Fourteen J1000 Ecosse crews headed to Anglesey Racing Circuit for the final round of the 2023 season, the Pentraeth Glyn Memorial Junior Stages. The annual head-to-head with the English Juniors over 2 days competition for the prestigious Tunnock’s Trophy. Unlike last year, the weather was relatively kind, with only light rain affecting the final 2 stages.
The fight for the win was one of the best of the entire season. Rian Walker and Stuart McBride taking another win after a monumental battle with Jack Ryan and Robin Nicolson. The Citigo led the rally from the start despite getting held up briefly by other competitors on the opening stages but the Up crew were matching their times on the repeat runs. 3 seconds separated them going into the dark where both crews reported collisions with other crews. Walker and McBride survived with some cosmetic damage while Ryan and Nicolson lost a spotlight and were concerned over a potential gearbox issue all of which left the two crews 12 seconds apart at the end of day 1. The pattern continued on the Sunday with Walker and McBride taking a small advantage on the 1st running of a stage and Ryan and Nicolson matching them on the 2nd to be 17 seconds apart with 1 loop remaining. Jack and Robin took fastest time on the final stage by 3 seconds to close to within 14 by the end of the event.
For Walker and McBride this was yet another win in this excellent run of form, fastest or equal fastest on all but 1 stage in an impressive performance. Ryan and Nicolson wrapped up Jack’s Junior career with another excellent result and yet another podium finish for the collection
3rd place was over 3 minutes behind but that was not a reflection on the quality of drive. Despite being in one of the least suitable cars for Anglesey’s big hills Thomas Milne and Neil Jeffrey produced one of the best drives the J1000s have ever seen. The Micra crew did not put a wheel out of line at all over the 2 days: grabbing 3rd on pace alone against much more powerful opposition. An excellent way for Thomas to round out his Junior career and an emotional day for Neil having been with Thomas from the start of his driving journey. Now they will team up together in the MG3 Challenge for 2024.
Scoring points in both the English and the Scottish championships Oliver Waggett and Callum Young had started steadily, lying 9th as they headed into the darkness. The night running clearly suited them, the C1 climbing to 5th by the end of the 1st day. They continued their charge on the Sunday, taking 4th overall and 1st of the English crews. That was enough for them to take 3rd in the English championship standings.
Taking 5th place and the top novice award, Lauchlan Hunter and Richard Simmonds continued to learn their newly finished VW Up. 5th early on they dropped to 9th in the dark when an argument with a tyre bent a steering arm. Thankfully Ollie Forrester’s team were able to lend them a spare and the car was fixed overnight. Back to full fitness on Sunday they climbed back up to 7th overall by the finish. A good drive and yet more experience gained in the new car.
Doing enough to wrap up the novice championship, it was an eventful weekend for Ollie Forrester and George Myatt. Full of confidence after their Crail podium, they were in the top 7 early on. They were 1st delayed in stage 4 when the brake pedal went solid, resulting in them parking the car on top of a tyre for over a minute. Soldiering on, the brake problems got worse in the dark when they lost them altogether, Ollie doing incredibly well to not hit anything. That was traced to a burst brake cylinder and they were 10th overnight. With the car back to full health on the Sunday they continued to set top 5 times to take 9th overall and 6th in the Scottish points.
Thomas Babb had Andrew Blackwood in the hotseat for the 1st time, regular navigator Paul Gribben contesting the RAC. Andrew clearly pushing his driver hard on the Saturday morning, lying just 7 seconds down on Forrester and Myatt after 4 stages. Into the dark of stage 5 and the Citigo emerged with a headlight missing following an argument with a stack of tyres. That left them 14th overall overnight. The Sunday was very smooth, climbing back up to tie for 12th overall with newly crowned English champion Charlie Mathewson. 7th in the Scottish points giving Thomas 9th in the final championship standings.
If Babb was 12th that meant that his big 2023 rival Lucy Cree wouldn’t be far away. In fact, Lucy and co-driver Chloe Fleming were just behind the white car by only 22 seconds at the finish. It was a clean run for the silver car, unfortunately held up quite badly on the opening 2 stages by another competitor. 17th after 2 stages, they spent the rest of the event climbing the ranks to 14th by the finish. Chloe was very happy with her driver once again, especially comparing her performance and improvement over last year’s Anglesey outing, particularly in the dark.
William Paterson had Paul Hudson in the hotseat of the Micra for the 1st time. Like every other venue this season, William was absolutely loving the stages, lying an early 12th overall. Unfortunately, a broken driveshaft on the final loop of Saturday dropped them to 20th overnight. On a charge on the Sunday the blue Micra was able to recover to 17th overall by the end of the event.
11 seconds further back, William Thomson and Alan Edwards were keen to improve on their 24th place seeding. Running well in the morning, they were delayed with intercom problems, an issue that plagued them at Crail. After some advice from Oliver Waggett’s Dad the intercom issues were largely resolved. Some excellent runs in the dark left the Micra 18th overnight. The Sunday they maintained what they had to grab 18th and 3rd Scottish Micra, both William and Alan feeling like they have fully gelled as a team and excited for a full season together in 2024.
Ruan Lowry was keen to wrap up his Junior career with a decent result. With Ian McRae alongside as usual the Citigo pilot was right in the mix, lying a solid 8th overall and 6th Scottish points scorer overnight. Unfortunately, Sunday saw them become another member of the broken steering arm club, resulting in a stage maximum which dropped them to 20th. With very little stage mileage left they set some top 10 times on the last 2 stages to end their 2023 season in 20th overall and 11th of the Scottish finishers.
Making a return now he has recovered from a broken collarbone sustained while playing football, Alfie Letham had newly crowned champion navigator Barry Young in the hotseat. They quickly discovered that Alfie hadn’t quite rebuilt the strength in his left arm, meaning Barry was assisting with gear changes, particularly when going for 2nd gear. Unfortunately, a broken gearbox on the opening stage saw them lying last after 2. Setting some solid times for the rest of the event they recovered to 22nd overall by the finish.
Gregor Beatson and Stephen Graham started very strongly in their Toyota Yaris, flirting with the edges of the Scottish top 10 on the Saturday morning. Unfortunately, they were the 1st crew to break a steering arm, resulting in 2 stage maximums. Quick work from both Gregor’s Dad and Christopher Smith got the car back out for the final 2 Saturday stages and they carried on setting strong times. The Sunday was equally strong, Gregor even enjoying pulling off some good overtakes on other competitors and really enjoying the Anglesey stages.
Rounding out the finishers, it was a big weekend for JJ Jutley and Ted Runciman, making their 1st start in their new Seat Mii. The car certainly looked the part but was still not 100% set up properly leaving it slightly down on power as well as being incredibly quiet out on the stages. The good points were JJ was loving the car, particularly how well it was handling out of the box. The bad points were that they seemed to be struggling to get their heads around the route. Several wrong slotss resulted in maximums that were holding them back. At least the new car looks like it will be a weapon in 2024.
There was also the small matter of the Tunnock’s Trophy, junior rallying’s equivalent of the Calcutta Cup. It was very close, both teams with 5 representatives in the top 10. After the countback it was team Scotland who just came out on top, retaining the trophy for another season.
Image courtesy of Becksport Media