Going Down to the Wire
The 2021 KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship has reached crunch time with the final round, the Carlisle Stages, with 6 major awards still up for grabs.
Top of that list, of course, are the Overall Drivers and Co-drivers titles, and we’re down to just 2 crews. Jock Armstrong & Cammy Fair on one side and Garry Pearson & Niall Burns on the other.
Drivers wise it’s a repeat of 2016 with Jock & Garry squaring off once again. 2016 went the way of Jock on the final stage of the season when Garry’s R5 expired. A cruel way for a season to end.
5 years on and the situation is similar … but different. Jock & Cammy stepping into a Rally 2 Fiesta at the start of the year away from the famous orange Impreza Jock has been campaigning for over a decade. With so many new things to learn it’s a credit to their ability that they arrive at the final round still very much in the championship fight.
For them the Carlisle tactics are easy, a win would guarantee the title. If they don’t win they need to finish at least 2 places ahead of Garry & Niall.
In the other camp Pearson & Burns have also defied the odds to stay in the title fight. After retiring in Argyll and struggling with dust and punctures on the Scottish they thought their championship was over. That was before a blistering performance on the Grampian where they grabbed a double SRC and BRC National win. Since then they have been on an incredible run of form on events up and down the UK.
For them it’s also pretty simple, beat Jock & Cammy to guarantee the title. If the Fiesta doesn’t win they can afford to finish 1 place behind them.
That’s the points situation but how are they feeling?
Having carried an injury through the Galloway Hills, Jock is on the mend and feeling much better. Both him and Cammy are excited for a good battle for the title.
For Garry & Niall, they plan on approaching the rally like any other. Garry feeling very comfortable with the Fabia and with Niall in the hotseat and keen to continue the fantastic run they’ve been on.
Looking beyond the championship fight there are plenty of big names who can potentially influence the outcome.
Fresh from Rally Spain, Argyll winners Freddie Milne & Patrick Walsh line up behind the top 2. Retiring early on the Hills they’ll be keen to finish their Scottish season with a good performance.
Beyond that, Michael Binnie, John Wink, Ian Forgan and Scott Beattie all showed great pace on the Galloway Hills and could make or break someone’s championship.
If the overall title battle is close the Bob Shepherd Junior battle is almost tighter. Johnnie Mackay & Jordan Anderson come into the final round 1 point apart. In terms of machinery they’re incredibly evenly matched, both fwd cars with similar horsepower for the Fiesta and the 306.
The biggest difference comes in experience. A J1000 standout Johnnie was runner up for that title in his final year. The transition to senior rallying has been a mixture of blistering pace and bad luck, sometimes on the same event. With co-driver Emily Easton-Page already Junior co-driving champion, Johnnie is determined to win the drivers contest.
Conversely, Carlisle will be only Jordan’s 5th rally. Learning every time he gets in the car, 2021 has seen a jump in pace on each event. With co-driver Clare Mackenzie also learning her craft he’ll be looking for another improvement in speed in the Kielder forests.
In the Ladies contest Ashleigh Morris has a 4 point lead over Aileen Forrest. Both are newcomers to Kielder Forest and there’s an interesting contrast in machinery.
Ashleigh is another competitor in her 1st season of forest rallying. After campaigning her Fiesta R200 in the Motorsport News Circuit Championship the woods have proved a steep learning curve but every event has seen an improvement in pace.
Making the massive step up to the ex-Bruce McCombie Evo for the 2020 Snowman, the 2021 season has felt like starting over for Aileen. Some pre-Grampian tuition from Bruce himself really helped Aileen gain some confidence and pace.
Finally, 2 separate battles are ongoing for the Albyn Garage Challengers Championships.
Driver wise, 208 pilot Peter Stewart is in the drivers seat, needing only 12 points in the Challengers to guarantee him the title and with it the M3 Class award.
However, if Peter does slip up for any reason, Andrew Wood Motorsport Subaru Cup winner Michael Renton can add another title to his already very successful season.
In the Co-drivers standings, Paul Gribben currently enjoys a 7 point lead over John Shepheard. Paul has sat in a variety of cars this year and for the final event he is alongside Jim Robertson in his rapid Mk2 Escort for the final round, and with both Co-drivers having scored on all rounds so far, a steady run from the Penpont driver should secure the title for his co-driver.
All these battles will be fought over 5 classic Kielder stages with all but 1 being North of the Border. Familiar to those who have competed on the Border Counties they are known for being fast, drivers stages lined with big ditches that reward commitment. The big question is who will come out on top?
The event gets under way from Kielder Castle on Saturday morning, with the first 2 wheel drive car starting at 9:31. All 2 wheel drives will run first through the stages in reverse seeded order, followed by the 4 wheel drive cars in normal seeded order. The event is also the final round of the British Historic Rally Championship and has attracted a quality entry of historic cars using the event as a shakedown for the Roger Albert Clark Rally in November, which includes stages in Kielder.
Check the events website at http://racrmc.org/carlisle-stages/home for entry list and results on the day. The KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship plan to go live from one of the stages on the day. Check the SRC Facebook page for the time to go live.