Front-running KNC Groundworks Scottish Rally Championship (SRC) contender Garry Pearson narrowly missed out on victory at last weekend’s Dunoon Presents Argyll Rally, after suffering a puncture which knocked him off the top step of the podium to finish second.
The 27-year-old Duns driver had a dream start to the event in his Asset Alliance Group, RAVENOL and George Anderson Builders backed Ford Fiesta R5, leading the rally at the halfway point, only to lose over 50 seconds with a deflated tyre on the sixth test, demoting him to the runners up spot in the closing stages.
Pearson and co-driver Dale Bowen now enter the final two rounds of the SRC in a battle for the title which could well go down to the wire in Castle Douglas in September.
Pearson has enjoyed an “on form” season in 2019 and despite only a handful of outings last year has been on the winning pace from the outset. Aside from a non-score at the Border Counties Rally, he has not finished off of the podium and would head to the Dunoon based Argyll Rally in the thick of the title fight.
A win in Argyll would boost his chances no-end and Pearson had promised a “maximum attack approach” across classic Scottish stages such as Glenbranter and Coire Ealt, similar to the route used back in the 1970’s. Eight tests would be on offer with over 40 miles of competitive driving and each would offer a unique characteristic, from tight and technical, to flat-out sweeping sections.
Buoyed by a test in the brand-new Ford Fiesta R5 courtesy of M-Sport Ford last week, Pearson launched his 2016 edition into the opening stage with vigour and the knowledge that a good start would boost his victory chances over the course of the day. It proved the right approach, and he would stop the clocks equal fastest with rival Euan Thorburn, taking the joint lead of the rally.
Pearson still has SRC title chance / Image credit: Eddie Kelly Motorsport Photography- Click the image to download high res version.
A positive start then for the Border resident and despite a malfunctioning digital display, a Pearson masterclass would follow over the remaining morning loop. Fastest overall on the Coire Ealt stage meant he would grab the lead convincingly, heading into the first service of the day with a significant 20-second margin.
That gap would close down over the next two stages thanks to the super-fast tests suiting the more powerful world rally cars, but he would cling onto the lead, eager to maintain that momentum as the second pass of the stages could throw up some surprises and changeable conditions.
Sadly, Pearson’s efforts would all be undone as he was the first victim to get caught out by a rough section in stage six, suffering a left front puncture and a whopping 56 seconds were lost – his hold over the lead vanished.
Such was the pace early in the day, he was able to cling onto second place by a comfortable margin and mindful that a second spot was valuable in the SRC title chase, a sensible run over the final two stages allowed him to claim his third podium of the season.
“It was a really good battle out there today, that puncture just scuppered our chances of taking victory which is a real shame,” said Pearson.
“I think we could have really pushed on this afternoon as well, everything felt good with the car and I was just starting to get into the groove, but that’s how it goes sometimes. It wasn’t anything we did wrong, so we certainly must look at the positives and the fact we have been right on the pace all day long. I’m confident we could have challenged for the lead today, but it just wasn’t to be”.
Whilst the result has not helped his bid to be Scottish Champion in 2019, he believes the fight isn’t over yet.
“In rallying, anything can happen, just look at today,” he said.
“We are certainly not giving up at all and whilst there is still a chance, we are going to go for it. The potential is there, we just need luck on our side, and I believe it is possible. The final two rounds are going to be interesting that’s for sure and I`ll be giving my all to hunt down my first Scottish title”.
The SRC now enters its summer break with the next round, The Grampian Forest Rally, taking place near Aberdeen in August.
Pearson is supported by Asset Alliance Group, George Anderson Builders, Pearson’s of Duns, RAVENOL, Pirelli, Dom Buckley RSC, Faithful Tools, CPL, RL Smith & Sons, Hargreaves, Hotmax, Crailing Toft Potatoes, Bedmax and 3D Transport.