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Borders driver Garry Pearson stamped a noticeable impression on the British Rally Championship leaderboard last weekend after making his top-flight debut at the Corbeau Seats Rally Tendring & Clacton [23-24 April].

Despite stepping into one of the hardest fought championships in Europe for the very first time, the 30-year-old from Duns hurled the Asset Alliance Group and Hankook Tire backed Ford Fiesta Rally2 through the Essex lanes to challenge for a podium position at the mid-point of the rally.

Sadly, Pearson and co-driver Dale Furniss got caught out by a very tricky and fast section of the ninth stage of the event, ending their top-three hopes in a ditch and with no spectators available to pull them out, their rally was over.

After dominating national rallying in 2021, Pearson would look to add to his Scottish, Welsh, BTRDA and National Rally Champion titles this season by graduating to the highly regarded British Rally Championship. With winners’ names on the famous trophy such as Colin McRae, Ari Vatanen and Elfyn Evans, Pearson had long been seeking a return to the series that he contested as a Junior driver.

After last year’s success, a mammoth effort would see him enter the BRC in a Ford Fiesta Rally2 and the Scotsman would line up against a plethora of heavy hitters for the opening round of the season in Clacton on the east coast of Essex.

Fourteen stages were on offer and with the event forming a round of the championship for the very first time, the formbook was well and truly blank. Pearson would need to call on all of his previous experience to hit the ground running. Having never tackled a BRC round on asphalt in Rally2 machinery before, the short opening two blasts along Clacton seafront on Saturday night offered the perfect opportunity to bed into his new surroundings.

With the front-runners often trading tenths of a second, Pearson headed into Sunday’s full day of stages just over two seconds shy of the lead and would opt to find a comfortable pace during the opening loop of four stages.

The plan worked and by the seventh stage of the rally, Pearson was in fourth overall. Such was the ultra-close competition, just a handful of seconds separated him from the podium positions and the chance to get his BRC season off to the best possible start.

But on the final loop, Pearson’s Fiesta left the road on a high-speed section, forcing him out of the event and into retirement.

“I`m really disappointed to end our rally in this way and of course, I`m sorry to the entire team for not securing a confident boosting result to start our season,” said Pearson.

“But in situations like this we have to look at the positives and there is plenty to draw from. The pace we showed, considering it was our first British Championship round in this kind of machinery, was really encouraging and to be just shy of a podium is a great sign and I know there is plenty more to come from us all.”

The next qualifying round of the British Rally Championship takes place in Pearson’s home town of Duns for the Jim Clark Rally at the end of May and he is looking forward to getting back out on more familiar stages.

“Nothing beats the feeling of rallying on home soil and of course having previous experience of the stages will certainly be of benefit. But the pace in the BRC is so strong and we will still have to pull everything we have out of the bag to be where we want to be. That’s exactly why we have progressed into the British Championship this season; to do our best to be fighting at the front. We have just a few weeks to prepare and we will be going all out for a top result.”

Pearson is supported by Asset Alliance Group, George Anderson Builders, Pearson’s of Duns, Hankook Tire Limited, RL Smith & Sons, Husqvarna, Border Chainsaw & Lawnmower Services, Beatson’s Building Supplies and Carbon Positive Motorsport.

Image credit: British Rally Championship

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