Upwardly mobile family prove they’re a grass act in first season

L-r, Amy Murray, Nigel Murray, Keith Jeffrey and John Murray in Minto, nr Hawick.
L-r, Amy Murray, Nigel Murray, Keith Jeffrey and John Murray in Minto, nr Hawick.

A BORDERS family and their friend have crashed onto the British autocross circuit this year – with some outstanding results.

At the beginning of the month Keith Jeffrey from Hawick and Minto’s John Murray travelled to Newcastle where they received awards from the North East and Cumbria Car Clubs (NEACCC) 2010 Championships at a grand presentation ceremony at the Marriot Hotel. Keith, 34, and John, 17, had secured a class first and third respectively in the series to mirror their first and third placings in the MSA British Autocross Championship at the end of the summer.

What is truly amazing about these recent success stories is that 2010 is the first season the boys have been involved in the sport at a competitive level, although both have considerable off-road experience.

Digger driver Keith, who works for Jedburgh-based construction firm JMS Harkin, only began competing in earnest after his boss criticised his slightly erratic driving skills.

He told TheSouthern: “He told me I would end up losing my driving licence if I continued to drive the way I did, so I decided to practice my more adventurous manoeuvres on the autocross course and concentrate on driving safely on the roads. I think it has worked a bit. I still have a licence, anyway.

“Harkins has been great and I owe them a lot of thanks for their support and allowing me the time off to compete.”

John works at the family metal recycling and recovery business and only passed his driving test this year. The duo are joined on the circuit by John’s younger sister Amy, 14, who has enjoyed her first season as a junior driver.

The Jedburgh Grammar pupil had a best finish of fourth in 2010 in the F1 class and is looking to make the top three next season.

She said: “I have been driving off-road for a few years now and wanted to see how I fared at competition level. I’m pretty pleased with the way things have gone and I am looking forward to stepping up a gear.”

All three compete in Vauxhall Novas and while Keith and Amy hammer their way round the courses with 1,400cc engines, John has taken on the B1 class in a 1,600cc car.

One particular incident this year saw fearless Amy driving a circuit of the course on three wheels before being pulled from the race by an official.

“I didn’t even notice as I was concentrating on my driving,” she told us. “I was a bit gutted, though, as I was still going well and was so close to the finishing line.”

Completing the team is dad Nigel whose paint jobs on the cars gives team Murray its identity, and support in the form of mum Denise and Keith’s partner Debbie Sinclair.

All six travel to the championship events together and have also turned an old van into a camper to keep travelling costs down. “Through the summer we have an event once a fortnight and most of them mean sleeping over, so we turned the van into a mini B&B,” explains Keith.

“It means we can all go together and it’s great having our own support there. Autocross is probably one of the least expensive motor sports you can take part in, but if you can keep the travelling costs down it’s all the better.

“Having a team behind you is a great benefit too as everyone mucks in when it comes to breakdowns and repairs, and if someone has to pull out for any reason we can usually fix the problem and have them back in another heat later on.”

Autocross is a simple and fun form of grass roots motor sport that involves driving round a course in a grass or stubble field. The competitors set off up to four at a time (one at a time at junior level).

In a typical event a competitor will have one practice run at the course – usually two laps – before undertaking a series of timed heats consisting of three laps.

The two fastest times are combined to give a total for the day which will be used to determine a class position.

From these, the top 16 fastest times are then put forward to the final, which consists of one four-lap run, and the person with the fastest time overall wins the day.