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13 J1000 Ecosse crews lined up to start the McRae Junior Rally Challenge, part of one of the biggest events in the Scottish Rallying calendar the 2 day McRae Challenge Junior Rally at Knockhill Racing Circuit on Saturday 2nd & Sunday 3rd July.

Taking the win Sam Pattison & Paula Swinscoe made hay while the sun – weirdly – didn’t shine. Pushing hard in the wet conditions on Saturday morning they quickly built a lead over the rest of the field. After that it was a case of managing the gap all the way to the end of Sunday. There was a small scare over the flying finish of stage 3 with a bale but the Citigo crew survived to take the rally win by 29 seconds.

Having missed round 2 due to a hand injury, round 1 winners Kalum Graffin & Richard Crozier were back. With Kalum’s hand still strapped up Richard was on handbrake duties as well as navigating. A steady run on Saturday was followed by more of a push on the drier Sunday stages on their way to 2nd overall.

3rd for the 2nd successive event Jack Ryan & Robin Nicolson produced another one of their charges from behind drives. Catching cars and redesigning the sump guard with some heavy landings on day one they ended Saturday in 5th place. An argument with some stage furniture on the 1st corner on Sunday brought the red mist down and they absolutely flew for the rest of the day, grabbing 3rd by the finish and the championship points lead by just 2 points.

Making his J1000 debut, Ginetta Junior regular Fergus Chalmers was the revelation of day 1. With Andrew Falconer alongside, the Yaris pilot was using every inch of the road and more on the Saturday, nudging the odd chicane in the process on his way to an overnight 3rd place. Sunday started poorly with a spin on the 1st stage of the day, dropping 30 odd seconds and then the Yaris’s engine began to wilt under the pressure. They finished the event in 4th place with the car sounding and looking less powerful than when it started.

27 seconds behind the Yaris, Oliver Phillips & Emma Morrison had started steadily on the Saturday, the biggest issue being an overshoot in stage 3. They started to push in the drier conditions of Sunday and were rewarded with a fastest time in stage 9. Another overshoot in 10 was a minor setback and they would finish 5th. This result, however, leaves them just 2 points off the championship lead.

Another point behind in 3rd place, Rian Walker & Stuart McBride had a big moment through Duffus on the 1st stage of the event, dropping time to those around them. A good run the rest of the day saw them climb back up but a heavy hit on the final stage did damage to the Citigo’s sump. After trying to fix it unsuccessfully at the circuit, Stuart would race down to A.G. Motorsport in Kilmarnock to sort the damage before getting back up the road in record time. A small overshoot was the only blemish on Sunday on their way to 6th at the finish.

1 point behind Rian in the championship, Letisha Conn & Richard Stewart had made the decision before the event that it was time for Letisha to move up to senior rallying now that she is 17. As such they were under strict orders not to break the car as it was going up for sale so it was a safe and steady run for the Citigo crew.

Evan Findlay had another new co-driver for this round, Paul Tonner jumping into the hotseat. There were a few sideways moments on old tyres on the Saturday morning but Evan dealt with them without any issues. There was a collision with a sandbag on the Sunday, resulting in a permanently shut door but apart from that it was a smooth run. Evan looking more comfortable behind the wheel than he has thus far this year.

Taking the top Micra award for the 1st time this year Ruan Lowry & Ian McRae endured a small off on the 1st stage but were able to get back on. Ruan enjoying the Knockhill stages in the Micra but was keen to keep the car in one piece with Mach 1 the following weekend. This result leaves them 7th in the points and in the lead of the Pearsons of Duns Trophy for Micras.

Fraser Mack & Ted Runciman suffered a huge spin on the 1st stage down Duffus Dip, amazingly not hitting anything solid. After that it was another event of gaining pace and experience. The only damage was a broken windscreen after a heavy landing on their way to 10th.

Lucy Cree continued her development as a driver. A wrong split resulted in a stage maximum and a big slide ended up with the car parked on top of a tractor tyre. No real damage was done and co-driver Chloe Fleming was really impressed with Lucy’s progress, particularly on how well she adapted to her 1st experience of gravel.

Rounding out the finishers Bobby Conn & Tom Middlemiss had a weekend to forget. off on the 1st corner of the 1st stage, a tonne bag of gravel did a lot of damage to many important parts of the front end of the C1. After most of the service park chipped in to help they got back out. The drama wasn’t over with a broken driveshaft and many other issues meaning they were given stage maximums for the 1st 7 stages. Stage 8 they finally made it to the end, earning a well-deserved round of applause from the paddock.

Unfortunately failing to finish, Thomas Milne & Neil Jeffrey had started well despite having the worlds most oversteery Micra. A tyre pressure adjustment sorted that and they were flying on the Saturday, topping the Micra standings overnight. Sadly an argument with a bale on the Sunday morning did unfixable damage to the back axle and forced them out. Replacement parts have been ordered and will hopefully be on the car in time for Mach 1.

There is no time for the juniors to rest, this weekend sees them descend on Campbelltown for the Mach 1 Stages. A complete contrast to the hills and valleys of Knockhill they move to the vast open flat spaces of the Machrihanish airfield.

Images courtesy of Flat Out Photography

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