DUNS driver Euan Thorburn made it a weekend to remember by pulling off a stunning double triumph in the Jim Clark Rally. Hungry for more after winning the National Rally, the 25 year-old put the seal on a wonderful weekend in his home town by charging to victory in the Reivers Rally event too. Irishman Keith Cronin won the International Rally.
Alnogside Inverness navigator Paul Beaton, Thorburn won the National Rally thanks to a superb drive through the late stages in his Ford Focus world rally car. The pair then won the Reivers Rally by a minute and 20 seconds to propel themselves into the running for the MSA Scottish Championship.
The local driver, who has grown up around the same roads on which Jim Clark honed his driving skills, held off Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy in their old Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 with Stonehaven’s Barry Groundwater and Mike Dickson just over a second back in third, after roaring up the back of Faulkner in the final stage, and local duo Dom Buckley and Doug Redpath fourth. Reigning Scottish and Reivers champion David Bogie, was forced out of the event with a gearbox problem in the very first stage.
Dripping in champagne in his hometown square, Thorburn said: “It feels unbelievable. It’s been a perfect weekend. We never expected to win the National and that was a great event, and then to come out and win this is difficult to sum up.
“David Bogie went out early and we just pushed on from that point and built a healthy lead, and managed to enjoy a Sunday drive with no incidents.
“The car has been fantastic. We have driven it as hard as we could. We used to drive a Group N car, which was basically a road car out of the showroom, but this is a purpose-built thing, and the acceleration and braking is incredible, and that’s key on roads like these.
“You get all your time braking into the corners and then accelerating out, and it’s been amazing to drive.”
Thorburn won five of the six stages and after struggling in the opening two rounds he has propelled himself back into the Scottish Championship running just two points behind Bogie with four events to come, with Faulkner and Groundwater also making up ground on the reigning champion.
The excitement of a rally lies for many in the clattering racket of cars speeding through the countryside at 30-second intervals, the engine roar and exhaust bangs whetting the appetite long before the car comes into view, and, if you are lucky, you might find one car chasing down another as they hit speeds close to 130mph on straights.
But it is the movement in places between stages as crews disappear from the leaderboard and others leap up that sparks a feverish scamper to discover what fate befell the missing name, whether they crashed, rolled or smashed through a hedgerow, or simply succumbed to the ultra-frustrating and hugely varied ‘mechanical trouble’.
The dry start of Friday night and Saturday gave way to some June showers early yesterday which, although brief, injected just enough slip to the Berwickshire roads to make for some tricky driving.
For the crews piloting some of the most expensive cars in Europe in the international and MSA British Rally Championship event it was a pulsating weekend of action. The highly-fancied Nikara brothers, Jarkko and Petri, from Finland had been forced out in Saturday’s drama with gearbox problems when leading, and so Irishman Keith Cronin and navigator Marshall Clarke took over and began the final five stages yesterday with a minute’s lead over Welsh pair Tom Cave and Craig Parry and fellow Irish duo Jonathan Greer and Gordon Noble in hot pursuit in third.
Cronin and Clarke were in pole position for a first Jim Clark win, Ireland’s double British Rally champion having finished second on his maiden entry in 2009. The 25 year-old’s lead was cut by eight seconds on yesterday’s opening stage around Bothwell, and then both Cave and Cronin hit trouble on the next run to finish the stage way down in eighth and 12th respectively.
Cronin’s overall lead was now down to 32 seconds with the Ford Fiesta R2 of British Rally Champion Elfyn Evans and Dale Furniss also edging closer to the top three, but Cronin’s brake problem was sorted and the Cork man stormed home first in the 13th and 14th stages, by 15 and 17 seconds respectively, to re-open a one minute-plus lead going into the final 10.2-mile section around Swinton.
Though pipped by a tenth of a second by the event’s top seed Mark Donnelly and Dai Roberts over the last ten miles, Cave was seven seconds off the pace so Cronin claimed the Jim Clark crown by over one minute and 16 seconds.
Cronin revealed afterwards: “It is a fantastic feeling to win the Jim Clark but I didn’t even think I’d be here.
“It’s a costly business this and I didn’t think I could afford to take part until we got some financial help, and we got a late entry. When the rain came on this morning I thought ‘here we go again’ because it was rain that cost me here two years ago with a late slip, and it was like driving on glass at times this morning.
“But after we got the brake pedal sorted we were fine and this win is up there with any I’ve achieved so far, and it sets us up nicely in the British Championship again.”
The win was Cronin’s second in a row in the British Championship and sets up a terrific fight for the 2012 title over the last two rounds with Evans and Cave now on 60 points with Cron tucked in neatly on 58, and each driver dropping his worst rally.
Ayr driver Ruary Macleod drove superbly well with co-driver Drew Sturrock to claim 11th place in their Fiesta and finish top Scots.
Jim Clark International Rally (British Championship): 1. Keith Cronin/Marshall Clarke (Citroen DS3) 2:09:34; 2. Tom Cave/Craig Parry (Citroen DS3 R3) 2:10:51; 3. Jonathan Greer/Gordon Noble (Citroen DS3) 2:11:57.
Jim Clark Reivers Rally (Scottish Championship): 1. Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Focus WRC) 43:27:9; 2. Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6) 44:47:8; 3. Barry Groundwater/Martin Forrest 44:49:9.
Jim Clark National Rally: Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Focus WRC) 1;20:09; 2. Dmian Cole/Eurig Davies (Focus WRC) 1:20:56; 3. Stephen Simpson/Patrick Walsh (Subaru Impreza WRC) 1:21:22.
Jim Clark Challenge Rally: 1. Simon Moore/Emma Morrison (Renault Clio) 1:19:02; 2. Richard Sykes/Simon Taylor (Citroen C2R2 Max) 1:19:32; 3. Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy (Renault Clio) 1:20:46.
Jim Clark Historic Rally: 1. Steve Bannister Luise Sutherland (Escort Mk2) 1:17:55; 2 Gareth James/Steffan Evans (Escort RS 1800) 1:20:12; 3. Charlie Taylor/Steve Bielby (Escort Mk2) 1:21:17.
Jim Clark Landrover Rally: 1. Alan Paramore/James Sutherland (Wolf) 1:36:46; 2. Christopher Ratter/Catriona Entwistle (Freelander) 1:38:21; 3. Curtis McKerlie/Ross Hunter (Wolf) 1:42:37.