Duns rally star Euan Thorburn recorded his first win of the 2017 Scottish Rally Championship (SRC) season at the weekend as he powered his way to victory in the RSAC Scottish Rally.
Thorburn steered his Ford Fiesta R5 to a commanding win of more than 50 seconds to extend his championship lead with Inverness’s Paul Beaton calling the notes.w
The fourth round of the series was held in Lockerbie, with classic Dumfries and Galloway forest stages such as Twiglees, Castle O’er and Ae testing the SRC crews. Frequent rain showers made the already abrasive stages slippery, producing conditions that were challenging at best.
Thorburn, who was also competing in the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship that ran alongside the SRC, took advantage of his extra seat time on Friday night to open up a ten-second lead on Saturday’s opener.
Despite a puncture in the first run of Castle O’er and then later in Ae, the 2014 champion was in superior form to claim his first Scottish Championship win since winning the title.
“The SRC was our focus today,” Thorburn said.
“The plan now is to try and push on in the remaining three events of the season.
“The stages this morning were really good, a bit rougher on the second pass so we took it easy to avoid further punctures, but it’s been a good day.”
Jock Armstrong and Paula Swinscoe brought their Subaru Impreza home in second place after another solid day at the office.
The 2015 and 2016
champion got his day off to a good start and never really looked back despite not quite being able to live with Thorburn’s pace, but managing to keep the chasing back behind him.
The Castle Douglas driver’s day wasn’t without its drama though, with a massive sideways moment on the event’s penultimate stage.
Due to stepping out the car in torrential rain, Armstrong’s foot was wet and slipped on the brake pedal heading into a left hander causing his car to slide. Luckily the road went immediately right afterwards and he was able to recover the situation.
“I’m happy enough today, a lot more than last month [Speyside Stages] where we were second and ended up ninth after going off,” said Armstrong.
“The stages have been quite good today, and it’s great to be back on the podium. Euan is very consistent and he’s getting the hang of his car now so we need to up our game to catch him.”
Shaun Sinclair and Jamie Edwards made it two podiums from four starts with third place in their Subaru Impreza S14 WRC.
The Oban and Wrexham duo adopted a cautious approach in the wet conditions but were involved in a scintillating battle with Greg McKnight that saw the pair scrap for tenths of a second before the Penpont driver hit troubles.
Achieving a podium result was important for the pair’s championship after setbacks on the last two events.
“I’m chuffed with today,” said Sinclair.
“The podium was the target for us this season so that’s two out of four for us now. We were slightly too cautious in the fast stuff but the confidence is getting better with the car, you would need to be dead not to enjoy this thing!”
Sinclair is now looking forward to the next round of the SRC, the Argyll Stages in Dunoon which will act as his home event.
Missing out on a hat-trick of podiums were Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy in their Mitsubishi Evo IX.
The Cumbrian driver made a costly mistake over a bridge in the opening test and that, combined with an incorrect tyre choice left him languishing down the leader board. With new rubber bolted on Faulkner was flying, snatching fourth from the grasp of Rory Young’s Fiesta R5 despite the Dumfries’ drivers’ best efforts.
Donnie MacDonald and Neil Shanks made it three Fiesta R5’s in the top six after a steady run, less than ten seconds ahead of Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry in seventh.
The Evo IX pairing were in the battle for the podium early on but lost bucket loads of time with two punctures across the day, but were left happy after showing some strong pace.
Freddie Milne brought his similar Mitsubishi home in eighth with new co-driver Jane Nicol, with the ever-improving Cornhill driver Michael Binnie and Scott McCombie rounding out the top ten.
Binnie, co-driven by Claire Mole of Duns, took Challengers honours in his Evo V after just losing out on the win last time out in Elgin. Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray maintained their strong start to the season with second in the Challengers ahead of Mike Stuart and Sinclair Young in their Ford Escort Mk2.
It was a frustrating weekend for Gina Walker and co-driver Richard Simmonds (both Duns), in their Citroen C2 as they were forced to retire on stage four.
Walker tweeted: “A short rally for us but some good experience gained!”
Dougal Brown and Lewis Rochford topped the Scottish 2WD runners after another good day out in their Escort, with Stuart and Young second ahead of Mk2 legend Steve Bannister and Lauder co-driver Calum Atkinson.
Angus Lawrie and Paul Gribben were right in the mix in their front wheel drive Corsa before ripping a wheel off the car in the final stage, making it back to service but incurring road penalties that ultimately saw them lose their class.
The Duns duo of Max and Callum Redpath topped the Juniors for the second time this year in what was a close battle to the finish ahead of the Citroen C2 of Andy Struthers and Jedburgh co-driver Alastair McIlroy.
In the www.usedcarparts.co.uk Subaru Cup, John McIlwraith took a dominant win finishing 15th overall in his Impreza. McIlwraith had almost five minutes in hand over Colin Baxter and Michael Robertson who completed the class podium.
The SRC John Horton Star Driver Award went to Mike Stuart after an impressive run in his Escort. Taking 11th overall, Stuart’s second place finish in the 2WD’s and third in the Challengers caught the attention of the judges. Along with Thomas Gray, Greg McKnight and Michael Binnie he will go into a shoot-out for a paid entry to a top European event at the end of the season.
With four rounds gone and three to go, Thorburn extends his lead at the top of the championship to eight points with Jock Armstrong on his coat tails in second.
The Scottish Rally Championship now heads to Argyll for the first time this century for the Argyll Stages on June 24.