THE normally tranquil Borders’ roads between Kelso and Duns will reverberate to the cacophony of rally cars this weekend as the Jim Clark International Rally roars into action.
The only event on the British mainland to be held totally on closed-off public tarmac roads, the rally has attracted a bumper entry of around 250 crews.
The Jim Clark, which runs over the next three days and is a counter in both the British and Scottish Rally Championships, is the biggest single rally in the UK.
The event gets under way close to Berwickshire High School in Duns this evening, with top seed, 21-year-old Welshman Osian Pryce first off the start ramp in his Citroen DS3.
The talented young driver from Machynlleth, winner of the opening round of the British Rally Championship in Carlisle, will come under severe pressure from Daniel McKenna. The Irishman, driving an identical Citroen, finished just 46 seconds behind Pryce in the BRC opener.
Behind the top two seeds, Isle of Mull youngster John MacCrone is the leading Scot, starting third in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta R200. The 24-year-old, who blew away the opposition in last year’s all-Tarmac Mull Rally in a four-wheel drive Fiesta S2400, will have to content himself with just two-wheel drive in the Borders event.
“This will be my third outing in the Fiesta R200 this season,” said MacCrone, who dominated his 1600cc 2WD class in the Border Counties and Granite City rallies, both counters in the Scottish Rally Championship.
“Last time out, at the Manx Rally on the Isle of Man, we were again leading our class and eyeing a top ten finish overall when we suffered problems with the engine and had to retire. The guys have been working on the engine since then and we only got the all-clear on Tuesday that we could run in this weekend’s event. Matching the pace of both Osian and Daniel will be tough, but I’ve a good knowledge of the Tarmac on the Jim Clark, so hopefully we can put together another strong performance.”
Crews will complete two runs of a 1.2-mile spectator special stage in Duns town centre this evening before heading off to tackle another seven much longer, daunting stages – including two runs through the famous Abbey St Bathans – as darkness falls, before an overnight halt.
Tomorrow sees the drivers tackle another ten blisteringly fast stages, before the crews who have survived the 197.6 stages miles head for the finish in Kelso Town Square.
The Jim Clark Reivers Rally, the fourth round of the Scottish Championship, then runs on Sunday over eight stages and 45 miles of closed-off public roads.
Five-times Scottish champion David Bogie from Dumfries will again pilot his ex-Colin McRae Ford Focus World Rally Car. But he faces stiff competition from this year’s SRC leader, Duns-born Euan Thorburn in another Focus WRC.
• For more information on the Jim Clark Rally and Jim Clark Reivers Rally visit www.jimclarkrally.com