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Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy recorded their second maximum points NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge victory of the season, as they dominated a compelling RSAC Scottish Rally Challenge Rally, recording victory by 58 seconds.

The championship leaders stamped their authority on the event from the very first stage and progressively built their lead across the morning, to fully capitalise as other crews faltered and earn a thoroughly deserved win, extending their points lead and enhancing their championship prospects.

After an early morning start from Dumfries town centre, the competitive action kicked off with the 6.4 miles of Windy Hill. Thompson/Murphy got their rally off to the best possible start completing the stage 2.9 seconds ahead of an impressively rapid Luke Pinder/Martyn Taylor, who had completed the stage minus third gear and a further 2.7 seconds ahead championship rivals Richard Sykes/Simon Taylor.

The main story from the day’s first competitive miles was however, a major off for Fiesta ST crew Aaron McClure & Tom Woodburn which ended their day before it really began.

Pushing hard through the stage and determined to build on what has so far been an impressive debut season, the 19 year-olds ran off the road after completing the stage’s flying finish, biting into a rut and launching into a roll and into retirement.

After a relatively short jaunt to start the day, the NGK BRCC crews then faced up to the 13.75 miles of Ae West for the first run of the day.  Running first on the road, Thompson/Murphy again threw down a gauntlet to the rest of the field with a time which would eventually prove fastest by 12.8 seconds.

Behind the leaders, Sykes/Taylor moved up to second overall and the lead in class R5 with the second fastest time of the stage, after enjoying the long stage and finding rhythm with the car.

Other crews enjoying their rally included Ross Hunter & Josh Davidson, who moved up to fourth overall and Gareth White who found his car to be running perfectly as the teams headed to the three quarters of a mile spectator stage through Heathhall Forest next to the event service park.

All was not well however one place back, as Pinder/Taylor were losing more gears as they toiled against their gear linkage problem. They would become the event’s second retirement, when the car suffered a gearbox fault brought on by the frayed linkage, the team unable to repair it in service.

Heading back out to the gravel, the remaining NGK BRCC crews undertook a second run through Windy Hill and Ae West to see out the morning, a definitive section of competitive action in terms of securing the victory for Thompson and Murphy.

Going into the Windy Hill test, the pair held a 21.9 second lead over Sykes/Taylor in second and 42.7 seconds over the newly elevated third place man Ross Hunter.  Continuing to run first, the leaders set a benchmark time of 6mins 44.2secs which remained the best of the stage, four and a half seconds clear of the next best.

This consistency that Thompson/Murphy were demonstrating meant they had now extended their overall lead to over half a minute, a figure which was starting to look imposing. Undeterred, second placed man Sykes was still on the case, declaring to the stage end media teams “we’re trying quite hard and we’re chasing Russ.”

Unfortunately, hard work and determination isn’t all that is required to get a result on motorsport and whilst the leaders continued to deliver an assured drive, misfortune intervened elsewhere, giving Thompson a significant cushion at the front.

Firstly, Sykes/Taylor suffered a puncture four miles into Ae West, compelling them to stop and change the wheel. Their misery was then compounded as they discovered the nut gun battery pack was flat.

The resultant delay cost the defending champions in the region of three minutes and saw them plummet down the overall order to ninth, increasing the rally leaders’ gap to second nearly a minute with only three stages and 20 competitive miles remaining.

Whist this ensured a fairly straight forward run to the finish for the leaders, the contest for second was starting to heat up.

After a second run through the spectator stage at Heathhall, Hunter/Davison were only 6.1 seconds clear of a flying Tim Rodgers and Stefan Arndt, who were enjoying an immensely impressive day on his first gravel rally in three years.

Aiming to be the fastest Fiesta crew, the pair lay sixth after the morning’s first segment of stage, opting to take a considered approach to the start of the event, as Rodgers reacquainted himself with loose surfaces.

Sixth became fifth with the Pinder/Taylor retirement and after another steady run through stage four, the pair took off the gloves and launched their assault on the leader-board. On stage five, the second running of Ae West, the Fiesta ST rattled through the course in a stage best time of 14mins 21.6seconds, a time only five seconds shy of that which would have secured a top ten stage finish in the main BRC field.

On the first lengthy test of the afternoon, another impressive performance delivered a time of 8mins 13.5 seconds, Rodgers/Arndt recording their second stage win of the day and leapfrogging Hunter/Davison into second place.

Sadly however, this effort would all be for naught as disaster was to strike on the final stage.  Around a mile from the end of stage eight, Loch Grannoch, Tony Simpson/Jonathan Jackson crashed out in an accident that the likeable series regular described via his personal Twitter feed as “Damaging almost every part of the car.” and which saw his Fiesta come to rest partly obstructing the stage.

Continuing to push to secure the overall second position, Rodgers/Arndt came across the accident scene slightly unsighted from the previous corner. Whilst they managed to take evasive action and avoid collecting Simpson/Jackson, they ended up slipping into a ditch and hitting a pile of logs.  Unable to rejoin, they were forced to await recovery and surrender the result.

Rodgers commented, “I’m totally devastated. The team has worked so hard to get us to the event and it looked like we were going to get a second place finish which would’ve been fantastic. It’s particularly gutting that we went out through no fault of our own, there was no time to slow down enough so it was either hit the stricken car or avoid it and land in the ditch and hit the logs, there was nothing else we could do.”

As the metaphorical and actual dust settled, Hunter/Davison reclaimed the second position they had relinquished at the start of the afternoon, fellow Scot Steven Smith and co-driver Daniel Johnstone secured a morale boosting third place overall after a challenging day which included three punctures and young Welshman Meirion Evans, contesting only his fourth ever gravel rally and his co-driver Paul Wakely grabbed the Fiesta SportTrophy Challenge honours with a creditable fifth place overall.

One place further ahead in fourth overall, was RC5 class winner Gareth White and Mike Dickson whose 25 point haul consolidated their second place in the overall championship, 13 points behind the victorious Thompson/Murphy.

In RC3, the Irish crew of John Byrnes and new co-driver Steven Brown returned to the ‘Challenge field after missing the Jim Clark Rally and put in a solid drive to secure class honours and finish seventh overall.

The NGK BRC Challenge now takes a break until it travels to Northern Ireland for its showpiece double header as part of the Todds Leap Ulster Rally over the weekend of August 23rd & 24th.

Keep an eye out for the short TV edit from the NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge RSAC Scottish Rally will appear on the BRC homepage player later this week.

For more information on the NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge visit

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