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vassalloforpressreleaseThe sun shone and so did the Junior 1000 drivers who competed on the second round of the 2013 Brick & Steel Junior 1000 Ecosse Challenge at the DCC Junior Stages Rally, Ingliston on Saturday 27th April. At 9am a total of 13 crews lined up on the startline of the first of 6 stages around the tight circuit using the service roads of the Royal Highland Showground.  6 were pretty much newcomers for 2013 and 7 were “second year” drivers who had competed on this event in 2012. Alex Adams – one of the experienced drivers – only just squeezed off the reserve list and got a run. The whole event was extremely popular and heavily overscribed.

But after the first stage it was obvious that Alex Vassallo, with very late call stand-in co-driver James Ford, was on a mission and he took his Citroen C1 round 11 seconds quicker than nearest rivals Ryan Weston/Mark McCulloch in their Toyota Aygo. Vassallo reckoned he was taking it easy on the first stage and just to prove it, he scorched round 18 seconds quicker than Weston in the second. This gave Vassallo a buffer of 29 seconds going into the second block of stages. But Weston was not giving up and was much quicker on stage 2 and 3 but Vassallo was 4 seconds quicker on each stage. Going into the last 2 stages, Vassallo had a comfortable lead but Weston kept on the case to get be just 2 seconds slower on the 5th stage and 1 second on the 6th. And so the podium read Vassallo First, Weston Second.

There was a battle royal going on for Third place between Harry Marchbank/Jordan Black and Alex Adams/Alasdair S Graham in their Micras. After 4 stages there was 1 second in it in Adams’ favour!! Wow!! But Marchbank lost out over the last 2 stages and finished a disappointed 14 seconds behind Adams. After getting the last reserve place on the entry list on the Thursday night before the rally, Adams was rightly well pleased. He also passed his full driving test on the Friday and will now switch to competing on “senior” events, starting with the Jim Clark Reivers Rally in June in his Micra.

But even greater battles were going on behind the first 2 cars. Switch quickly to the final stage and there was 15 seconds between 4th placed Marchbank and 10th placed MacIvor over that one stage. This is quite amazing and 6 of them were within 4 seconds of each other.

Newcomer Dylan O’Donnell, with Tracey Louise Muir shouting the directions, headed the midfield bunch and O’Donnell was getting himself into the same “time zone” as Marchbank over the last 3 stages. This is one team who have gelled well together – driver/co-driver/car and there progress has been amazing.

Andy Struthers/Andrew Falconer were next up with their  “re-engined”  Micra. The car stopped on the last stage at Charterhall and a terminal engine internal problem put paid to that engine. But the “new for 2013” car ran faultlessly all day at Ingliston.

Hot on Struthers’ heels were Ally Currie/Mark Runciman in the “different to everybody else” Citroen AX. The AX is a very good handling car but it lacks “grunt” compared to the Micras. But this did not stop Currie trying his utmost and the difference between the complete newcomer we saw in 2012 in the hopelessly underpowered Vauxhall Corsa and the lad we had one year on was  obvious and a real pleasure to observe. He ended up 5 seconds down on Struthers at the end of the day.

And just another 4 seconds back was the fast improving Stephen McClory with the good Dr Steven Brown on the maps in their Micra. If it had not been  for a problem with the recording of times on the first stage, they could have been 2 places higher. But McClory did not seem that bothered – he was having a ball. And winding his Championship sponsor Dad up by trying to engage him in a plan to do a double on the Solway Coast Rally by driving Dad’s Scoobie on Saturday and his Micra on Sunday – because Stephen will be 17 shortly and sitting his full driving test – was not receiving the type of response he was looking for!!  The wind carried away the response from my ears and my lip reading is not what it used to be but I don’t think the plan will work!!!

After a very successful outing on the Andy Wilson Memorial Autotest the previous weekend, newcomer Michael Robertson co-driven by Phil Sandham had to settle for second best to arch rival Dylan O’Donnell. But never mind – the car went home in one piece in 9th place.

Craig MacIvor/Paul Beaton came home 10th in the immaculate blue Micra – brought back to pristine after its time on its side at Charterhall.  They had been battling away with Brodie Balfour for the first 4 stages but Brodie lost out when his clutch gave up the ghost on stage 5.

Dale Kelly/ Peter Weall were really enjoying finally getting to do some rallying in their 2 tone blue Micra. Why was it 2 tone blue? Well the scrappies did not have colour matching replacement front and rear bumpers after Kelly’s “kissing” of the chicanes at Charterhall. They clobbered something on the first Ingliston stage to bend a wheel and on the second stage had a go at the other side to ripple the wing and new bumper. Weall got things settled down for the last 4 stages but they had to slow down on the final stage when a yellow flag was displayed.

And taking up the rear was the most unlucky team of Luke Barker and Jamie Foster from Preston. Things were going ok – after a bit of a moment on the second stage – up until the last stage. Approaching one of the quicker parts of the stage, the car slid sideways and connected with a big bale protecting a hanging flowerpot steel post. The bale was destroyed and the car made contact with the post doing quite a bit of damage to the co-driver’s door and sill. Both crew were fine – the cage, seat and door bars had done their job – but the Micra will need major surgery before the next event.

And the non finisher.

Brodie Balfour – with ex front running 205 Ecosse Challenge driver Dave Retson in the “hot seat” for the first time – had been having gear selection problems all day but the clutch cried enough on stage 5 and they only got the car out of the stage with Retson’s considerable experience and a bit of brute force on the gear lever. But they had to retire the bright green machine.

Crews now have a 6 week gap to recover before the wide open spaces of Crail beckon on 15th June.. We are expecting this event to be popular and we should see a full contingent of 18 Junior 1000 Ecosse Challenge cars entered.

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