22 Mar: Armstrong wins Border

… Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally, Sat 18 Mar … Rd02, ARR Craib SRC …

There are many different kinds of luck, the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Just ask Greg McKnight. Although Jock Armstrong and Paula Swinscoe won last weekend’s Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally the big talking point was the pace of Greg McKnight and Laura Marshall. They were on course for a strong second place finish, when it all went wrong with two stages to go.

That promoted Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy to the runner-up spot displacing Rory Young and Alan Cathers who looked like inheriting McKnight’s second step on the podium. But this is rallying. Anything can happen, and it often does.

That was all to come though, as contenders in the opening round of the Prestone British Championship lined up on Saturday morning alongside the second round ARR Craib Scottish competitors under leaden skies and weeping clouds. The 35 car strong BRC bunch had already been in action with two night-time tests In Craik on the Friday evening, and they were joined by the rest of the field on Saturday for 7 more tests in Kielder and the Tweed Valley.

The format worked well and Jedburgh was the perfect host, the town big enough to cope and small enough to know that a major rally event was in town. But you know what? They still haven’t put the new roof on the Abbey or fitted the double glazing. Will it be finished in time for next year? Don’t hold your breath.

SS1, Craik 1 (6.12 niles) – Nat A only
SS2, Craik 2 (6.12 miles) – Nat A only

SS3, Wauchope (8.26 miles)
1, Jock Armstrong/Paul Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) 8m 01.3s
2, Steven Clark/Paul Brown (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo5) 8m 14.1s
3= Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 8m 15.8s
3= Greg McKnight/Laura Marshall (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 8m 15.8s
5, Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) 8m 22.8s
6, Shaun Sinclair/Jamie Edwards (Subaru Impreza WRC) 8m 23.3s
7, Peter Stephenson/Patrick Walsh (Ford Focus WRC) 8m 26.0s

Last year’s Border winners led off the 80 National ‘B’ runners and it was as if they hadn’t been away setting fastest time on the opening test by a defining 13 seconds from Steven Clark and Paul Brown, who seems to be getting a taste for this co-driving lark instead of team managing ‘the boy’ Blair! Mike Faulkner’s Mitsubishi was looking quite splendid in its new Hotties livery and lived up to its ‘hottie’ name with third fastest, but had to share that with Greg McKnight and Laura Marshall and they were only a second and a half down on ‘Hottie stuff’ Faulkner. Mark McCulloch and Michael Hendry were next up having got to the bottom of the problem which plagued their Mitsubishi on the Snowman. An intermittently jamming diff pump solenoid which had ruined their opening season outing. Shaun Sinclair and Jamie Edwards were re-united with the McKinstry prepped Subaru Impreza and they completed the first test half a second down on McCulloch with Peter Stephenson and Patrick Walsh getting off to a good start in the Focus WRC.

Marked heaved a sigh of relief at the end of it: ” We had the tail out all the way round a long left hander. We were so nearly off, if I had lifted, it would have spun. It was a case of fingers crossed that it would pull out, and it did.”
This stage also created a bit of a surprise for dog walkers who might have gone walkies in there on the Sunday. A trackside tree and low branch whipped off a wheen of door mirrors while a set of bushes in the following stage took off many on the other side!

SS4, Hyndlee (6.66 miles)
1, Armstrong/Swinscoe 6m 33.8s
2, Rory Young/Alan Cathers (Ford Fiesta R5) 6m 39.6s
3, McKnight/Marshall 6m 42.2s
4, Faulkner/Foy 6m 43.5s
5, McCulloch/Hendry 6m 44.9s
6, Clark/Brown 6m 50.5s

It was Armstrong again in the second of the Kielder tests from Rory Young and Alan Cathers, the Subaru six seconds up on the Fiesta R5. “We’ve made a few adjustments to the car,” said Jock, “and changed the rear diff, so I’m still getting used to it. The new diff keeps pushing me forward and I’m understeering a bit because of it.” McKnight was in there again, giving the ‘old guard’ cause to look over their shoulders, third quickest ahead of a slightly puzzled Faulkner: “We’ve lost the ear screen,” said Mike, “it’s just gone. We didn’t hit anything, it’s just flown off somewhere.” McCulloch and Clark were fifth and sixth but Sinclair was effectively out of it, although still running.

“It was four corners into the stage, and I was too hot into a left hander,” said Shaun, “the tail just stepped out. No problem, but it kept sliding and just kept going. Eventually it just beached itself and we got stuck. No damage but it cost us a Maximum.” To say he was annoyed is an understatement, but there were no histrionics, just quiet resolve. He set fastest time on the very next stage.

Amongst the many to lose a door mirror in here was Iain Wilson but of more concern was the loss of his brakes: “It was the same problem we had on the Snowman, ” said Iain, “we lost the brakes on the last stage, but they came back on the road section. It’s something I’ll need to keep an eye on today.”

SS5, Elibank 1 (8.31 miles)
1, Sinclair/Edwards 8m 17.1s
2, Young/Cathers 8m 19.2s
3, Clark/Brown 8m 21.3s
4, McKnight/Marshall 8m 22.8s
5, Faulkner/Foy 8m 26.5s
6, McCulloch/Hendry 8m 26.7s

There was a delay at the start of the first Tweed Valley test where some ‘spectatorial’ issues had to be sorted out and the facts of life explained to some mountain bikers who thought they had the right to roam freely in any forest they chose on any day they like! But once that was sorted out, Sinclair was up and at it like a 10 chili curry eater heading for the loo. He was 2 seconds quicker than Young and 4 seconds quicker than Clark, but McKnight was still there, fourth fastest. Faulkner and McCulloch completed the fastest half dozen and Armstrong wasn’t amongst them.

“We went too fast into a downhill R4,” said Jock, “the tail slid out and hit the trees, and it kept on hitting the trees. I kept the foot in counting on the diff to pull me round. It did.” Simon Hay was lucky too: ” We went too far ‘in’ on a bit where we should have stayed ‘out’. All four wheels on the grass but we got away with it.”

SS6, Yair 1 (4.99 miles)
1, McKnight/Marshall 4m 42.1s
2, McCulloch/Hendry 4m 44.8s
3, Sinclair/Edwards 4m 46.0s
4, Faulkner/Foy 4m 47.2s
5, Young/Cathers 4m 47.4s
6, Armstrong/Swinscoe 4m 47.8s

Five seconds covered the fastest six through Yair with McKnight scoring a superb fastest time followed in short order by McCulloch, Sinclair, Faulkner and Young with Armstrong having a confidence restoring run after his previous stage fright. Steven Clark was lying fifth when he went into Yair, and didn’t come out, the Mitsubishi coming to a halt on the inside of a left hander in a deep hole just inches from the road edge but no chance of retrieval. Scott McCombie was luckier: “It was skittery in there and we got a puncture, just about where David Bogie was parked up.”

SS7, Cardrona (4.62 miles)
1, Sinclair/Edwards 4m 31.2s
2, Armstrong/Swinscoe 4m 31.5s
3= Young/Cathers 4m 37.4s
3= McKnight/Marshall 4m 37.4s
5, Faulkner/Foy 4m 37.6s
6, McCulloch/Hendry 4m 44.0s

After final service at Newtown St Boswells, the cars headed out for the second loop of the Tweed Valley tests. Armstrong was in the lead by 11 seconds from McKnight who had 10 seconds in hand over Young but Faulkner was less than a second (0.5 secs) behind the Fiesta driver in fourth place.

Mind you, it was a good job they were timing cars to tenths of a second as just three tenths separated the Subarus of Sinclair and Armstrong at the end of Cardrona. Sharing a time a full 6 seconds slower were Young and McKnight from Faulkner and McCulloch. That meant the top four overall went into the penultimate stage still in the same order, but Lady Luck wanted to get in on the act.

SS8, Elibank 2 (6.85 miles)
1, Armstrong/Swinscoe 6m 28.4s
2, Sinclair/Edwards 6m 31.3s
3, Faulkner/Foy 6m 34.2s
4, Young/Cathers 6m 35.6s
5, McCulloch/Hendry 6m 40.4s
6, Stephenson/Walsh 6m 45.2s

Leading the rally from the start, Armstrong wasn’t about to let go, holding off Sinclair by 3 seconds to take his third fastest stage time of the day ahead of Faulkner whose late charge saw him overtake Young for second place overall. McCulloch and Stephenson rounded off the top six, but there was no sign of McKnight amongst them.

Holding second place behind Armstrong since SS4, the yellow Mitsubishi dropped a huge 17 seconds on this stage alone to the leader dropping from second to fourth place overall behind Faulkner and Young. A quick look under the car confirmed suspicions, a brake pipe had burst. This was crimped closed and off they went to the final test, the re-run of the stage where McKnight had earlier set fastest time.

McKnight’s misfortune was Faulkner and Young’s benefit and although he didn’t know it Rory was still holding third place despite McKnight’s troubles, because Faulkner had snatched the runner-up position as Rory explained: “I had one of those ditch sliding moments in that stage when you wonder if it’s going over, or not!” said Rory, “It didn’t, and we’re here. It was a L7 tightens to Hairpin, how we got away with that I don’t know!”

SS9, Yair 2 (4.99 miles)
1, Faulkner/Foy 4m 38.1s
2, Sinclair/Edwards 4m 40.3s
3, Armstrong/Swinscoe 4m 41.0s
4, Young/Cathers 4m 49.1s
5, Simon Hay/Calum Jaffray (Mitsubishi Lancer) 4m 49.5s
6, McCulloch/Hendry 4m 50.2s

Going into the final stage, Armstrong had a 33 second lead over the pursuit and 5 miles to go. It might come as s surprise to many of you, but six feet above those orange driving boots there is a (almost!) mature and active brain, certainly wise enough to know not to chuck it away. Third fastest behind pace setter Faulkner and Sinclair was enough to do the business.

Faulkner had reason to smile having snatched second place from Rory Young: “We stretched our legs a bit in that last one,” said Mike, “I enjoyed the battle with him and Greg. The car’s good, it’s all down to me now.”

Young was fourth quickest from Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray, really getting to grips with the Mitsubishi these days, and McCulloch rounding off the top six and after surviving a huge moment at a “flat in fifth crest”. The Mitsubishi emerged with a smashed rear quarter and broken light cluster: ” “We came round a left hander and the tail went out, and just kept going, hit a banking and bounced us back on to the road, ” said Mark, “that was so-o-o-o close, I kind of backed off after that,” he smiled.

But once again, no sign of McKnight. From despair at the end of the penultimate test to absolute desolation on this final one: “Half a mile from the end of the stage, we punctured both tyres on the driver’s side,” said a thoroughly dejected Greg. From second to fourth, he finished fifth overall. Such a bitterly disappointing end to a most promising day.

Rounding off the top six was a happy Peter Stephenson, the Focus WRC rewarding its driver with a trouble-free run ahead of top SRC ‘Challenger’ Iain Wilson in his Subaru Impreza. Local driver Ian Baumgart converted 10th place to 8th in the final stage demoting second placed ‘Challenger’ Michael Binnie who had no anti-lag for the last stage and John Wink who punctured a tyre in the final test, to 9th and 10th.

There were no 2WD cars in the top ten at the end of the Border with Steve Bannister finishing just outside the top ten in 12th place and Douglas Brown just 26 seconds behind in 15th But Angus Lawrie put in a storming drive to finish 22nd overall in his Corsa despite a string of problems during the day.

With 3 fastest times out of the day’s 7 stages, there was no catching Armstrong, but at the rally finish, he paid tribute to the fastest man through the fifth test: “Greg’s day will come. That was some drive.” It was a view echoed by all the top drivers including third placed Rory Young who said: “I really feel for Greg. He deserved better today.”

Such fierce competition bodes well for this year’s ARR Craib series and although Armstrong scored top points, it was National ‘A’ contender Euan Thorburn who took second placed points ahead of Faulkner when his times from the National ‘B’ stages were amalgamated with the Nat ‘B’ runners.

1 Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) 43m 32.4s
2 Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +00:30.5
3 Rory Young/Allan Cathers (Ford Fiesta R5) +00:42.2
4 Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +01:01.4
5 Greg McKnight/Laura Marshall (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +01:24.0
6 Peter Stephenson/Patrick Walsh (Ford Focus WRC) +02:07.3
7 Iain Wilson/Will Rogers (Subaru Impreza) +02:40.6
8 Ian Baumgart/Mike Dickson (Subaru Impreza) +03:00.2
9 Michael Binnie/Claire Mole (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo5) +03:00.5
10 John Wink/John Forrest (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +03:04.5

11 Scott McCombie/Mark Fisher (Lancer Evo9) +03:15.5
12 Steve Bannister/Callum Atkinson (Ford Escort Mk2) +03:30.2
13 Simon Hay/Calum Jaffray (Lancer Evo6) +03.36.6
14 Keith Morris/Martin Forrest (Lancer Evo6) +03:37.6
15 Dougal Brown/Lewis Rochford (Escort Mk2) +03:56.3
16 Ross MacDonald/Matthew Johnstone (Lancer Evo8) +04:36.9
17 James Gibb/Jane Nicol (Lancer Evo9) +04:39.8
18 Fraser Wilson/Craig Wallace (Lancer Evo9) +04:49.7
19 Ian Forgan/Kathryn Forgan (Impreza) +05:33.2
20 Brian Watson/Caroline Will (Lancer Evo Proto) +05:58.1

Class winners:
Class 1: Neil Coalter/Hannah Cessford (Suzuki Ignis) 52m 21.5s
Class 2: Robbie Beattie/Dave Findlay (Peugeot 205 GTI) 53m 31.2s
Class 3: Angus Lawrie/Paul Gribben (Vauxhall Corsa) 50m 12.2s
Class 4: Fraser MacNicol/Keith Boa (Ford Escort Mk2) 51m 35.2s
Class 5: Steve Bannister/Callum Atkinson (Ford Escort Mk2) 47m 02.6s
Class 6: Luke McLaren/Phil Kenny (Ford Fiesta ST) 53m 47.4s
Class 7: Dougal Brown/Lewis Rochford (Escort Mk2) 47m 28.7s
Class 8: Ken Wood/Gordon Wood (Triumph Dolomite Sprint) 51m 02.1s
Class 9: Fraser Wilson/Craig Wallace (Lancer Evo9) 48m 22.1s
Class 10: Iain Wilson/Will Rogers (Subaru Impreza) 46m 13.0s
Class 11: Jock Armstrong/Paula Swinscoe (Subaru Impreza) 43m 32.4s
Class 13: Rory Young/Allan Cathers (Ford Fiesta R5) 44m 14.6s

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