THE Jim Clark Rally was never going to be easy for Kirriemuir electrician Craig Wallace.
The only round of the British Rally Championship and Renault Sport Trophy UK in Scotland, it was the “home” event.
Add into the mix that the team, Border Rally Sport, and driver Garry Pearson are from Duns, which is also the start and finish location of the rally, and the pressure builds.
With a substantial crowd gathering Craig and Garry made their way to the official start followed by two stages through the streets of Duns which were now packed to capacity.
“Starting in the square in Duns is tricky,” explains Craig. “The car had sat for two hours whilst the formalities took place so we were starting on cold tyres.
“A street stage, with varying surfaces is hard enough and more than a few competitors were caught out. With a hairpin and a 90 right in the first 300 metres the last thing we would want to do is get it wrong in front of a partisan crowd.
“We took stage 1 sensibly, and returned for Stage 2, now with warm tyres we could go for it, and we did.”
Following a short service that was the action for Friday, the car was secured in Parc Ferme and an early night was in order.
Day twowas not as bright as had been forecast and there was a risk of rain.
The first stage at Abbey St Bathans, is notorious for having its own micro climate. The choice had to be slick tyres, inevitably it was damp at ‘Abbey ’ but good tyre choice and they moved on with good pace to the next two stages at Edrom and Ayton.
“After the first three stages we were reasonably happy, “ adds Craig. “The Twingo is a handful on twisty undulating roads but Garry has the measure of it. We came back to service in Kelso after four hours in the car feeling we were holding our own. We had certainly improved on the seeding and had posted some decent early times.”
The afternoon stages saw a visit to Fogo, followed by a re run of the morning stages at Abbey St Bathans, Edrom and Ayton. Only this time it was drizzling in ‘Abbey’ yet dry every where else.
Craig explains: “We had a feeling this would happen. The conditions elsewhere dictated that we had to run on slicks but the service crew had ‘cut’ them to give us more grip in the damp sections, although the grip is nothing like what inters or wets would give.”
Returning to Kelso at the end of day two the Twingo was still in good order and with a good check over had little attention required. With 98 stage miles completed everyone was happy and again the car returned to Parc Ferme for the night. With 98 stage miles completed and well over 150 road miles, you have already done the equivalent of two rounds of the Scottish Rally Championship,” continues Craig. “Then consider on day three that there is still another 50 stage miles and 145 more road miles to go. It’s a long event. Fitness plays an important part; there is no time to be tired.”
The first two stages were through Bothwell, another micro climate stage. The first run through was damp in places but a good time set and restated their class lead by several minutes. The next run through followed a period of heavy rain.
“The service crew being local had a real gut instinct that it would rain in Bothwell so had cut the slicks even more,” adds Craig.
“The second run through was wet but the tyres worked really well considering and we set a fantastic time. We moved up to 17th overall and by now had a lead of several minutes in our class.”
From here there were three stages to go - two runs through Eccles and then on to the final stage in Swinton. The finish was in sight.
Heading off to the last three stages the service crew set about packing everything away, with the intention of heading up to Duns to see them over the finish ramp - but rallying is not like that.
“We went into stage 13 in 14th place and first in class,” adds Craig. “We had enough of a lead and had settled on a no risk policy for the last three stages.
“Well into stage 13 we passed another competitor and for the superstitious now found ourselves 13th overall in stage 13.
“That’s when the drive shaft had a catastrophic failure. There was nothing we could do but pull over and park up safely.
“But hats off to the service crew. Rather than just hang around they walked a mile with tools to change the shaft so we could drive to the finish but our rally was over.”
Craig and Garry still lead Class 10 in the British Rally Championship, are leading the Renault UK R1 Trophy and Garry leads the MSA Junior title.
Craig’s next international event is the International Rally on August 17/18 in – Antrim.