BRC's top ten ready for Jim Clark asphalt
After two nail biting rounds on gravel, the MSA British Rally Championship moves to asphalt for the first time on the Jim Clark International Rally, which takes place on the Friday and Saturday of the second May Bank Holiday weekend (22/23 May)

In an upset for triple title holder and regular Jim Clark winner Mark Higgins, 22 year-old Irishman Keith Cronin leads the BRC with two wins, both of which were taken on the very last stage of rounds one and two.

Pirelli TEG Sport Impreza driver Higgins, this year rejoined in the co-drivers seat by another triple champion Bryan Thomas, will be steadying his nerve though, hoping to become the first driver to take five BRC wins in a row on the now classic round of the British Rally Championship. His first win was in 2000 with Thomas alongside, the second year of the event’s inclusion as a scoring round of the BRC, repeating the feat five times in total with an unblemished record since 2005.

While Cronin will be sampling the Berwickshire lanes for the first time, co-driver Greg Shinnors should have sufficient experience to help the Irish youngster. Shinnors was so nearly a winner in 2006 alongside Irishman Rory Galligan, beaten on a tie break after equalling Higgins to the tenth of a second at the finish. Cronin’s experience on tar should stand him in good stead too, whilst not an asphalt-only driver at home, the ability to make notes on sealed surface should help.

Scots David Bogie and Kevin Rae are seeded third BRC crew after an impressive podium place on their second event in the series. Their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10 is being developed as the season progresses at the hands of Team JRM Lico which currently leads the British Teams’ Rally Championship by eleven points.

Second placed Pirelli TEG Sport again fields Adam Gould, the 2008 Pirelli Star Driver winner in the distinctively liveried Impreza N14. The Bristolian and his co-driver Seb Marshall have had an up-and -down start to the season, taking fourth on round one but retiring from the Pirelli Rally when they got stuck in a Kielder ditch.

Stuart Jones returns to the JRM Lico fold, having sat out the Pirelli while his co-driver Andy Bull guided Daniel Sigurdarson in another Evo 10. The pair only needs to improve one place on their last year’s Jim Clark Rally to make a perfect finish, ending the event second to Higgins in 2008.

Newcomers to the 2009 BRC are Geoff Jones and Sam Collins. Jones is more used to teaching and tuning in recent years, being one of the UK’s most respected test drivers and instructors as well as running his own successful preparation business. He drives on this event for the Revolution Wheels Rally Team in place of Rob Swann, who is sunning himself at the Barbados Rally Carnival.

Jonny Greer and Anthony O’Conaill run seventh of the BRC crews and lie sixth in the Championship in an Evo 9. The Northern Irish driver has been improving in the British series in the last couple of years, taking fifth on last year’s Jim Clark to finish his first full season in the same place overall.

Alastair Fisher has a little experience of the Jim Clark, but it is experience the Northern Irish youngster would rather forget. In his first year at the helm of a four wheel drive car in 2009, he will try to banish his early departure from last year’s event when he rolled heavily, retiring on the spot. His pace on the Pirelli bodes well for this season though, missing out on a podium by less than two seconds.

Dave Weston Junior will probably be disappointed with his seeding back in ninth, but the Scot should take solace that road position on asphalt events is less important than on gravel where he is most at home. He is joined by the third co-driver this season, reuniting with Aled Davies after the pair debuted the N14 Impreza on Welsh tarmac earlier this month.

Rounding off the top ten is another Scot Euan Thorburn, the Revolution Wheels driver partnered once again by the highest seeded female co-driver, Clare Mole. Thorburn should go well as he lives in Duns, the mix of local knowledge and Mole’s experience making a great combination for the Impreza crew.

Just outside the top ten, but the final four wheel drive runners are Chris Firth and Martyn Taylor. The Yorkshire/Cumbria combination has worked well in Firth’s first BRC season, leaving him eighth overall in the points table after two rounds.

The ceremonial start is based at Edinburgh’s FountainPark Leisure complex, with the event beginning at 4pm and a Radio Forth road show starting proceedings. Running through to 8pm on Friday 22nd May, the Ceremonial start show will be a major family attraction with entertainment for all ages.

Some of the highlights include stunt displays by World Trails Champion Dougie Lampkin, live action from the Japspeed drift car team, a display of some of the cars owned by the late, great Colin McRae and opportunities to meet the stars during at autograph session (nominally 18.00 – 18.30) before Edinburgh’s Lord Provost flags the cars away at 7pm.

Throughout the evening there will be stalls and merchandising to enjoy as well as the Edinburgh climbing wall to tackle and simulators to practice your rally skills. And look out for the Hearts football team mascots joining in all the fun.

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