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Young Scottish rally driver Finlay Retson suffered a disappointing end to his European rally debut in Belgium last week after he was forced to retire with mechanical issues almost within sight of the finish of the Renties Ypres Rally (22/23 June).

To compound the non-finish, his retirement came after a pre-event roll in shakedown which saw the Ford Fiesta R2 badly damaged just hours before Retson was due to take to the start of the event. Thanks to a local garage and body shop, the car was readied in time to cross the ramp but all the hard work would be undone just a few stages later.

Retson, 18 from Blairgowrie would head to the second round of the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship Cadet Cup with the aim of bagging some much-needed points for his title hopes after a non-finish at the opening round in Kielder Forest in April. The series would now shift to asphalt and was making a guest appearance at one of the most popular and hard-fought events in Europe.

Famed for its star-driver lineup and difficult, ditch lined stages, the Ypres Rally would also see Retson make his first trip outside of the UK to compete and with co-driver Tom Hynd alongside, was eager to get his weekend off to a good start.

However, during the pre-event shakedown stage, the rear end of the Fiesta would hit a compression in one of the infamous ditches, firing the car into a roll and a grassy field. The Belgian spectators assisted in extracting the car and Retson could drive the car to the finish of the test, but the damage was done.

The team would then set to work, assessing the damage and gathered help from other teams, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team and local businesses to assist in the repair to the rather sorry looking Fiesta. Just hours before the start on Friday afternoon, the car was readied and Retson was able to cross the ramp to begin his Ypres Rally.

Retson would have been forgiven for taking it easy on the opening loop after the previous day’s events, but there were no signs of nerves from the youngster, stopping the clocks second fastest in the Cadet category on the opening test. There he would stay for the remainder of the day, ending the leg in second spot and overjoyed with the progress made during the ten stages.

Day two would start better still, going eleven seconds quicker than his nearest rival to score his first fastest time of the weekend and marking his intention for a fight over the final thirteen stages. But it would all end on the sixteenth test.

Changing down the gears, a rose joint would shear on the gearbox, leaving the Fiesta stuck in gear. Nursing the car to the end of the stage, an uphill exit would spell disaster for the stricken Fiesta, clutch failure eventually forcing Retson to park up.

“I just can’t believe the highs and lows of this weekend,” said Retson.

“We had everything thrown at us and I needed to learn quickly out here. I certainly did that on Thursday night with the crash and it was my inexperience and a bit of bad luck which forced us over. To come back from that, to be just a handful of seconds behind the lead of the Cadet class and then retire like this is pretty devastating to be honest”.

Retson is eager to applaud the effort of his team and the locals.

“We would have been on a boat home on Friday if it wasn’t for the local body shop and garage and the team who worked flat out through the night to allow us to make the start. I`m forever indebted to them for everything last week and I’m sorry I couldn’t repay them with a podium”.

Retson will now focus on the final three rounds of the season and attempt to claw back some valuable points for his championship aspirations.

“That’s two events in the series without a score so we need to use the summer break to recoup and come back much strong in Ulster in August. I know we have the pace but we need to convert that into results and points. Despite not scoring yet this season, the championship is not out of reach and we are committed to doing all we can to get up towards the top of the points tables, its challenge I`m ready for.”

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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