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London rally driver Ruairi Bell dominated the top of the Junior British Rally Championship leader board at the Grampian Forest Rally last weekend (14 August) and was on course to take his second victory of the season, before a technical issue cruelly forced him out of the event almost within sight of the finish.

Bell, 21 from Blackheath wasted no time by winning the first two stages of the rally, opening up a 21 second lead in only 14 competitive miles. Bell’s stage winning pace continued, extending his lead to 27 seconds in the ultra-competitive Junior BRC category before an unknown electrical issue with his M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally4 caused him to retire on the start line of the fifth and penultimate test of the event.

“We were in such a comfortable position and basically picking up from where we left off at the Nicky Grist Stages,” said Bell.

“The pace was great, and I felt like there was plenty more to come should we need it and then before the second to last stage of the rally the car just cut out and died. We lost all electrics and no matter what we tried it just wouldn’t fire up. I’m gutted to have ended such a positive performance like this.”

Bell and co-driver Gareth Parry would head to the event for the very first time with six stages in the Aberdeenshire area in store for the Junior BRC contingent. With 44 miles of sandy gravel and high-speed forest tests in store, Bell would be aiming to add to his round two win in Wales and close in on the lead of the series in Scotland.

Bell took his Protec International Limited and Marex backed Fiesta into an early four-second lead over the opening six-mile Durris test, despite having never contested the stages in the region previously.

He led the 14 strong Junior BRC contingent over the second stage of the day too, opening that gap to a staggering 21 seconds after the opening loop. And, by the time Bell returned to service for the second rest-halt of the day, he had edged out that lead to 27 seconds with just two stages remaining and was on course for his second victory of the season.

But a technical glitch before the start line of the penultimate stage forced Bell out of the rally and put the pressure on for the remainder of the season.

“We do have to come away from this rally looking at the positive aspects of it,” he says.

“The Junior BRC is well-known to be very competitive so opening up a lead of almost 30 seconds proves that our pace is better than it’s ever been. I feel really comfortable in the car and Gareth and I are working well together; that’s the most important thing. At the same time, it still is very disappointing to end the rally parked up at the side of the road and especially with something that’s out of our control.”

“It now means we have to get top results on every round remaining this year and that of course is certainly not a done deal. We played our Joker [bonus points opportunity] in Scotland too so we are really up against it. But look, I love a challenge and I’m definitely not writing this season off. We still have a chance at the title and I’m certainly going to do all I can to be in with a shout this year”.

The British Rally Championship will now head into England’s classic forests for the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire near Scarborough and round four in September.

Bell is supported by Protec International Limited, Marex, Boolers Pensions and Investments, LJ Workwear, Alpinestars, MSAR Motorsport and Rallycover.

Image credits: Jakob Ebrey Photography

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