The Sky Bet / ProSpeed team of Tony Jardine and Gordon Noble faced technical difficulties and a puncture during day one of the RACMSA Rally of Scotland, but were able to make up places on Sunday, despite a damaged front suspension, to finish third in class and 21st overall.
Being the penultimate round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC), there were thrills and spills from start to finish among the field of world-class crews as they pushed hard to overcome the punishing stage conditions to claim valuable championship points. However, Norwegian driver Andreas Mikkelsen made it look easy, dominating the event with five stage victories and winning with a 26.4 second lead over Juho Hanninen.
For the Sky Bet team, it was rewarding to bring their Kumho-shod Ford Fiesta R2 home to a podium finish in Perth, after 14 stages totalling 184 kilometres. Driver Jardine commented, “The stages in Scotland are tough, so I’m pleased to have finished the rally in one piece and with a podium in our class. We’ve had lots of dramas today as the left front suspension was in danger of collapsing. It has been a case of nursing the car through arguably four of the fastest stages of the event, plus we have been struggling with some intercom problems. Probably on High Corrie 2 is where I have personally been at my best and Gordon has been absolutely brilliant, he really got into it. The car has taken so much punishment and there have been so many other cars off that it has mainly been about survival, with ProSpeed keeping the Fiesta running for us.”
Describing yesterday’s stages, the Sky Sports News F1 analyst said, “There were rocks everywhere on Errochty yesterday during the second leg of the event which caused us to puncture our front left tyre which we had to drive on for two kilometres, risking breaking the drive shaft. That slowed us up and after navigating through rain and fog last night to get to stage eight I must say we were relieved to hear that the stage was cancelled due to the worsening conditions.”
Gordon Noble from Northern Ireland, a highly experienced co-driver, was navigating for Jardine for the first time during this weekend’s Rally of Scotland (7-9 October). Noble said, “We knew some of the stage conditions were going to be bad but we didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was on Drummond Hill and Errochty. They were treacherous in terms of rocks and mud and our visibility was at a minimum through there, as half of our screen was steamed up. We have been trying to preserve the car, but it has been a truly demanding event. More than anything Tony has done really well to keep going, the car is not easy to drive and the stages have been in bad condition, mainly because there were 100 cars over these roads in similar weather conditions last Saturday on the Colin McRae Stages. Ultimately, we have achieved what we set out to do which was to make sure we reached the finish ramp. It has been challenging, but fun.”
37 cars started the event in front of Stirling Castle on Friday evening, with numerous crews having to retire during the rally. British driver Guy Wilks was one of the victims, retiring on the final stage, after having climbed back up to ninth position following an off on stage five during the first day.