Thorburn recovers from slow start to take place on podium

The top three spray their well-earned champagne under the watchful eye of Jedburgh Abbey
The top three spray their well-earned champagne under the watchful eye of Jedburgh Abbey

Duns rally ace Euan Thorburn backed up his podium on the Snowman Rally with another on the Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally at the weekend, taking second place in his Ford Fiesta R5.

Jock Armstrong and Paula Swinscoe won their second consecutive Border Counties rally this weekend – and with it round two of the 2017 ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship (SRC).

The Subaru Impreza crew won the event by just under 20 seconds, taking the lead early on and holding onto their advantage.

The defending champion mastered most of the tricky conditions that the Tweed Valley forest tests threw at him, with frequent rain showers and thick mud doing its best to catch out the unwary.

In a repeat of his opening round pace, Duns driver Thorburn, co-driven as usual by Paul Beaton from Inverness, suffered a slow start and coupled with double punctures in stage six, cost him too much time to challenge Armstrong.

Despite clawing some seconds back in the afternoon with two top five times, it simply wasn’t enough and second was small consolation.

“They were tricky conditions out there today, but we got more miles in the car which is important” said Thorburn, whose second-placed SRC finish here translated to a ninth place in the British Rally Championship event which was won by Swedish star Fredrik Ahlin in a Skoda Fabia R5.

“We didn’t put a spanner to the car all day so we’re looking forward to building on this and pushing on in the next one. We just need to pull our finger out at the start!”

For winner Armstrong, it wasn’t a completely clean run for the Castle Douglas driver.

A near rally-ending moment in SS5 Elibank would have seen the orange Subaru head straight into the Scottish Borders countryside if not for a good bit of car control by Armstrong.

“It’s been a really good day today,” said Armstrong.

“I thought the podium was realistic this morning but to take the lead and then stay in front to win the event from start to finish is amazing.

“Fair play to everybody today, we were pushed hard but I’m glad I’ve got my confidence back.”

Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy got their championship season properly up and running with a third place finish in the Borders. The Mitsubishi Evo IX pairing impressed as they further got to grips with their new and upgraded Lancer, proving their pace by winning the final stage.

Faulkner said: “We’re starting to get to grips with everything. We just have to keep pushing on and learning what we can achieve with this car.”

Two more Borders drivers were in the top ten. Hawick’s Ian Baumgart, co-driven by Mike Dickson for Gala, finished a superb 8th overall and second in class in the Subaru Imprza while one place behind in ninth were Cornhill driver Michael Binnie and his Duns co-driver Claire Mole in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 5.

In the two wheel drive category Steve Bannister, co-driven by Lauder’s Callum Atkinson, took the honours finishing 12th overall in their Ford Escort.

Other Borders crews finished as follows:

Carl and Rob Tuer (MG ZR S1600) 28th; Gina Walker and Richard Simmonds (Citroen C2) 44th; Max and Callum Redpath (Peugeot 205) 55th and third in class; Darren Tenant and Keiran Collin (Mitsubishi Colt) 57th.

Among those who failed to finish were Gordon Murray and Dave O’Brien who rolled their Ford Escort and the father and daughter crew of Garry and Holly Wilson who retired their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 5 on stage eight.

The next round of the series heads back to the north for the McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages, based in Elgin on Saturday, April 22.

•Meanwhile Borders rally preparation outfit Dommy Buckley RSC had three cars out on the Border Counties. This was quite an operation with 10 mechanics, one M-Sport engineer and Dommy’s former co-driver Doug Redpath as co-ordinator.

They ran three Ford Fiesta R5s: Tom Cave finished second overall in the BRC event, Donnie McDonald finished first in class in the BRC event and Rory Young finished third overall in the National B event.

While all this was going on Dommy himself was in Ireland running two cars in the second round of the Irish Tarmac Championship. Again he had four mechanics and an M-Sport engineeer. Alister Fisher finished third overall in another Fiesta R5 and now leads the championship.