The brand new rally, organised by the Roger Albert Clark Rally Motor Club, ran across stages in the Newcastleton and Kershope region and was adjudged a great success as crews praised the quality of stages and slick and friendly organisation. With a very compact route and minimal stage mileage, the event was a great addition to the championship schedule.
Overnight rain dampened down the stages, but right from the start McCormack’s Escort Mk2 was the pacesetter, taking eight seconds out of nearest rivals Nick Elliott/Dave Price through the opening Arthur’s Seat stage, with another eight seconds before Jason Pritchard/Dale Furniss in third.
The pattern continued over the next two stages, with McCormack exiting the 10-miler through Kershope 19 seconds up on Elliott as they headed for service. “No problems at all, I stayed on the road and it was all good; like a Carlsberg morning,” said McCormack. “I didn’t start to feel confident until the third stage, as the thoughts of being in a ditch one mile in didn’t really excite me,” Elliott added. Pritchard was still in third as they returned to service, but had lost time with a slight off on stage three. “I lost it under braking and had the front wheels over a ditch,” he explained.
Tapio Laukkanen/Glenn Patterson had started cautiously in the Finn’s first Ford Escort outing for 21 years. “Stage one was a learning lesson, stage two slightly better and then stupid mistakes through not listening and it was slippy,” he explained after dropping from an early fourth to sixth, behind Tim Pearcey/Neil Shanks and Matt Edwards/Sam Collis.
Pearcey rated his performance as ‘rubbish’ having tried to crash on at least two stages. Edwards also had problems: “We hit a rock on stage one and damaged the manifold, but had to fix it to pass the noise test leaving service and we have no service crew,” he said.
Heavy rain played its part during the afternoon stages, a re-run of the morning’s mileage, but made no difference to McCormack. “The whole day was really good. I kept my head down doing what we were doing, plus I didn’t back off in the rain,” he said after securing his win by 36 seconds. Elliott also consolidated his hold on second: “I pushed more as I got more confident. It was my first time on some of these stages, so very happy with second,” he concluded.
Apart from ‘a few slips and slides,’ Pritchard came through the afternoon unscathed and also won the FIA Appendix K class in his Escort Mk2. Edwards moved into fourth on stage four and built a cushion over Pearcey. “We had to keep fixing the manifold all afternoon though,” added Edwards.
Steering problems started to drop Laukkanen down the order too. “I stalled at a junction in stage five though, but it was great fun,” he said after dropping to 11th at the finish. His fall brought the Escort Mk1 of Richard Hill/Dave Robson into the top six. “Maybe I was a bit cautious at first with my new navigator and then lost time on stage five as I couldn’t see in the rain,” said Hill after clinching victory in Series Two. His delay gave Rob Smith/Alun Cook an outside chance of snatching sixth, with only five seconds between them and a 10-mile stage to finish. “We got a rear puncture though and the car hadn’t missed a beat all day,” said Smith who still managed to retain seventh.
Jimmy McRae and Pauline Gullick upped their pace during the afternoon and broke into the top ten, before sealing eighth in their Escort Mk2. “I could have done with doing the first three stages again,” said McRae. The Escorts of James Potter/Robert Duck and Will Nicholls/Nick Broom completed the top ten, Nicholls also taking second in Series 5 for Appendix K cars, with Steve Perez/Carl Williamson sadly having suffered a broken diff on the Lancia Stratos the opening stage.
Ian Beveridge/Paul Price (Volvo PV544) and Stephen Higgins/Howard Allison (Saab 96) contested Series One, with Beveridge really enjoying the stages on the way to victory.
Class C3 in Series Two was decided on the last stage when Dick Slaughter/Tim Sayer (Escort MK1) went off after leading all day. Terry Cree/Richard Shores (BMW 2002) moved through to win with David Kirby/Chris Rixon (Escort Mk1) a minute down in second. “I thought we were quicker at the start, it felt fast,” said Kirby.
Hill/Robson led Class C5 in Series Two all day and only Nick Jarvis/Craig Thorley survived, after Mark and Tim Tugwell rolled their Escort Mk1 out of the rally. Class C2 went to Robin Shuttleworth and Ron Roughead (Escort Mk1 Mexico), who ran first on the road in a trial initiative to support the 1600cc cars from Series Two and Three.
Class D3 in Series Three featured a day-long duel between Peter Smith/Patrick Walsh (Opel Kadett) and the Ford Escort Mk2 of Ben Mellors/Alex Lee. Mellors led from stage three, while Smith retired on the final stage with an overheating engine, which promoted Alan Hughes/Richard Wardle (Escort Mk2) into second.
Tim Mason and Graham Wild (Porsche 911) were never headed in Class D4, while Guy Anderson/Kim Baker (Sunbeam Lotus) secured second from Steve Magson/Geoff Atkinson (Vauxhall Chevette) as Magson struggled all day with food poisoning.
Simon Wallis/Graham Wride were the only Series Four starters in their BMW 325 and a broken engine mounting got them back to service after the first three stages but no further with the engine resting on the steering rack and sump guard.
With Dylan Davies/Llion Williams retiring their Escort Mk1 with a cracked roll cage after the first stage, Barry Jordan/James Gratton-Smith topped Series Seven in their Escort Mk2, comfortably clear of the similar car of Martyn Hawkswell/Nick Welch.Classic Rallying