Rallying: Double triumph for local hero Euan Thorburn at Jim Clark Rally
A NEW Borders sporting hero savoured the spray of champagne in Duns last night when Euan Thorburn set the seal on a double triumph in the 42nd Jim Clark Rally.
The 25-year-old, with Inverness navigator Paul Beaton alongside, won the National Rally through Friday and Saturday with a terrific run through the late stages in his Ford Focus world rally car. The pair then returned to the start line yesterday for the Reivers Rally and won that by a minute and 20 seconds to put themselves back in the running for the MSA Scottish Championship.
The Borderer, who has grown up around the same roads on which Jim Clark honed his driving skills, held off Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy in their old Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, with Stonehaven’s Barry Groundwater and Mike Dickson just over a second back in third, after roaring up the back of Faulkner in the final stage, and local duo Dom Buckley and Doug Redpath in fourth. Reigning Scottish and Reivers champion, David Bogie, was forced out of the event with a gearbox problem in the first stage.
Still dripping in champagne in his hometown square, Thorburn admitted: “It feels unbelievable. It’s been a perfect weekend. We never expected to win the National yesterday and that was a great event, and then to come out and win this is difficult to sum up.
“David [Bogie] went out early and we just pushed on from that point and built a healthy lead, and managed to enjoy a Sunday drive with no incidents. The car has been fantastic. We have driven it as hard as we could. We used to drive a Group N car, which was basically a road car out of the showroom, but this is a purpose-built thing, and the acceleration and braking is incredible, and that’s key on roads like these.
“You get all your time braking into the corners and then accelerating out, and it’s been amazing to drive.”
Thorburn won five of the six stages yesterday and, after struggling in the opening two rounds, has propelled himself back into the Scottish Championship running, just two points behind Bogie with four events to come, with Faulkner and Groundwater also making up ground on the reigning champion.
The excitement of a rally lies for many in the clattering racket of cars speeding through the countryside at 30-second intervals, the engine roar and exhaust bangs whetting the appetite long before the car comes into view, and, if you are lucky, you might find one car chasing down another as they hit speeds close to 130mph on straights.
But it is the movement in places between stages, as crews disappear from the leaderboard and others leap up, that sparks a feverish scamper to discover what fate befell the missing name.
The dry start of Friday night and Saturday gave way to some June showers early yesterday which, while brief, put just enough slip on the Berwickshire roads to make for some tricky driving.
For the crews piloting some of the most expensive cars in Europe in the international and MSA British Rally Championship event, it was a pulsating weekend of action. The highly-fancied Finnish Nikara brothers, Jarkko and Petri, had been forced out in Saturday’s drama with gearbox problems when leading, and so Irishman Keith Cronin and navigator Marshall Clarke took over and began the final five stages yesterday with a minute’s lead over Welsh pair, Tom Cave and Craig Parry. Fellow Irish duo Jonathan Greer and Gordon Noble were in hot pursuit in third.
Cronin and Clarke were in pole position for a first Jim Clark win, Ireland’s double British Rally Champion having finished second on his maiden entry in 2009. The 25-year-old’s lead was cut by eight seconds on yesterday’s opening stage around Bothwell, and then both Cave and Cronin hit trouble on the next run to finish the stage way down in eighth and 12th respectively.
Cronin’s overall lead was cut to 32 seconds, with the Ford Fiesta R2 of British Rally Champion Elfyn Evans and Dale Furniss also edging closer to the top three, but Cronin’s brake problem was sorted and the Cork man stormed home first in the 13th and 14th stages, by 15 and 17 seconds respectively, to re-open a one minute-plus lead going into the final 10.2-mile section around Swinton.
Though pipped by a tenth of a second by the event’s top seed, Mark Donnelly and Dai Roberts, over the last ten miles, Cave was seven seconds off the pace so Cronin claimed the Jim Clark crown by over one minute and 16 seconds.
Cronin revealed afterwards: “It is a fantastic feeling to win the Jim Clark but I didn’t even think I’d be here. It’s a costly business this and I didn’t think I could afford to take part until we got some financial help, and we got a late entry. When the rain came on this morning I thought ‘here we go again’ because it was rain that cost me here two years ago with a late slip, and it was like driving on glass at times this morning.”
The win was Cronin’s second in a row in the British Championship and sets up a terrific fight for the 2012 title over the last two rounds, with Evans and Cave on 60 points ahead of Cronin on 58.
Ayr’s Ruary Macleod and co-driver Drew Sturrock claimed a notable 11th place in their Fiesta to finish top Scots.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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