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crailwinnersThe wee white Micra sitting at the head of the queue for the start of stage 1 of the Junior Summer Stages at Crail Raceway at 8.30am on Saturday 15th June – the 3rd round of the 2013 Brick & Steel Junior 1000 Ecosse Challenge – may have had “GEORGIA” emblazoned across the front of the bonnet but squeezed in behind the wheel was the 6 foot frame of Alexander Vassallo. The fact that Alex was there at all is a perfect example of total refusal to give up and the whole hearted support of others in Junior rallying. At 6pm on Friday 14th the mechanics working on Alex’s “sick” Citroen C1 had to agree that there was a slim chance that the car would be running for the rally on Saturday. And so began a hectic round of ‘phone calls to friends and owners of 1000cc rally cars. The team came up trumps when Georgia Shiels agreed at about 8pm to lend Alex her “For Sale” Micra. And so began a round trip from near Whitby to Garstang to Crail. They arrived at Crail at about 3am on Saturday morning and there was some hectic adjustment to the car – Georgia is just over 5 foot and slim with it and Alex is a well built 6 footer – before sitting on the start line. And this would be Alex’s first ever competitive drive in a Micra!!

And he did not disappoint. On the first stage he was second fastest to Ryan Weston/Mark McCulloch in their Toyota Aygo, with Ben Crealey/Andrew Bushe from Northern Ireland just one second behind. On the second stage, Alex got into his stride and  was 2 seconds behind Ryan with Ben now 9 seconds adrift.

But disaster hit Weston on stage 4 when total brake failure on one fast section saw them go through a barrier and up onto a banking. They did get out and going but dropped 2 minutes to Vassallo. So going into stage 5 of 6 it was Vassallo leading by 14 seconds from Crealey. Over the last 2 stages, Vassallo stretched his lead over Crealey by a further 10 seconds to take the win by 24 seconds.

But Weston showed real grit by not giving up and was fastest on 5 out of the 6 stages. Would Vassallo have been able to lift his game enough to take the win from Weston if Weston had not had his problem? It would have been a big ask because after stage 3 Weston held a 14 second advantage over Vassallo. But whatever the outcome, Vassallo proved that you should never discount the Micra as being uncompetitive and in the hands of a talented driver it can win.

Ben Crealey – the quiet soft spoken Irish lad – was never that far behind and showed all the other Scottish competitors – apart from Mikey Dickie/Euan Duncan in their Toyota Aygo – a clean pair of heels. Dickie had a pretty trying pre rally time as well and that may have been reflected in his performance over the first 4 stages.  At the end of stage 4 he was 30 seconds down on Crealey but he cannot explain why his performance over the last 2 stages saw him narrow the gap to 6 seconds!! If only.

Further down the field other position battles were going on. Andy Struthers/Andrew Falconer battled away with Dylan O’Donnell/Tracey Louise Muir all day and took the 6th position by 4 seconds!!

All 4 newcomers finished the event but Rory Winter/Craig Wallace learned a big lesson when Rory cut a corner too neat about 30m from the finish of stage 2 and clipped a big tyre which rolled the white Micra onto its roof. The crew were unhurt but the Micra was a bit bruised. But after attention from several volunteers in the service area, the car was able to complete the day.

Once again the Juniors had proved just how entertaining and competitive Junior 1000 rallying can be. And out of 18 starters – all 18 finished. An amazing day and an amazing set of results.

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