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Eighteen-year-old rally driver Finlay Retson starred in the opening round of the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship last weekend, setting fastest time of the Cadet Cup contenders on each of the three stages he contested at the Carlisle based Pirelli International Rally (28th April).

The Blairgowrie rally driver proved his early career success in the was no fluke by leading the category by 13 seconds after three of the eight stages in the 83 mile event. Sadly, the DJR Services backed Ford Fiesta R2 would retire from the event on the fourth test due to sensor failure, meaning Retson and co-driver Tom Hynd would leave Cumbria with a zero score.

Despite the early exit from the rally, his impressive performance on his highest profile event to date is an encouraging sign for the remainder of the season.

Retson is one of the youngest competitors in the British Championship and has entered the Cadet Cup to gain valuable experience of the events and stages for the future. The category is designed as a feeder series into the Junior category and the young driver had his sights set high on his BRC debut.

The Fiesta driver has had a text book career to date, taking the F1000 Scottish Junior series title and winning a round of the BTRDA Fiesta ST Trophy on just his fourth event in the car. However the step up into the Cadet’s would mark a big shift in pace and Retson would need to be at the top of his game from the very first stage.

He would also have to quickly adapt to a pre-event recce where a slow run across the stages before the event begins, allows the opportunity to make his own pacenotes, having previously had to rely on those supplied by the organisers.

There was no sign of any pre-event nerves however as Retson blasted through the first of eight stages, five seconds quicker than his nearest rival to head the Cadet category from the off. A further seven seconds was gained on the second test to ensure he had a suitable buffer going into the longest stage of the rally and he duly delivered in there too, opening the gap to 13 seconds.

In a cruel twist, Retson would not emerge from the fourth stage as the Fiesta ground to a halt and all hopes of maximum points at the start of the season faded. Frustratingly, once the car limped back to service and with help from M-Sport Ford and MH Motorsport, the problem was traced to oil pressure sensor failure which was duly rectified and the car was back to full health. But Retson was out of time and could only rue what could have been.

“I really have to look at the positives from the weekend and to have the pace to be out front from the very first stage is really encouraging” said Retson.

“My experience is limited and I’m learning all the time, so I will only get faster as the season progresses. I had been in Kielder before and I know how difficult the stages are to master in there. It claims some of the best drivers in the business and I was very mindful of that, but still we had a decent lead heading towards the half way point of the event and that’s what I need to focus on.”

The British Championship now switches surface, but it also switches countries as the series make a guest appearance on the closed public asphalt roads of the Ypres Rally in Belgium at the end of June. Retson believes he can carry his speed into mainland Europe.

“The roads in Belgium are amazingly tricky and unlike the Pirelli Rally, I have no prior experience of the stages, so it will certainly be a tough ask to be that competitive in round two. But I will do everything I can to ensure we are ready for the task ahead and ensure we get some valuable points on the board and get my season back on track”.

Retson is supported by DJR Services, JSR Services – Blairgowrie Ltd, G S Robertson Ltd, LHS Logistics, JoAgri Ltd, Kevin Donachie Electricians, West Ranga Properties, Robert Morton Joiners & Contractors, Vital Equipment Limited, Andrew Wood Motorsport, CSP Abnormal Load Escorting, GLD Group, The Binn Group and Results Gym Forfar.

Image credit Jakob Ebrey Photography

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