Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton battled against almost Biblical conditions in the Kielder and south of Scotland forests to win the returning Border Counties Rally in their Ford Focus WRC05 on Saturday.
Thorburn rattled in three fastest stage times from six tests, to take victory by over 33 seconds from fellow Duns driver Garry Pearson, who had Dale Bowen alongside.
Significant overnight snow and a drop in temperature heralded a difficult start to the Jedburgh-based event, which was cancelled in 2018 due that very reason. Thankfully, the snow turned to rain by the time the crews entered the forests.
Pearson and Fiesta WRC pilot Peter Taylor would set an equal fastest time though the opener with Jock Armstrong’s Subaru Impreza in third, just four seconds back.
Unusually, Pearson and Taylor tied again on the second stage, with Armstrong yet again third.
But by the third test, Thorburn appeared at the top of the time sheets, vaulting him three places from fourth to the overall rally lead.
Pearson’s spin demoted him to third and Taylor would not emerge from the stage after a worn sump guard ended his day. Pearson fought back on the fourth test to reclaim second and appearing in third spot would be Petch, after a timing mistake for Armstrong and co-driver Cammy Fair saw them pick up a two-minute penalty.
The leaderboard would stay that way for the final three stages, giving Thorburn his third rally win of the year .
Thorburn was happy to continue his winning ways after a year out in 2018. “It’s brilliant to be back at the top of the SRC once again” he said.
“I really didn’t think I’d be near the fight after the first few stages, as we were a way back on the leaders.
“It has been hard to get my head back into it after a year out but I’m really happy to have taken the Border win. It has been a tough one”.
Duns Garry Pearson, who was joined by Welsh co-driver Dale Bowen, was flying through the first two tests but a spin in the third set him back.
He said: “After the conditions we were faced with, I’m absolutely delighted with the result.
“I’ll admit I was a little surprised to be leading in the morning but everything really felt comfortable in the car and we weren’t taking any unnecessary risks.
“I’ve always gone well in the Borders, so I knew I could push on a little, but that spin on stage three ultimately cost us the win. But I’m very happy with second place.”