrone’s dream of winning the Jim Clark Rally melted away when the red-hot brakes on his Citroen triggered a series of problems which wrecked his ambition. Super cool Finn Jukka Korhonen held on his second-successive victory in the British Championship.
The 23-year-old from Mull had just strengthened his grip on second place in the latest round of the British Rally Championship when everything began to unravel.
MacCrone, the Culina Palletforce Racing team-leader, co-driven in his Citroen DS3 R3 by Welshman Phil Pugh, was quickest through the second run of the 1.2-mile spectator special stage in the heart of Duns, deep in the Borders.
Entering the second run through the rally’s longest stage, the 16-miler at Abbey St Bathans, the Scot had closed to within 7.8 seconds of leader Jukka Korhonen.
But, just as he was poised to overhaul the Finn, who won the opening round in Carlisle last month, MacCrone’s problems began.
Such was his blistering pace through the ultra-fast but tight and twisty section of the tarmac stage that his brakes began to overheat.
As their efficiency evaporated, the talented Scot struggled to slow his car as it entered the sharp bends on the downhill section of the stage.
Eventually, with his brakes’ stopping power all but drained, MacCrone inevitably ran wide at a right-hander. The impact damaged the rear suspension and he spent the remainder of the stage fighting the car as it fought to steer itself.
With the tracking damaged and the left rear wheel pointing away from the car’s body, the Citroen resembled a crab as it meandered through the narrow country lanes as the rear tried to steer the front-end. The damage cost MacCrone 38.3secs compared to Korhonen’s fastest stage time.
With no service between stages five and six, MacCrone had to manhandle his Citroen through the second run of the four-miler at Tweedside costing him another 53.9secs.
Within two stages, MacCrone had plummeted from second overall, just 7.8secs behind the Finn, to a distant eighth, 1min 40secs adrift.
As yesterday progressed, the Scot’s car continued to cause him problems and ultimately to question his driving skills. After posting the fifth-fastest time through the 11-miler at Swinton his Citroen continued to prepare to throw in the towel.
Over the eight miles of Edrom, he dropped 2mins 23secs on the fastest time, and another 1m 20secs in the next stage, the 12-miler at Ayton.
“I really was beginning to question what I was doing,” MacCrone, who twice finished on the podium on his debut season last year in the World Rally Championship Academy, admitted.
“But when we got the car back to service, the crew identified the front track control arm was broken which, in simple terms, meant the front suspension was knackered.
“I’d really been struggling to keep the car on the road and, although the stages were damp, I didn’t understand what was wrong.
“Obviously I’m really disappointed not to have been able to continue the fight at the top of the leaderboard.”
Korhonen won his second successive BRC round but the young Scandinavian was made to sweat. Having established a comfortable 38s overnight lead ahead of Ulsterman Alastair Fisher, and opened a gap of 44.4secs to Welshman Tom Cave in third, Korhonen threw 33.2s away on yesterday’s opening stage at Swinton when he made a wrong tyre choice.
As Cave capitalised on a spin by Fisher, the Welshman and the Finn entered the final stage, through Swinton, separated by just 0.1secs
It was Korhonen who held his nerve to win the stage, 0.7secs ahead of Fisher with Cave a further 1.2secs adrift, leaving the Finn the winner by just two seconds after 135 miles of high speed battling.