Gravel rally driving aces gear up for Jedburgh

Some of Britain’s best gravel rally drivers will tackle this weekend’s Brick and Steel Border Counties Rally, as the Jedburgh-based event returns tomorrow (Saturday, May 14) after a two-year hiatus.

By Ralph Mellon
Friday, 13th May 2022, 11:56 am
Michael Binnie and Claire Mole
Michael Binnie and Claire Mole

Forced to cancel in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic, the revived event features a Borders contingent as it welcomes contenders from the MRF Tyres BTRDA Rally Series, who will contest the forest rally for the first time since the early 1990s.

They will be joined by the S. G. Petch ANECCC Rally Championship and Motoscope Northern Historic Championship, bringing a host of competitors to the region from across the UK.Organisers Hawick and Border Car Club have joined forces with new co-promoters Berwick and District Motor Club, with Glasgow-based building firm Brick and Steel Construction re-joining as title sponsors, providing classic tests in the renowned and little-used Tweed Valley and Wauchope Forest complexes.The super-fast and tricky stages will test almost 80 crews to the limit during the day, with Malcolm Wilson Rally winner Stephen Petch leading the field away from Jedburgh on Saturday morning.

Petch and co-driver Michael Wilkinson will bring the noise too, as their Fiesta Rally2 heads for WRC Portugal, opting to use their World Rally car for their Border assault.Cornhill-on-Tweed’s Michael Binnie will be aiming to uphold local honours after a blistering start to his Scottish Rally Championship campaign.

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Heading to Jedburgh with his Mitsubishi Evo, and Claire Mole of Duns in the co-driver’s seat, Binnie has a rally win and podium to his name already in 2022 and will be aiming to challenge the BTRDA front-runners despite his older specification machinery.

Another Borders driver, Ian Baumgart, from Denholm, will contest the rally in his Subaru Impreza and Sinclair Young in the co-driver's seat, while event sponsor John McClory, of Hawick and Border Car Club, will also tackle the event in his Brick and Steel Construction-backed Mitsubishi Evo with clubmate David Hood on the notes.

Steve Bannister and Callum Atkinson, both of Hawick and Border Car Club will be competing in their Ford Escort MK2.

Fresh from a sensational win at the Rallynuts Stages, Matthew Hirst starts with number two on the doors in his Fiesta R5. Hirst and co-driver Declan Dear were a dominant force in Wales last month and currently head the BTRDA standings but will have no previous experience of the Border Rally stages to draw from this time around.British Rally Championship protagonist Elliot Payne makes a return to the gravel after a confident start to his BRC campaign in Essex a few weeks ago. With the experienced Patrick Walsh on the notes, Payne could well be a challenger for the top step of the podium in his rapid Fiesta Rally2 but, like Hirst, has limited knowledge of the stages used on Saturday.Ian Bainbridge is seeded at car four and brings his Skoda Fabia to the Border. The two-litre machine should cope admirably with the fast forests and Will Atkins returns to the co-driver’s seat after missing the last round in Wales.David Henderson and Chris Lees start at car six in their Ford Fiesta R5, while Tom Llewellin and 2019 European Rally Champion Ross Whittock bring their Mitsubishi Mirage to the Scottish Border forests for the first time.

Perry Gardner and Jack Bowen start at eight in their Fiesta R5, with Russ Thompson/Stephen Link, and Richard Hill/Patrick Cooper rounding out the top 10 seeds, both in Mitsubishi Evo IXs.There will be plenty of opportunities for fans to catch both the action on the stages and the event celebrations throughout Saturday.

Under the gaze of Jedburgh Abbey, the ceremonial rally start in Jedburgh gets under way at 8am before crews ahead out into the forests.Fans will be able to watch the rally from a variety of locations, including Blackburn Rig, just south of Hyndlee at 8.30am, with the second pass at 3.12pm.

The Cardrona test, near Peebles, runs from 11.35am with Craik, west of Hawick, taking place at 12.32pm.

The final stage of the event is Riccarton, near Saughtree, which is scheduled to start at 3.31pm, before the crews head back to Jedburgh for the famous Scottish Pipe Band welcome ahead of the ceremonial finish and champagne celebrations at Jedburgh Abbey from 4.30pm.Limited access is also available to the event’s Service Halt at H&H Auctions in Newtown St Boswells, which is visited twice from 10am and 1.30pm.Spectator information and a full entry list is available on the event’s website http://www.bordercountiesrally.co.uk/