The Motorsport UK National Rally Title battle has been just as intense as its top-flight BRC1 cousin this season, with many of the series contenders setting stage times worthy of top five overall spots.
Heading to Scotland for the third round of the series, round one winner Thomas Preston would be missing from the entry list, leaving round two victor Stephen Petch in the driving seat as the northeast gravel welcomed the championship at the Grampian Forest Rally.
With many title protagonists not having previous experience of the classic Fetteresso and Drumtochty stages in the past, the bookies quite rightly laid their claim on Scottish ace Garry Pearson who was the only front-runner to have contested the event previously. As a regular Scottish Rally Championship contender, his experience of the event in the past would undoubtedly help ease the nerves.
However, a shift from his Mitsubishi Evo to a Skoda Fabia R5 would mean the Duns driver would have to get used to new machinery in the super-fast Kincardinshire stages; although you wouldn’t notice.
Taking five out of the six-stage wins, Pearson and co-driver Niall Burns felt right at home to scoop their maiden National Title win of the season. Adding to their third spot on the Nicky Grist Stages, the duo is now in the thick of the title fight in joint second.
Petch and Michael Wilkinson’s Ford Fiesta WRC would be in hot pursuit during the day. As Pearson’s closest challenger, Petch did his best to stay with the Scot but would finish some 40 seconds adrift in second place. His result would ensure he stays at the top of the standings heading into the fourth round of the season, despite not having won a round so far.
Elliot Payne and Patrick Walsh couldn’t quite find the Nicky Grist Stages pace to round out the top three in their Ford Fiesta R5. Despite only contesting a handful of gravel events so far in his career, Payne would once again return a mature and consistent drive, ensuring his title bid remains firmly on track.
Alan Carmichael and Claire Williams took their Hyundai i20 R5 to fourth, albeit two minutes behind the podium spots with Toyota Starlet ace Jason Black rounding out the top five. With Karl Egan on the notes, Black continues to please the crowds in his unique rear-wheel-drive machine.
John Morrison and Peter Carstairs skipped the Nicky Grist Stages but made their debut on gravel in R5 machinery in Scotland. Adjusting to the new-for-2021 weaponry, the duo took sixth in the category.
Allan Smith made his maiden BRC outing of the season in his Honda Civic, with multiple SRC champion Paul Beaton alongside. Smith enjoyed some valuable points on the board, with a confidence-boosting seventh spot.
Donnie MacDonald and Andrew Falconer retired their Mitsubishi Evo on the stop line of the opening stage with transmission issues, whilst Ashley Dickson/Stephen Joyce and Stuart McLaren/ Eoghan Anderson finished outside the points.
Check out the championship points tables HERE