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Grampian16 PodiumAberdeen based rally ace David Weston Jnr took an impressive victory at todays (Saturday 13th August) Coltel Grampian Stages despite being out from of competitive action since his Nicky Grist Stages victory in July 2015.   The Subaru Impreza WRC pilot was guided by Welshman Aled Davies and the duo were never bettered in the Stonehaven and District Motor Club organised event in which almost 100 crews from across the UK competed in the forests of Kincardineshire.  

The fight behind Weston for the remaining podium positions would not be such a simple affair and a day long battle between current ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship (SRC) leaders Garry Pearson, SRC returnee John MacCrone and British Championship regular Euan Thorburn was eventually settled in MacCrone’s favour on the final stage of the day, taking second after a nail biting finish with Thorburn third.

Based at the Milton Events Field near Banchory, the event formed the penultimate round of the Scottish Championship and the battle for overall honours was wide open as crews from the series joined local hopefuls all eager to be the first name to be engraved on the winner’s trophy of the inaugural Grampian event.  Weston left the Crathes Castle start in glorious sunshine and opened proceedings with a slim one second advantage on the first stage. The battle behind him began in earnest with Thorburn and Pearson tied on times and reigning SRC champ’ Jock Armstrong a further two seconds adrift.

Grampian16 Thorburn3rdPearson responded with an impressive stage time on the second test to take the joint overall lead with Weston but lost out on the longest stage of the day, the 16 mile Drumtochty stage, to fall down to third.  Thorburn stayed consistent throughout the opening loop to maintain a solid second spot with MacCrone easing his way upwards in fourth.  The positions would not change before the second service of the day and Weston fired in two fastest times to head into the final loop with a 13 second lead.

MacCrone, from Tobermorey claimed to be “doing his own thing” on the event, trying not to worry about anyone one’s times but his own. That attitude seemed to work as on the penultimate stage, the Fiesta R5 pilot and co-driver Rhiannon Gelsomino set a fastest time as they settled back into the car after missing the previous SRC round at the Scottish Rally. But MacCrone saved his best till last, going eight seconds quicker than anyone else to vault him from fourth to second on the final test and taking his very first SRC victory to boot. It wasn’t quite enough to overhaul Weston as he took his first rally victory in over 12 months.

Grampian16 MacCrone2ndSwapping positions throughout the day, the battle for the final podium spot went down to the wire as Thorburn and Pearson went head to head on the final stage.  Pearson had the advantage going into the test, but emerged fourth losing a chunk of time at the start of the stage and electing to save himself and the car for the Championship. Thorburn (Duns) and co-driver Paul Beaton (Inverness) were not registered for the Scottish series meaning they had no such worries and took a well-deserved third in their potent Peugeot 208 R5. Fifth was Armstrong (Castle Douglas) and Paula Swinscoe (Withnell) in their Subaru Impreza who had been on the back foot all day after beaching the car on a bank earlier in the day.

Mark McCulloch (Dumfries) and Michael Hendry (Archiestown) enjoyed a solid run in their Mitsubishi E9 to sixth with local ace and McCombie Builder backed  Bruce McCombie (Banchory) and Michael Coutts (Torphins) taking seventh in their similar machine. The family construction firm was also a supporter of the event alongside title sponsor Coltel Communications.  Greg McKnight (Penpont) and Laura Marshall (Dumfries) made the trip to Aberdeenshire worthwhile to finish eighth in their Mitsubishi E9. Stonehaven resident Barry Groundwater and Elgin based Neil Shanks had a last stage push to round off the top ten in their Mitsubishi E10.

The event was also a round of the C2 Ecosse Challenge with David Martin and Neil Ewing taking a confident victory to almost certainly seal the championship with one round to go.

Grampian16 Weston1stWeston returned to the glorious Crathes Castle ceremonial finish in a jubilant mood.  “It’s been a perfect day and it’s fantastic to win what is effectively my home rally” he said.  “I haven’t driven a rally car in anger for over a year and this one took a bit of getting used to as its right hand drive unlike my 2015 car.  I hadn’t stepped in it before the VIP day on Thursday so we spent a few stages today getting used to everything again. We couldn’t afford to back off too much though as John (MacCrone) was charging this afternoon so it was pretty close by the end of the day, but it’s great to be back, I think I have the bug again!”

Full results available on the Grampian Stages website
http://www.grampianstages.co.uk

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Images courtesy of Lindsay PhotoSport

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