Pearson notches maiden victory to extend lead in championship

Garry Pearson and Robbie Mitchell on their way to victory in Saturday's Speyside Stage Rally.
Garry Pearson and Robbie Mitchell on their way to victory in Saturday's Speyside Stage Rally.

Duns driver Garry Pearson edged out 2015 ARR Craib Scottish Rally Champion Jock Armstrong by eight seconds to win the 2016 McDonald and Munro Speyside Stages Rally in Elgin.

Pearson, co-driven by Robbie Mitchell, won his first ever SRC event at the wheel of his Ford Fiesta R5, extending his championship lead in the process.

Pearson was always in amongst the top times, and despite a puncture on SS5 and a near rally ending spin on the final stage he came home to take the win.

At the finish in Elgin, he said: “Really good. It was pretty close, we spun it in a fourth gear corner, a bit lucky but we’re happy to be here!”

The conditions on the 20th running of the Speyside stages were challenging for the competitors, especially in the opening Cooper Park tests where a pre-stage rain shower had made the tarmac stage very treacherous. However, despite the odd scattering of hail stones, conditions were predominantly dry albeit quite slippy.

Coming home in second place overall, and continuing their battle with Garry Pearson from the Border Counties Rally, were Jock Armstrong and Paula Swinscoe. Following a spin in the second Cooper Park stage Armstrong fought back up the leaderboard in his Subaru once the crews headed into the forests, winning the first gravel stage Knock More. However, the Castle Douglas driver had his work cut out to keep up with the more competitive R5 of Pearson, but came within eight seconds at the end after Garry’s high speed moment.

Jock said: “It’s been a good event for us really. Garry got carried away with himself with the SS10 spin! Glad to see I’m putting somebody under pressure!”

Finishing third overall, 33 seconds back from Armstrong and Swinscoe were Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX.

Duns driver Dale Robertson with Stuart Loudon alongside took his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX to sixth place overall, another strong finish for the Duns driver.

His rally was not without problems though, with his Evo trailing his rear bumper at the end of SS4. The rear diff also let go at the end of the rally, but luckily for Robertson it was in the final stage which was only 2.79 miles long.

The 2014 Scottish Rally Champions Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton were also out on the Speyside in their Peugeot 208 T16 R5 although weren’t scoring SRC points. The duo were leading the way after eight stages but after SS9 were complaining with issues at the rear of the Peugeot, which eventually was diagnosed as a broken differential, which led to their retirement.

Cornhill’s Michael Binnie, co-driven by Whitsome’s Claire Mole, finished a superb 23rd overall in only his second rally in a Mitsubishi Evo 5.

James Gibb from Kilmarnock and St Boswells co-driver Iain Robson were 27th overall in their Ford Fiesta, while Duns co-driver Dave O’Brien and Perth’s Gordon Murray were 31st in a Ford Escort.

There were class wins for Muir of Ord’s Thomas Gray and Jedburgh co-driver Dave Robson who were 38th in their Ford Escort and for Canonbie’s John McIlwraith and Duns co-driver Scott Young who were 40th, also in an Escort.

Belford’s David Martin, co-driven by Neil Ewing, was 43rd overall and second in his class in a Citroen C2, and Duns driver Gina Walker, also in a Citroen C2, was 64th overall.

The Duns crew of Max Redpath and Jack Clayworth finished 71st in their Peugeot 205 while Andy Struthers of Libberton and Alasdair McIlroy from Jedburgh were 72nd in their Citroen C2.

Among the non-finishers were Hawick’s Ian Baumgart and Gala co-driver Mike Dickson who retired their Subaru Impreza with gearbox problems.

The next round of the championship is the Jim Clark Rally on June 5. The rally which usually runs on closed pubic roads in Berwickshire is returning to Kielder Forest for the second year running.