Four-time national rally champion Garry Pearson endured a character-building start to his 2023 British Rally Championship campaign on an unseasonably snowy and icy Malcolm Wilson Rally last weekend.
Pearson, 31 from the Scottish Borders town of Duns, was up against it heading into the Cumbrian event, having not competed in four months and tackling the Cockermouth-based rally for the very first time.
Sensibly, he and stand-in co-driver Hannah McKillop had therefore prioritised a solid haul of points in their Skoda Fabia R5 ahead of the event – deciding that going all-out for a podium finish would be difficult considering Pearson’s lack of knowledge of the rally.
But just to make things that task that extra bit more complicated, winter weather hit the region and forced a major reshuffle of the rally’s itinerary – reducing the overall mileage to just 40 and providing competitors with only five special stages instead of the planned 10.
Pearson played himself into the rally cautiously, setting the seventh-fastest time on the opening stage of the new season, but he was cruelly denied the chance to progress from there as his Skoda developed a clutch problem.
This made it extremely difficult for the Scotsman to get the car off the start-line of stages as he had to pump the clutch a lot of the time, prompting a stall on the start-line of Grizedale South.
The team did a remarkable job to fix the problem in service and that reinstilled Pearson’s confidence. Although he was passed by a charging James Williams on the overall leaderboard, a couple of top-five stage times allowed Pearson to record a hard-fought sixth place finish come the end of the event.
Although it wasn’t quite the performance Pearson had been hoping for, the eight championship points he secured will prove vital as the BRC season progresses.
“It’s been a difficult rally so I’m delighted to get to the finish to be honest,” Pearson said.
“I think it’s fair to say it’s been a tough start to our season, but we’ve got some decent points on the board and that’s what we came here for.
“Considering the issues we faced – the lack of seat-time and familiarity with the stages and then of course our clutch problem – I think we have to be happy with this result.
“For sure it was a character-building day but that will stand us in good stead for the future.
“A big thanks to Hannah who did an amazing job on the notes and to all our sponsors who are supporting this season. Even on the tough days it’s always amazing to drive one of these cars.
“Up next is the Jim Clark, my home rally, so I’m really looking forward to that,” he added.
“We think we’ve got a pretty good package on Tarmac so hopefully we can try and improve on our third place from last year.”
Pearson is supported by Billie Bowie Special Projects, Hankook UK, Asset Alliance Group, George Anderson General Builders, Solid Fuel Hub, Husqvarna, R.L Smith & Sons, Brick & Steel Construction and Morris Lubricants.