Thorburn thumps opposition to take Border Counties Rally
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 with Dale Bowen alongside. Despite setting the benchmark for others to follow on the opening test, the Ford Fiesta R5 crew lost time with a spin but secured second spot ahead of Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson in their WRC example.
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 in the build up to the rally. Thankfully the snow would turn to rain by the time the crews entered the forests and whilst the stages were treacherous, they would provide the backdrop for a fantastic day of motorsport in the region.
The rally would also host the KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship’s opening round, providing a top-quality entry list for the six-stage blast through 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, proving the competition was well matched despite the arduous conditions. 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 leader board would stay that way for the final three stages, giving Thorburn his third rally win of the year and maximum Scottish Rally Championship points in the process.
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.
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“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 but once the snow had gone, we knew we could have a bit of a push. Its been hard to get my head back into it after a year out but I`m really happy to have taken the Border win, its been a tough one”.
Freddie Milne and Steve Brown would break the Ford mould, guiding their newly built Mitsubishi to a giant-killing fourth place overall. Having previously campaigned a world rally car, Milne took a while to settle into his new surroundings and was battling hard with fellow Mitsubishi Evo crew Michael Binnie and Claire Mole. Binnie lost out to Milne on the final test to round out to the top five places.
Setting a string of top ten times throughout the day, Yorkshireman Steve Bannister secured first two-wheel-drive home in 11th place, guided by Callum Atkinson.
Despite the last-minute worry of the weather, clerk of the course Clayton Lackenby was delighted with the event and its return to the British rallying calendar.
“We have been working so hard to ensure we could bring the Border Counties Rally back again this year so when the snow arrived overnight, we were a little worried” he said.
“But everyone really pulled together and made sure it all ran to plan and from the comments we have had we know that the competitors and spectators had a fantastic day’s motorsport. I do have to say a huge thank you to tall our marshals and volunteers for braving the weather today, they have done an excellent job and kept the rally going despite the challenges. We will have short a break before the planning for 2020 starts in earnest”.