The opening round of the 2023 Ecosse Junior 1000 season took place on March 25th at R.M. Condor, Arbroath.
12 crews lining up to take on the 6 stages of the Memorial Garden Junior Stages.
Winners of the final round at Anglesey in 2022 Oliver Phillips & Barry Young continued from where they left off. Out in their newly finished Citigo for the 1st time they led from the front all event. Never outside the top 3 times on all 6 stages it was a very good day at the office, taking the win by 16 seconds at the finish.
Finishing 2nd on the road Rian Walker & Stuart McBride were debuting their new left-hand-drive Citigo in competition. The opening loop was ok driving wise, but they were one of the crews to be unfortunately held up by other cars. That became less of an issue as the day wore on and they were setting top 2 times. The final loop produced the biggest talking point of the event. An argument with a kerb damaged 2 wheels on stage 5. That necessitated a quick change in service but meant that they started the final stage without a spare wheel. After a championship steward’s meeting that was found to be a breach of the championship regulations and although there was no intention to cheat or gain an advantage, they were excluded from scoring championship points on this round and will have to carry that zero in their final championship tally.
3rd in the rally but getting 2nd place points, Jack Ryan & Robin Nicolson enjoyed an eventful day. Stage 1’s performance saw Jack incurring Robin’s wrath for quote: “driving like a learner”. A blowing exhaust that worsened as the day went on was also an issue as Jack was struggling to hear Robin’s all-important instructions. Despite all the issues they stayed in the mix, setting 3 fastest stage times during the day.
Top Micra in 2022 Thomas Milne & Neil Jeffrey had been busy over the break installing new suspension to the front of the car in a bid to make it more compliant over the bumps. It was a change that was clearly working, the car much better to drive and allowing Thomas to extract every morsel of performance he could out of the Nissan. Neil as always very impressed with Thomas’s car control and ability behind the wheel as they powered to a fantastic 4th overall and 3rd place points.
The battle for 5th was the closest of the day between 2 crews debuting new Citigos. Ruan Lowry & Ian McRae finishing up just 2 seconds ahead of Ollie Forrester & George Myatt. For Ruan’s part the morning saw a steady increase in pace as he learned about the new car and found the slippiest parts of the venue. The afternoon saw them swapping times with Milne, Forrester and Alfie Letham on their way to 5th.
For Forrester & Myatt it was a trickier day. Brake problems on the 1st two stages were traced to dodgy brake pads. Once those were changed, they were another crew to be held up by other cars in 3 & 4. The final loop saw the brake issues return with a dodgy ABS sensor causing major lockups. They ended up 6th but slightly frustrated.
Alfie Letham & Craig Wallace also had their fair share of dramas. The Handbrake stuck on in stage 1 and they were badly held up in stage 2. The middle loop saw the biggest issue, the engine stalling after a brake lockup and forcing Craig to get out and push so Alfie could bump start the car. The final loop however and everything clicked, 2 excellent final stages rounding off the day.
Lucy Cree & Chloe Fleming did their usual trick of getting quicker and quicker as the day wore on. A small collision with another car early on was a minor setback although the Citigo seemed to have developed an appetite for losing wing mirrors out on the stages, keeping dad Ross very busy replacing them at each service halt. The final loop saw them experience a big two-wheel moment but they survived to take 8th overall at the finish.
4 drivers were making their rally debut and it was Lauchlan Hunter who came out on top. The Yaris pilot was delayed in the morning when a front brake caliper stuck on in the first stage. This contributed to a half spin in stage 2 but once that was sorted Lauchlan & co-driver Gordon Finnie were running well, matching Cree and Fleming’s times as Lauchlan got more used to the car.
JJ Jutley & Ted Runciman were out in the ex-Fraser Mack 107. 2 spins on the 1st 2 stages as JJ got the hang of things were easily coped with and they were taking roughly a minute out of their 1st runs on the repeat stages. By the end of the day, they were on the same pace as the Yaris & Citigo ahead of them.
Thomas Babb & Paul Gribben took 11th overall on Thomas’s 1st rally despite Paul being under the weather. Another crew to get quicker with every stage they enjoyed their day of learning and are keen to get back out for round 2.
Rounding out the finishers it was a day of firsts for Amie Wallace & Keith Morris. Amie’s 1st rally but also Keith’s 1st ever rally as a navigator. They were the other half of the collision with Lucy Cree but that didn’t put a dampener on things. Amie taking huge leaps forward in pace with every stage as both herself and Keith got into the swing of things.
As the rally was being run on military ground there will be no official video review of the event. Video coverage will return for round 2 at the Kames Motorsport Complex, Muirkirk on May 14th.