Jukka Korhonen holds nerve in thrilling finale

Firefighters spring into action at the Jim Clark Rally as the Mitsubishi driven by Duns' Dale Robertson and Tranent's Paul McGuire catches fire. No-one was hurt. Picture: Kimberley Powell

Firefighters spring into action at the Jim Clark Rally as the Mitsubishi driven by Duns' Dale Robertson and Tranent's Paul McGuire catches fire. No-one was hurt. Picture: Kimberley Powell

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The Jim Clark Reivers Rally lived up to its reputation for nailbiting, high-speed action, when it delivered two thrilling finales over a dramatic weekend on the closed-off public roads in the Borders.

In yesterday’s event, the third round of the Scottish Rally Championship, Euan Thorburn dominated in his Ford Focus World Rally Car.

The Duns driver topped the timesheets in five of the opening seven stages.

Such was his pace that he entered the final nine-mile stage at Edrom holding a comfortable 20.3-second advantage over four-times Scottish champ, David Bogie from Dumfries. But, in a dramatic conclusion, Thorburn’s car suffered mechanical problems and he dropped 30.7secs to gift victory to Bogie in his Focus WRC by 10.4secs.

“Gutted,” a deeply disappointed Thorburn, who 24 hours earlier had won the National class in the British Championship round of the Jim Clark Rally, said afterwards.

“We should have won today and had the two victories. The car started showing signs of hydraulic problems on the penultimate stage, and I just prayed we’d get through the final test.

“In the end we were losing power right through the stage. I guess it’s just one of those things that happens in motorsport, but that doesn’t make it any less painful to deal with.”

In Saturday’s British Rally Championship round, super cool Finn Jukka Korhonen took his second-successive victory.

But the young Scandinavian superstar was made to sweat in another thrilling shoot-out on the blisteringly fast roads 
between Duns and Kelso.

Having established a healthy 38-second lead over Ulsterman Alastair Fisher after the opening six stages, and a gap of 44.4secs to Welshman Tom Cave in third, Korhonen threw 33.2secs away on the damp Swinton stage when he made a wrong tyre choice. All three drivers were in identical Citroens and, after Cave capitalised on a spin by Fisher to get into second, the Welshman and Korhonen entered the final stage, the second run through the 11-miler at Swinton, separated by just 0.1secs.

It was Korhonen who held his nerve to win the stage, 0.7secs ahead of Fisher with Cave a 
further 1.2secs adrift, leaving the Finn the winner by just two seconds after 135 miles of high speed battling.

“We made it tough on ourselves,” Korhonen, co-driven by Marko Salminen and who won the opening round, the Pirelli Rally at the beginning of May, said. “We knew early in today’s first stage that we had made the wrong tyre choice and that, combined with a spin, cost us a lot of time. But we regrouped and managed to get everything right in the final stage. It’s brilliant to win our second BRC rally and especially the Jim Clark.”

There was disappointment for Mull’s John MacCrone, who twice finished on the podium last year in his debut season in the World Rally Championship Academy. The 23-year-old, co-driven by Welshman Phil Pugh, plummeted from second to eighth before eventually retiring after his Culina Palletforce Citroen suffered a succession of technical problems.

“Obviously it’s not the result I wanted,” said MacCrone, who was fastest through stage four in of Duns before the problems surfaced. “First we had brake issues, then a broken rear suspension, and finally a broken front suspension. For two stages I was struggling just to keep the car on the road. It seemed to have a mind of its own. To be honest, it’s been a weekend to forget.”

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