Archerís runaway BRC Challenge victory
Richard Archer and Tom Ward continued their winning ways on round three of the British Rally Championshipís support series, the BRC Challenge, taking their second straight victory as the championship moved to the asphalt of the Jim Clark Rally. The win came despite their car making a bid for freedom near the start of the rally, rolling off down a hill and nudging a post while driver and co-driver were out of the car at the arrival queue for the Duns stage.

The Friday night stages were definitely a challenge for the BRCC crews, some experiencing rallying on tarmac in the dark for the first time, the Duns town centre stage a new test for all.

It was Andy Gwynne and Holly Robinson who set the pace on the short opening stage though, their Saxo stopping the clocks just over a second quicker than an on-form Julian Wilkes/Will Rutherford. In fact it was Wilkes who emerged from the first real test ahead, Archer having dropped back with a misheard note and a spin in Duns.

Gwynne, however lost nearly four minutes in the Bothwell stage, but recovered to go well on Saturday, setting top two times and climbing back to sixth. Unfortunately for the pair the penultimate stage was to see their departure from the event, succumbing to mechanical problems.

Back at the front Archer had a big push on Abbey St Bathans, the notoriously tricky third stage; leapfrogging John Boyd and Craig Wallace to take a six second lead from Wilkes. Neil Mathews and John Connor also passed Boyd to wrest third from the Fiesta driver, their Nova running well after problems on the opening rounds left them seeded near the back of the field.

Tom Watson & Ken Bowman disappeared from the results on stage four after a spirited drive in fourth, but James Watts and new co-driver Steve Greenhill had no such problems, moving into fourth when Boyd slid off the road on the Blackadder stage. Boydís excursion on the slippery tight corner cost him around three minutes, elevating Brett Griffin/Sam Fordham to fifth.

Griffin, who had only ever contested airfield tarmac events, was astonished how quick some of the stages were. He had a huge moment on Saturdayís first stage too, landing so heavily from a jump that he bent a driveshaft and dented both doors.

Also benefiting from Boydís time loss were brother and sister crew James and Helen Alexander, although the paraplegic driver struggled with hand controls in the tight corners and chicanes. He admitted to not liking asphalt as much as gravel, the sealed surface highlighting some shortfalls in the electronic clutch mechanism.

Manxman David Radcliffe and Cumbrian co-driver Steve Hartley had a steady event, having burnt a decent amount of midnight oil to get to the start. The car had been damaged in a roll on a Manx event, so a reliable finish was all he asked for, eventually taking seventh after Watts dropped time in a ditch on the penultimate stage.

Probably suffering the worst luck of all during the Jim Clark Challenge rally was Austin McKinlay, who broke a driveshaft on the opening stage. He and co-driver Anthony Palmer re-started on Saturday, carrying a hefty time penalty, but gear linkage problems left them stuck in fourth gear, not a good Jim Clark debut.

The tussle at the head of the field intensified on Saturday morning when Archer briefly slid off the road, allowing Wilkes to pass him on the stage. Sensing the Corsa driver would want to re-take the road position, Wilkes let Archer past, but the section of road suited the Nova crew and both cars were momentarily alongside one another on one of the rallyís famous two lane B roads.

By the finish in Kelso Archer had re-taken a healthy lead, extending his Championship margin to 13 points over Boyd who still heads class RC3. Wilkes stayed second on the event, but admitted to being lucky, having had failing oil pressure on the final stage. Matthews was delighted to be third in his Nova, the placing enough to move him fourth overall and extend his class lead in the series. Griffinís excellent fourth place was enough to put him in a clear third in the overall tables and stay ahead of Eddie Meek in RC2.

A choice of rallies now faces the competitors in the BRC Challenge, drivers nominating either Rally Isle of Man or the Ulster for their next points score. Both asphalt events are double headers, with the Isle of Man on July 10th & 11th, Ulster over 21st & 22nd August.

Jim Clark Challenge Rally 2009 final positions

Richard Archer
Thomas Ward
Vauxhall Corsa

Julian Wilkes
Will Rutherford
Vauxhall Nova

Neil Matthews
John Connor
Vauxhall Nova

Brett Griffin
Sam Fordham
Peugeot 106 Gti

John Boyd
Craig Wallace
Ford Fiesta ST

James Alexander
Helen Alexander
Peugeot 106 Rallye

David Radcliffe
Steven Hartley
Suzuki Swift Gti

James Watts
Steve Greenhill
Volkswagen Polo

Austin McKinlay
Anthony Palmer
Peugeot 205 Gti

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