Jim Clark Rally, Duns, 8/9 November 2019
It may have been cold and drizzly at the finish of last month’s Jim Clark Rally, but there were smiles all round at the finish, and not just from the winners Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes. The crowds in Duns Square were smiling too. And the Marshals. And the Officials. Job done. The rally restored to its rightful place on the roads of Berwickshire.
Running so late in the season, there were a few weather related problems, but the organising team was on top of the job from start to finish. Five years after the last closed road Jim Clark Rally, the 2019 event was adjudged a complete success. That wasn’t just steam rising off hot engines and warm crews at the finish, that was folk heaving a sigh of relief into the still, damp night air.
At just under 60 miles, it wasn’t a long rally by ‘normal’ JCR standards, but these were not normal times. Just 4 stages were used during the afternoon/one day format, Abbey St Bathans, Langton, Blackadder and Fogo. The compact stage route worked well and has given the team a renewed confidence to put on an event next May worthy of the event’s title and past challenges.
Even so, there was challenge aplenty, just ask David Bogie and Kevin Rae. They finished 2nd overall in a Mk2 Escort ahead of Dale Robertson and Stuart Loudon first time out in a hired Fiesta R5. David’s car was the top 2WD machine in a top ten dominated by the total traction mob. And if that was a magnificent achievement, there were nearly three 2WDs in the top ten with James Ford 9th in an Escort while just squeezed out on the final stage were Des Campbell and Craig Forsyth in a 1600cc FWD self-prepped Peugeot 206. Incredulous.
Moffett arrived in Duns with the new-spec M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 as a sort of ‘try before you drive’ run out ahead of next season: “It’s completely different to the current R5,” he said, “engine, suspension and brakes all feel different.”
A cautious exploratory run on the opening wet and slippery Abbey St Bathans stage on Friday afternoon saw him tie equal second fastest with Robertson behind Bogie although there was nothing cautious about Bogie’s approach. Quickest by 5 seconds was mesmerising considering he was pushing well over 300bhp through two rear wheels in conditions which would have tested a WRC works team. Alan Kirkaldy was way off the pace in his Fiesta, dropping half a minute to the leaders after a wrong tyre choice: “I went for a Monte Carlo type type tyre thinking it would be good on the mud. It wasn’t. It was as slippy as f*ck out there!” Even worse was Rob Swann, who punctured a front right tyre in his Fiesta WRC early in the stage and was forced to stop and change it.
Competitors were denied two runs through Langton to complete the Friday loop as water was pouring off the sodden fields across the downhill approach to the Langton Ford. It wasn’t actually the water level in the ford that was the problem, but the amount of water running down the braking area on the approach. Running ahead of the rally the Motorsport UK Safety Delegate had a chat with the CofC and it was decided that conditions were too risky. As things turned out, the Marshals were already hard at work digging out the ditch on the inside to help channel the water away from the road. And it worked too, helped by the fact that the rain eased, but by then the rally was already well underway and the decision had been taken.
Come daylight on Saturday, and the puddles had an icy topping and the road surfaces a glistening sheen. Yesterday’s wet and muddy conditions just got a bit more adventurous.
Rising to the challenge was the Fiesta R5 of Alan Kirkaldy. He set fastest time over this second run at Abbey St Bathans by 2 seconds from Moffett with Bogie less than half a second behind the Irishman. Not so fortunate was John Indri, the Mitsubishi Mirage taking a tumble after hitting standing water and shooting across a field.
Bogie dropped further behind at the first visit to Langton: “I always knew the Langton test would be difficult for me,” said Bogie, “it’s narrow, twisty, muddy and covered in leaves.” Seventh quickest was the result but even so he dropped only 5 seconds to Moffett’s fastest time.
On the third and final visit to Abbey St Bathans at mid day, Hugh Hunter hit the top of the time sheets in his Ford Focus WRC. The rising sun had ‘dried’ (a relative term!) out the surface a little, although Moffett was only a second ahead of Bogie and Kirkaldy. Steve Simpson dropped half a minute here with a spin in his Fiesta R5
There was one more run through Langton before the lunch halt where Moffett again topped the Time Sheets barely a second quicker than Robertson but behind those two Hugh Hunter, Michael Binnie, Alan Kirkaldy, Robert Swann, David Bogie and Ross Hunter were all covered by just 1.1 seconds.
The final loop on Saturday afternoon featured two runs at Blackadder and Fogo. Bogie lost out on the first run through Blackadder, a full 21 seconds slower than the leader and that dropped him from 2nd to 4th place overall. Worse befell Alan Kirkaldy. He started the stage in 5th place overall and ended it mid stage clattering a chicane bale and a dyke.
Bogie bounced back on the first Fogo test beating Hunter and Robertson which left a final re-run through those same two stages, only they were very different this time. Mud had been dragged across the road and it was now fully dark. Then a shower of sleet blew through the landscape as the temperature dropped further adding a little glazing of ice to the mud!
Robertson rose to the challenge, second quickest behind Moffett through Blackadder, but more crucially taking 12 seconds out of Hunter, to move back into the runner-up position.
On the final run through Fogo, which by this time had been transformed into an evil skating rink, Bogie stunned everyone with a fastest time ahead of Moffett. “As long as you didn’t touch the grass, you were OK,” said David, “The temperature was really dropping in that last stage, but it was good, really good.” Hunter fought back too, but not enough, losing out to Robertson. “Prior to the rally I would have been happy with a top ten,” said Dale, “we had a big moment in that last one just over a crest, so I told Stuart to knock out the anti-lag and we just cruised home.” And then added: “I’ve booked the car already for next year!”
Although he finished just off the podium, Hunter was far from disappointed: “I’ve never done this rally before or been on these roads, I haven’t even done Otterburn before, this is my first time up here.”
There were no end of exceptional results with Ross Hunter scoring a superb 5th overall, first time out in a Fiesta R5 after a last minute deal, less than 10 seconds behind his more experienced namesake. Michael Binnie’s pace was quite remarkable too in the Lancer Evo9 surviving a “wee straight-on” in the penultimate stage. Andy Fenwick was 7th saying: “That was mental – but I enjoyed it,” and Steve Simpson was 8th both in Fiesta R5s. James Ford was 9th in his Mk2 just ahead of Gordon Morrison who might just have finished higher up had it not been for an excursion up a banking exiting the ford at Langton earlier in the day.
His last minute surge displaced the 10th placed Peugeot 206 of Des Campbell to a still mighty impressive 11th o/a which had delighted and enthralled spectators on its epic drive.
At the finish a happy Josh Moffett commented : “We don’t have many rallies this late in the season back home,” he said, “so the roads are usually a bit cleaner. Conditions were very tricky and very inconsistent, but this was a good rally.”
- 1 Josh Moffett/Andy Hayes (Ford Fiesta R5) 54m 34.7s
- 2 David Bogie/Kevin Rae (Ford Escort Mk2) +0.41.7
- 3 Dale Robertson/Stuart Loudon (Ford Fiesta R5) +47.8
- 4 Hugh Hunter/Calvin Cooledge (Ford Focus WRC) +0.50.3
- 5 Ross Hunter/Martin Woodcock (Ford Fiesta R5) +1.20.1
- 6 Michael Binnie/Claire Mole (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) +2.35.9
- 7 Andy Fenwick/Harry Marchbank (Ford Fiesta R5) +2.49.8
- 8 Stephen Simpson/Patrick Walsh (Ford Fiesta R5) +3.44.1
- 9 James Ford/Jack Morton (Ford Escort Mk2) +4.42.0
- 10 Gordon Morrison/Sean Donnelly (Ford Fiesta R5) +5.08.9
- Class Winners
- Gina Walker/Allana Wilson (Vauxhall Astra)
- Andy Gray/Howard Pridmore (Peugeot 205 GTI)
- Des Campbell/Craig Forsyth (Peugeot 206)
- Robbie Pearson/Alasdair McIlroy (Peugeot 205)
- Steve Bannister/Callum Atkinson (Ford Escort Mk2)
- Kev Dunn/Gary White (Honda Civic)
- Mark McCulloch/Michael Hendry (Ford Escort Mk2)
- Ian Forgan/Chris Lees (Subaru Impreza)
- Douglas Dale/Gavin Keymer (Land Rover Freelander)
Jim Clark Rally – [Fastest Stage Times]
Jim Clark Rally - [Class Roundup]
Jim Clark Rally - [The Blethers]