The action-packed Motorsport UK British Rally Championship heads to Duns in the Scottish Borders for the Beatson’s Building Supplies Jim Clark Rally [26-27 May] – the second round of the series.
The infamous lanes around the market town have been a staple of the UK’s premier rally series over the decades, and as the British Rally Championship enters its 65th anniversary season, the Jim Clark Rally heralds the first of three asphalt events on the roster and a mix of deceptive moorland roads coupled with twisty country lanes.
And the country’s top-drawer series has added a star-studded list of names to the entry list with an impressive array of top-flight crews in Rally2 machinery, joined by Rally3, Rally4 and National Rally Title contenders, each aiming to grab some early top scores to gain momentum at the early part of the seven-round championship.
Fresh from a sensational performance in the World Rally Championship in Portugal, Frenchman Adrien Fourmaux adds a truly international flavour to the Scottish event as he aims for back-to-back BRC wins in his Ford Fiesta Rally2.
The M-Sport Ford factory driver enjoyed a convincing win on the opening round of the season on the gravel of the Malcolm Wilson Rally, but he and co-driver Alexandre Coria will need to bring their `A-Game` to Duns if they are to repeat that maximum score.
Breathing down their necks will be a wealth of top-class BRC contenders, led by none other than last year’s Jim Clark Rally winners Keith Cronin and Mikie Galvin. The Irish pairing endured a tough opening round and struggled with their Volkswagen Polo GTi, but the change to asphalt, coupled with Cronin’s extensive experience on the event could well play into their hands. The four-time BRC champion salvaged second in March but will be gunning for a win this time around.
An on-form Callum Black need not worry about his asphalt pace after winning the recent non-championship Manx National Rally, despite making his sealed surface debut in four-wheel-drive machinery. He and Jack Morton will be eying a repeat in Scotland in their sharp-looking Fiesta Rally2.
In the ice-covered first stage of the 2023 season, it was Ford convert James Williams who led the BRC contingent with a stellar performance before Fourmaux got his teeth into the gravel but if that pace continues, Williams could well take his maiden BRC win at the weekend. With Dai Roberts alongside, the pairing have settled perfectly into their new Fiesta Rally2 and is flourishing in their new surroundings.
A career-best third place for Elliot Payne at the Malcolm Wilson Rally is a sign of the youngster’s progression but the switch to his non-preferred surface may see him switch tactics in the Fiesta Rally2. A solid score here could bode well for his and co-driver Tom Woodburn’s title hopes.
If anyone knows how to tackle the Borders roads, it’s Duns man Garry Pearson who will be going all-out on an event which passes his door. Pearson will also raise the bar with a switch to a Volkswagen Polo GTi for the remainder of the season – the very car which took Osian Pryce to the title in 2022 with Melvyn Evans Motorsport. Pearson also enlists the ultra-experienced Daniel Barritt in a bid to nail a victory on home soil.
Alan Carmichael and Arthur Kierans will tackle their first BRC round of 2023 in their Hyundai i20, whilst Hugh Brunton and Drew Sturrock have been looking forward to getting their Skoda Fabia Rally2 onto a sealed surface at the `Clark`.
Stephen Petch has put his opening stage retirement on the Malcolm Wilson firmly behind him and wheels out his new Skoda Fabia Rally2 for the event. Michael Wilkinson joins him in the co-driver’s seat.
Bringing his Ford Fiesta Rally3 to the BRC3 category this season, Johnnie Mulholland will be looking to learn his new machine on a different surface at the weekend as he and Eoin Treacy debut the car on asphalt. With more predictable conditions, the event could well see Mulholland punch in some Rally2 beating times.
Ford Fiesta and BRC4 contender Steve Waugh will be in at the deep end this weekend as he makes his sealed surface debut in the Borders. Having only started rallying last season, he has remained on gravel until now and will be guided through the maiden outing by Mark Broadbent.
Junior British Rally Championship
The fight for Junior BRC honours is likely to be just as intense at the top tier in Scotland and it was Kyle White and Sean Topping who came out on top last time around, even after suffering a puncture on the opening stage and damaging a shock absorber in their Peugeot 208 Rally4.
Eking out most of their advantage in Grizedale, they finished ahead of reigning Academy Trophy Champion Kyle McBride and co-driver Liam McIntyre in the Fiesta Rally4 with Casey Jay Coleman and Adam Coffey rounding out the podium.
But they will be joined in Scotland by Max McRae and Mac Kierans who make a return to the Junior BRC after last season’s one-off outing at the Nicky Grist Stages.
The Australian driver, son of 1995 British Champion Alister McRae, will be fresh from his FIA European Rally Championship debut in Poland and will give the Opel Corsa Rally4 its UK debut in the process. McRae took a podium on his JBRC debut but will be looking to hone his asphalt skills for his ERC campaign this time around.
DirtFish journalist Luke Barry will realise a childhood dream by contesting the very event which sparked his interest in the sport. Born and bred in the Borders, Barry will also be making his driving debut, piloting a Fiesta R2 from the EDSL Sport outfit, co-driven by team boss Alex Waterman and they join the JBRC for the two-day event.
National Rally Title
The race to the National Rally Title gets underway in Duns, with contenders in non-homologated machinery eligible to compete alongside the BRC crews.
Stuart McLaren and Adam Entwhistle bring a historic flavour to the category with their Opel Kadette GT/E. McLaren is no stranger to the series having contested the championship in 2021 and returns to sample the new roster of events this season. Mike East and Glyn Thomas sign up in their Fiesta R2 for a shot at the title and are fresh from a class win at the recent Clacton Rally.
Two days of flat-out rally action await crews with the event kicking off with a double run of the Longformacus stage on Friday night, the second pass under the cover of darkness.
Saturday sees three stages repeated, with new tests from last year set to challenge even the most experienced of contenders. Duns Market Square town centre will host the ceremonial start, re-groups, and finish celebrations in a weekend-long festival-style atmosphere with a big screen broadcasting all the action to the waiting fans.
Just over 67 miles are in store and as last year demonstrated, the event can throw in a curveball to derail championship aspirations, but one thing is for sure, you will witness some of the best drivers in the business battling for tenths of a second in the Borders’ lanes. That’s a sight you won’t want to miss.