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In glorious sunshine, Johnnie Mackay and Gordon Reid (Suzuki Alto) took victory on round 3 of the 2018 Junior 1000 Ecosse Challenge – the Granite City Stages at Leuchars on Saturday 26th June. Such is the nature of the 2018 Championship that 3 different teams filled the podium compared to the previous round at Kames on 22nd April.

But it was not a straight forward victory for Mackay. He had to battle hard to get to the front on stage 7 and then hold the position to the end. After 4 stages out of 11, he was lying 3rd – 2 seconds behind Lewis Haining/George Myatt (Skoda Citigo) and 11 seconds behind the then leaders Andrew Blackwood/ Tom Middlemiss (Citroen C1). Blackwood was pleasantly surprised with his pace over the first 4 stages with stand in co-driver Tom Middlemiss but disaster hit on stage 7 when the gearbox gave out during the stage. Unfortunately a weakness on the Citroen C1. After missing stage 8 and getting a 30 minutes penalty, it was a dejected Blackwood who was towed back into service – game over? But no, several other crews gathered round and a spare gearbox was produced. At that point, the event organisers announced that there would be an extra 30 minutes delay to the start of stage 8. The word in the huddle of helpers was – “Can we do it? – Of course we can” – and 4 or 5 people got stuck into the wee C1 to pull out the damaged gearbox and fit the new one. And they did it. As the last of the Junior cars cleared the control to go out to stage 8 after the delay, the red C1 was push started in the service area – because for some reason the car wouldn’t start on the key – and joined the queue for the stage. Final shout from the “repair team” – “Don’t switch off or stall it!!” Blackwood was now in second last place but he completed the final 3 stages to the delight of everybody. The true spirit of Junior 1000 was really on display both in the attitude of the helpers and the young driver.

But back to the story. Mackay was equal on times with Blackwood going into stage 7 and came out of that stage 7 seconds in front of new second placed crew of Ollie Hunter/Tom Hynd (Peugeot 107) who were 3 seconds up on third placed driver Haining. The top 3 positions remained unchanged over stages 8, 9 and 10 with Mackay going into the final stage 11 with a 10 second lead over Hunter who had a 5 second lead over Haining. And Haining found something over that final 5.3 miles – he had been saying that he could not get into a rhythm in the stages all day but clearly did on the last stage – to pull back the 5 seconds from Hunter to end up on the same time. The tie breaker was the time over the first stage and Haining had been quickest so took the second place. But what a battle.

So, we have had 3 different winners over the first 3 rounds of the Championship.

This rally was the first in a series of 4 events for Novices and the winner was third placed Ollie Hunter.

But 13 started and 13 recorded finishes. So an excellent showing once again from the young drivers and their experienced co-drivers.

The next round of the Championship will be on 9th June at Crail Raceway, Fife.

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