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The Tweed Valley and Wauchope Forests echoed to the sound of rally cars for the first time since 2019 on Saturday [14 May] as the Brick and Steel Border Counties Rally blasted back into life with Elliot Payne and Patrick Walsh taking victory in their Ford Fiesta Rally2.

Payne was third after the opening stage of the event but recovered to seal the top spot by 14 seconds from David Henderson and Chris Lees in their Fiesta R5. Number one seeds Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson rounded out the podium in third, driving their Fiesta WRC.

After mounting an assault on the British Rally Championship this season, Payne is also tacking the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series which made a return to the Jedburgh based event for the first time since the early 1990s and the nineteen-year-old driver was also able to take maximum points in the championship to reignite his campaign.

But the Harrogate driver did not have it all his own way and would have to work hard after trailing the leaders Tom Llewellin/Ross Whittock by four seconds after the opening loop of stages. Llewellin had swapped his Mitsubishi Mirage for a Fiesta Rally2 and was instantly on the pace. Two fastest times in three stages showed his intent, but sadly the Welshman slipped wide on the fourth test, into a ditch and instant retirement.

That would promote Payne into the lead and that is where he stayed for the remaining two stages of the rally as he was guided to the ceremonial finish and champagne celebrations at Jedburgh Abbey with a famous Scottish Pipe Band welcome.

“That feels really good,” said Payne at the finish.

“We just came here to get points for the championship really, but it has played out well. We managed to keep our noses clean all day and we took a steady approach; no risks and no pressure from our side. There were no real moments, the car is in one piece, which is good as it’s my Dad’s car so huge thanks to him for letting me use it. I`m happy with that!”

Henderson had the honour of taking the fastest time on the Lime Kiln Edge stage but could not match Payne over the remainder to take an impressive result, following on from fourth place on the Speyside Stages in Aberdeen last month. Petch had a self-confessed slow start in his raucous Fiesta WRC but came alive in the afternoon loop to clinch the third spot on the final stage of the day.

The fight for second looked a little different ahead of the second pass of Blackburn Rig however, as Perry Gardner/Jack Bowen sat in second with Cornhill crew and local aces Michael Binnie/Claire Mole just a second adrift in third. However, the final test, Riccarton was a super-fast stage which favoured the brave and larger horsepower machinery with both Gardner’s Fiesta and Binnie’s Mitsubishi Evo dropping outside of the podium to claim fourth and fifth, respectively.

Russ Thompson/Steve Link battled with Binnie during each of the events six tests but had to settle for sixth in their Mitsubishi as Richard Hill/Pat Cooper took seventh in their similar example. Rally North Wales and Rallynuts Stages Rally winners Matt Hirst/Declan Dear found themselves languishing down in 18th place after the opening loop thanks to only having front wheel drive in their four-wheel drive Fiesta, but put in a sterling drive and two fastest times to take eighth.

John Wink/Neil Shanks took their Hyundai i20 R5 to ninth whilst Eddie Lewis/Max Freeman rounded out the top ten in their Fiesta R5.

Rob Wright/Mark Fisher were the first two wheel drive crew in 14th place in their Ford Escort MK2 whilst Steve Bannister/Callum Atkinson took their Historic spec version to 16th spot and first Historic home. Tony Simpson/Ian Bevan sealed the R2 category in their Fiesta R2T whilst Pete Gorst and Mark Twiname took the 1400 honours in their Vauxhall Nova..

Forced to cancel in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, the revived event was organised by Hawick and Border Car Club with new co-promoters Berwick and District Motor Club. Glasgow based building firm Brick and Steel Construction re-joined as title sponsors as around seventy cars tackled the event which was a round of the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, SG Petch ANECCC Rally Championship and Motoscope Northern Historic Championship.

Check out the event’s social media feeds below:
http://www.facebook.com/bordercountiesrally
http://www.twitter.com/borderrally

Image credits: Malcolm Almond / BTRDA

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