Thorburn takes commanding Scottish Rally win
Duns driver takes first win of the season to extend championship lead
Euan Thorburn recorded his first win of the 2017 ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship (SRC) season in dominant fashion on the RSAC Scottish Rally.
The Duns driver steered his Ford Fiesta R5 to a commanding win of over 50 seconds to extend his championship lead with Inverness’ Paul Beaton calling the notes.
The fourth round of the series was held in Lockerbie with classic Dumfries & 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 admitted. “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 & 16 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 on the Scottish Rally in their Subaru Imrpeza 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,” enthused 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.
Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry came home sixth overall after a trying day in the woods.
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.
Donnie MacDonald and Neil Shanks made it three Fiesta R5’s in the top seven after a steady run, ahead of Freddie Milne who brought his Mitsubishi home in eighth with new co-driver Jane Nicol, with the ever-improving Michael Binnie and Scott McCombie rounding out the top ten.
Binnie 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.
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 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.
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.
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 on the Scottish after an impressive run in his Escort. Taking eleventh overall, Stuart’s second place finish in the 2WD’s and third in the Challengers caught the attention of the judges, who put him forward along with Thomas Gray, Greg McKnight and Michael Binnie to 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, Euan 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 in Dunoon on Saturday 24th June.
The ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship is partnered by Pirelli Motorsport, Reis Motorsport Insurance and Coltel Communications.
The series comprises of over 300 competitive stage miles across seven events all over Scotland.
You can keep up to date with the SRC via the website or the official social media pages using the hashtag #SRC17.