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Fraser Anderson was denied what looked certain to be a dominant victory in the British Rally Championship Academy Trophy after suffering bad luck on the Grampian Rally (Saturday 14 August).

The 18-year old Helensburgh-based ME Rallysport team driver had started the event, his first senior rally in Scotland, tied for the lead of the Academy Trophy with Johnnie Mulholland, having won last time out on the Nicky Grist Stages.

Over the opening six mile Durris forest stage, Fraser and co-driver Jack Bowen set a remarkable pace in their Baxter and Gillespie-backed Ford Fiesta R2T, stopping the clocks an impressive 26 seconds quicker than their nearest Academy competitor, arch-rival Mulholland.

Unfortunately, a hydraulics system issue caused all of the hydraulic fluid to drain from the reservoir and without fluid in the system Fraser completed the opening stage unable to change gear properly or get into neutral. Fearing that he’d get stranded in the middle of the next stage, Fraser made the wise decision to return to service – where his mechanics were able to repair the car and send him out for stage three.

Time penalties for missing a stage meant that winning the BRC Academy Trophy section was now unlikely, but if Fraser could reach the finish of the event there was a podium position and valuable points up for grabs.

It wasn’t to be Fraser’s day, as a broken lower arm on the Fiesta saw him drive the last two miles of a rough Drumtochty forest with a front wheel pushed back into the wheel arch. Having completed the stage at 20mph, setting a time only 15 seconds off the top BRC Academy Trophy pace, Fraser was forced to retire – eventually arriving back into service at Milton of Crathes many hours later.

“The Grampian Rally was going absolutely great until the clutch started to go about three quarters of the way through the opening stage,” said Fraser.

“Jack and I had worked really hard on our pace note system and it was paying dividends straight away. We were feeling very confident through the opening stage, everything was very much in control, and we were delighted with our time and how quick we were.

“But towards the end of the first stage we were having problems selecting gears and I couldn’t change gear at all with the clutch by the time we’d reached the flying finish. Rather than risk starting and getting stuck in the middle of stage two, we returned to service to get the car repaired, so we could continue to gain experience and score some British Rally Championship Academy Trophy points. We’d have a big time penalty for missing a stage, but there was still a chance of scoring a BRC Academy podium.

“The car felt great again and having brushed off the earlier disappointment we were going well in stage three, even though the conditions were very rough. Suddenly the front of the car stopped turning and we began to go straight as we were entering a section crossing a bridge. I didn’t know what had happened at the time, but as we couldn’t turn into the corner we ended up skating across the edge of the bridge on the sump guard and smacked a banking. Luckily it all happened in a breaking zone and we’d scrubbed off a lot of speed, so there wasn’t any substantial damage to the front of the car.

“We managed to get away from the banking and finished the stage. We could only drive at twenty miles an hour for the last two miles because the wheel had been pushed back up into the wheel arch and was jammed against the body work, but even then we were only fifteen seconds off the fastest BRC Academy time! But unfortunately, that’s where our Grampian Rally ended.

“Despite not finishing the event, there are plenty of positives to take away. The first stage time was good, and we came out of that comfortably leading the British Rally Championship Academy Trophy section. But rallying is an unpredictable sport, and this just wasn’t our weekend. We’ll bounce back on the Trackrod Rally and go better there.”

The next round of the British Rally Championship Academy Trophy is indeed the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire on 24/25 September.

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