Entrants eager to gear up for new-look Border Counties Rally

Top rallying action is back in Jedburgh on March 16 (picture by Eddie Kelly Motorsport Photography).
Top rallying action is back in Jedburgh on March 16 (picture by Eddie Kelly Motorsport Photography).

The popular Border Counties Rally makes its return to the British rallying calendar on March 16.

Many competitors are eager to sign up to the event, which was forced to take a sabbatical in 2018 because of severe weather across the north of the UK.

Jedburgh will once again play host to the Hawick and Border Car Club and Whickham and District Motor Club organised rally, which sees an overhaul in 2019 including new stages and a different format for the 19th running of the event in the town.

The 12th Century Abbey will watch over the event as scrutineering, documentation and the ceremonial start take place under its shadow, before crews head out to tackle six stages and 45 miles of competitive driving in the Kielder and South of Scotland forests.

Those fortunate to complete the event will be welcomed back to the Abbey with the now-traditional pipe band signalling their return for the finish celebrations.

In a shift to the running order from previous years, crews with two-wheel-drive cars will be able to sample some of the smoothest conditions in the Kielder forests, as they will run first on the road before the main field follow closely behind.

Complimenting the shift in format, for the first time since 2014, the event will utilise stages in the north of the Kielder complex. The Forest Enterprise car park at Greenside will become the event service area and will be visited twice during the day.

The rally is the opening round of the 2019 KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship and it will be joined by the ANECCC SG Petch Rally Championship, C2 Ecosse Challenge, Border Challenge and HRCR Motoscope Northern Historic Rally Championship.

With entries open, a strong field of competitors has already committed to starting, with many keen to sample some of the best stages in the North. As the only gravel rally based in the Scottish Borders, the Border Counties Rally provides a unique opportunity to compete in some iconic forests and two-time event winner Jock Armstrong has laid down his intentions early.

In a bid to secure a third Scottish title, Armstrong will bring his familiar Subaru Impreza to Jedburgh with co-driver Cammy Fair alongside.

Fellow double SRC champion and Duns resident Euan Thorburn has launched an early entry in his new Ford Focus WRC, co-driven by Paul Beaton, while ANECCC Championship sponsor Stephen Petch will make the short trip north from Durham in his Ford Fiesta WRC, co-driven by Michael Wilkinson.

Some names from the past have also emerged on the list of entries so far, including Alistair Brearley, who won the event twice in the 1970s with an Opel Ascona and a ‘full house BDA’, returning with a Ford Escort Mk2 and Paul Barbet alongside.

Clerk of the course Clayton Lackenby was delighted to see the return of the rally in 2019.

“We were disappointed we could not run the 2018 event owing to the unprecedented wintery conditions we experienced in March, but safety is our number one priority,” he said. “We have created a fresh new look to the event this year and provided our crews with some fantastic stages and a great day’s rallying in some iconic forests. Jedburgh is the perfect host and we thank all the townsfolk and businesses for embracing the rally once again. We will be delighted to welcome competitors and fans to the rally next month and everyone can be assured of a warm welcome in the Borders.”

Marshals are also required for the safe and smooth running of the event. Chief marshal Guy Whickham would like to hear from anyone who is interested in volunteering either on or off the stages.

He can be contacted on 07989 322186 or at marshals@bordercountiesrally.co.uk.

Event regulations and the online entry system are available at www.bordercountiesrally.co.uk